6. Dirt Road Stories: Little Girl

My Mac screen blankly grumbles back and forth. My roommate, Beth, reads some Trevor Noah article that leaves us wondering whose responsibility it is to be curious (“Go, Hitler!”). The dogs are excited about the rain but are afraid to get their paws wet, so they bounce around in our house. A beer sits to my right. But there’s a different space I want to bring you into.

Kickbacks is known for its long hours and extensive menu…And its hit or miss customer service. I think about this one pretty lady I know and how she probably has brown spots on her teeth like me but won’t go to the dentist (…I wish I could go to the dentist more frequently).

I say to Mikayla, “I think my next installment of ‘Dirt Road Stories’ will be called ‘Little Girl’.” I’m certain about this title. I’ve been chewing on it like a rubbery, cheap scrap of beef jerky from the Valero on the corner, and even though it’s lost all flavor, I refuse to swallow. Why? Because I like having something in my mouth, something to play with.  I don’t know what it tastes like or who to lay the blame on for manufacturing, but I can’t let it go through the systemic process of digestion until this post:

Age 9: “You’re going to break a lot of hearts…Be gentle.” – I wasn’t.

Age 12: “She’s all knees and elbows now, but wait…” – I’m still mostly elbows.

Age 14: “You could be hot if you hung out with other hot people.” – What are you even talking about?

Age:15: Nothing. – Still…?

Age 17: “She’s not like those other girls who are models. She’s a good kid.” – I was neither…None…Am.

Age 18: “She thinks she can do it, but I don’t think she can” – This phone call wasn’t for you.

And so at 28 I sit with my Master’s Degree enclaved in some $1.89 cardboard cube from Home Depot all to aware that sometimes I can’t reach the shit on the top shelf at Publix…. Well, not safely…If it’s glass…or heavy. Who would do that anyway?…Put heavy items on the top shelf?

From down here I can’t tell you how tall someone is (inch, centimeter…whatever), but I can tell you at what angle my eye line meets theirs. I can tell you if if they take time to meet my gaze, pompous as it may come off. I can’t tell you about their balding patterns. I can tell you their waist to chest to hip ratio and how they carry it. I can’t tell you why they bear it though.

Those arbitrary previous statements on what I know (enough to know that I don’t know enough) and don’t know (I could write a book full bursting with what I don’t know) gear towards this idea of “Little Girl.” I can tell you what it means to others, but I’m still trying to decide what it means to me…And it’s such a weird feeling. I want to freeze this moment of indecisiveness in which I (or anyone else) find(s) myself (themselves) at a loss in terms of “who they are.” It feels dirty…You can’t come in…I’m too indecent. What is the American dream anyway? I’m almost 30…Kinda (…But you can dismiss this declaration too).

Now that I sit here writing this, I realize I could never discern this rubbery, cheap scrap of beef jerky from the Valero on the corner’s flavor because its purpose (arbitrarily) is to have none. It changes too quickly…From the first toothal inception to its eventual, bone-dry salival inhalation, no two moments compare or feel stable.

And so I tell my students, on the last day of class that, according to some people (with names no one knows (but names none-the-less)), the final phases of reflective judgment involves accepting that there’s no one ultimate answer for anything, and if we’re paying attention who we are and where we are constantly, and that’s constantly changing,…and so deal with it….And this sentence is too long and I’m rambling, but I’m still little.

“Little girl. Lil’ bit. Lil’ one. Small one. Tiny one….,” keep them coming…I’m not getting any taller.

So judging by what I’ve just written (through the lenses of two Long Island Iced Teas and half a PBR – thanks Scraggles and Eddie Sparkles), when I walk into a room, I’m small. When I stand in front of my class I’m small. When I apply for a job, I’m small. When I go to the grocery store, it’s weird to see me with a shopping cart. When I write an email or construct a Tweet, I’m only half as big as the 12-point font.

And I wonder (as I anticipate you wonder as well now): Do I have Napoleon Syndrome? And when a simple Google search of “Napoleon height” reveals that he was 5’7” … I realize I’m not even that tall.

And so when I talk about a smell, a pheromone of being fatherless, of my defenselessness – little girl, no daddy – maybe this is what I’m talking about. (And maybe I’m wrong (because what will tomorrow say?).) And when I was in high school – before blooming, after blossoming – my mother told me about a man in my history whom I called “Big Daddy.” After I said his name I wasn’t allowed to see my birth father any more because “Big Daddy” was bad. And I never asked anything about it…But I know he was big and I was small, and that hasn’t changed.

But, then again, I could be just another person grappling with the human condition, vacuuming (“I can’t hear you! Lemme finish this room”), and then I move to the next room…And we have four dogs, who are excited about the rain but won’t go outside, so I’m never really finished with the rooms. I create a narrative for everything. Maybe you do too and then we revisit it later and, as well crafted as it appears, it becomes an “alternative fact” … you and me both are full of “alternative facts” – a new term for something so old – …And I question my own narrative…And then I’m in a different situation and…So deal with it….You and me both.

I’m just so incredibly fallible in this moment.

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