“Smile!” Serena broke me out of my horrible flashback by pointing a camera in my face and surprising me with the flash that was somehow bright despite all the other lights around. She looked at the small screen on the back and laughed, holding it up to show me. “You look terrified!”
I forced a laugh, “Well yeah, that’s because I don’t do well on spinny rides! I’m trying to focus on not throwing up!”
She looked concerned for a moment, and gently rested a hand on my shoulder. “Seriously? I can get the man to let you off now if you like?”
I shook my head. “No, it’s fine. I’ve not eating anything yet today so don’t worry about it, it’ll be fine.”
She laughed nervously. “Alright, well if you’re sure.”
I smiled what i hoped was comfortingly, and shifted slightly in my seat, trying to get comfortable on the hard plastic while still being able to see her out of the corner of my eye. I steeled myself and gripped the bar in front of us tightly as the man announced over the tannoy that he was going to start the ride. Serena helpfully placed her hand over mine and squeezed it gently. I glanced over at her and smiled.
“I’ll be fine, seriously. Just please don’t take a photo of me making a stupid face, alright?” I joked.
“Good to hear!” She laughed, “I think I can comply with these terms.”
This was so fun to write. I’ve spent a lot of time really disliking Alex for always being kind of angsty and reluctant to admit he’s having fun. Serena is like the opposite of that, she only ever really does anything because she thinks it’s fun. I mean sure she had like schoolwork and whatever but she enjoys all the subjects she does and she’s just this unending ball of positivity and fun and creativity. Alex by contrast has made indifference a fine art. He spends so much time internally monologuing how great or terrible a situation is but outwardly he’ll always sort of be ‘meh, it’s alright.’ That’s what I don’t like about him, he rarely expresses himself. I gave him Serena to coax a genuine response out of him once in a while.
So there’s that.
You can’t just stop thinking
You wouldn’t know silence if you heard it
You’re too wrapped up in your thoughts
whenever it strikes.
Your body is always moving,
like it or not
Your muscles still move
with or without your permission
Trust me, I’ve tried to stop my heart from beating.
You will be moved
And you will move
and you can’t stop
and you can’t silence
or be silenced.
That’s not how this works.
“Hey, look what I found!” I stagger through to the living room brandishing a bottle of rose wine like a trophy. We’ve been drinking for hours. Everyone’s in bed asleep upstairs. You leap up and hold my hand up in the air, we bow to an imaginary crowd. Giggling, we collapse on to the sofa which creaks and is pushed back with a small thud against the wall. Our giggles die down eventually.
You open the bottle and take a swig before passing it to me. I do the same.
Wear the grudge like a crown
You take the bottle back, and take a drink before setting it down on the carpet at the foot of the couch. Your eyes are on me. You’re not just looking at me, you’re looking through me. You see as far down as you want to. But you only want my skin. I look away, shift imperceptibly further away. I’m not clear at all.
Desperate to control
I lie back, pushing my hair out of my face. Bad move.
You’re there. You’re right there. All over me.
“I’m sleeping here.”
“No you’re not.”
A kiss. A disgusting, sloppy, dog kiss. Your hand finds the hair on the back of my head. I can’t move to where you’re not. I can’t move.
Unable to forgive
“Oh jesus this isn’t your first time, is it?” hot breath on my still-covered breasts. I squirm and push your lips away. I say nothing. My breath catches. I bleed. You moan your satisfaction.
I feel nothing. No shame. No hurt. No humiliation. I am numb. This is not what I was expecting but I guess it’s not so bad.
Let the waters kiss and trans mutate these leaden grudges in to gold
“He’s in a mental institution.” She says, “I’m going to see him for his birthday, maybe take him a cake or something. According to his mum he’s getting better.” I nod serenely, make a small sound of agreement as she walks out of the door.
“They let him out a week ago. He’s back at his mums house, I’m gonna stay over there tonight before I head back to uni so I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow.” I echo. She doesn’t know. Nobody knows. Nor will they ever. I spend the night curled up trying to somehow telepathically beg him to leave her alone.
I type and type and scribble and scribble and it doesn’t get any better. None of it gets any better and I can’t stop it. There is nothing I can do. He got away with GBH how can he be expected to go down for this?
I’ve got to let go.
Lyrics by Tool. Find the song here, enjoy it like I do. Don’t ask me about this.
You can’t get away fast enough
so i guess
You’re not the best at cuddling
because of your shell
but you’ll do
You can’t tell me your hopes and dreams
because I don’t speak turtle
but you’ll listen to mine so
I took a walk earlier. It was a relatively long one, considering I was just going to visit a friend. I don’t know what I was thinking when I put on an extra hoody and my scarf before leaving, but I’m glad I did. It’s cold out there, but it was tolerable with a pretty brisk pace.
