This morning I nicked my ankle shaving for the first time in a very long time. I slept horribly last night; I dreamed several times of my grandmother’s house and once, just before waking, that Beyonce and Jay-Z took me to their home in the Hamptons and their daughter, aged 10 or so (played by Quvenzhane Wallis) kept chewing up and spitting out tortilla chips on these white steps in the garden. To be fair, I’ve never been to the Hamptons but I have read The Great Gatsby, so my picture of the whole thing could be off.
I was tired and that is likely why I nicked my ankle. Which made me look, of course, to my other ankle, where I have a small scar from where the possum got me.
To be clear, I was never attacked by a possum. But I did, once, after seeing a possum in my front yard one night and becoming so terrified, decide to shower and—still shaken—cut myself while shaving. This is no serious scar, but it is visible and on the larger side as shaving cuts are concerned, and whenever I see it I genuinely think that is where the possum got me. And then I have to retell myself the real story. Or at least, part of the real story.
I wish the real story ended there. I like that story. That quippy—I forget that I was not bitten/scratched/mauled by a possum sometimes—story. But the real story is twice as long, because, in freshman year of high school, a drama teacher I liked very much told me the exact same story, as it had happened to her.
[SIDE NOTE: I only lasted a few months in drama before I staged some stubborn protest against the jackass main drama teacher, Mr M. ADDITIONAL SIDE NOTE: When Mr. M retired, a friend who had stayed in drama, KZ, told another friend, KB, and I that Mr. M had moved to a farm on the west coast. For about a week, KB kept asking people if they’d heard Mr. M had died, because she had understood “moved to a farm on the west coast” as a euphemism. Because drama teachers are like cats?]
In some drama icebreaker, we were all asked to tell a story that we like to tell and the teacher told us her endearing story about the possum scar. And I liked it. I liked her. BUT I DID NOT JUST TAKE HER STORY. I did two years later see a possum in my yard and become genuinely terrified. And I did, after seeing that possum, cut myself shaving.
As an adult I ask myself if I cut myself shaving on purpose after seeing the possum. If maybe I was a little overly shaky. Or if maybe, I didn’t really need to shave my legs that night, but thought, oh what the hell? I don’t really know. I certainly didn’t think, mid-possum encounter, well my lucky stars, a possum! Now all I have to do is shave those legs! I do know that I wanted that story and then I acquired it as my own.
In my case this has been pretty harmless. I get to tell the story as though it happened to me, because it did, in fact, happen to me. But story snatching can get very complicated, appropriating. Maybe sometimes it is dangerous. I know this, and yet I feel like that type of criminal nearly every time I write, and often times when I listen to people. If I like a story, I want to make it mine. If I like a line, I remember it, to steal it. Occupational hazard? Or am I just a jerk?