“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I listened to the rabbit inquire, audio generating from a cassette player. I imagined my own stuffed animals coming to life and had real conversations with them, wholeheartedly believing my cotton-stuffed audience was listening. I never understood when other kids entertained imaginary friends, I thought the idea was ridiculous. However, I could easily imagine objects coming to life.
Somewhere along the way, I completely lost what is real. Dandelion pieces expire into the atmosphere and I fade with every internalized comment; every breath that said, you’re not good enough.
It’s sad to discover the last time you can remember being real–an uninhibited, honest, pure real–was twenty years ago. The first time I ever lied out of shame was around the age of ten. If someone asked me if I had a skill, and I didn’t, I would quickly weigh if the individual asking would like me any less depending on my answer. If I thought they were indeed judging me, I would tell them that I could do whatever it was. Usually these lies were over minuscule things–for instance, did I know how to play cat’s cradle? And I would promptly head to the library and learn. No extensive harm done to anyone. Over time, though, this has morphed into being removed from what I actually like and don’t like and, well, who the hell am I really?
I don’t even know what my favorite food is. I lie all the time about food-related queries. I have been lying about food-related things for a dozen years. Recently in a friendly game of questions amongst friends, the aforementioned question was asked, and I could not answer. One of my friends claimed to be able answer for me, and so she did: avocado.
She couldn’t have been more right, but it wasn’t even on my radar as a possible answer because I was just trying to figure out what to say that sounded normal. Pizza? Ice cream? Those are normal answers, right? I wasn’t worried about being judged or anything of that nature–it’s just that I have been so consumed with all things that are not real to me. Real is lost to me.
Maybe twenty-seven can represent super-gluing broken pieces, smoothing over sharp edges, and not having to be quite so carefully kept.
That is real.