there is a version of me trapped in each memory like a snowglobe. me, thirteen, long hair in a ponytail, running across the beach where the water is just an inch deep because I love the way it splashes. me, eight, staring out the car window and thinking how strange it is I’ve only been on the earth for eight years and yet I feel like I have always been here. me, eleven, in New Mexico, on Christmas, staring at the luminarias lining the sidewalks. me, sixteen, listening to my writing instructor’s voice break. memory isn’t a continuous and chronological line, not even a line at all, and I don’t know if that’s what time is, either. my life is a room with no walls that holds a hundred thousand memories suspended in water. I jump from moment to moment out of order and everything else is just the space between.
Do you remember when I was in middle school and so obsessed with John that I created an imaginary friend named Jay who looked just like him? He was like my mind’s replacement. I think I said he was twenty-three (much older than I was at the time but still tame, although inwardly I wished he were older) and had blond hair and green eyes, but I could never keep track of the eye color, so sometimes they were blue instead. I imagined he walked with me when I went out, and he slept beside me with one arm draped around me. I never thought I was starving for romantic affection, but I was, and desperate for a man to accept my obsession. I don’t know why. I don’t know when it started. Back when I was eight years old, I fell in love with a forty-year-old singer from American Idol, and I don’t think that was the first time. I loved the Doctor because he was nine hundred years old. I loved Motorcycle Man, the 33-year-old from my church. I was absolutely dumbstruck by every single male pastor and teacher and counselor I ever had, so I kept up with ten-page journal entries about every single one of them and I gazed at them, chest aching, from across the campfires of youth group retreats. I ought to burn all the journals I kept before ninth grade. At least after ninth grade I began to learn to hide my obsession.
At high school graduation, I proceeded down the line of teachers with outstretched hands to shake, and instead, I hugged all the ones I loved the most, and the one I’m too scared to name said “thank you for everything, Emily” and when I sat down I realized they could not see me the same way after this. In adulthood, everyone is the same. But the way I love men is divisive.