You know, not to be too nosey, but you should get a couple of enormous tattoos or something, my chiropractor says as he pulls my left arm over my chest and pushes me into the brown, cushy table. The table, if it had wrist cuffs, would seem like it belonged in a mental institution. Sometimes I feel that a mental institution would be a more appropriate place for me to be.
I know, I say with a sigh. I’m just too much of a Girl Next Door, I suppose. In image, anyway. As my back cracks like a twig, I notice the Christian prayers and degenerate pictures of spines posted all over the office walls. There must be a connection, I think. Jesus would have probably needed a chiropractor after carrying that cross for so long.
The chiropractor instructs me to shift my legs to the other side of the table. Slowly.
So what makes a Girl Next Door like you join a roller derby team? the chiropractor asks.
I don’t really know how to respond to that question. Oh, I could give plenty answers. I could say, I was looking for something bigger than myself. I was trying to get out of a bad relationship with a boy named Keegan, and I needed something to fill my spare time. I was coerced by an officemate who quit the team after one practice and doesn’t talk to me anymore. I spent my spare time hanging out with my cat and trying to cut bangs in my hair with regular scissors. I didn’t have any friends and my life was shit.
None of these seem like answers he wants to hear.
I pause as he presses his chest to mine, cracking my upper back like a loose tooth.
When Keegan and I broke up, joining the derby team wasn’t my only act of post-breakup rebellion. I finally went to a stylist to get my hair cut. I asked for an “edgy” look, but all I ended up with were layers that drooped like weeping willows. I bought new sweaters for my teaching classes. Of course, none of them slouched off my shoulder or revealed any cleavage the way I imagined they would. I bought new flat shoes, but they were white. Plain white. Not even any ribbons, bows, or shiny ecoutrement. I was still the simple little Suzi-Q (who always left the room when Keegan smoked pot) that I was before the breakup.
And then, I pierced my lip. I figured the piercing would do the job; the piercing would take me from Girl Next Door to Motherfucking Badass of the Year. My former teammate, Lucy, went with me. Two of the refs, one that I ended up dating a couple of months afterwards, accompanied us crazy derby girls so we could decorate our faces with painful metal baubles.
What no one knew about me, Little Miss West Virginia Hometown Beauty Queen Runner-up, was that I had always wanted to pierce my lip. I especially wanted my lip pierced because I had a habit of biting my bottom lip before I fell asleep. The pain soothed me more than a backrub. The downside was, of course, that the bites created white, visible bumps where lipstick should have been. But piercing my lip would make my transformation happen. I would go from Sweet Lil' Suzibumpkins to a sledgehammer. The piercing would make me too cool to have ever dated Keegan in the first place.
Even though I’m a diabetic and I have been giving myself injections for years, I’m scared of other people with needles. Terrified. I don’t trust them. I don’t want them near me.
But this time, I had to. I had to let that girl pull a needle through my lip, right through one of those white spots. I claimed it didn’t hurt, but it did. It hurt way worse than when I would bite my lip until it bled. It hurt way worse than that fall I took at the previous week’s practice when I busted my chin on the floor.
Afterwards, I looked like the Girl Next Door who took a dare or lost a bet. My derby wife at the time laughed because I had to pull my bottom lip over my mouth guard to ensure protection. No longer could I just pop in the good ole MG and start skating. Now I had to think about it. I had to think about that instead of being a Motherfucking Badass of the Year, I was the girl on the pivot line who had to make a silly, laughable scene when inserting my mouth guard.
Oh, and the piercing itched. It itched like a repeated bee sting.
Keegan hated it. Of course he did. I didn’t care. I wanted him to hate it. I wanted him to think that he had no idea who I really was. (In addition, I busted out one of his door windows with my fist. A lip ring and busting a window! Obviously, he had no idea who the real Suzanne 9lb Hammer Samples was!)
The real problem, as I can see in retrospect, is that I didn’t know who I really was. Was I that Girl Next Door who acquiesced to the needs of friends, animals, and homeless people who couldn’t afford my Chinese leftovers? Or was I the skater chic, the badass, the pierced brick wall who wasn’t going to let anyone, even a guy I’d dated for four fucking years, take me down?
When the lip ring got infected, I had no choice but to take it out and let my lip heal.
I had to let myself heal, too.
I became happy with being somewhere in-between.
I became okay with being the teacher in the plain white flats and the roller girl whose favorite pack phrase became Get the fuck off of me.
I became okay with not having monstrous tattoos painting my body.
I don’t know, I finally respond to the chiropractor’s question. I was just ready to try something new.
As I roll to my side and sit up from the bed, I see a faded picture of Jesus, his hands bleeding profusely from the nails. I'm definitely okay with not being quite that badass, I think. Thankfully, the only person I will ever have to save is myself.
That's me, bottom row center. Love the hair.