* * *
It’s not that I don’t know who I am. I do. I am in this body; I walk around in it; this is me. It could be that I don’t know who I’m supposed to be. That I think I should be different, could be different, would have been had I not fallen asleep at the wheel. It could be that I don’t like who I am. It could be that I’m afraid it’s too late to change that. It’s not a crisis, it’s more like a slow dawning of fact.
What do you do when you do not want to be who you undeniably are? I suppose you could read a book. Which reminds me: My library books are due.
* * *
So I have tried to write this letter. The letter was supposed to be about how my college changed me—a plea to keep it open—the letter meant to show how I’ve lived up to the legacy that is taught there, showing what good the experience did me.
Yet I’ve lived up to nothing.
When I tried to write the letter I realized what a failure I am in the eyes of that school. To send the letter, to have people read it… I couldn’t do it.
So I didn’t write the letter.
I am angry at myself for not having a life worthy of that letter.
* * *
* * *
Sometimes I feel sure no one can see me. On a crowded sidewalk. In a restaurant, at a table alone. On a subway train. In this room.
But people on the street do see me. They do; they step aside to let me through in the narrow aisle of the bodega; they say sorry when their elbows bump mine on the corner.
I once had a very beautiful friend and I think I felt comfortable beside her simply because she was that beautiful. I could be invisible.
I think other people pretend they can’t be seen, too. The two women in all black with the big black suitcases and the bright circles of rouge on their cheeks, always reapplying it, today I saw them on a bench I’ve never seen them on before, out in sunlight, where are they going, where have they been? The older woman, her cheeks fuchsia and getting darker by the second as she rubbed more makeup on, garish really, I don’t want to say it but yes it was scary and awful and I don’t know why she thinks that looks good, she applied her makeup as if she were alone before a mirror, just her and her reflection, as if she wasn’t on a sidewalk in a busy city where anyone walking by could see.
* * *
You see, people have these lives. They go out to lunch. They talk. Such animated conversations. I’m sure they’re bantering about philosophy or music or something brilliantly avant garde—if the avant garde is worth bantering about anymore, I don’t know—anyway, they talk about heady things, I think, or else they talk about parties, I always think everyone is always talking about parties because I don’t go to parties. I would have nothing to contribute to a conversation like that. They do things, people. They go places, have experiences, have days worthy of recounting to others.
I sit at a table across the way and read a book.
* * *
* * *
Now I have a seat near a window overlooking Broadway. I can’t see pavement. What I see are windows, just rows and rows of windows climbing upward into the sky. Actually I don’t see the sky. This window looks out only at other windows—no ground, no sky, just glass and glass and in between a whole lot of air.
The game I play is imagining myself inside one of those windows. Would I be happy in that one? Or that one?
Would I cry in that room? Would I stand before that sink looking out across the way at the person who would be sitting here and brush my teeth even if I knew she was watching? Would I water that plant, or would I be clumsy and open the window about to water it and knock it off the sill and watch it fall?
* * *
When you reach a certain age, you cannot just say never mind I am starting over. Though people have. My mother has. You may not recognize my mother if you knew her before and met her now, and it’s not just that her hair color drastically changed. It’s that she found herself. She went back to school when I was in college. She left. She started new. We say: It’s never too late! I believe it for her, but do I believe it for myself?
* * *
* * *
All this said, I cannot do a single thing about it for almost four more weeks. I have these deadlines; these deadlines have me. For instance, all weekend I am working on this one thing due Monday. My mother asked me why I keep saying yes to writing these things—she said this while driving, while I stared out at the road—and I said I think it’s the idea of being published. Sometimes it feels like this is the only way I can get published, even if I publish the books under fake names.
I am that insecure.
Believe in yourself, she told me.
I heard her, but at the same time it’s like I could barely hear her—it feels that impossible, that far away.