When you’re walking with purpose, it’s easy to forget to stop and see what’s around you, but as I approached the local park I found that a bunch of kids were still out in the floodlights playing what appeared to be the bastard child of basketball and football. I’m always wary of people who go outside on freezing cold nights to play sports, so I slowed down and thought about what I would do were they in the mood to pick a fight. I stared at the floor, barely glancing up through my then-windswept hair to see if they’d noticed me at all. They didn’t. I kept walking.
I came to cross the road. I dislike crossing seemingly-empty roads, mostly because when a road seems to be empty and you go to cross a car will almost definitely come round the corner and almost kill you. I’m usually wary about death by car, it doesn’t sound like a nice way to die: crushed by a few tonnes of metal. Just think of the poor drivers insurance premiums. True to the pattern, I stood at the curb and waited for a car to pass, and was distracted by a particularly bright light shining above the hedgerow separating the road from the cul-de-sac beyond. A star.
I don’t know why I was surprised. I hadn’t checked the weather for tonight (I rarely do unless I’m planning a camping trip) but I was certain it would be dull and misty as it was earlier. It wasn’t. It was perfectly clear, and consequently, cold. I checked once more for cars before crossing, heading through a small alley, around the bollards designed to stop people from riding their bikes through it. I kept walking.
I left the alley and kept walking down the quiet residential streets, occasionally glancing through someones living room window, wondering who lived there and what they were like, because besides it being a relatively small village, I knew next to no-one. It was nice imagining their lives, filling them with horrors I would hopefully never face. I’d much rather pity than be pitied. I kept walking.
I turned on to the penultimate street of my walk to his house, a street that 2 of my ex boyfriends had lived on. I took a habitual glance up at their window and smiled at the Star Wars figurines still there between the window and the curtain. They were 17 and 19 respectively now (I should mention they were brothers. A story for another time) but though I saw them around often enough, and they’d grown in to the kind of guys you wouldn’t mind having around at a party. I still thought of them as the skinny, bespectacled, big-eared kids they had been when I loved them. I hoped they hadn’t redecorated their shared room, though part of me knew they probably had, but Han and Darth were still there to defend their window from any attackers as long as they could put aside their differences. I kept walking.
At the start of the street I was headed to, I found a Silver Birch, a few lonely resolute leaves still desperately clinging to the tips of its branches, determined not to become victims of winter like their fallen brethren that were scattered across the pavement. They were spread out fully, the damp from the rain and mist sticking their surface to the tarmac, they stayed there bravely, sodden but still spread out waiting for the sun, hoping they might still photosynthesise. They might still be of use to someone or something. They were dead though. Long dead and cut from the life source they were trying to keep alive through the cold. I thought about all these things and bit back a grimace. I was a small leaf, cut from a silver birch and left to decompose on the ground, though I was certain I was still of some use to someone. I could still help. I couldn’t.
I kept walking.
I hope many of you won’t understand how it feels to leave the house scared you’ll never return home. I hope you don’t have to be painfully aware that people want you dead, and that they’re in the majority. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
My brothers and sisters, we must be brave.
I read somewhere that 51% of all trans*folk commit suicide. I remember at the time feeling shocked and appalled and devastated that so many people had become little but a statistic. Then I read it again. 51% of all trans*folk commit suicide. Suicide. That number doesn’t even bring in to account the terrifying number who are shot, stabbed, burned, raped, strangled, beheaded, mutilated and drowned. Trust me, there are a lot.
Victoria Carmen White was 28 years old when she was shot in New Jersey.
Dana A Larkin was 26 when she was shot in the head in Wisconsin.
Azra was 30 when she was shot in the back of the head in Turkey.
221 trans*folk died in the last year. All across the world we’re dying. We’re dying in horrific ways at the hands of brutes unconcerned with who we are, rather what we are.
We have to remember them. Our brothers and sisters whose names mean nothing until they’re printed in a headline or chiseled on a tombstone. Sometimes they don’t even get names. “Unidentified body believed to have been that of a transsexual found recently in the Kalimalang river in East Jakarta.”
More importantly we have to make this stop. We have to protect ourselves and one another. We have to work together and fight this because god knows I don’t any single one of you to be found mutilated and dumped in a river never to be identified.
We can’t let them win. We can’t give them the upper hand. We must be brave and face the society that shuns us, and we must tell them that we deserve to live.
not even perfect
i just want
deserve you but
i don’t think i’ll ever
against all odds.
perfect by osmosis.
Through the window a desert reigns supreme. As far as the eye can see, not a thing but scorched dust. On the horizon a storm is brewing, but there aren’t any clouds any more. They fell to earth broken and beaten and slowly faded in to dust, just like everything else. I wonder if it’s worth taking a photo of this ancient landscape for posterity, but everyone’s moved away and in a few years nobody will be able to remember that there was such a thing as water, let alone clouds.
Obviously, clouds still exist, they’re just not the kind made up of water droplets. Now they’re mostly made of dust and bone fragments of animals we couldn’t save. It’s funny how humans can synthesise water and make it safe to drink but they can’t make enough to save anything else.
