At eleven she couldn’t even think the word “fuck,” but if she had, she would have said it then. “Then” being the moment she realized she was “different,” or rather that she was that one extra kind of different on top of all the other kinds of different that would make her irrecoverable.
She had heard people say behind their hands that only-children were selfish and lonely, that homeschooled kids were socially awkward and couldn’t spell. She knew that the strange and unfortunate alchemy of homeschooled only children is that they are all of those things, and something else again. She had a nasty habit of throwing questions into the air and letting them come down like acid rain, of running curiosity like a muzzled greyhound. She took a scalpel to everyone near her, sliced them thin and put them on slide. Today she had turned the knife and the lens on herself.
She sat cross-legged on a lumpy black futon (her feet still did not reach the floor) and wondered why she didn’t have crushes, why she didn’t want to crawl inside the minds of boys or hold their hands. The answer, the way answers tended to be, was both very simple and the very last thing she wanted.
A black futon is not as dramatic as a wardrobe filled with furs, but it can be the same thing. It can tumble you into another world, another self; a sister can become an archer and a brother an avenger. Or, you can run, leave the snow and the queen and the lion and everything you might have been, and when you finally make your way back years later the snow is so much deeper and the wind so much colder and there are all the little ghosts of you in the shadow of the lamp post, all the selves at eleven, thirteen, sixteen — those almost people you left for dead when you walked back through the wardrobe.
Kate Tooley is a writer living in Brooklyn with her wife, fur-children, and what appears to be a small farm taking over her kitchen. Originally from the Atlanta area, she is currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction at The New School. Her writing can be found online in Longleaf Review, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Witness Magazine, and others.
Artwork by: Filip Kominik