Z. is a 37-year-old musician from the West Midlands. She has several poems published and is currently enjoying exploring short prose forms.
What if I hadn’t been an only child. If I’d been raised by more than one family member, had siblings, local playmates. If I’d had healthy adult relationships within my view. If I’d been “properly socialised”. If I’d understood the language of my peers, the steps to their dance. If I hadn’t been the child who locked herself away in the cloakroom to lie on the stone floor whilst classmates continued their ruckus on the other side.
What if I hadn’t understood the nature of oppression at the age of six and observed it angrily ever since.
What if I hadn’t become so adept at being alone, at inventing my own experience. If I’d been allowed more freedom early on. If I’d sought outside stimulus rather than being content with the workings of my imagination. If I hadn’t begun to relish being different from the rest of them, pleased when they made fun of me because to be similar in any way would have been anathema. If I hadn’t woven my underdog identity into the fabric of my soul.
What if I’d been thin, straight, pretty. If I’d cared about fashion or make-up or what boys thought of me.
What if I’d ever felt comfortable around strangers, not large and lumbering and odd. If I could have enjoyed groups times, rather than sitting alone in cinemas, cafes, walking city streets. If my sensitivity hadn’t made me the one who cried at the endangered innocence of a duck leading her tiny brood across a busy road.
What if I’d learned to cope with life in ways which did not involve self-sabotage. If I’d not forever worn this cloak of awkwardness, awarded to myself as All I Deserve. If my resting face held a smile rather than the frown which keeps attention at bay. If I hadn’t fostered the trick of avoiding eye-contact by staring at the bridge of your nose. If I could have mastered the balance between confidence and arrogance. If I’d been able to keep the few friends I once had. If I didn’t feel like such an idiot every time I’m the (unlikely) centre of attention.
What if I had learned how to embrace the world rather than to isolate myself from it.
What if I didn’t take this all so very seriously.
Maybe, maybe then I would not be sat here, lonely as the last tree on earth when the rest of the place has gone to hell. Maybe I would never have been me at all. Maybe, then, I would be happy.
And maybe I would not have been able to write anything, ever, at all.