It almost happened. I was almost ready. I could see myself doing it, see how nothing would change, really, once it was through. But then, just a few too many seconds passed and the moment was over. I sat back and took a breath. It was gone. Just as quickly as it had come, the feeling disappeared, smothered by a well-worn cloak of doubt.
People do it every day, I realize. So why is it so hard for me? Is it because going through with it feels like cutting the threads that tie me to my history? As if once it happens, the sisters I grew up with, the parents who raised me and all they stand for will float away like orphaned kites, as the distance between us finally becomes real?
Maybe it’s because if I don’t do it, every “hi, my name is” will still elicit, “oh, that’s pretty. What is that?” There are some who recoil in disgust at those words—but I’ve always welcomed the controversial “what are you?” conversation starter.
It could be because I’m afraid giving it up is giving in to change. My allergies changed. My skin changed. My future changed. Does my identity have to change, too?
I know it’s because I don’t want to sit down for dinner and be the only girl without a “z” in her surname. It’s because that happy hour is still etched in my brain, the one where the waiter immediately picked out the blonde among us and marveled at the rest, unable to tell which Italian was which.
I know it goes back to that other fear, the one about losing her—that mousey brown-ish girl I grew up with and know so well. The one who was secretly bossy, relentlessly stubborn, and knew her dog’s name really was Spanish for “pretty”—not an immigrant couple’s failed attempt at pronouncing “Linda,” no matter what those kids said. The one who struggled to love her dad’s nose on her face, once spending an entire semester obscuring it so a sixth-grade crush wouldn’t know it arched instead of sloped.
I don’t want to forget her, because she’s the girl who hated the words “arroz,” barrio,” and even “aardvark,” until her “r”s learned to roll instead of sputter. The one who refused to sign her third-grade library card until she’d perfected the peaks and valleys of every extra syllable in her longer-than-most last name.
That girl has been with me for decades. She’s seen me through break outs, break-ups and breakdowns. It took me a long time to learn to love her. Can I really leave her now?