She loves without limitation or condition. Her sleeve bloody, her mind free, her voice caged. She’s unassuming and kind. They try to dim to her light, but defiantly she shines – oh how she shines! If only they could see. Her rays are too much, they won’t be contained in their box. She just wants to be. Conscious of the world around her, aware enough to know it’s not yet her time. But her time is coming, and she will be.
She starts her days the same, a meeting with her reflection. Cerebrating all that she is, all that she has ever been, all that she wants to be. Why can’t they see what’s so clear, what’s here, what’s right? Why can’t they see her? ‘’One day. One day they will see and one day I will be.’’ A daily ritual, an affirmation to the mind. She is strong, but she is weary, she simply longs to belong. To be accepted, to be acknowledged – when they see her, they will know. She is sure. She dresses for the day, heart sinking. This is false. ‘’They’ll never see, this isn’t me’’. But this is how it must be. Her reflection laughs, cruel and taunting – the conversation is done. She buttons her shirt and leaves for work, a silent tear her familiar friend.
Fresh air on her face as she walks for the bus. Her façade is strong, but her thoughts are long. ‘’I can’t be me, they can never see. I just want to be – dear God let me be free!’’ She stands at the bus stop, commuters with familiar faces – smiles and polite conversations. She joins in, and with her caring nature, her presence is welcomed and trusted. Advice is sought on trivial issues, she appears confident and worldly. She is listening, she is caring – The village may be small, but opinions here are big. She boards the bus and sits alone, she takes this time to prepare for the day ahead. Looking out of the window, she stares at her reflection, squinting and wishing until she sees herself clearly. She people watches without even realising it – she stares the woman two rows in front to her left, gazing at her ample bosom. Sullenly she finds herself gazing at her flattened chest, painfully wishing they would grow just a little. Her stop is getting closer, she narrows her gaze and inhales slowly. Let the day begin.
She arrives at work, her positivity shining! She loves her job, she’s good at what she does – here she has purpose. Her peers show admiration, her clients truly grateful. She’s at the top of her game and never feels shame, for winning is her crowning glory. Loved by the boss, she could never do wrong, at least not while the cogs are turning. And Jill from accounts, raves about her kindness. last December at the Christmas party , Jill was on the brink of illness from a little too much festive cheer – she helped her to bed with no agenda or self-provocation. Here, she is confident, and she is fierce, her façade doesn’t slip for a moment. Her world is her work – or so it is thought – you see she never married or gave in to children. ‘’The Single Sniper’’ is her nickname, one her colleagues can’t help but encourage. She doesn’t seem mind though, after all, it’s the only side they know. ‘’But will they still embrace me when they see?’’.
Leaving work, she is due to meet friends -a different side still to be shown. Not quite as commanding, she walks in the bar – it’s hugs all round for this group of comrades. The evening commences with smiles and laughter, she feels relaxed and more at ease. But still, they are unable to see. One friend has news, an engagement – how exciting! The evenings topic of conversation is decided. Dresses, dates, venues and vino – the high sided booth is buzzing! The atmosphere is electric, drinks flowing and friends plenty – but these are the times it hurts the most. She’s never felt more alone. She knows things will change, but how is still uncertain. She makes her goodbyes, apologies too, an early start she must retire and rest for. Walking home she feels such sorrow – and guilt for being so selfish. She wants to be happy for her friend and for others, but ‘happy’ is an unfamiliar feeling. In the dark streets alone, she can pretend for a while, pretend that everyone can see. She smiles at the lamppost and says with a wink ‘’A date with me, Mr L, is a-given’’. Make-believe cannot last and coming up fast, she sees her neighbours ahead in the distance.
She’s home at last! Now to relax, she pours a glass of Chablis from the night before. As she sieves through the letters her heart stops for second – NHS, private and confidential. It’s been ninety-six weeks for a simple referral – she’s been waiting but it doesn’t feel real. Now it’s here. Two weeks and things will start. It’s time to relax, she drinks from her glass and she sobs to her knees in exhaustion. As she walks up the stairs and she sighs with relief ‘’Soon they’ll all see me’’.She tries on a new dress and pads her bra with silicone and socks. Fresh lipstick applied she smiles in the mirror, her reflection smiles back, ‘’beautiful’’ they both whisper. She draws a bath and sips more from her glass, could happiness really be near? She can’t help but smile but then, she thinks on for a while, the hurdles are about to get started. What will they say? what will they think? How will she explain that she’s still the same? When she goes to bed, she feels right in her head and she knows that her life is now starting.
Two weeks pass, and the day of days is here! Her heart now quickens with every breath. She sits in the waiting room shaking with nerves, until the nurse appears to escort her. She talks with the doctor who pries, prods and jokes – she sheds tears of joy and laughter. But the seriousness soon hits home. The Dr offers support and affirms who she is, and together they talk through some options. She’ll have to tell people, she’ll have to be true – she is brave, and she is determined. She leaves the hospital feeling positive, soon they will begin to see. The wheels are in motion and the destination has been set. A celebration is in order! She walks down the street and sees it in the window, a dress so sparkly it’s bound to impress. ‘’’Perfect’’ she whispers, under bated breath. With bags in hand she makes her way home. There are plans to be made, conversations to prepare. There will be awkward moments and time away from work, how will she tell people? How will she ask them to see? She is brave, and she is determined – but nerves are setting in.
