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He was born in February, which is a very miserable month because everyone is on their toes, trying to see if spring was coming from beyond the horizon. The streets were wet, cold, and when the puddles splashed on people’s pants and daringly bare ankles, they too became cold and wet. His mother felt her son’s head sliding and cracking and his whole being tearing his way out of her. She would tell him later, as a joke, that she had no idea that if a child or a large, dry mass of s*** was coming out of her. His father would laugh and say that there wasn’t a difference. The child was swaddled in pink blankets because for some reason, or for no reason at all, there were no more blue blankets or green or yellow or even white. There was only pink. His parents named him Taylor because it was a girl’s name as well as a boy’s. It was meant as a joke. It was funny only for a few days.
When Taylor was three he scraped his knee. That’s what his mother had called it, a scrape. Though, it was more a gash, deep and very painful. He cried loudly and his father called him a baby. He cried harder because his father words made the cut hurt more. Taylor got seven stitches.
Taylor wrote his first story when he was six. The words were hard in coming. The manuscript seemed to take forever. He did it though. He wrote his ten page story on creased paper with thick green and white lines that could barely contain his crooked and oversized letters. He knew it as a masterpiece. His teacher knew it as a product of her year’s work.
Taylor fell in love when he was six. A dark girl who wore her hair in a puff ball that felt like lint. Sometimes she wore her hair in four thick plaits. Her nose was wide and flat and different. He liked it because if he pushed hard enough, but not too hard or she’d cry, it looked like she had no nose. She wore flower print leggings every day until she fell and ripped them. She came into the school the next day with bare legs. She was heartbroken and no one wanted to play with her because she would snap at them. She had snapped at him too. But he held out a roll of pale scotch tape and offered her a solution, one that would rid her of her troubles. Five minutes later they had her legs taped from ankle to hip—she had orange panties, with cats, dancing cats. They painted flower shaped blobs on the tape and sat in the craft area because she couldn’t walk with her tightly bandaged legs. She was happy though because he brought toys to the craft table and played with her. She told him that she loved him.
By the end of the day she dumped him, face sticky with tears because she had gotten in trouble and he had denied being part of such terrible waste of art supplies. His peers didn’t say anything because tattling wasn’t good. The teacher believed him because he was a good kid. He was Goody-Two-Shoes Taylor.
Taylor ended up being short and skinny, traits that were contrasted by the deep swell of his voice.
Taylor spent nights crying in his room for no reason but to cry and feel like s***.
Taylor wrote poem upon poem, filling overpriced journals with his mediocre unpolished work that he thought was brilliant.
Taylor fell in love his best friend, a boy, then cried about it because he was not gay.
Taylor fell in love with his best friend’s girlfriend. He thought maybe he was in love with her position by his best friend’s side. That maybe he admired her for achieving it.
Taylor was never asked to prom, junior or senior.
Taylor didn’t get another girlfriend until his sophomore year of college.
Taylor was published the next year after writing a poem about how much he hated his girlfriend.
When she read it, she dumped him.
Taylor became famous when he was 46.
They, the television people, asked him to guest as a commentator on a documentary.
When he watched it, they put under his name,
And for some reason, or no reason, this made him sad, confused and angry. Was that all he was? Was he a four letter, dual syllable word? Was he Taylor POET? What about all the other things, those little things he wrote, the rough, crumbling stepping stones? What about his love stories and his heartbreak? What about the scraped knees and new bicycles and friends and acquaintances and strangers that he communicated briefly in store lines? What about all the snowballs he made and the burned marshmallows and the bee stings and the mosquito and spider bites? What about that surgery that removed his ugly, possibly cancerous but benign birthmark? What about the lime disease that left him crying for days from fear of dying?
He wrote everything down, everything and anything he could remember. By the end he was sure that a few of those anecdotes were faulty—the ones that were written in paragraphs as he tried to make them beautiful, tried to make them real and in the process, made them very fake. He looked, and erased, and looked and wrote.
Taylor’s life did not amount to much.
Taylor was a very average man.
Taylor was sad by all meanings of the word.
Taylor was tired, too tired to frown.
Taylor sat in his chair and wondered if POET was enough for him. Was POET better than all those things?
Taylor decided he would find out.
Taylor sent his list to his editor and because he was famous, it got published.
Taylor read his list.
Taylor’s life was reduced to a single page, double spaced.