Updated: Apr 14
By Acadia Currah
You are a messy, melting-candle-wax amalgamation of everyone who has ever loved you.
When you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein you thought about how to be a puzzle piece woman. To feel the cool metal of an assembling-table against your back, glacial and detached as a behind-the-counter “Would you like fries with that?” hospitality stare. How to dissect each part of you separately, where is your father in the way you hold eye contact a second too long, your mother in the way you lean against walls even though it’s colder that way? Where is Ottawa, Ontario in your too-big voice and broken doc martens? See the stitches connecting your fingers and hands and wrists, would they break with nothing to hold them together? Can something be fixed without glue? Without industrial strength bonding to keep it from cracking open to the molding marrow of your heart? How to have one piece of you fit seamlessly into another. You might have to break off things, you might have to put them away. Your room has always been the coldest in the house, even when you moved. It’s like you take it with you. You carry it in your hands, keep the cold deep in a fist you haven’t unclenched since you were thirteen. You try to find individuality in the frostbite but come out the other end with split knuckles and wind-burned cheeks. You’re on a subway and everything smells like city and you want to go home, want to belong to something, more than you want to be from somewhere. The barista is smiling “What can I get for you?”, an Americano, it’s disgusting. You are trying to be a bitter-coffee-girl, a black leather jacket mystery, a glacier stare at the guy who cuts you off in line, but you say “excuse me” too quietly and you ask the barista how her day is going. You are still volatile. “Firecracker” “Livewire”. Too much. You wish someone would press a hand to your forehead and give you a cool cloth. To say “You do not need to be a fuse, I will hear you even if you do not blow.” Your skin is too warm to touch, the cosmetics woman says you’re an autumn. You wear winter colors anyway. Name, age, date of birth, eye colour, sex, place of birth. “Where are you from?”. And you’re from Ottawa, Ontario except for when it rains and you think “Typical.” Then you’re from Vancouver, or your dorm room, or the sidewalk outside of the thrift store. Your heart, a scarf, and three photo ID’s from schools you don’t go to anymore are jangling around an OC transpo lost and found bin. You’re from there then, you must be. You are from your mother when she puts chocolate in the fridge and reminds you to wear a scarf, and you are from your father when you work too much and bring your friends to the grocery store when they are upset. You’re from a middle school guidance counselors office, face in your palm and thinking about God. You’re from a bus seat, a confession booth. An amalgamation of girls in rooms wishing they were somewhere, anywhere else. You wonder if you can be from somewhere you’ve never been, if being from somewhere means you have to have cataloged each faded street sign, memorized the way autumn breaking smells in the air, or if you can belong to somewhere without anything tangible. You belong to Paris when you smell cigarette smoke, New York when you forget to say thank you to the bus driver, You belong to the stitches in your legs holding you together, you are a Frankenstein girl, who put them there? Is birth the ultimate creation, or is it the constant, ever present redressing of wounds. To create something bigger, to be from a stitch connecting your heart to your ribcage. To be from somewhere else entirely the second you get on the train and look out the window, you are from wherever you are going. The same mentality that drove your crooked twelve-year-old grin to say “Whoever’s winning” when asked which hockey team you were rooting for. You are a study in a practiced, maintained ability to assimilate. Do not check google maps, don’t take pictures, eyes straight ahead, shoulders squared and fixed. Your voice should sound measured and practiced when ordering at a coffee shop, you’ve done it a million times, even if you’re just passing through, there’s a need for the order to melt on your tongue, to hit their ears as “My usual”, though you’d never actually say that. You have never frequented anywhere long enough to have a usual, always a “hand in the cookie jar” guilt tied to familiarity, always “This is not yours”. Still you say thank you when they hand you the coffee, and head off like you’re someone very busy, like maybe you’re going to a job, like you make this walk every day, and it isn’t such a big deal to you. Caught in a sick purgatory between a need to adapt and a want to be seen, to be observed by someone and have them think “I wonder if I will see her on my walk home tomorrow”. You can be from “Pretty” and “Girl” If you are those things. And maybe you’re from a stage, delivering a monologue trying not to sound too much like your first acting teacher, the one who said you were better suited for aggressive roles. You have an artificial-spotlight-warmth blush, bright lights seek to drown you if you do not pack on too-heavy mascara and too-porcelain foundation, anchor head with a different-colored neck. And you, the performer, the narrator, taking personality quizzes trying to find some origin story a-la-Spiderman. Can you be the super-girl? The wonder boy with an uncontrollable knack for pyrokinesis. Are you from ENFJ? From Enneagram Type Three? The debater or the achiever? You need to be both envied and ignored. To be seen only as an apparition, to be a “I wish I was her.” Followed by a “Where’d she go?” You are still walking through unfamiliar streets trying to look like you are walking home. Trying to look like there’s some string with a warm familiar place at one end and you at the other, tied around your waist tugging you forward. You are trying to be from something new. You are trying to be a coffee-scented-library brown heeled boots girl with wire rimmed glasses and a razor blade tongue. She can read yellowed pages and drink mulled wine and look up from under her eyelashes. You want to be her, and her, and red-lipstick pencil-in-mouth quipping back and forth with someone important. Elusive and witty and “How does she do it?”. You want to be a new person everywhere you go. You are a grotesque mosaic of everyone you’ve ever loved. Your mother raised a sweet, well-mannered girl, so you are a bullet-mouthed, thorny-core grown-up with a mango pit heart. Fleshy-sweet around, hard and inedible, gutli girl. There is a cliche, you think, in opposition, in rebellion. You want to be from nobody but yourself, want to be your own. But you are, despite yourself, hip-checking cabinets closed like your mom, picking up texting-lingo from your best friend. You are a Russian nesting doll girl, doomed to love and be loved, doomed to hear a “Just like your father”, an, “Hey, I showed you that song”, again, again, and again.
Acadia Currah (She/They) is an essayist and poet residing in Vancouver, British Columbia. Their work explores her relationship with gender, sexuality, and religion. She is a leather-jacket-lavender-latte-toting lesbian, her work seeks to reach those who most need to hear it. They have been published in The Spotlong Review.
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