“You really should consider yourself lucky,” she’d said, out of the blue as we ate at my kitchen table.
I looked up at her, the question ‘where did that come from’ apparent in my expression. She saw it.
“You get a chance to start over, you know, you get to re-invent yourself. I think a lot of people wish they could change their name, move to someplace new, do what you get to do.”
I had simply nodded, though not quite sure where this was going.
“Just think about it, Bishop,” she sighed. “You can be anyone you want to be now, this is your second chance, your ‘do-over.’ You could be from a large family, have brothers and sisters who love you. You could make up stories about them, talk about what you all did over holidays…tell about how your parents met, how they handled raising a bunch of kids on a farm, or in a big city, how they took you on vacations…you could make it all up and no one would ever know, and maybe there would be some solace, some satisfaction that you would get from it, coming from a past that, while it isn’t ‘real,’ it becomes real to you, you’d remember the stories you make up as if you’d lived them, and maybe it could change things for you in a way that, just maybe, shifts your perspective on your life from where you’ve been to where you’re going. You become someone that is you, but different, maybe even better.”
I was looking at her as I considered her words. It was a perspective I’d never contemplated for my own life, I wasn’t sure I could ‘live a lie’ even though, technically, I was now actually doing just that. I had been nodding as I thought about it.
“Or, ya know, you could also be an orphan with a tragic backstory in which you rise above your circumstances to become a superhero,” I’d replied.
Her eyes had widened at that and she’d held my gaze for a moment before she nodded, then turned her attention back to her plate, her forehead puckered in thought.
I didn’t know her history then, the traumas that she’d lived through, and I didn’t understand her point of view.
I had just unknowingly summed up her whole life in one sentence.