We’ll be gone before the storm hits, anyway. Off to try and find somewhere better to go. Somewhere with water. I don’t think it’s very likely, since as far as I can tell every planet in our solar system has gone the same way, the only difference is they’ve quietly accepted their fate, we can’t. We can’t accept that we’re going to die as a race and I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing yet. It might be both.
But looking through this window, out in to the boundless desert, is comforting. It’s nice to know that if I were to stay here and die, I’d become a part of something beautiful.
And isn’t that what we really wanted all along?
Just to be beautiful.
So, you never want to make your own decisions, want to be given a strict set of rules and regulations to adhere to for the rest of your life, you’ll never be able to do anything scandalous (read: fun) and chances are you probably won’t be able to marry for love.
I can treat you like that if you like.
I mean, there are upsides to being a princess I guess. You could travel around and work for charities and meet all sorts of interesting people. But why would you want me to treat you like a piece of meat, used to persuade people to donate to charity?
I’d much rather treat you like a regular person. I’ll cook you dinner if you want me to, or we can share the cooking if you think I’m inept in the kitchen. I’ll do my share of housework but since you’re a princess I guess you don’t have to do housework but I don’t really think it’s fair if I do it all, so maybe we could share that too?
To expect me to treat you like a princess is absurd. To want to be treated like a princess is baffling. Princesses don’t get to live their own lives, they get to live as an extension of the monarchy who are constantly under scrutiny. If you want me to wake you up and present you with a plan of the events you’re attending that day along with a cup of tea, I will. But I don’t understand why you’d want me to choose what you get to do with your time.
I’d much rather choose what we do together, and when we go and do it. It’s nice to have some lazy days together, curled up watching a film or just sat reading together.
When you say you want to be treated like a princess, the implication is that you don’t want to be given the choice to do as you please. I won’t treat you like a princess, I’ll treat you as an equal.
It’s National Writing Day, and I’ve not typed a single thing of worth today. But that’s alright, that’s why I write. I write to get better and to learn and see what I can see through someone elses eyes.
I write because I can imagine things, and I think that to share parts of yourself is to show you care. I started writing because it mad me feel better, and still now it stops everything outside from getting in and making things bad. It puts a stopper on Pandora’s box.
It makes me feel like someone important. To the characters I craft I am a vengeful manipulative overlord.
On the other hand, I write to make a life better. I write to give hope and to inspire and to try and help.
I write because through words I can do anything. I can walk on the moon, see the stars, fight in a rebellion against an archetypal bad guy, travel in time and space and make friends and enemies and drink with my heroes and spent a quiet night at home.
I can do anything, as long as I’ve got a selection of letters to make in to words to make in to sentences and paragraphs and chapters.
That’s why I write.
So there you are. Sat, lights off, cat curled up on your lap. Your Playstation whirrs softly and you can barely take your eyes away from the screen. You know what happens. You’ve seen it in gifs and photosets and youtube clips and you’ve heard tell that it’s cathartic and harrowing and that you’ll never look at him the same way once you’ve seen it.
It’s really by chance that you’re watching it now. You thought you’d go and watch to take your mind off of all the thousand other things you should be concentrating on and worrying about. It was just a coincidence that you’d been through the rest of the season and the next disc up happened to have those 3 episodes on.
Oh Well, you thought, What’s the worst that could happen eh? And you were right, to an extent. There were moments where you’d break out of your blank expression to give a small laugh, and the cat would reward you with a stare that went completely unnoticed by you.
But the episode goes on, and your mild amusement and admiration fades to mild panic and your thoughts get a little jumbled. This isn’t really going to happen now, is it? There have been so many other times like this where it’s gone completely fine in the end. This is another one of those times, right?
But you look on in horror as the tears stain her face with black mascara, and she pounds her fist against the wall like it’s the only thing separating them and if she could just punch her way through he’d be there, standing bold as brass with his hands in his pockets doing that stupid thing he does where something important is happening and he’s too cool to acknowledge it, but you know he notices.
And there he is, features impassive as he holds his ear to the very same wall. The same wall in a different place and time, a different universe. He’s got his hand pressed gently against it, and you think back to the start of the episode, when he first entered the room and did the same thing. You close your eyes because you can’t bear to see that look on his face, and open them to see him remove his hand and walk away alone.
You feel a lump grow in your throat, and swallow helplessly to try and ease it a little. It’s useless, and the tears are already stinging your eyes and though you try to blink them back defiantly you find yourself shaking with uneven, draining sobs. The kind that make it feel like your entire soul is aching and has been aching for so long and you’ve done a sterling job of keeping it suppressed until now, when you let out a choked wail and the cat jumps up and flees. You can’t bring yourself to blame him.
You draw your arms around yourself and pull your hood over your head, tucking your knees up under the duvet so you can barely even see the screen between the material. But you can still see, just barely. You try to stay quiet but it’s hard to and you keep choking back sobs, ever more aware of the crushing weight building in your chest. This is it, this is that part that so many people have cried over so many times and you’re raw and bitter from the world and your mind flicks to your father and you wonder briefly if you’ll be able to say goodbye.
