We all have a name that could have been, a list scrawled in messy adult handwriting that could have been our label, our calling card. For me, it was Darcy. My mam is a big reader too, and had I been born a boy, Darcy (Mr Darcy) from Pride and Prejudice was number one on my parents’ list.
I like to tell people that, and laugh with them in nervous relief that I didn’t have to live in THAT parallel universe. I pity the guy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mr Darcy as much as the next book lover, but in the same way people don’t get the origin of my actual name, my, inevitably, male friends wouldn’t get Darcy.
Marrying Elizabeth Bennet would have been pretty cool, but I doubt I’d be that kind of boy, because I’m not that kind of girl. I’d lack the key components that made Mr Darcy desirable. The cute British accent, the money - I’d be an Irish (or North Atlantic) accented boy with brown hair and poor eyesight.
Years of my childhood were spent wishing I was a boy. I was a pretty, blond-haired child, and the hair was long, so long it didn’t fit under a hood. My best friend was a boy, and though there was no weirdness between us, I wished that I could sleep in the same room as him, so that we could sit up talking and playing games. If I were a boy, we could hang out without people teasing, even if our parents only did in in a joking way. When my hair darkened, I persisted until my mam let me get it cut short. I remember walking in with my new pixie cut, something that I could easily fit under the hood of my school tracksuit, and feeling on top of the world.
That was before I was bombarded by girls I rarely talked to, congratulating me on my bold move and lamenting over the loss of my long hair like it had been theirs. It wasn’t like I ever let them near my hair, like some of the girls did. I never saw the point of sitting around gushing over boy bands and platting other people’s hair. I was a tomboy. I could run fast, I like to make up elaborate games in my head, where we went from driving across the desert to blasting apart entire armies with our newly discovered powers; where we ventured to cities straight from a picture of a Middle East market, buying metals to use in our alchemical experiments, new weapons for our desert racers and strapping on newly forged samurai swords. I loved when we would race across the yard while participating in a hover-board race, or name our exotic mounts and retreat into our respective laboratories to make cool new weapons and cars, adjust our hover boards.
I wanted to be a boy so badly, but then I gradually drifted away from that idea, seeing how annoying most boys were. Suddenly me being a girl worked perfectly, and I watched entranced as the male character in our games, my best friend, would bounce around the trampoline that was also a library at the top of a tower in his laboratory. I was a guest in his home; he had rescued me from a monster in the forest. I watched as he made a library for me with the words from his mouth, making the shelves appear, filling them with tomes straight from my most desperate daydreams of paradise. He was always the engineer, the mechanic. I was always the thief/potential hover board champion that he would chase across the cityscape, eventually snaring me in a trap despite the words from my mouth describing miraculous escapes, killer moves and a world that could only be real in our minds.
So Darcy faded in those exhausting days of constant bouncing, constant talking and describing, constant action. The garden would become an arena, a school, a forest, an entire underground city. Our fights were epic, our sword clashing in our minds, ringing through the neighbourhood, being thrown by a savage blow into the netting, getting up after being beaten to a pulp. Those days were the best of my life, when reality meant little. With my friend, and that trampoline, I could make my imaginary worlds come to life. The ones from my own mind, the ones from books and games. Dialogue flowed like water in those days, action was perfectly sequenced, the twists and turns of the plot came without effort. It was a master class in improvisation. Each word, each fight, all made up on the spot, but flowing perfectly. It was beautiful. I know it’s hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it, but those days of childhood, of bouncing in snow, rain, when the trampoline was covered in ice, when darkness fell, at the crack of dawn; it was magical.
Darcy was born and died in those feverish moments, those days of sheer wonder. I was born in those days, and I grew up, and one day we sat inside all day, absorbed in a Wii game. Gradually, the trampoline gathered more and more metaphorical dust, its springs rusted, but I hold those times close to my heart, and there they will live forever.