i don't really believe in fairy tales, but still. . .
Why else would I have pursued acting in my early twenties? Why else would I continue to write? Why else would I be so miserable in my plebian existence? It's an admittedly lovely existence, but not very glamorous. Not very exciting. Lacking a distinct pizzazz that in my mind can only come with owning one's own island or being invited to be a U.N. goodwill ambassador as is de rigueur among the do-good celebrity set these days.
"Well, if you want those things you've got to apply yourself," she explained, "and you don't apply yourself."'
She's got me there. I'm not very good at sticking with things. In high school, I tried every sport and club they offered, but stuck with none for more than two seasons. (Except for Latin. Inexplicably, I was in the Latin club for all four years and all I remember is Semper ubi sub ubi* -- so incredibly not useful in improving my SAT scores.) In my adult life I've toyed with painting, engaged briefly in yoga, taught with an after school theatre program for a couple of years, tried my hand at the aforementioned acting, dabbled in graphic design, attempted freelance writing with an initiative that could only be described as tepid, and these days I blog. . . sporadically.
What no one understands is that I shouldn't have to apply myself. Because, you see, I'm special. Of course, it's something no one else has thought to acknowledge yet. It's just some sort of clerical oversight I'm sure. But still. . .
Seriously, I wasn't even supposed to be here this long. According to every book I read as a kid, we special few would have found our way out, for lack of a better term, sometime in our adolescence (usually), though sometimes as late as our early twenties. I don't know if I just missed the window, the wardrobe, the rabbit hole, the rift in time along the way or if . . . . Well, I'll explain the "or if" in a second.
I blame Madeleine L'Engle, C.S. Lewis, Homer, Christopher Stasheff, Piers Anthony, Lloyd Alexander and countless others whose characters kept me company through my childhood, who gave me hope that there was something more interesting to look forward to once the stresses and doldrums of childhood were done.
But they lied. There is no "out." This is it. Except, I didn't really figure that out until I was about twenty-six. I was driving down the street in my little white Stanza and it occurred to me that I hadn't gone anywhere. Hadn't crossed over to a place where my special, undiscovered gifts would be the key to saving that world from some horrific evil. A place where I would be revered as some sort of heroine-savior with, of course, the ability to fly, or commune with fantastical creatures through the wonders of telepathy. A place where I discovered an innate skill for leadership, tactical savvy and curiously insightful wisdom. A place in which I was venerated for my genuine beneficence and you know, was taller.
It was a heartbreaking realization that shocked me to the core. Buried deep in my subconscious had been the idea that all this, this life, these everyday trials, this world, were no more than a staging area for something greater and more romantic. I felt silly. I felt betrayed. I'd been gypped.
And then the "or if" occurred to me. As a kid, imagining the scenario in which I slipped through the fissure in time and space, I was worried that my mom and my Aunt Patricia would miss me. So I created a clone Jill, one that would stay behind, stay here and live out this life with no knowledge that the real me had stepped across some cosmic divide. I always felt sorry for the double, sad for her that she wouldn't experience the grand adventures, the great love, the glory that I would. But in the name of practicality, it had to be done.
So sitting at the stoplight, car in idle, it hit me, "I'm the double. I'm the stupid left-behind, decoy double!" I let the thought sink in. "This sucks!"
And you know, it really does.
But I'm nothing if not practical, so I told myself that I had best get on getting on with this life after all. And honestly, I've tried. I've gotten the steady job, the fantastic dog, the good friends, blah, blah, blah, but the whole thing is, I must confess, much less appealing without even the hope of meeting a talking dragon or having an entire world view me through a filter of grateful awe.
Which brings us back to fame. Fame on this side, well. . . it would be perhaps the next best thing. A pale facsimile, sure, but something to comfort me on those cold evenings when I'm dealing with the truth of my own mediocrity. At least I'd have the paparazzi to distract me.
Recently, I was walking in the park with Fred and as we rounded a bend in the path, I saw what looked to be a free-standing doorway at the top of a hill. Now, we walk through this park everyday, sometimes twice and there had never been a doorway before. This one had seemingly appeared there overnight.
I don't have to tell you, I was a little more than excited. As we approached the doorway, I could see that it was more of a portal really, wide and futuristic in design, but rusted out as if it had spent time in the elements, a lot of time in the elements. This doorway had traveled through time and now it was here for me!
I had to try it. But as excited as I was at the prospect of finally escaping my fluorescent-lit cubicled existence for always and forever, Fred was freaked out. This, I took as a really good sign since animals KNOW things, can smell and see things on other planes. It's a fact. But I wouldn't be deterred. Danger be damned, I scooped his squirming little body up in my arms, took a deep breath and stepped inside. And then I waited, taking a moment to notice our shadow, framed by that of the portal stretching twenty feet along the ground in front of us, and then I stepped through to the other side.
I looked around.
I looked down at myself.
I took another deep breath.
Fred, relieved, ran back to sniff the portal and then peed on it.
I, as you might expect, was vaguely disappointed. I didn't really expect anything to happen, but still. . . .
It turns out that the doorway is no more than an art installation, one of several in a summer exhibit the park is hosting. Around another bend is a big, metal Escher-esque sculpture painted yellow and near it, a ditch someone dug that's called "Heal."
*Always wear your underwear.