By  Dana Norris

There is a long lie that I believe:

  • You will be a child. You will test in the 99th percentile of everything that it is good to be in the 99th percentile of.

  • You will enter adolescence gracefully. You will have a few pimples, to show that you once had an awkward phase, but not too many.

  • You will wear good clothes. Other girls will envy your bracelets. Your long hair will shine in the florescent light of the cafeteria, and you will smell lightly of lilacs.

  • You will notice boys looking at you. You will smile at these boys because you will not be threatened or intimidated by them. They will smile back and will ask you on dates. You will go bowling/to the movies/to the park with these boys. They will put their hands up your shirt, and you will quietly love it.

  • You will fall in love with one boy, and you will have frantic, unsatisfying sex with him. You will dump or be dumped by this boy. No matter—there are always other boys to love.

  • You will go to college, a four-year college, a good school. Ivy will wind its way up the brick buildings.

  • You will have more sex in college. Better sex. Crazier sex. This sex will be with another woman at least once.

  • You will smoke cigarettes in college, but only lightly, on the weekends, at a kegger. You will smoke pot in college, but only once, on a Tuesday night, and you won’t feel anything.

  • After college you will move to a large city and live in a shitty apartment. This apartment will be classified as shitty due to its lack of an elevator or a dishwasher, but really it will be full of light. You will paint the walls salmon and put a colorful handkerchief over an old lamp to add some pizzazz.

  • You will eat tuna out of cans. You will later be able to brag about how poor you were.

  • You will get an entry-level job in your chosen field. Your brilliance and 99th percentile-ness will be noticed by your superiors, and you will quickly be promoted to a position of greater prominence and greater pay.

  • You will use your greater pay to buy greater shoes.

  • Your adoring boyfriend will propose to you, without warning, in public, with a giant diamond ring and wet, love-filled eyes. You will get married outside on a cloudless day at a wedding you planned for over a year that will cost an embarrassingly large amount of money.

  • You will be so thin at this wedding that people will worry about you with envy.

  • Your marriage will be effortless, light, and fun.

  • You will function beautifully on no sleep with an infant on your hip. You will eat kale and just glow.

  • You will quit your job to stay home with your baby. Or, you will keep your job and hire a nanny who will teach the child all of the romance languages while you achieve everything that you require in your career.

  • You will have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, or whatever is required of a perfect kitchen at that time.

  • You will spend the weekends shopping, filling up your too-large car with commodities: toilet paper, a case of Diet Coke, sweaters, a garden hose, socks, a new patio table, a new lamp for the den, a new carpet for the bedroom, another vase, another pair of sunglasses, another TV, another pair of jeans, another thing, another thing, another thing, another thing.

  • You will do all of this without any fat jiggling under your arms.

  • You will do exactly what you’re supposed to, and your obedience to this mandate will be rewarded with a life free of hardship or disaster.

  • You will think that you deserve all of these good things because you worked so hard.

  • You will not think too hard about it at all.

This is the story that I work to unpack, unravel, disavow. I open its mouth and forcibly pull its teeth with a long pair of pliers. Yet teeth remain, rows and rows, snapping and sharp. The story captures me; it draws blood. So I turn to the myths. I turn to the myths and I search.

  • A god will notice you, instantly desire you, and turn you into a tree.

  • You will mention to your friend how good you are at parallel parking, but a god will overhear you and send a tornado to your home to punish you for your hubris.

  • You will climb a mountain and ask the oracle for help. The oracle will tell you the horrible truth that your life is cursed, but you won’t believe it. Your disbelief will curse your life.

  • You will yearn to know the secrets of life and of death. You will ache for greater knowledge. You will hang yourself from a tree for three days and thee nights, and a crow will pluck out your left eye. You will die and go to the underworld, and the effort will twist your bones away from their joints, and you will finally wake up, hanging from that tree, with the new words and secrets that you so desperately wanted. And you will ache to forget.

  • You will be sacrificed to the monster in the center of the maze because your ancestors made a promise. They knew that you would be the one to pay for it but they promised anyway. The minotaur will claw through you, and you will not understand how this is helping.

  • You will fall in love with a trickster. You know that he will hurt you but you will follow him anyway because you hope that you are wrong, and also you are desperate to be hurt.

  • You will have a job that you do not like, which also does not like you. You will be trapped inside of this job. You will be told not to escape because what’s outside of the job—poverty, isolation, the possibility of tangible change—is so much worse.

  • You will be pregnant and feel as though you are giving birth to your own death.

  • You will rely on DVDs, MP3s, cable TV, streaming videos, endlessly repeating GIFs, emails and text messages to pull you through your day. These momentary distractions will seduce you into forgetting that you are you, and that there is work to be done.

  • You will presume that you can protect yourself from hardship and tragedy and the sudden feeling of your bone being torn from its joint. You will presume this even as those around you succumb to problems that are not of their own making. You will hope that the world is not chaotic and you will consume the false panacea that we all create our lives through our thoughts. The poor deserve to be poor. The broken deserve to be broken. Those with granite countertops received them as rewards from God for living just lives. You will know you are wrong but you will prefer this belief system to the alternative, the one that shows you that you are at the mercy of the teeth of the world.

  • You will be lost and miserable and confused.

  • You will fail. Repeatedly. Astoundingly. Without reason or recourse. These failures will all reveal a greater portion of the world to you. In moments of clarity you will appreciate this knowledge, but most of the time you will assume that you can stop failing if only you try harder.

  • Your world will end more than once. Your world will end continually.

  • Your world will start again.

  • You will stand in the center of the bowl of the earth, and the stars will slowly spin above your head, and you will finally feel that you are the same substance as the stars, that you are the swirling atoms and gases and particles that continuously crash together and will continue to swirl and crash even after your consciousness has ended. You will know that your consciousness is just a consequence of this crashing and therefore must end, but before then—just before then—you will know absolutely for one moment what a gorgeous momentary eternal wreck it all is.

The lie pulls me close and devours me.  The truth pushes me out into the void.  So I choose. I follow the myths, their central truth, and I find myself in the void, tumbling, spinning, and awestruck at the constant, unending ache it has always been to be alive.

Dana Norris is the Editor-in-Chief of Story Club Magazine and the founder of the Story Club franchise. She teaches at StoryStudio Chicago.  She has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,  The Rumpus, Tampa Review, and her stories have been featured on WBEZ (91.5 FM) and (89.5 FM). You may see her upcoming performance schedule at

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