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My professor was convinced I had an unpleasant childhood. Maybe it was the tattered jeans (haven’t you ever played crawl tag on carpet?). Maybe it was the emptiness of the room (didn’t you ever enjoy playing alone?). Maybe it was the closed door at my back (weren’t you ever so absorbed in your own world that you didn’t want the outside world intruding?). Maybe it was the overlay of forlorn. I was forlorn, but not then. I was glazing my memory with what I was feeling now. Now that I knew this earth wasn’t heaven.

There were the V of geese in the autumn, their voices calling back and forth to each other on the wind. There was sun streaks into my room, sharp and defined, and motes drifting. There was my pink rug, there on the wood floor. There were my halfpenny dolls, fitted out with wings. There was my wooden bookshelf, with very few books. There were my treasured gummy chews on the shelf, saved for later. There were the bats flickering out over the crik. There was the time we watched fireworks on the garage roof, and the other time I snuck out onto the roof, the moonlight glancing off my white nightgown. There was the huge, pink rhododendron that turned our blue stool in the kitchen to purple.

But my professor saw what I didn’t intend. She didn’t see that middle piece. Maybe I was writing like a hermit crab, using my essay like a shell for the creature inside. There was a creature inside, gnawing away at my bones. I wanted to rip my chest open and extract what I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to get that throbbing pain to go away. So, I drew inwards. I grew claws. I sought out a shell large enough to encase me. I wrapped myself in stories, telling a story I didn’t have words for yet. She didn’t see that evening at my church when a seventeen-year-old stranger pulled me into a world I knew nothing of. I had built an island around myself.

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