Once there was girl who always wore a backpack.
The girl was quiet. She had very few friends, but she didn’t seem to mind. She didn’t seem to mind anything.
She paid little attention when the other children called her names. She ignored the kids who told her she was ugly or stupid or unwanted.
She just walked quietly through the halls, carrying her backpack.
Until one day, she collapsed.
The other children gathered the girl lying motionless on the floor.
Someone tried to pull the backpack off her.
It was unbelievably heavy. It was crushing her.
Someone opened it.
The backpack was full of words.
Flippant words. Cruel words. Every one of them heavy as a rock.
Some words had been sitting there so long they had begun to grow new words like mold.
As the children studied them, they began to feel enormously uncomfortable.
For they began to recognize the words.
They were words they had given her.
It’s a strange thing to suddenly realize that a movie theater seat no longer closes up on you. One day you walk into a theater, pull the seat down, hop on, and it just stays. What on earth could it mean?
Then one day as you sit in this seat that no longer closes up on you, waiting for the movie to start, you see someone with a great bucket of popcorn and a pack of Redvines. The realization strikes you that, walking into the theater, you did not beg your parents to buy popcorn and Redvines for you. You find that you are actually more interested in the movie than the candy. This too is strange and foreign.
Then one day, sitting in your seat that has long since ceased closing up on you, the green screen with white words comes up declaring what the MPAA has decided to rate this film. And this is a great shock. PG-13. PG-13?! Since when did you watch PG-13 movies in theaters?
Then, one day, as the movie ends, you stand up from your seat which you have all but forgotten used to close up on you, and look around for your parents to follow them out. But they aren’t there. The people next to you are siblings, or friends. Or maybe even… strangers.
As you stand there in the aisle, you wonder at how much the theater has changed.
When did all the change happen?
But you can’t find an answer to this question.
It’s like asking when you grew up.
There’s a girl who no one notices.
Steps are cut into the hill where the orchestra and the choir are. The audience sits opposite on the grass.
Candles line the outside of the steps, thousands of them, making a river of light on either side of musicians.
And amidst the candles there sits a girl.
She sits very still. She makes herself very small.
The light illuminates her face.
And she listens.
The haunting melody flows like water. The voices rising and falling like waves.
Someone notices her now.
An usher tells her she must move.
All she hears is the music.
He asks to see her ticket.
She has none.
He tells her she must go.
The light illuminates her face.
The voices rise and fall like waves.
She says she wanted to hear what the light sounded like.
Funny, that flame should sound so like water.
I can’t stop staring at the stars.
I’m drawn to them. I can feel them.
It makes me sad to look at them. They’re beautiful, yes, but they’re not a whole.
They’re a thousand shards, scattered in the dark.
And I can feel it.
I throw my head back, soaking in the sight, and it echoes deep inside me. I stand there till my neck aches and I feel dizzy, but I can’t stop.
Why are they broken?
Why are they scattered?
How did they get like this?
And why am I the only one who sees?
People look at the stars in wonder and awe. They see beauty.
Why can’t they see the brokenness?
Can I see more than they can? Can I see further?
Or maybe I can’t see far at all. Maybe what I’m seeing is right in front of me. I can only see the closest things.
Like my reflection.
The past, by very definition, should stay behind us.
And yet, it pursues us.
Like bile rising up in your throat the first startings of it creep up on you, and everything else tries to follow. It’s all you can do to keep it down.
And you have to keep it down. Because if you don’t, it becomes painful and unpleasant and makes a mess.
So it becomes a sort of philosophy for life.
Keep everything down. In the pit of your stomach. You can put up with the sickening ache.
No one wants to deal with your past.
You least of all.
Last Christmas we made cookies.
Christmas without cookies would be a very strange, not to mention tragic, thing. Perhaps you find this materialistic. But it’s really nostalgic.
And also they taste good.
But I digress.
Anyone who has made cookies knows that there are those cookies that turn out beautifully perfect.
And there are those that…
We were making simple round sugar cookies.
Only some of them were not round.
Looking at the pan, ready to go in the oven, you could see a line of satisfyingly shaped cookies. Perfectly uniform and-
Then you come across a misshapen thing with one side squished in, the other all lumpy.
This cookie is not right.
It does not fit the qualifications.
It does not fit in.
We laughed about it.
We then dubbed it the creative cookie.
And do you know what?
There was more than one.
All spread out across the five or so pans.
The creative cookies were not alone.
But they didn’t know that.
They’re lying flat on the pan and all they can see is the perfect cookies around them. They think they’re just a blemish on the pan.
Do you know what’s even crazier?
Sometimes two creative cookies are right next to each other, but they both have their good sides facing the other one, so they don’t even realize.
Can you see where this is going?
There is a poem by Shel Silverstein called Masks.
Don’t you see?!
It’s the cookies!
So, I’m an actor. I come from a family of actors.
My cousin is (as I once said) “Three years my senior, ten times my consequence, and far beyond reckoning in everything else.”
Actually she kind of put the words in my mouth.
She has a gorgeous voice. She is a wonderful actress.
The other night my mother said “She’s been really insecure about her acting for the past few years.”
She’s so confident. So amazing.
I’m the one that no one will notice. I’m the one who won’t be missed if I’m not there. She is insecure?!
Just last night I heard another cousin say the same thing.
I’m so blind.
I’m a cookie.
We all are.
When am I ever going to get it into my head?
Everyone has insecurities. Weaknesses. Vulnerabilities.
Everyone’s a cookie.