I wrote my first book at the age of six. Titled "There's No Land Like Maryland," it was the tale of two male ghosts who lived together. In hindsight, they might have been lovers, influenced by the brightly colored capers of Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street. But mainly the book was my own way of working out any disbelief I had that there was an actual state called Maryland. I don't know why this fascinated me so. In my memory, the book was an opus, hundreds of pages the result of me swinging my legs from the kitchen table, writing. In reality it was probably no more than five pages, the result of an afternoon waiting for my mother to get off the phone. The original manuscript has never been found.
Later I wanted to be a runner. My dad was a runner which meant he changed into his silky 70's shorts in the afternoon, tucked his hair beneath a red bandana and disappeared for an hour or so. Carefully I drew a picture of my own sneakers, the ones with the rainbow stripes on the side, and I wrote above it "Susannah Clay Jenkins, Runner," and I hung the sign on my bedroom door next to the ceramic plaque that read "Penny," a remnant of my infatuation with "The Rescuers." I had never run anywhere without fair warning but I thought it sounded like an interesting enough job though I never was sure of the pay scale.
In high school I witnessed the rise of The Supermodel, though I was far too pragmatic to think I could ever do that. Instead I watched Cindy Crawford on "House of Style" every day after class and sketched bad Nagel knock-offs, girls with pouting lips and piercing cocaine-addled eyes. I was going to move to New York and be a fashion designer. I practiced my signature and mouthed the words to George Michael's "Freedom" while driving my Volkwagen Cabriolet, something I am sure a young Isaac Mizrahi did in whatever corn-fed state he grew up in.
I am not sure why it is that by this time in my life David Letterman has not had me on his show. At least for stupid pet tricks. You'd think that I'd have been able to get Nacho to fetch me my slippers by now, but no. My feet are still cold. I have never lived in a foreign country. I speak French poorly and only when drunk. The strangest thing I have ever eaten were turkey nuts, though they were so deep fried that for all I know I was eating deep fried lint from behind the ice machine in the restaurant kitchen. My life, as of now, is ordinary.
Some say that there is no such thing as success or failure, there is just living your life. I am not so sure. I would argue that success is finding the glamour in your life regardless of what you're doing: watching Zoey ring her lips 1001 times over with my cherry flavored Chapstick, tossing my head back and laughing when she does, running because I have rainbows on my feet.
I have never told anyone this last story because I was afraid I would get in trouble, but when I was around eight years old Jason Doolen told me I could not fit a hard boiled egg in my mouth and so I went home intent on proving him wrong. We were out of eggs so I placed a Weeble Wobble in my mouth and swallowed. I gagged. For a full minute I could not breathe and I sank to my knees saddened by the knowledge that my mother would find me dead by Weeble Wobble. But somehow it finally worked its way down my throat and I felt vindicated. See! See Jason Doolen! I can swallow an egg whole! And to this day I still have that Weeble Wobble in my stomach because I don't remember it coming out, surely I would have noticed. I think of this sometimes, the Weeble Wobble and where it went, what it's doing in there, trying to remember which character I swallowed. Was it the postman? The cowboy? A baby? And is it true that it never ever, not even once, falls down?