You know what’s happening on the screen though you’ve never seen it before. You still can’t now, your eyelashes are coated with tears and your vision is distorted as the light shines through the tiny droplets still clinging on despite your blinking.
The weight in your chest can’t be held back, and you finally give in, resting your forehead on your knees and sobbing, forgetting whatever else might be on the screen. You fumble for the remote and mute it, you can’t take any more of this torture. The breaths you manage to suck in between sobs is insufficient. You can’t breathe and you don’t even care because nothing is right.
You wonder fleetingly if you put off applying for universities for long enough, he’ll come and find you, and mentally send out a distress signal. Help me. For the love of God please save me.
You’re trapped between breathing and choking and you can’t see and you try to breathe through your nose but it’s not happening.
You’re just left there, broken and crying.
And the feeling won’t leave you for hours, even after you’ve stopped crying.
I was approached today by a girl in the year below me at my 6th form college. Which was a little odd, because people in general stopped approaching me after I nearly strangled a boy outside my drama classroom in year 9. But she did, she approached me and she said to me “You’re that tranny kid, aren’t you?” I was flabbergasted, did people actually open a conversation like that? Was she unaware of the fact that I am in fact still human and need to be loved? Apparently not. I sighed and nodded yes, I am that tranny kid, thanks for reminding me random year 12 girl. Then she did that look that usually only crosses the features of fierce african american ladies when confronted with the lady their boyfriend has been cheating on them with. It was kind of bizarre, she looked me up and down with this simply vile sneer.
Then she said “You’re not kidding anyone you know, I know you’re a girl. Why would you lie about your body?”
Why would you lie about your body?
At the time, I was anxious to go and catch my bus,and so I didn’t have the time to properly deliver the answer I have since composed for her.
I am not a liar. To imply that I would lie about my body is frankly absurd, especially in a school where a lot of the students have known (or at least seen me presenting) as female. They know that my anatomy is that of a lady, but they also are slowly but surely adjusting to the fact that I do not wish to be seen as such and have overall been fantastic at addressing me correctly.
I am not a liar, Year 12 girl. I am an illusionist. I have made no attempt to try and fool anyone that under my shirt are breasts and between my legs there is a V where I would rather see a P. No, I dress and act the way I do in order to convince your senses that I am biologically male, despite what my anatomy may say otherwise.
And if you knew exactly what that entailed on a daily basis, perhaps you would address me with a little more respect.
One of the things with running away is just that – running away. You have no plans of where exactly you’re running away to, you just get an urge to run and run and run and run away, it doesn’t matter where. You just have to leave that situation and hope that maybe you’ll find yourself in a better one somewhere along the line in a different place.
Away. It looks kind of like a foreign word when you look at it. Not many words I can think of offhand have any w’s in that aren’t at the start.
Away. To anywhere that isn’t here. That doesn’t have these problems with their completely conspicuous lack of answers to them. (Hey, there’s a word with a w in the middle of it. Nice one, answer.)
I decided that I did not need nor have any obligation to stay having this conversation, so I left. I went away. Went away just like my parents and my cat and my friends.
Maybe I’ll end up where they are
Maybe we’ll have a party.
That would be nice.
My first trip to town was on my 12th birthday. My sister took me in and got me a tshirt that said ‘I’m with stupid’ with an arrow to the left. I’m still waiting to outgrow that shirt, actually. It’s still sat in my wardrobe. She introduced me to a few people that day, some people that I remain friends with, some who I couldn’t name even if you showed me a photograph. One such friend is Ben. He met me on my birthday, and even now 5 years later despite the fact he’s gone off to get a degree in a far away land, and despite the fact at some point along the road I did some pretty shitty things to his family, he’s stuck with me. I didn’t have a best friend until I was 12 years old, how pathetic.
So, saturdays during town-era went a bit like this: Get up, get a lift to town in order to get a bus to a different town. Hang around, maybe drink some WKD, maybe do a little wrestling, maybe scribble on some subway walls, maybe smash some bottles to fall and impale yourself on later. At some point during my first summer in town, I smoked my first cigarette. I had been having a bad week. Financially, times were hard and we couldn’t really afford for me to be in town, but I was there. A girl I now think back on as a typical manic pixie dream girl was sat with me under a tree, and we were talking about parents. Her stance was “the only thing they gave me was life” - which apparently was not enough to earn her love or respect. She was a troubled teen, I heard stories about her from everyone, but it didn’t stop me from fancying her – I don’t think it stopped anyone. I told her about how unfair it was that my parents spent money on cigarettes and wine for mom instead of keeping up my town habit. She offered me her cigarette. At this point, I have forgotten how that first fag tasted, though it was probably foul. I didn’t make the rookie mistake of coughing, my body didn’t betray me like that. I had spent long enough watching my parents puffing away to know how it worked. That was that, nothing notable apart from yet another first I accomplished in town.
