I am not who you think I am.
You may have suspected by now that I write under a pseudonym. To be frank – and I am nothing if not Frank – I am also not Emma J. You probably knew that.
But also the pictures you think you’ve seen of me? I lifted them from someone else’s life. That’s not me – placid and fading into grey, twitching a little with the usual midlife impatience, but generally content within the cinnamon-spice aura of a happy home and healthy family.
In fact, I’ve only been pretending to be my own big sister. Or rather, anyone’s big sister, because — to be honest — I am an only child myself. Or at least only a child still in so many ways.
As to where I live, not the East Coast (which will not surprise you), nor the West Coast (which I have led you to believe) but on the road between, spending most of my time of necessity on the empty open stretches somewhere in the middle.
And I don’t ride a vintage bicycle, or “old school,” as I had one of my characters once describe it during one of those long and winding sketches set at the Food Bank where – by the way – I do not volunteer. It just seemed the kind of thing an Emma J would do and I often found it restful to imagine my other self indulging in this kind of gently nosy do-goodery. A comfortable story to tell myself during the last hours of a cold and lonely day on the road.
I do ride. A great black cat who purrs up hills at a gentle roar and laps the miles faster and more ferocious than any of dear Miss Emily D’s steam locomotives.
Why practice such a profitless deceit?
Everyone needs a change of pace sometimes.
Turning in for the night at a buzzing-neon-sign motel beneath the small yellow lights of some forgettable town, I always looked forward to sitting down with my laptop wherever I had wi-fi and tapping out the next installation in a life that had no need to go anywhere too fast. It helped me to unwind the miles as the water dripped from my leathers hung over the shower rod, trying to spin out what my life might be if I had been someone a little more tame.
I was often at a loss.
Which is why there are so many photographs of flowers – they are easy to find, thanks to Great-Uncle Googly – and seemed to fit the persona I’d created to a tee. I mean, to a tea. With painted saucers and silver spoons. And flowers, of course. Lots of flowers, which I discovered, speak for themselves.
Which must be why people like to give them at death and birth and marriage and all the other times too big for words.
I think there should have been more casseroles, but I don’t cook much, there not being a kitchen here – or not one I have access to.
No open road here either – if I’m to be completely honest – and why shouldn’t I? Having told you so much already. I have nothing left to lose.
The open road is as good a fantasy as the dream of the happy home.
And for me, almost interchangeable. I try them both by turns. Tracing my finger along the blue highway in an old Rand McNally on one day, imagining the lonely wind and the double yellow line disappearing into a far horizon.
Another day, sketching the warm and fuzzy outline of a family circle, the spinning spokes of a slow-going bicycle.
However – to stick to the unadorned, the plain, the whole and nothing but – it is only the information superhighway I ride. (Do they still call it that out there on the outside?) I get it in half hours doled out to me for good behavior.
Not quite as regular as the domestic bliss that comes three times a day on trays in industrial shades of gray. All expenses paid, though, by Uncle Sam. Or should I say Auntie Liberty? (Get it? Auntie? Anti? Good one?)
Something to take me away from myself, lying here, a Marxist feminist deconstructionist gone bad, counting off my days in the Big House where there are rooms and rooms, but no connecting doors.
I’ve looked at it as an intellectual challenge, trying to feed you a line about a life spent coloring inside the lines. Though (I must confess) it often gave me trouble – balancing between the utterly conventional and, I hoped, the interestingly fringey – trying to cover both coasts, as it were.
I think I often erred on the side of caution. One does. The truly conventional always seem a little more loose in their interpretation of the conventions. Haven’t you noticed the same? I wonder why that it is. Because the social decencies are natural to them, I suppose, and fit easy on them.
I did think my funeral pigeons a clever invention and hoped I’d get some mileage with them. But had to let them go, worried I’d blow my cover with too much emphasis on the caged, the escape, and the darker side of life.
If my portrayal of relationships has seemed a little heavy on misunderstandings and loss, both impending and remembered, put it down to my unhappy circumstances, will you?
I did the best I could, trying to catch the happy accent as I trolled through the light-hearted sites of unconsidering thousands whose posts of birthday parties and bathroom renovations have been my secret and shamefully innocent indulgence. I tried to pull some of this off on my own site, but found myself more taken with the idea of day after day of blue untrammelled sky, and only myself to answer to.
True confession: what I really am is a computer program. I have no choice but to write this way. It’s the way I’m programmed.
So how’d I do? Have I convinced you yet I’m nearly human?