moon song by phoebe bridgers // senior picture weekend
I've built my whole life around constructs. I know this because on Saturday, I wore my first crop top for senior pictures and told myself this is momentous. I paired it with black jeans and a blazer and waited for someone in my immediate family to call me the w word but they didn't. All I got was a tense and silent ride to a beach I could have walked to anyway. My aunt does call me a republican though, and I think about that a lot. I am not that. I am not a republican. Sometimes, however, I am that word, the w one. I’ve given up trying to reclaim that word, so it sticks to me like a scarlet letter, the reason I can’t babysit the board members’ kids. Blame it on my blatant disregard of the fingertip rule that started when I was twelve, blame it on my love of beautiful things, but I think it’s just that fundamental wrongness people seem to find in me and my mind and my age. Sometimes, by the way, I am that. Sometimes I am my age, I am eighteen. Sometimes I wear beautiful clothes and look sophisticated, sometimes I do normal things like get senior pictures taken and wonder if I’m beautiful. I eat soft serve ice cream with my best friend and her mother who is an almost famous photographer and talk about my town and the weird names I give to places. I have a magic fridge store. I have a stab station. I have a crop top.
My second outfit was a short plaid skirt and a t-shirt and tights. I got home and was looked at like an alien. Sometimes I am fourteen again, looking into windows that I can afford but not buy from in a shop in a city that’s been “shrouded in sin” since before my conception. I was taken to the city when I turned fourteen. My mom thought I’d hate it but I didn’t. So sometimes I am that, sometimes I’m generally disappointing as a person. It is so hard to live in my body, in my world. You didn’t hear that from me, but oh my God, please believe it. It’s so hard.
And my senior pictures are probably amazing, they are probably masterfully taken and edited and I am so lucky that I know someone who is so good at capturing things. I can’t help but ask myself though--when I see them will I know who she captured? I never recognize myself in pictures. I’ve always seemed to go missing. I am not myself trying to be the person my parents want me to be. I don’t know how to be myself in the things I do alone. When I get home, I get yelled at for spending money on photographs of myself and I am a narcissist because I can look at myself preserved like that for a period of time and two hours later, someone slips a brownie under my door but I don’t eat it and I don’t come outside. I know it isn’t the killer, it’s just the one who left and came back. They always come back, don’t they? I go for a walk around midnight and don’t take my phone.
On Sunday I’m not eighteen or beautiful. I wake up in the clothes I went out in and don’t change out of them and my mother is still back but she’s hiding and my father is working to afford something that won’t complete him and I begin to wonder if Saturday even happened. But it did. My friend is back at college and I know this because she texts differently at college then she does when she’s home. My brother says he is starving to death and there’s no food in the house. God damn it!, I want to shout and I want to leave but I don’t because he’s a kid and my sister’s a kid and I’m not, so I fish a flannel out of my closet and send them to friends’ houses to beg for snacks while I walk to the store. It is the only moment I will ever get to be alone. I buy bread and apples and fill out the FAFSA on my phone in the frozen dinners aisle. Sometimes I am thirty-six and doing this, most days I am thirty-six and I have a twelve and ten year old and I am dying of some unknown disease that turns out your insides and wrinkles up your face prematurely. I have done absolutely nothing productive since the summer and I will probably never be selfish like that again.
The cashier flirts with me and makes obscure references to my shirt. I say “how are you?” and he says “it’s another day in paradise.” And he says this to probably everyone who asks, but I want him to know I’m in love with him because he said it to me. I want to ask him how he got over not being the person he wanted. I want to ask him if maybe we can hang out. But he is eighteen and I don’t remember that I’m not actually thirty-six. I wonder if he has only ever been one age or if he doesn’t believe in constructs. I want to scream ARE YOU LIKE ME but I don’t want to scare people so I leave. A boy scout walks up to me and begs me to buy popcorn so he can go camping. He is freezing and alone and four and I am freezing and alone and aging rapidly and I’m so damn done so I overdraft for him. I wonder if this is how it is, if I will always be this terrible product of what I’ve come from. I wonder if my skin will fall off before I stop giving myself up for people. I get home and the kids aren’t back yet so I let myself stand in the shower for fifteen minutes and I pull on my crop top again and run my hands through my hair, wishing I’d preserved the curls I had earlier for just a little extra time. I wonder if it’s okay to miss so much you’ve never had. I wonder if it ever goes away.