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Patti Masterman

Of Cliques and Monopoly

Doesn't everyone have to forgive themselves
For the half-formed, maladaptive masks
They once wore in youth? In school, I lived for years
Underneath a knitted navy blue cape
All through junior high, worn daily
To disguise newly sprouted breasts
And complementary curves in other places
They must have wondered then
If I had any arms at all, under there?
It was a teenage security blanket extraordinaire
Thank god, the cape finally gave way
Before high school, under it's relentless use.

By high school, I wanted to defy being labeled
Terrified of belonging to one particular sub-group
I lived in a shades-of-blue uniform all year;
Steel blue shirts, navy pants
No bright yelling colors, no makeup..
No school uniform could have been stricter-
I defied both convention and classification
Only my hair was unkempt, always in my eyes
Part of the covert rebellion perhaps:
I was in the army of one.

Since I refused steadfastly to identify with anything
I unwittingly joined ranks with the only group that fit me:
The outcasts. At lunch in the cafeteria; we, the dregs
Of high school society, sat at the edges of the room;
On the very last table; rungs on a ladder going nowhere,
And we fit together like a hinge
Swinging from side to side, as the doors opened,
And more often closed, on our expectations and ambitions:
Only one of us went to the prom
And not the one you would have guessed
One did drugs sometimes, but none of the others ever admitted to it.
I was the closet drinker no one knew about;
Always able to keep a secret, no matter what
My grades were really too high for the outcast group,
But therein lay it's beauty: no where else to go.

I never understood that my decision
To pledge myself to nobody and nothing
Exiled me by default, into the group that nobody wanted to be in
I have always underestimated the effect of decisions
Everything has always been all or nothing; black or white
Which means in monopoly terms, I always had overwhelming
Victories and defeats
And in my now-habitual role of non-conformist,
I have never been
To even a single high school reunion:
Somehow, I think they are not surprised.

Submitted: Saturday, April 17, 2010

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