I’m from Athens, Ohio. I’m there right now, visiting my family.
This is not the first Google image result.
I love seeing my family, and my cat, Oscar. Oscar is always so excited to see me.
But visiting Athens causes me more anxiety than living in New York City. I, like many people who grew up in a small, rural town, didn’t apply to any college within two states of where I grew up. Each time I come back I have a deeper appreciation for Athens, but still, the teenager inside me rejects it. I have many memories here, a couple of which are really very lovely. But because of a choice few experiences, I have been left with deep, lingering fears.
TOP 3 MOST LOATHED (or…LOVED?) ATHENS MEMORIES, AND THE SUBSEQUENT FEARS THEY INSTILLED IN ME:
EXPERIENCE #1: The first two guys I made out with both came out of the closet within a year of each other. I thought our mutual love for Cats the Musical and shared interest in school choir would give us a lasting bond. They were each very supportive whenever I auditioned for a solo. It just wasn’t enough.
FEAR #1: I had recently decided to stop going to church when Makeout #1 came out, and decided, in a very Catholic way, that I was being punished for my combined lack of faith and sluttery. To this day, if I really like a guy, I will wait until I have proof that he is straight before I tepidly touch his tongue with my tongue.
If he asks me why I don’t use much tongue when we’re Frenchin’, I scream “BECAUSE GOD DOESN’T LIKE IT” into his open mouth. Then I leave, for he is unworthy.
EXPERIENCE #2: After I got into NYU, my mom enrolled me in a ballet class at the local dance studio. This was before I went to college where they have lots of mirrors, and realized that me dancing will never be something pleasurable to watch. This was also before two of my three dance teachers told me I had the perfect body for “ummm, sports.”
I walk in, ready to join probably two or three other girls my age, maybe one of my ex-makeout partners. Instead, this is what the class looked like:
That’s me in the black. The teacher is in the bathroom.
Awaiting me were ten little perfect ballerinas, no more than 11 years old. They surveyed my quickly from head to toe, lost interest, and went back to contorting their bodies into the letters of the alphabet.
Those little bitches didn’t fuck around. They were perfect pink robots who moved in angular unison. When I accidentally brushed one of their steel legs with my sweaty foot, I got a jab in the ribs and a callous “look out, you big dummy.” I looked down in shame and nodded.
FEAR #2: Ballet. Little girls.
EXPERIENCE #3: High school.
FEAR #3: I have this deep fear of running into people I knew in high school whenever I’m in town. I have one good friend from pre-college life who I’ve stayed in touch with, but when I’m not with him and I have to run an errand by myself, I look and feel like a sweaty, rabid animal–not the aggressive kind that bites, the solitary goat in the petting that your mom told you to stay away from because it looked “a little off.”
It isn’t that I hate everyone I went to high school with, it’s that I dread having to tell people what I’m up to. Every time I talk about living in New York, I realize how much I don’t do. I also worry that they’ll catch me at a vulnerable moment and it will all just come out.
AHS Grad: Hey, Keely! It’s been years, how’s New York?
Me: Wow, hi! You look great. Living in New York City, it’s wow, ya know, craaaazy! I mean, it’s great, things are open late, I grocery shop at 10pm. I don’t leave my apartment much. Great museums. I feel like I’ve been swallowed by that thing in Star Wars that slowly digests you for decades. Recently my best friend asked me if I’m a lesbian, not because she’s a lesbian, just because she was concerned that I felt uncomfortable telling her. I’m not a lesbian, but last night I did have a dream that I found a redheaded girl who was trying to parasail in my backyard. Her chute had malfunctioned and she was sliced in half, but she was still alive. I took her to the hospital but she died. Do you have any idea what that means? I wrote it down to tell my therapist, but there are some things that I feel like even my therapist would find weird. What are you up to these days?