So that was my first lady crush and cigarette. I never did anything but drunkenly kiss her, but I’ve stuck with smoking for 5 years now. It was a subtle trap indeed, but I will never regret that conversation preceding the beginning of my addiction.
Some other firsts happened in the vicinity of town, too. The first time I got drunk (I had 2 litres of Strongbow and a small bottle of vodka – I promptly climbed a tree and sliced my wrists open with the broken bottle, very dramatic.) The first time I got high (I promptly fell asleep.) The first time I had sex was with someone I knew from town. I did all the things that teenagers do – I ran away to field parties with strobe lights and bonfires, worried my parents half to death and was escorted home in a police van more than once. This is typical behaviour of a 16-18 year old. I was 12-13. I was so drunk off the fact that I belonged. I was a town girl. I saw the pretty girls with their dark eyes and lipstick and corsets and skinny jeans and I wanted to be like them, so I started wearing eyeliner and dying my hair and saving up for corsets and skinny jeans. I had never belonged anywhere in my life and I wanted to be a pretty alternative girl, I wanted to be like them. I think I managed it alright, I was promiscuous and reckless and I was always the first to crack open a can.
I did a lot of growing up in a few short years, and while I was at school I had to try really hard not to boast about my endeavours. I was still smart, remember, so I knew that if I went around boasting about all the drugs and sex I had had, teachers would hear and they would tell my parents. So I started writing it down. In my school, they give you what is called a Rough Book. It’s meant for the days when you forget your subject book, so you can write your notes in the rough book and copy them up later. I still have all the rough books I went through, filled with scribbles and poems and lists of things I needed to buy that weekend for whatever party was going on. Everything was fine until a year 8 RE cover lesson, when I had my rough book confiscated from me because I was writing in it instead of watching a film I had already seen. This was troublesome for two reasons: The first was that I had (in a stroke of pure genius) wrote down the number of a dealer on the front cover, the second was that I had written several suicide notes in it.
My teacer read it, and called me in. She said she wouldn’t mention what I had wrote if I agreed to see the school councellor. And that is where I became the certified freak of the school. I was in councelling, I wore my net gloves everywhere, my hair was usually dyed weird colours but never properly clean because quite frankly fuck washing. Added to this, I became friends with a girl named Sarah, she was in the year above me and she was one of the more touchy feely people I have ever met. We’d spend a lot of time at break and lunch hugging and people would see and laugh at us. It wasn’t so bad when she was around, because she was one of the popular girls with big boobs. But when we weren’t together everyone would throw things at me, and ask me if I was gay. I sure as shit didn’t think I was gay. I didn’t know why they wanted to know, either. It was confusing, because I hadn’t quite got the point that being gay was a bad thing. I used to give them answers like “maybe, are you?” and “That depends on the girl.” In retrospect, that probably wasn’t such a good idea.
So while town life carried on being full of alcohol and sex and Tenacious D singalongs, school life carried on being full of bullshit kids throwing shit at me and constantly asking if I was gay, despite the fact that I’d learned to sit on the fence and tell them that I was bi.
I should mention at this point the role of my parents in all this. I realise that you may be reading thinking “What the hell were the parents doing?! Letting 12 year olds go and get drunk in a city! Disgraceful!” I will remind you that yes, I was young – I was more than jailbait, I was pedophilia practically. My parents have never denied me anything. That’s a lie, they have denied me many things. But they work on the principal of ‘if we can afford it, you can have it.’ They couldn’t afford much, but they could afford to pick me up from my friends houses, and they could afford to give me bus fare. Sure, they grounded me after my first party that I ran away to and got drunk for the first time at. I sat on MSN with Ben the whole time, laughing at internet things. I think that was when I was first introduced to Zero Punctuation too – that’s another story for later on. My parents have constantly been loving and supportive in everything I have chose to do. I think that as far as town trips go, they were mostly oblivious as to what was going on. That shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve ever been a teenager. I was deceptive, and I lied frequently and I can own up to that.
On a dark street, on the gloomy side of town, in an unlit corner of a park, I watch as she slumps down on to a damp bench. She sits and waits, swigging occasionally from a bottle. “Mr Daniels is my husband” she murmurs, “and my name is Violet Daniels.”
She isn’t sure how she came to wake up alone in a cardboard box. Last time she was seen she had friends, family and acquaintances to call on for help. Yet here she is, with rainwater seeping through the torn material of her shoes, and dripping down the back of her neck. She shudders, and reaches for her husbands embrace, brings him to her lips and drinks deeply from his mouth. Opening her eyes, and blinking in the fresh light of dawn, she remembers her Daddy, the way he used to ruffle her hair and mutter ‘God bless’ before she ascended the stairs to bed. She remembers her Mom and her bottomless wine glass.
