Many friends of mine are highly intelligent.
they talk of having to ‘hide’ their intelligence as children, to avoid scaring others
I did not fit in either, but for much different reasons
a contradiction, most who spoke to me believed me to be very bright
but the lore of the highly verbal is just that. An ability to talk circles around people
sometimes the brain is empty behind the Rocky Horror Picture Show mouth.
Unlike my very smart friends, who excelled and won prizes
and knew uncannily how to do things before being taught, even welding, and that was
unlike my first boyfriend who made all A’s whilst watching The Incredible Hulk
unlike my second boyfriend who made all A’s whilst masturbating to Farrah Fawcett
the only way I was ever on top was if I climbed, brick by brick.
I learned early on, not to compete
why would you compete if you NEVER win? If you’re always the slow poke, the last picked on a team, the one who has to ask again and again, the friend who can’t
get the gist of it and stays home reading comics.
Usually the most competitive are those who are naturally good at something and thus, recognize the taste of success
I learned slowly and badly, I couldn’t; knit, use chopsticks, play Atari well, do wheelies, skateboard or boogieboard, or vault over the box without
I had more ‘not good at that’ checked boxes than ‘excels’ and that never changed.
Some say, if you fail, keep trying, but eventually, if you fail enough sometimes you turn into
a kid who is angry for other reasons too and has found a home in building that anger into a straw man
a kid who is fed up of coming last, of repeated failures and shame in sometimes still wetting the bed
being told you are an idiot over and over again tends to sink in
so I became a rebel.
If someone said; You failed that. I would laugh. Literally take joy in it.
FUCK YOU I would shout and run to the park and drink from whatever bottle was handy or climb whatever tree was nearest
I learned, you could get more positive attention from dancing and putting your hands down boys pants than
making an effort to fail.
Part of me knew it was wrong, I didn’t like boys, so why was I spending any time with them?
They didn’t like me over much either, I was; too short, too flat chested, not enough flippin enthusiasm
Then I belonged nowhere
except under the hot lights of the dance floor, shaking out my grief or in a tree house pretending I was anyone but me
I ran so many times away from pain / I began to know the tune and hum it
in a weak moment I would return and feel-up a boy
for 3 minutes of false love
and in that wet, sticky repulsion
hate myself ever more.
sometimes even the child falling off the deep-end can see it coming
but nobody else could; they thought I was just badly behaved / didn’t ask why / didn’t try to intervene
I crashed and burned on the rocks multiple times, like a bad sky diving bird searching for her nest
wanting in one moment to excel, the next to set fire to
everything that rubbed my nose in it.
I absorbed failure like a nicotine patch
I inhaled it like cheap speed on a dirty toilet seat
when I lifted my legs to the ceiling and turned my head away
from the thrashing
the fuck you’s sounded really hollow
drugs weren’t enough to sake
my premature emptiness.
Of course, people are over-fond of
blaming the victim and saying; ‘you have choices’
which is partially true and partially bullshit, as we all know
it takes a village
or maybe just one person
to lift you to the light and when you’re 14
and saturated in pain without knife sharp enough
to exorcise darkness
it’s hard to grab on and ask someone to intervene.
When you came into my life
my first love, the one I lost everything to
including my shadows and a little cocktail sliver of self-hate
I didn’t know then, what an impact you would make
I lost my virginity in your hands and
forgot the ammonia of boys and how they’d beg
to go all the way and almost want to pay you if they had
more than a penny and dirty underwear on offer
leaving you feeling worthless and slutty and defiled and violated even if
you kissed while crossing your own legs the entire time.
In your arms I realized my own skin, the honey softness
of your touch, a new language.
You were, the girlfriend of my best friend
you loved him, you loved me (on weekends when he was away)
I was your little secret and you stripped me one by one
of all my petty rebellions
until I stood before you naked and shivering
telling me; Get your shit together, because nobody
is going to do it for you and you don’t want to be
working in High Street Stores at 40 nor do you
want to squander all your talent on
cheap cider and horny empty-eyed souls.
I laughed then, I remember it, day losing light
your face looked older, wiser, molded by shadow
I wanted to press myself to your breasts and find
that special sound you made when I delved deeper.
But you took my chin and forced me to meet your eyes
a deep blue like the bottom of my grandmother’s swimming
pool where I learned to drown
It isn’t fair, you said, it isn’t right, and it isn’t your fault
but it is your responsibility
defy them. Even if you can’t beat them, even if you can’t
ever be as good as them, defy their expectations of you
make something of yourself anyway, and for those who
things come easy, realize you are twice as strong
for matching their ease with your effort.
I admired you more than anyone I’d ever met
not just for the shape of your curls and the way you stood
short and yet louder than anyone in the room
I admired your tenacity and how you had a really dumb side
that you could laugh at and we’d sit in your friends bar
underage (me) barely old enough (you) and I could
never get enough of watching your lips move and wishing
they could be pressed against mine til eternity.
When you left me for the boyfriend you always knew you’d keep
because I was a phase in your life and you were my everything
I didn’t hate you for it. I felt the terrible absence of your
hand in mine and how life without you was colorless and
drab like someone had sucked out all the joy and left only
skeletons of memory.
But I was young, I picked myself up and tried again
the first time in years, putting aside my acting out and anger
the rebellions, resentment at having so many
impediments and not being one of the golden ones for whom
everything came naturally.
I worked so hard I ended up succeeding, but that success
never made me happy the way you hoped it would.
I still felt a fraud
I still knew, if I didn’t work twice as hard as everyone else I would never
be their equal
I knew deep down my short-comings were
who I really was and that being ordinary is never something we aspire to.
It did feel good to fight back
against things people liked to say in cruel moments
about how I would never amount to anything, how I wasn’t half
the intelligent person they’d thought I’d grow up to be
I proved them wrong.
I did not gain confidence in myself because I knew the truth
sometimes you can tap dance so fast, people start to believe
the tune you are humming, but it’s just a magic trick
and you’re as ordinary and bog-standard as
chips in newspaper and clothes on a line.
Did I want to be remarkable? Special? Unique? Gifted?
Accepting that you’re ordinary, especially when you were never told
is absolutely ego crushing
but I remembered how you laughed at yourself
and didn’t let it stop you
how you might have felt the fear and done it anyway
I took an incomplete leaf out of your book
one that I keep til this day, pressed against my bosom
remembering that people come into your life for a reason
sometimes that’s why they have to leave
for the lesson is rarely learned