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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Who I should have been

I should have behaved more and followed the rules better and not worn those mini skirts and knee high go-go boots as a teenager, because, you know, it’s dangerous. I should have listened more in 9th grade challenge English class and not focused on the girl with ripped fishnet stockings where the white flesh poked out, because, you know, she was dangerous.

And I should have learned to stop whistling because whistling girls and crowing hens always come to some bad end.  And that’s dangerous. You know it’s true.  It’s true because my mother always said it to me.  And it’s true because sixty years later, a strange  lady at a dinner table said it to me in German when I started whistling.

I should have run away at the first sign of danger.  Which may have been when I took my first breath.  I should have sought out my real dad, because the one I had could not have been my own. I should have stayed with the neighbors in Yokohama who took me in, and fawned over my blond pigtails, and made me feel wanted.  I should have slept on their tatami mat covered floors and watched the rice paper walls retreat and advance while quiet, kind strangers told me I was beautiful in their unfamiliar lilting tongue.

I should have been something wild and dangerous…really dangerous

I should have joined the circus and run away from my life.  I should have been a high wire trapeze artist in a sparkly red, skintight body suit and flesh colored tights flying through the air with no net while sharp trumpets blared from the orchestra.  I should have sneaked under the flaps of the animal tent by day and trained in secret with the lion tamer and then slipped into the elephant car on the train at night to wrap myself in hay and a wrinkly gray trunk.

I should have been an engineer on a train….a reckless engineer, an engineer who didn’t follow the rules. I would have blown the whistle not at the crossings where I was supposed to, but at every child at play by the side of the tracks and then at the geese in flight.  I would have slowed down and stopped at every field of dandelions and then sped up through towns, exceeding the speed limit to get through the congestion and leaving the waiting passengers staring incredulously at my disappearing caboose.

I should have placed my hands over my ears and hummed loudly off key when the world whispered of my worthlessness and taunted me with accusations of my myriad imperfections.   I should have fought back instead of shapeshifting into a bystander who stood on the sidelines of my own life and let men take control of what was truly only mine to give.

I should have given up. Over and over again.

But I didn’t.

And I hope you never do either.

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