She doesn’t seem sure where she is or, I guess, how she got there at all. My eyes wander over to a cardboard box tipped on it’s side about 10 yards away from the bench she’s sat on, and the seemingly neverending twinkle of broken glass coating the concrete. I start as she shudders suddenly and swigs from her bottle as a drop of rain water from an overhead leaf drips down her neck. She looks around wistfully at the playground some way away, and I follow her gaze to a tired-looking mother with a pram scurrying past the chain link fence. Weighed down by the rucksacks packed full to burst, the mother does not look over to where she is sat. Eventually, the baby’s cries for a nappy change fade in to the night as the mother pushes the pram hastily out of the park and out of sight.
She experiments turning her head, and stretches her legs out in to the carpet of shattered glass in front of her. The agenda for today is the same as every other day. Get drunk, Get high, Forget and Move on. That’s how she’s learnt to function: with minimum human interaction. She feels through her pockets for a possible cigarette she might not have smoked, and her hopes soar when she feels the unmistakable rectangular box signifying forthcoming nicotine. But they are dashed when the top is opened and it’s empty apart from a few flakes of tobacco.
I try to blend in to the bush I am hiding behind, and although I can’t see her, I hear the groans of someone who has been sleeping rough for a few nights too many. The glass on the floor scrapes along the ground – presumably as she stretches her leg out. The image of her tattered and torn shoes flashes back in to my mind, and I hope that she hasn’t cut her feet too badly or got an infection. I hear a frustrated “Damnit!” and assume she’s cut herself on it. ‘Silly girl,’ I think, ‘if you insist on dragging your feet through broken glass, that will happen.’ But as I poke my head back out from my hiding place, I see her toss an empty cigarette packet away from her and she folds her arms in a sulk as it hits the floor with a dull thud.
She remembers her best friend, who stuck by her through everything, all her stupid mistakes and passionate self destruction. He loved her like no other could, and she damaged him too. She can’t feel guilt though, as far as she’s concerned, she is a god, and nobody is as important to her as she is.
I stand silently and watch her, trying to read her mind and wondering if I should go over and offer her one of my smokes. The profile of her face in the brightening light looks dramatic; all the details of her elfin features are picked out and amplified. For a moment it looked as if she were going to cry, but I watch as she lurches to her feet and totters off down the path, glass crunching beneath her feet.
I watch her retreating back, and wonder if that could have been the girl I used to know. Her mother Karen had called me about half a week ago in hysterics, begging me to try and find her. They had an argument and she took off with only the clothes she had on. It had been years since I last saw them together as a family, but I guess Karen still had my card from when we met up for a drink a few months back. She begged me to use my contacts in the detective business to find her, and I couldn’t bear to hear her so desperate. I agreed, and set off searching for her.
In a brothel downtown I met a man who claimed to have seen her earlier that night. Apparently she was kicked out when she started a fight. He said he saw her walking towards the park and that she couldn’t have got far. Desperate to get away from me, he handed me a photograph of her dancing around a pole in a dirty looking club, and walked away from me back to the bar. I could see the similarities between the girl I knew and the one in the picture, and although I didn’t want to believe that it could be her I decided to follow the lead and headed down to the park.
The girl I saw there was a ghost of the one I knew.I knew it was her, but I couldn’t bear to speak to her when she was in such a state. I couldn’t bring her home to her mother like that.
I’ll let Karen know I’ve run out of leads, and l’ll leave her to make her own decisions.
Teenagers are a weird species. Really, they are. They come in all kinds of shapes, and like all kinds of things. Some of them spend a lot of time trying really hard to impress people, some of them accept that people might never be impressed by them – only to find that some people nowadays are apparently impressed by not trying. Which has always been kind of weird to me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to please everyone, trying to fit in and be normal and have friends. I managed to wrangle myself some friends eventually, but I’m still very different compared to everyone else. Either that or everyone else is very different compared to me. That probably says something about why we shouldn’t compare people, eh?
I spent 14 years of my life believing that there was nobody else out there like me. Nobody who felt like I did. Nobody who thought similar thoughts to mine. Nobody who did or would ever dream like I did. Then the internet came along.
Say what you will about the internet about how it’s taking over our lives and giving us all ADHD and directly increasing prescriptions for medication that helps concentration, but it does have it’s benefits. Without the internet, I would surely be far more miserable than I am now.
It would make sense to start this story somewhere, and I can’t think of a better place to start than when I was born. You see, when I was born, my mother almost died. She hemorrhaged and bled like a goddamn champion. Turns out the cause of the bleeding was a calcified fetus that had been previously undetected, nothing to do with me. Kind of. If I weren’t there kicking it about I’m sure it wouldn’t have gone so badly but we survived. She popped out a beautiful baby girl. I promptly contracted MRSA. Actually, now I think about it I was a pretty damn inconvenient baby, but at least mom and I got our own room in the hospital, with our own sink and changing bed and cot and such. She had to have a load of blood transfusions – so many, in fact, that they ran out of blood to give her at one point. Pesky calcified fetuses almost killing my mom.
