It started with a list of boys. Your older brother boys, hero boys, boys-in-my-class boys whose initials I wrote in giggling code and you swore on your life you wouldn’t tell.
So when it really started when I was 12 I’d been in love before. She was a dancer, pretty, older, three things I wasn’t. She played the romantic lead so I told myself it was him I was defending when they said she couldn’t sing, him who made me blush when I swear she smiled at me once, him whose name I wrote, sighing, in my attentive darling diary.
But then it continued, with someone closer. The nearness of it all made my skin shiver and my head tie itself in knots while the rest of me caught myself charmed by the tiny patch of hair the dye missed and quietly hyperventilating when our skin touched.
I was surrounded, trapped, by friends with boyfriends who texted them in lessons even though we still cared about the rules and kissed and grew up faster and the Stockholm Syndrome consumed me and I thought that was what I wanted too.
So, he occupied the next year and a half and I screamed about it because this one made sense in some stupid, hopeless way and I could get a laugh from being obsessive and desperate. Towards the end, the feelings evaporated and I used the space it cleared in my mind and thought about girls instead.
And then it was her and I’m sorry for that. We were porcelain and I smashed it and with all this glue and string I can’t put the pieces back together.
Then I tried to introduce myself for the first time with my new face.
But the words got trapped in my skull, where they festered and turned themselves over and over until they lost all meaning. Then they plummeted down to the pit of my stomach and curdled and churned. They robbed the air from my lungs and got lodged in my throat. They got stuck in my teeth and held down my tongue and numbed my fingers and welled behind my eyes and I took a deep breath and typed ‘I like girls sometimes’.
Then, her. She was frightened and I don’t blame her. It tore me apart and I cried a hurricane but she seems happy with him so… so am I.
And now there is she. I am fearless and protective and I swear this isn’t me.
Because there are still times when I wake up and dissolve into worry because the world scares me. And there are things you say that make me wince but I have to keep the argument that can refute all yours folded up and pushed to the back corner of my mouth. When I close my eyes, my fear pulses through my head, beautiful and putrid.
But it’s okay because I still can’t get it right.
Now I need to pick a new name, a title, but there’s none that really fits. Even the one I like, the one that encompasses all my love and rage, is problematic. I can’t get my tongue around it and it makes people shiver and anyway I resent that I can be so misdefined when all I need to really say is I like girls, sometimes.
Spoken word version here