When I was young, I wore a mask
of acne scars on my face. I carried
a Russian novel under my arm—
Chekhov or Dostoyevsky in English
translation— in order not to have
to make conversation or hold hands.
Before that, answering the phone
could put me in a panic. I don’t know
what it was— genes, hormones, a more
than average predisposition to solitude.
Not that I didn’t crave the golden
ease that others wore like a cape
floating serenely behind them.
Why not go over and join them at
the lunch table? But my tongue
was tied to the roof of my mouth,
and there were no earring-holes yet
on my puffy earlobes. It wouldn’t be
until many years later that I’d learn
to wear jeans, say things like crap or
bullshit, enjoy banter and red lipstick,
come out from under the fog of sadness
that hung over me like the dark
velvet drape around an old-time
photographer’s shoulders, looking
through the lens to focus his subject.

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