You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not. True, things don’t stay the same forever : couches are replaced, boys leave, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments, you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions- but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because throughout it all, you are still always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable. And isn’t that- just you- enough?
The following Thursday night, I was in the middle of my set, and everything was going smoothly. People jumping around to the Rolling Stones. Vicky was there with Dave, and they had claimed dance space right in the middle of the floor. Char was at the bar, talking to some college-aged girl with highlighted, flat – ironed hai, but I don’t mind, because he has already pressed his fingers into my lower back earlier, which meant I was basically guaranteed yet another night of getting home at dawn. I was wearing the rhinestone pumps that Vicky insister I bu, one of my dad’s old band t-shirts that I had resewn to fit me, and a multicolored scarf that Vicky had lent me. Even Mel hadn’t found anything to criticize with tonight’s outfit.
Everything was going smoothly. Until the door opened a bit before midnight and Emily Wallace, Petra Davies, and Ashley Mersky walked in.
I was thrown into shock, like a queen whose castle’s ironclad fortress has somehow been breached. What are they doing here? This wasn’t high school. This wasn’t driver’s ed. This was Start. This was mine.
Emily and her friends hadn’t noticed me yet. They clustered in a tight circle, looking around the room, pointing and giggling. I could tell they had gotten all dressed up for their big night out, like this was a school dance. Emily wore a tight black strapless dress and fake eyelashes. Her make-up was perfect.
They looked ridiculous here, obviously high-school girls seemed as make – believe adults. Ridiculous, but beautiful. There’s a reason why Emily is a model. There’s a reason why Ashley’s chest was voted ‘best rack’ by the guys’ lacrosse team when she was only a freshman. Because they are the beautiful ones.
This song was winding down, so I put on my headphones to find a new one, but everything I tried sounded suddenly out of place. I tried to focus on my computer, but my eyes kept flickering up, and I was terrified that I would find Emily smirking at me. I wanted to drop my headphones and let the song play out while I ran straight out the door and all the way home.
But you are a professional.
I transitioned into the Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now?’ I messed up the beat matching, so it sounded disorienting and wrong, but I didn’t even care. I scanned the room again for Emily and her friends. They were waiting in line at the bar. Still not looking at me. But they could look at me any time. At any time, I could be discovered.
And then what?