What if I had started school when I was 6 instead of 5, being the oldest would have given me clout, stunning sophistication, height and maybe a later bedtime to brag about. I would have been a leader instead of a trailer, trailing in the group of snails. I suppose better than the slugs with slime slipping from their bottoms. No, snails that were learning to spell their names, snails who were given pencil cases instead of picking their own. Snails that form their letters slowly, carefully, struggling to draw a straight line, a round circle, but my circles had angles.
I was the misplaced puzzle piece that hid behind uncut hair and misfitting hand-me-down clothes, faded jeans with bell bottoms, before bell bottoms were cool. I was the kid that lost her pencils and then her pencil cases. I was the unedited kid that wore the Tuesday t-shirt on Thursday, and sat next to the wall hoping to melt inside of it, until the bell rang to set me free.
Had I been 6 instead of 5 when I was taken from my home to a more structured world, I could have held my pencil properly. I could have stayed between the lines. I would have wanted to practice my spelling again, again and again. So later, I would write in greeting cards that could be displayed, thank you cards that people would have no need to squint their eyes at.
Had I been able to write clearly, I would have organised my pencil case with pride, I would have marked and respected my margins. I would have impressed my teachers, and I could have become one of those girls, who liked to play with dolls, who sat and quietly created a craft, who would have read Judy Blume. Then the teachers would have liked me, and I would have wanted to go to school, to sit in the spotlight of those not chosen with sighs but rather out of a teacher's need for reprieve. I would have not played sick again, again and again.
Had I not played sick, had I gone to school, Mother would have felt the need to take a second mortgage out and buy country club membership, and I would be a competitive swimmer and have learned to play golf, worn designer clothes made by children without mothers. I could have looked good even when I didn't feel good, like all the other girls.
It would have changed my awkward gait into a tight stride. I would have chosen when and why to be seen, and for what I would have been remembered, instead of tripping my way out of cheerleading try outs. I would have been able to meet and greet without looking for escape routes. I would not have needed a date and a cigarette to hide behind as I entered a room. I would have stood alone.
Pearls would have hugged my turtleneck as I entered the university with well-fed ivys and chosen sororities paid for with a third mortgage. This is where I would have had the brash to pick a room with someone named Buffy or Poppy, who could drink me under the table and whose family also brunched at my country club. I would have walked from cap and gown to shoulder pads and stilettos into my office with the large windows and hardwood furniture and then home to my flash flat, a big mug of gourmet hot chocolate in hand and cashmere throw around my shoulders, looking out to the cityscape.
With only a tinge of me, the random abstract me, hiding inside what would now be her body. I, me, would only be allowed infrequent viewings after too many martinis in the presence of close friends, when she admitted to missing me, missing the little girl who wore grass stains as badges of honour. The girl who moved in with the wrong boy far too young and ran away on motorcycles and jeeps through villages and cities till I found your father and decided to stay.
The other me, her, would sit down to the computer to write.
But she couldn't write because she would have nothing to write about, because she would not have had you, my muses, with your princess dresses and tiny little fingers, and even for that me, her, I believe it would have been unbearable.