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It’s halftime. The crowd wanders off to beers and bathrooms. The starters refocus. The benchwarmers listen earnestly to the coach, just in case. I stare at the scoreboard, illiterate as a pair of eyeglasses in a purse. This is my game, my field, my team and my audience. But what am I? Do I play or do I grow like the grass, barely aware of the painted lines?
The year has, somehow, nearly reached its midpoint and I don’t know what I’ve done with it – not that I have to do anything “with” it and not that come Dec. 31, a “you suck” bomb will go off right before the clock in my cell phone casually blinks midnight. I know this and keep cordoning off time anyhow, expecting the calendar to exert power.
But now is a particularly dodgy June to be battering myself with snarly questions. I haven’t quite started on my New Year’s resolutions and furthermore, I have a wedding to plan.
I teem with optimism and goodwill, and even free will. I foresee a long, foxy marriage. Nevertheless, there’s something existential about the months leading up to one’s perfect day.
It’s not angst.
My strange halftime metaphor and weird spring do, however, stink angst-ishly. I knew this stink long ago, back, back, hundreds of calendar pages back, in high school.
I can’t pinpoint the exact date or even day of the week. Maybe it reared up when I first got zits or when I failed the basketball unit in gym class. Maybe it all started with my first detention, which I earned by skipping study hall to do my French homework. OK, j’crivais in a tree much too close to an open classroom window, but still, I liked getting A’s on my report card until right around then, when it ceased to matter.
Of course, I can list many other contenders besides that solitary adolescent time-out. I can dig up memories of one of my first boyfriends, who tried to kiss me even though he was wearing tight white jeans. I found both the attempt and the denim disgusting.
Now that I have opened the field to ex-boyfriends, I might as well accuse another one, too, who introduced me to Pearl Jam, a band that soon had me moaning their tunes while I dropped tears into my diary. Or another one, who left me, so far as I could tell, to do drugs with his dad.
I could even implicate my parents (who fought), my pet ducks (who died) or our cornfield (which only grew cow corn, which tastes nasty). I certainly could charge the school bus driver (who had a very scratchy yell), the horses I didn’t own (although we had a barn) and Attica Correctional Facility (which saddened the very air where I lived – that is, Attica).
I don’t really blame any of them, many of whom had just as transient a sense of self as I did. The world didn’t make me eat angst. It's more like I threw up on the world.
And since then, no doubt I stole my own identity more often than anyone else would have wanted to, trying always for a better one – with excellent bank accounts maybe, with inner strength and a clear complexion.
Eventually I grew up and sort of settled into my photo ID. I made a Myspace page to neglect. I joined an online fitness community to quit. I spent hours customizing a My Yahoo! homepage, with links to articles Yahoo! thinks I might like – not just some averaged amalgam of Internet users but some averaged amalgam of Internet users who choose the literature content module.
That’s me exactly.
This year, I want to change my name and I want the new one to stick, to last like plastic bags. It will not be like my passion for cross-stitch, which crashed after a few months in eighth-grade.
After all, the old name stayed with me through so much and now that I'm done vomiting on the world, “for better or worse” shouldn’t be so gross.
And in the meantime, I guess I’ll play some football. Then hang out with the grass. Then go get a beer. Then stop keeping score.
E-mail Kelly New England Patriots paraphernalia at firstname.lastname@example.org.