Watching my mother’s green Vega fade from our driveway every morning while I pretended to be on the bus to school was part of my senior year routine. Truancy wasn’t on my radar so much as the fantasy of escape. Also, I convinced myself that continuous squatting in the bushes outside our back patio was burning my legs into better shape. I was a Charlie’s Angel-in-training, only with braces and a science experiment of a face.
As the summer of 1985 shook sand from her towel, any residuals of resilience I clung to began to curdle. I retired my Trapper Keeper as a force field from verbal daggers and decided on mastering the art of skipping school – an unoriginal, although genius move I made my own, after catching a repeat ABC After School Special. It was simple, really. Staying home kept me hidden from the person I was in public: the Elephant Man, Crater Face, Freddy Kruger.
Closing the front door behind me to an empty house every day filled my heart with joy – and my liver with Chablis. Isolating while high on cheap wine wasn’t nearly as sad to me then as it feels to write this now. Though alone, I was able to win my hide-and-seek with loneliness, having my favorite singers (Robert Smith of The Cure and Morrissey of The Smiths) on a repeat loop of melancholy tunes from the Mother Country. With each lift and drop of the record needle, my soul was personally serenaded, lacing her fingers with the knowledge that I wasn’t crazy. I mean – with that kind of set up, how could I have possibly been depressed? Except, I was. And I had no idea.
As I write my story within the safety of time, I am worlds away from that high school girl who barricaded herself in her bedroom, getting drunk and escaping with music. But no matter how much time passes the fact remains: no matter how much distance we are from our pain, it never fully goes away. But here’s the thing. This is totally OK.
There is so much beauty in realizing our hearts have endured. Not only are we stronger for surviving, we can use our suffering as fuel for our future. All we need to do is remember how far we’ve come.