Anyway, I got born, and after about 3 months Mom and I were all fine and dandy. She’d had her second baby girl, and Dad wrote me an ode. (One which, to this day whenever I read it I tear up a little bit – I am still hoping that I have inherited my father’s way with words.) Everything was not as it seemed though. She hadn’t had her second baby girl, she’d had her first and only son. I guess the moment I was delivered kicking and screaming and the nurse declared me to be a “beautiful baby girl” as opposed to a “big strong boy” was where it all went a little bit pear shaped. It meant that I was named Bethany instead of god knows what. It meant that I was dressed in pink and given dolls to play with and always got lumped in with the girls in PE. It meant that I was raised to act and speak a certain way. I didn’t mind though. I mean, when you’re a child you’re not trying to deconstruct society’s ideals, are you? You’re just running around playing tag and scraping your knee and jumping in puddles or something.
I was a pretty smart child, I was one of the first in my class to be rid of the special grip they used to put on pencils, one of the first to be rid of the pencil and be awarded a pen. I was in the hexagons, not the triangles. I was in Shakespeare group, not… whatever group that wasn’t Shakespeare. My teacher had a weird way of grouping us by ability, the more sides your shape had, the better at maths you were. I’m not sure that it really transferred over to literacy so well, but I’m pretty sure Shakespeare was pretty good at writing.
So, I was told all through my life that I was bright and intelligent and a ‘joy to be around.’ I was ‘sensible’ and ‘mature’ and ‘trustworthy.’ There was one problem though: I was fat, and I was plagued with nits all through primary school because god damn it my mother loved her baby girl’s long hair. Of course, kids who are fat and smart and have nits aren’t the most popular of kids – and while I took pride in my ability to get my way most of the time when the teacher was in charge, I was completely powerless outside of the classroom – and there are only so many break times you can spend inside organising the pencil pots or the book shelf. So I was bullied mercilessly. I dreaded the moment when the teacher would say “work in pairs” because everyone around me would make eye contact with their friends and shuffle away from me, and I’d almost certainly be left with one of the ‘dumb kids.’ I realise now that the ‘dumb kids’ were special needs, but 9 year olds generally don’t understand learning difficulties – especially if they’re constantly being told that they’re naturally gifted. It’s easy to assume that everyone is as mentally capable as you are. So I never had anyone to play with, apart from the nice kids who took pity on me for a while but ditched me as soon as anyone asked why they were playing with me. I ended up playing tennis against a wall and sucking at it. I would ask the boys if I could play football with them – because even the ‘dumb kids’ were allowed to play football. Football to me seemed like a great equaliser, everyone played it together. Everyone except the girls. Girls can’t play football. At one point we formed a girls 5 a side football team and came third in a tournament, but it was my last year and as far as I know it ended the year after.
So there I was, top of my class but without a friend in the world. I don’t even know what I did at home. I don’t remember watching much TV, the computer was monopolised by my (significantly nerdier) sister (who, somehow, was friends with the cool kids in her year.) I think I just read a lot. I had read all the books on the class bookshelf, my teacher had lent me some of her own books which I had read and disliked so much that she stopped bringing them in for me. I got bored, but I kept reading for want of something to do. Sometimes I went and played with the kids on our street, but then my scooter was run over by a car and I couldn’t fix it.
I aced my SATs and everyone did the obligatory “I’ll miss you! Good luck!” signings on my T-shirt. Sometimes I dig it out of my wardrobe and read over what people wrote to me and just laugh. There’s nothing else I can do, really. It was kind of nice at the time though, these people were willing to write their lies down on my shirt in permanent marker for me. I admire people who can commit to such lies, but only in a ‘sometimes I wish I could lie to people’ way.
I moved on to Secondary school, which was a lot like primary school except there were more people to dislike. We were put in to forms instead of classes, and there was a huge site to navigate in order to get to our lessons. I remember my first day, I had my bag and my jumper and new shoes and everything seemed hopeful. Everyone kept telling me not to worry, and I trusted them; I figured I shouldn’t worry, because they had done it and they weren’t as smart as me. That’s kind of a recurring theme in my life: I do stuff because other, less intelligent people have done it. I cling to my “smartness” for dear life.
So I got to school on the bus which was exciting, and my sister showed me how to wear my uniform so I didn’t look like an idiot, and adjusted my bag straps so I didn’t look like a year 7 so much as I looked like a very aloof and confused year 8 – that was just one of the many advantages of being the tall kid. I stumbled my way through year 7 – sticking mostly with the kids from my primary school because despite the fact that they were complete cunts to me, they were at least familiar. One of the most alarming things about secondary school is that they expected you to write in pen all the time. Even in maths, which was weird. But I was suddenly no better than anyone else. There were other kids from other schools who were top of their classes and one of the first to get a pen and suddenly I felt like I was in direct competition with them. It was another school tournament which I refused to come third in.
