This is how memory works

This is how memory works: I am a woman who lives in fear of being denied. There is a mask I wear, a mask of unfazable calm, with it firmly in place, my features express serene indifference. My cheeks, eyes, lips, all are placid, welcoming, nonthreatening. I convince myself that I am at ease, that I do not live as though expecting the gate to be slammed shut at any moment. This is so true of me that an old friend made fun, saying that I have the least discomfort with entitlement of any young woman they know.
And to some extent, this is true. I was raised to believe I am entitled to whatever is avaliable. There is no question as to wether or not my birth or my breeding merits it. This, to counteract the idea that being a woman or being gay or being unsophisticated, means having to settle for less, for the thing that is not the best, for whatever it is they are trying to give you rather than what you want. This means I have the nerve to expect admittance, service, respect. At any kind of gate, be it physically real or intellectually abstract, I assume I will be allowed to enter. If detained I know with every cell in my being that I am ready to be indignant and that I will use whatever I have at my disposal, usually my words but often the law, to demand access.
But memory is stronger than principles, moral mandates, and progressive imperatives. Even though I appear “zenned out”, as one of my friends describes me, in those moments that test all of us who havnt grown up in the wealthy, upper class, all of us who expect, at some point, to be held at the gate, interrogated and turned back, I am, in fact, trembling. This is how memory works. It reminds me that no matter how strong I feel in myself, I am still the little girl with knobby knees. I am still the little girl with scars, matted hair and bare feet in mississippi dirt, too rich or too poor to be trusted. Memory works like this: I am always standing outside the gate, wanting to be let in. I am always terrified that this is where I will have to live: forever wanting, never fullfilled, always outside.
And so, more often than not, I choose not to remember. I wear a mask of belonging because this is what I am supposed to do, because belonging is my birthright. But behind the mask lurks a far more mutilating truth: I am not fit, there is something wrong with me, I am not correct.
Beneath the mask, behind the cool, unperturbed exterior there is rage. There is pure liquid fire threatening to annihilate. And I am afraid.

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