I was three.
Grass rubbing against elbows. Crawling like a soldier. Wriggling forward like a poorly proportioned worm. Eyes fixed on the enemy. Don’t. Be. Seen. The grass is so cool and soft. It was early spring. Or fall. I think it was fall.
Robby, six, was my platoon leader. When he led, I would follow. He was so wise. Wisdom lingered on his every breath. He turned toward me, pressing his index finger toward his lip as he did so. I knew that this was the moment. I had to be quiet. The enemy was in view. We watched as they bounced that hideous orange ball up and down on the pavement. Doink, doink, doink. The sound echoed up and down the cracked pavement. A burst of noise followed by a moment of silence–then more noise. It was seconds ticking on a rhythmless clock.
The wind was still. The world was frozen. Clock hands stopped spinning until they were reluctantly stuck in place. Birds ceased their gleeful chatter. The sound of cars passing on the nearby highway faded. The world went to sleep for a moment.
I was still awake.
I looked at the enemy with disdain. I hated them. They were monsters.
Then the countdown. Three. My heart was racing. Two. My hand quivered. One. Why can’t I breathe?
My hands pushed off the ground. I felt my legs beneath me. I ran. Maybe it was more of a wobble. My legs were two bowling pins swaying to-and-fro. The world was whizzing past me. I was gliding along the ground. I felt my hand slide toward the trigger. I squeezed and the cap gun exploded, releasing a fiery echo into the still morning air. The enemy jumped. They never saw it coming. We were the predators leaping out of grass on the unsuspecting prey. I was a taker of life and a breaker of rules.
I’m eight now.
The world is mine. The world is so small. How can it hold me? I am too big for this place. I am too grand for the universe.
I can write in script now. I am going to move mountains with this pencil. The world will shake as my pen flings itself across paper. This pen will create tragedies. Comedies. Dramas. There will be love stories! Readers will cry. Laugh. Reassess their lives.
Wait, how do I make a capital “Q,” again?
I am the duke of division. The master of multiplication. I know my multiplication tables up to zero. What about subtraction? I do it in my sleep, of course. And don’t get me started on addition. I am actually the archduke.
Somehow I’m 12.
I’m depressed. Well that’s what the doctor tells me. He gave me these pills to make me smile. I still can’t seem to smile. Sometimes I try to talk about why I am so sad. It is actually a pretty simple reason. Being happy is too much work. Tears are simple. Life is rough.
There was a psychologist and there was a psychiatrist; a nutritionist and the school counselor.
Some of my classmates called me fat too much. I didn’t like that. I got sad. I lost weight. Maybe too much weight–an eating disorder. But I’m just 12. Only girls have that. Not me. It is a fallacy.
Is that me?
I am not a worm in the grass. I am a worm cut in two. I am disjointed. Disconnected. Suffocating. I am gasping for air. Split in the middle, I am hoping to be put together. Praying. Please stitch me back together.
I really am not an outsider though. I promise. Don’t ask what’s wrong. Everything is fine. Nothing is ever wrong. I am perfection. This is perfection. The foundation collapses. The walls cave inward as I try to crawl outward.
I’m fine though. Fine.
15 now. High school. I am under the spell of young love. It has me on a string. It pulls me left. It pulls me right. It pulls me away from what I actually am; what I need to be. I am a stranger trapped in a familiar body. I am being molded into something I never was, but suddenly felt compelled to be. I am a block of clay in an amateur sculptor’s hands.
Love was golden hair covering a heart of crushed diamond. Love was icy blue eyes and those innocent lips and that blonde hair that seemed to reflect light back in the direction of anyone who was lucky enough to be caught in the blinding shimmer of silky locks. I thought love was Katie, but I discovered my love was the equivalent to the still reflection at the surface of a lake mirroring a sunless, blackened sky.
Young love has a habit of putting a veil over the truth. Imperfection seems perfect. Reality becomes smudged. But I am in love. Is this love? Of course it is. No it’s not. Oh, but it is how love looks. Is this how love feels? This love hurts so much.
When you’re young you will hold onto anything. I was squeezing my hand tightly around a razor. There were the mind games. I still told myself I should grip tighter. I feel my fingers tighten into a fist. The tears she made me cry to prove a point. The smell of iron rockets up my nose. Stealing away years I will never be given back. Streams of thin red liquid travel through the creases of my hands like water funneling through a flooded river. I eventually drop that wretched razor though and patiently wait for the wound to heal.
It was never love. It was just a walk on the edge of an icy well until I slipped and fell into the bottom of that bottomless well.
I wanted love. I looked for love. I still was a boy. My voice was changing. I had some hair sprouting above my upper lip. I still struggled with the past. My appearance was still unbearable, but I kept it in control. Once you begin to worry about your appearance, you never really stop. So I walk; just one foot in front of the other. Breathe in and then exhale: repeat as needed.
I was still that worm though. I was blind and covered in teenage muck. Digging. Squirming. Which tunnel is the quickest way to the surface? I think I am surrounded by rocks. I am my own worst enemy.
High school isn’t about the words, it is about the appearance. I can always find the words, but I can never paint the picture. I can’t even choose the frame. How do you thrive in a world so obsessed with image when all you have is words? So you don’t. You get by to the best of your ability. You laugh, you smile and you play your role. And then you move on.
You move on and you forget about it all. You move on because you can’t go back. Only forward. So you march. You march without direction and with eyes shut tightly. It is a march without a purpose–an aimless stumble into a lifeless forest.
I’d like to feel that grass again though. It was careless. It was cool. I felt right. I felt… almost human.
I’m an adult. 18. I feel the change. Does my facial hair look thicker? Wow, and my chest hair. I am man. I am indestructible. The world will know this name as well as I know the world. I will not be silent. Hear me as I scream my stories from the top of buildings. Fear me. Love me. Hate me. Know me.
Who am I?
I’m not an adult. Life is no different than what it had been. I still feel helplessly awkward. Why is it that I still find that words hide in the back of my mouth? I am a thinker, not a doer. I sit back and watch the show as it plays out in front of me. I never take a lead role. Not even a supporting role. I did not get the part in my own movie.
I can hear my voice, but it is not my own. It is foreign. Alien. I am an extraterrestrial. Space is my home. Give me space. Let me drift along eternal emptiness and dance across a dying, lonely star.
I am just a worm though. Worms can’t speak anyway. No need to worry. This is normal. I will just crawl around in the depths of the Earth. No one will see me and I will see no one. It is a win-win. I won’t disturb the world and it won’t disturb me.
I will flip the world head-over-heels. But maybe I won’t. I will. Not.
I am 19. I think I am finding a voice. My words do not escape like they used to. Instead they linger. My words are the wind; infinite, far reaching and forever moving onward. Sometimes my words create art. At other times, they fall apart like cheap paper mâché.
I look in the mirror and I see something familiar. The image staring back seems so close to me. It might be me. It is me.
God I hope it’s me.
I worry less now. I worry less because worry has done so little. I feel myself filled with more life with each breathe I inhale.
I’m still a worm. I see the light though. I am so damn close that I can feel the heat of the sun. The light. It is spectacular. It is so white. Clean. Perfect. I am just inches away from the surface.
Please don’t be a lamp. I need the sun.
I’m tired of the dark. We are all tired of the dark.
It’s because we are all worms until we aren’t anymore; just so damn useless until we formulate some fictitious meaning. We create meaning so we can die smiling. We carve our own smiles like gutless Halloween pumpkins.
We are all worms, that’s why. Worms are nothing but bird food and fish bait.
I hope my life tastes good salted.