It was too hard being in this body. And when I decided to leave it, I knew you would understand. You were the opposite of perfect, and so we were just alike—two extremes. You were nothing like me, and because of that, you knew everything about me. I hid my beauty behind your scars, and we made a whole.
When I look in the mirror I don’t see what Jerrold or Brandon or Mark see. They can’t stop gushing over my “big green eyes” and my “hoochie-mama curves” and long brown hair “with the gold streaks like rays of the sun.” I didn’t invent any of it—what they said or what I am. I don’t use highlighter. I wear very little makeup. We were alike in that way, and so we were different.
Aunt Faith tells me that I just have to wait, that I just have to grow up because in a few years everything I’m worrying about right now will all be gone, will all mean nothing. Isn’t that what your parents told you, too? Do they actually think we’re going to buy it? Who gives a damn what things will be like in three or four years. I’m sixteen now and have to get up every day with this body. Every day I go to that school and listen to the same crap and avoid the same whistles and touches and jealousy.
I had a dream about the two of us. I never told you about it. You were the perfect one in the dream. You had the flawless skin and the beautiful straight hair, and I was the one with the pimples, the burn scars on my neck and arms, the frizzy hair, the glasses, and the big butt. I didn’t like being you. But funny thing, you didn’t like being me, either. We got into a fight in the Homeland parking lot after school. I wrapped a thick strand of your hair that was mine around my hand and yanked until it came away like a long length of silky yarn.
I woke myself up because I was holding your hair in my hand, even though it was my scalp that was burning with the shock of that removal. Even awake, sitting up in bed, I could feel the loss. My scalp was tight and sore, and rubbing it only made it worse. My hands were wet, and I turned on the lamp next to the bed and couldn’t believe the blood on my fingertips, the blood already drying under my fingernails.
Wherever you are, I wonder if you are dreaming. Are you the person you used to be in your dream? Or are you me?
Sometimes I sit in class and cannot hear a word that is being said. I look across the room at where you used to sit, and am still surprised that someone else is sitting there. It is so easy for us to replace ourselves.
*This is the opening of yet another young adult manuscript that I have half-finished.