I’ve always wanted to be tall. Jessica is tall: she’s a glamorous, long-legged five foot ten, and when she steps out of cars, it’s like she’s unfolding herself, all graceful and feline with one eternal leg extending at a time. Stepping out of a car like that has long been an aspiration of mine, and for the majority of my life, I held onto the hope that I someday would.
Look at her. Livin’ the dream. Scowling sugar daddy and all. © Wayne Car Service
It wasn’t until the last few years that I realized I wouldn’t ever be tall. It’s not as though I’m grotesquely short; I clock in at an even five foot four, sometimes five foot six if I’m feeling dishonest spunky. And yet it was a strange and disappointing realization to be told that this was it, that what I had was all there was. It was the first real time that the ever-present opportunity of Possibility had been ripped away from me, and the sudden introduction of Finality in my life was new and unwanted.
Since that fateful day, Finality has been reintroduced to me several times, and I always have a problem with it. Take my wedding, for example. I was twenty-two, had a kid, and knew that Orie was It. I was young, sure, but I was certain, and the entire ceremony went off without a hitch. Then came our honeymoon, where I hovered somewhere between ‘oh god what have I done’ and ‘borderline existential crisis’ as I unconvincingly assured Orie that I was “totally fine.”
It wasn’t that I was unhappy with Orie; it was just that I’d spent so much of my life – my entire life, really – reading books, so many books, all kinds of books. I wanted to experience forty more romances, a love triangle, a broken engagement! I wanted to try a musician boyfriend, an older boyfriend, a mysterious boyfriend who maybe was an assassin but also had a heart of gold. I had never before had to give up on the Possibility in all of my fantastical, unachievable fantasies, and it was a grounding, new feeling, knowing that I had made a choice that effectively rendered all of my daydreams just that: daydreams.
I assumed, for a while, that all people live their lives like this. It was only recently that I was characterized as a ‘daydreamer’, someone who preferred the fantasy to reality. It sounds bad, maybe because it is. Reality is real, after all, so isn’t fantasy a waste of time?
Yes. Yes it is. © NFL
And yet in starting this new job, I’ve discovered a truth about myself that is as revealing as it is damning. Before I worked full time, I spent easily two or more hours a day writing. Nothing specific, mostly nonsense and short bursts of fiction that I’d delete immediately, but in writing them I satisfied something innate and unnameable in myself. Now, working all day, I feel antsy, as though someone has corked me up and all of the fairy wings and iridescence and as-yet-unnamed characters are building up inside me, clamoring for release.
When I get home, I feel guilty ignoring my family in favor of melting across my keyboard in loops of useless fantasy. Not to mention that it’s difficult to justify when Orie, well-meaning as always, asks when I’m going to try and get some of it published. I feel foolish and childish when I shrug and answer vaguely, since I know the truth of the matter is that getting published isn’t the point, it’s all intended just for me. But one thing is clear: I’m less happy with both feet grounded so firmly in reality, and I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing.
But for now, I’ll accept that it’s just who I am. I’ll always be looking for my snowy lamppost tucked into a cupboard, waiting for my wax-sealed letter inviting me to the sublime. I’ve already started teaching Lucy what exactly constitutes a fairy ring and why it is we leave bowls of milk out for the leprechauns in winter. And in the meantime, I’ll take baby steps towards embracing reality by admitting that I lied earlier. I’m five foot two, not five foot four, and I accept that I will never hit five foot ten.