No family of her own, not since she was asked to leave home. They wouldn’t believe her, they just couldn’t see. Friends and work are her family now and she’s confident they’ll choose to see. Her friends love her, she’s adored by her colleagues, things are looking up. She hasn’t meant to keep this from them, but the timing has never been right. Who knew how long this would take to happen, hard to pin-point when a friendship develops. But she’s home and she’s excited, she sends a message in the group chat ‘’dinner tomorrow, my place at 8, announcement’’. She’s going to tell everyone in one day, quick and painless – soon she’ll be free. She slips into her new sparkly dress and admires her reflection, a plunging neckline than will one day be full. She strokes her smooth legs and strikes a confident stance. ‘’They will see me’’. She sits on the bed and looks through old photos – a carefree child who loved to wear a tutu! Ball games and dirty knees, life was simple then. Her smile slowly dwindles, as she scans pictures of her teens. A troubled soul, they were darker days – and the pain, it never did ease. The mask she wears, it became habitual, like a protective layer of paint. But life has moved forward, and her strength has pulled her through. She breathes deep, a sigh of relief, change is coming and soon they will see ‘’Soon I will be me’’.
The very next day she heads to work, this time nervous like the first day of school. Her meeting awaits, the most daunting to date and she sits in silence until she finds the courage to say: ‘’I’m not what you think, I mean, I’m more than you think – please allow me to try and explain. Ever since I was little, I knew I was different, everyone, well, they had it wrong. They labelled me queer but I’m not, of that I’m still clear. I’m just like you, I mean I’m just like you, a woman trying to find her place in world. These clothes are a mask and this body isn’t mine but they’re all I’ve had to show for a while. What I’m meaning to say, I hope this comes out okay, is that I am a woman strong and true. Who I am hasn’t changed, but what you see is going to, I need your help to come home as myself’’. She looks at her boss who is startled and aghast, HR nod and silently make notes. The meeting goes on and she come out feeling strong, she could tell things were heading in the right direction.
She gets home to her friends, the same conversation again. But unfortunately, not the same reaction. Her friends feel dismayed that she’s lied to their faces, what she’s saying just doesn’t sound right. ‘’This isn’t a phase, I’m still me, I’m still here’’ but her pleas fall hard on stubborn, deaf ears. Her friends leave through the door, in tears she falls to the floor, once again alone in the dark with her demons. Her phone is buzzing, she hopes they’ve realised their mistake, but instead all she sees, is an email. The email starts with ‘’It is with great regret that at this time, your employment is terminated with immediate effect.’’ She doesn’t need to read the rest of the lines, the message is loud and clear. ‘She’ isn’t welcome and perhaps she never was. She feels stupid, how could she be so naive? She thought things would be different here, she was sure they were looking up. Perhaps she should have lived a lie ‘’perhaps I should have stayed lost’’.Her thoughts are dark, and the pain is crushing, her chest can barely take it. The disappointment, the loneliness but worse of all the shame. She was great at her job, she was strong and she was fierce. All that she asked, was to be herself at long last, but now she feels her world crumbling around her. ‘’I can’t go through this again, why can’t they see I’m still me, I still love and care and feel’’.
No family, no friends, no career. The darkness begins to set in. Who is she without this life she’s built? ‘’Who will I be, if I can never be me?’’. She starts the taps, draws herself a bath, and wanders down to the kitchen. This time she reaches for the scotch, a notepad and pen, and sits a while at the table. When she’s finished she goes upstairs, the bottle gripped tight by her side, something special for tonight’s occasion. She slips on a black dress, with thin straps and ruched back – she stares silently at her reflection. Then without hesitation, she flicks through her wardrobe, taking scissors to everything in sight. She’s walks to the bathroom, stops the taps and empties the cabinet. As she stares in the mirror, she sheds another tear – taking a razor, she clears the sprouting hairs on her chest. A box of painkillers with a scotch chaser. She steps in bath, her dress still intact, she submerges into the warmth. Her tears are now dry, and she lays back with a smile, she feels relaxed for the first time since her young childhood. She remembers those days, how it felt before she came of an age, where ‘dress up’ meant more than good fun. She’s tired now, head dizzy. She knows it’s the time, she takes the blade from the razor – A firm drag from inner wrist to elbow. She feels the warmth of the blood and sighs with relief, ‘’Finally, I’m going to be free’’.
She drifts off to hear peace, leaving behind a tear stained note that reads:
‘’Thank you for the memories and for the hope you all gave me. I wish I could have stayed in that dream. But I couldn’t just be, nor could I stay, in this life where I wasn’t welcome as me. I love you all dearly and I understand now so clearly, that my life isn’t meant for this time. See the picture attached, I was 8 when I knew, I would always live my life, a little boy blue. But I knew who I was, and I prayed it wouldn’t last – the sadness I mean, but it did.
I have loved each of you my own way and for your happiness I still pray, but for now I must go and rest. I’ll be watching from above, I’ll send you my love – I just hope that one day you’ll accept me.
Don’t dismay, we’ll meet again soon but for now this is the end of our journey. Goodnight and God-bless, I wish everyone the best – please do your best to be kind.
All my wonder