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Smoke

I wonder what it feels like to know me, or at least, to think you know me, and then to realize maybe you don't know me at all.


Many years ago, a good friend told me, you're great at letting people see what you want them to see. She said this when we were no more than thirteen, but it wasn't melodrama or hyperbole. That's not her style. It's always been me--the Cancerian type with the metaphorically double-walled heart; the trick mirror of personality. Sounds very Gemini of me. I have a Gemini for a father; my favorite, Prince: he, too, was a Gemini. I have been labyrinthine for as long as I can remember. But there has to be some line of demarcation; some place where I stopped giving of myself wholly and learned to play defense even when there was no game being ran. A line from a book I just finished says: "Some people can't see softness without wanting to hurt it." The hurts I acquired were no different, I'm sure, than everyone's: effortless cruelties of the kinds children acquire from adults who only get older, and never grow up. This covers it all, really--those who shamed me with their indifference; the ones who crossed lines we can never return from; those whose casual teasings cut me sharp like machete blade; the ones who gave their secrets to me but couldn't see that they were never safe for me to unload my own. I want this to not matter anymore, but it does, it still does. It is something I must face every single day I wake up and decide I will keep healing, keep revealing, keep growing, keep shedding.


I had always attributed my smoke screens to my Cancerian nature, to my need to protect my sensitivity. Only as an adult did I learn that my sun sign is Cancer. My moon placement is in Scorpio.


 

I have replicated almost the entire last decade of my life for social media. I have created a persona for myself, a comfortable lane to float in, a person that is not not me, but also not me. Of course no online persona could ever capture the actual me. Theoretically, this is true of anyone using social media, though I'd argue that many people are just as base in real life as they are online. Maybe they are the victors, unconcerned with performance or critical thought, but just being, no matter how inappropriate, how raw, how inane, how racist, how gossipy, how boring, how old, how whatever. The actuality of me is too complex--too delicate, too obstinate, both too concerned with the opinion of others and too utterly bored of caring at all. I think often enough about how people imagine they understand my viewpoint on some happening, and how surprised they would be if they knew they didn't know a fraction of what I actually thought or felt. How vain. Who even gives a shit about what I think about anything? I hate that I am consequently compelled to say that I mean that literally, that I am not saying it to fish for reassurance, because that's where we're at now--the endless feedback loop of performance and confirmation.


I wonder why I've expended so much energy in this, though I haven't done much more than exist. I don't try to do it, it is me. Maybe it's because the double wall allows me a place to go when I no longer feel like performing the version of me everyone has grown accustomed to; when the safety of me feels constricting, like planned suburban communities where the trees are all spindly brand-new and all the trash cans hug the ends of the driveways and no one parks on the street. It's the thing that allows me to decide, on an ordinary Wednesday, for no reason at all besides my own desire, that it's time to be stingy with the mundanity of my own life, to restrict access to the parts of me I've made freely available for a very long time. Like the overeating caterpillar at the end of one of my son's favorite books, I am fat and cocooning; pregnant only with ideas and reticence.

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