20 Years


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When I was 7 years old I decided I liked being the boss.
I built an office using two boxes and an old briefcase in my father’s walk-in closet. I wrote poetry that made no sense on endless sheets of printer paper and called my father into the closet to “fire” him. I’m not sure now why he deserved to be fired or why he was such a good sport about it. I only remember sitting behind my little cardboard box desk and laugh-cry reading incredibly stupid poetry that made as little sense to me as a 7 year old as it did to my father as a grown man.

When I was 9 I beat the shit out of another kid for bullying me.
It was the first and last time I ever beat anyone up. I was 40 pounds soaking wet and I threw a girl (I’m laughing to myself writing this, because if you knew who it was, you’d cover your mouths and gasp) to the ground and pummeled her. Just wailed on her with my little, possibly ineffectual fists and wild, gangly feet.
As a 9 year old I was pretty proud of myself.

When I was 10 I learned how to ditch class.
My mother loves this story. I would round up the group of kids who didn’t like PE class, or the coaches, or who were lazy and didn’t want to walk to the JCC, and I would hide us in a tube slide on Hillel’s playground until everyone was gone. My merry band of misfits and I would play on the playground (pretending to belong to another teacher’s class; sorry Mrs. Silverman!) until five minutes before our own class was supposed to walk back from the JCC. We’d catch up with them and act like we were there the whole time.
We never got caught.

When I was 13 I accepted the fact I couldn’t dance, but that my acting was Oscar worthy.
Summer camp that year was Creative Camp. What I thought was “young magicians camp” (yes, I was always a nerd) actually turned out to be a singing, dancing, acting conglomerate that I had absolutely no interest in. I knew my strengths. Singing and dancing were not in that category. I was never the most coordinated kid. I could tell you a whole story about how I fucked up Mrs. Tuchinski’s entire production because I went through the wrong door and got lost, but I’ll save that for another time. I’ve just never been coordinated. Me trying to dance was always comedy hour for anyone who witnessed it.

Eventually the camp counselor realized I had several left feet, and I was recast as “Homeless Woman” and forced to sit on a box (where thank God I wouldn’t be able to dance!) and pretend to starve to death. I don’t know what dancing had to do with homeless people or why both of those things appeared in the same production. I do remember my grandfather Joe talked about how well I delivered that one line (“I’m hungry!”) until the day he died.

When I was 15 I had a nervous breakdown and used it to learn how to work the system.
I was homeschooled that year, after the principal told my mother I may as well just drop out after missing so many days of school.
The program was called “homebound” and the service provided me with a phone capable of conference calling. I had to use this phone to call in to my classes every morning, and this was well before the days of having a separate phone line for the internet. After a month of going stir crazy, watching too much VH1, and sleeping, I figured out I could rig my little Nokia cell phone to conference call and effectively freed up the phone line for the internet; years later my mother finds this, too, hilarious. The teacher on the other end of the phone never knew I left my cell phone on the bed, connected, and used the internet all day.
I taught myself to code that year.

When I was 18 I went to prom with a boy who was juggling two dates.
He held both our hands under the table and paid for both of our drinks. She was none the wiser. I just thought it was funny, and I knew I’d never see him again after we graduated so I played into the scheme.

He kissed me in the middle of the street and went home with her.
We dated for a couple of months after graduation, after he broke up with her, but we both knew it wasn’t anything serious. To this day I can’t remember a relationship I’ve been in ever being more fun, more stupid, or less consequential than the time I spent with Silvio.
He was a good kisser, he drove a Honda Civic.
I hear he moved to Orlando and got married a couple of years ago.

When I was 19 I gave my virginity to my first love, then played video games.
Sex is not nearly as romantic as it is on TV. We did the deed for less than an hour and played Guitar Hero for 2 hours afterward. I didn’t feel any different than I did before we did it. It didn’t make me any more or less attached to him. Sex isn’t the fantasy that it’s made out to be.
He’s still one of my best friends to this day.

When I was 21 I learned that ‘forever’ is just an 8 hour phone call that changes everything.
I met him when I was almost 13 and he looked like Kris Roe from The Ataris. He liked Linkin Park and anime and he played practical jokes on me. He asked me out on a date and I got so nervous sitting across the table from him in the food court that I excused myself to the bathroom and made my mom pick me up. I think I told him someone died. He moved to Connecticut later that year and we talked on the phone constantly.
I wrote about how confusing he was in my diary.
I saw him in person again when I was newly 21. He’d moved back to Florida and made a life for himself about an hour or so away from where I was living at the time. During those years we barely talked. Seeing him again brought with it a flood of feelings I didn’t remember having since I was 13 and sick to my stomach over Chinese food at Aventura Mall.
He still looked like Kris Roe.
I was still 13 and nervous around him.
He introduced me to some of his friends and his girlfriend and for a while I thought I may have found a place in the world. I don’t remember what lead to that 8 hour phone call but things were different after that.
We had phone sex. He admitted he loved me.
It was like the Renaissance Fair, the nights in his parking lot, the long car trips with his friends in the back seat, he didn’t remember any of it.
I saw him again a couple of years after that phone call. He came to one of my roller derby practices with his new girlfriend, That was the last time I saw him.
Forever is a tricky word.

When I was 26 I made amends with people in my past that I thought I’d lost forever, and I let go of others.
I repaired a relationship with my dad.
I let go of the childhood bullies that tormented me.
I decided I didn’t want to be sad anymore.
I guess that means I mended my relationship with myself.

I turned 27 a week and a half ago in Disney World; I used a wheelchair for the first time.
I call it using my “gimp perks” or “crip privileges” when I get something just for being disabled.
I don’t think any of us ever truly let go of the things in our past. We can put up all the "no trespassing" signs we want, but sometimes we still jump the fence.

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Holly Gouldthorpe