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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

not yet


It is far too simple to say she is growing up too fast. Maybe it is better to say, too quickly for me to adjust to. It was only a year ago that she had long hair, and a sort of shy grace. Now her hands wave around in the air when she talks, as if she is whipping egg whites with them. Her smile hides behind nothing now, hair shorter and shorter until she gets mistaken for a boy. Well, that's just how people think here, where girls her age still wear a giant bow that perches on the top of their head for the first day of school. She wears a black plastic choker instead. 

It is not the external changes that throw me. She was going to grow into a woman eventually, and as it happens in leaps and bursts I do not feel any turns in my stomach or wishes for her to stay a little peanut, my sidekick off on another rainy day adventure. It's not that. It is the growing independence, the "I'm going to go outside with a girl from my class for a few hours" that throws me. And of course I want her to have friends, especially good ones. It is the fact that she never did this before, this skipping down the stairs alone. It is the closed door of her bedroom. It is the odd absence in the house that afternoon, as I work and write and stare out the windows before starting dinner. It is the feeling that she is gone, even for a few hours. I want her to be independent, I coax her to do things by herself, but the knife cuts both ways. 

That growing personal life, the acres of secrets and ideas and diaries - it gives me a little bit of vertigo. There was a day when I knew everything going on in her head, so I could play damage control, cleaning up the messes and weathering the storms with her hand in mine. But now, she chews on things herself. I wasn't ready for that just yet. 





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