It’s easy to dwell on how quickly and seamlessly that girl was replaced by someone completely foreign: a person whose worst things involved all sorts of unmentionables much less innocent and much more life-threatening than pilfering through her grandmother’s things or nurturing benign crushes on older boys. It’s equally easy to search for answers — why was it so easy to give up on myself? — but seeking isn’t the same thing as finding. I’m exhausted from asking those questions. And so as mid-life (so to speak) begins, I need to say goodbye to the girl I was six thousand yesterdays ago. I think she would appreciate that.
It occurs to me that I’ve been on my own longer than I ever lived at home — a fact that’s been quietly slipping past. I think back to the girl I was when I moved here in June 1990. I lived with my grandparents before I moved into the college dorm. I worked as a cashier at K-Mart for $7 an hour, paid in cash every other Friday. In my spare time, my grandfather would drop me off at the Stratford Square mall, or I played with my young cousins (who lived downstairs), or I walked to my aunt’s house a block away, where I pretended I knew enough to talk about the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism and political philosophy. I still had a Texas accent. I craved such things as matching bedspread sets and pink nail polish and designer jeans and a cute boyfriend. The worst things I ever did were snatching Bonne Bell lip gloss from work, stealing change from my grandmother’s purse, or going to my aunt’s when I knew she wouldn’t be home, which meant I could visit this very cute and slightly older boy who lived next door and would play songs on his guitar for me and once opened the door in his underwear, a fact I found equally embarrassing and titillating.