Teachers stopped referring to just me as ‘trustworthy’ and ‘sensible’ and started copying and pasting the same report that they had wrote for all the kids in the class. I wasn’t special. I was well and truly in the system, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like my teachers because they shouted a lot, and I didn’t like my classmates because they talked a lot and threw rubbers at the back of my head. I didn’t like the homework because there was so much of it. Everything was confusing and I had no idea what was expected of me any more. I just sort of trailed about, following people who seemed nice. They seldom were, but it worked as a kind of disguise for a while. Until I decided that all I ever wanted in life was to join my older sister and her cool friends in town.
Ah, town. It was my sanctuary for a few years. Every Saturday without fail, I would take the bus and go and do nothing much. Really. Though I’m sure a lot must have happened, I couldn’t tell you specifically what I did there week by week.
Do you remember me?
We used to spend hours together when you were tiny. You would sit with me for hours and I would try and keep you calm so your parents wouldn’t sound annoyed and storm in, huffing with exasperation and ask us to keep it down.
I thought we were a team. We hid from mommy together.
You used to talk to me, and I cursed the day I lost my voice. I wish I could have replied to you. I could have said something to make you feel better, to make you feel like you weren’t useless, or worthless. I wanted so badly to hug you every time she shouted at us for walking across the hall to the bathroom too loudly.
I never gave up on you though, Tommy. You were my best friend. We went to the moon, and to the darkest depths of the sea together. We had adventures in the park, too. Remember that time you saved me from the slobbering jaws of a puppy? I thought I was a gonner that day. I thanked my lucky stars that I had a friend like you.
You grew up though, you stowed me away in the bottom of your closet next to your old sneakers. Why didn’t you want me to come on adventures with you any more Tommy?
I don’t know how long I was left in there. Every day you’d open the door and look straight past me. I’d catch glimpses of your room as it changed. I guess one day you decided to have a clear out because you saw me again. You picked me up and scowled at me, like I’d done something wrong. I thought you were going to put me back in there, next to your old sneakers. I silently begged you with my round button eyes, I begged you to give me another chance.
I begged you.
I wish I could’ve said something. It’s cold out here and I’m hearing strange noises.
I hope you remember me
When I was a child, my father used to tuck me in every night and lay next to me and read me a story as I drifted off to sleep. He used to sometimes fall asleep next to me and mom would call him a silly old fart. He used to read me Matilda, and Fantastic Mr Fox and Harry Potter. He used to make stories up from his head and I feel terrible to this day for sleeping through the ending. My Dad is one of those rare and magical people who can tell the same story so many times you know it word for word, but he can still make it come alive. His voice will echo in my head for the rest of my life. It will always be there to reassure and comfort me; to remind me of the power of the imagination and remind me that stories will always be more than just stories to me.
What am I talking about? I still am a child, I hope I always will be a child. Children are unafraid of things that terrify adults, children have the ability to take something unexplainably complex and summarise it in a few words, without any real effort. Children, above all, are innocent. They are products of the world, yet they have not yet tasted the world. They haven’t had the chance to be tainted or used by the world. Yes, I definitely want to be a child when I grow up.
Not so long ago I played The Game of Life with one of my young cousins, Joe. When the time came for him to get married, he chose another blue counter to be his spouse. I said nothing at the time, but his mother pointed it out and asked why. His response? “I like blue, I think I’d rather spend the rest of my life with blue than with pink. Pink is too…pink.” I don’t think he’ll ever realise how much I wanted to record the whole event, he summarized gay rights and the “love is love” slogan perfectly. He took something unexplainably complex and summarized it in a few words.
Isn’t it odd how we remember some parts of our childhood with perfect clarity and intricate detail, and other parts are just a blur? I remember vividly having to jump to reach the handle on the front door to let my grandparents in. But I can’t remember for the life of me what they were there for. Just the almost overwhelming sense of pride in myself that I could open the door for them. I was a big kid, I could reach the door handle. I was always a pretty tall kid in primary school. On all of the group photos of the whole year, I’m always there at the back in the middle, grinning and scrunching my eyes up, because that’s how I thought people should smile.
There are still some things I wish I could remember, though. I can’t remember the first time I flew a kite. I can’t remember the first time I made my own breakfast, I can’t remember the first time I drank tea. I wish I could remember, because when you break it down, life is just a series of little things that combine in an odd sequence to resemble something that maybe you can be proud of. I remember when I was in primary school I once wore my pyjamas under my school uniform and didn’t realise until I had to go to bed that night. In retrospect, that was probably one of the warmest, comfiest days of my school life. I should definitely do it again some time, just to see if it feels the same as I remember. Or maybe I won’t, I’ll end up being disappointed because life isn’t so comfortable any more. People have got to me and ruined my imagination and my enthusiasm to do new things. I can’t think of the last first I had. It might have been my first day of work, it’s more likely to be the first time I painted an entire wall on my own though.
I remember painting the hallway and stairs with Mom. I remember she let me and my sister choose the colours. Naturally, we went for “pea green” and “nutty sundae.” Which translates roughly in to English as ‘lime green and terracotta.’ It was pretty disgusting, but we spent days on end painting away, eyes slowly becoming accustomed to the garish shades.