They were older than me, so they were automatically cool. I wasn't ashamed to cling to them every time they came over to play with my older brother
, even if I knew I wasn't wanted. Tolerated
, perhaps, but not wanted
. I would pretend to like playing guns
and war games
just to be able to watch them move, to see the look in their eyes before they shot their fake bullets
, to understand why they were so different
Once they made me play with a younger boy - my age but a poor substitute for them. I wanted to be with the ones who brushed me off, or, at least pretended to brush me off to seem cool in front of each other but secretly smiled at me when no one was looking. When I was with girls I played Barbie's and wore pink and took sneaky little peeks at the underwear on my Ken doll and this was enough to make me cool. Prissy girliness was in. But once I stepped into their territory I became an outsider, a potential threat to their boyishness. And I liked it.
We were playing Star Wars. Well, they were; I was just there for the light sabre (they gave me the smallest stick but it still glowed in my mind). I guess I wasn't paying attention, because next thing I knew they were chasing me into the garage. My brother was Luke (obviously) and he told me that I had been captured, it was time for me to go in the box now. I asked why I had been captured and no one else and he said it was because I was Princess Leia and that's what happens to Princesses. I smiled. I'd always wanted to be a Princess - or at least wear the clothes.
I jumped into the big grey box happily and heard it lock over my head. Don't worry, they said, we'll come back and rescue you. I hugged myself in the dark, pretending to be brave and trusting that I would be rescued soon. Time passed. I was cold and scared and my knees hurt because they were bent in a funny way, but I told myself that princesses never cry, even if they've been captured. My brother had a light sabre and he would save me. More time passed. I decided that I didn't want to be Princess Leia anymore if she wasn't allowed to cry, and the tears poured onto the box floor. I guess they had forgotten about me and moved on to a new game.
As my crying got louder my mother followed the noise and found the box. I thought it was them and I tried to wipe my eyes and pretend I had been brave the whole time, a real princess, but when I saw my mother's face I sniffled and cried and jumped into her arms. She petted my head and I think she might have been giggling a little when I told her that I was Princess Leia and the boys forgot to rescue me, her face was all tight and looking like it wanted to explode with laughter.
I kept playing with them after that, but not as much. My own friends were much more sympathetic, and they knew how to do things with Hot Loops. They would never get away with locking me in a box. Never. And if they did, it would have been out of spite, not boyish forgetfulness.