There was nothing, just the glimmering static of eyes focused on nothing, the faintest of light. A spark so easily missed if you weren’t expecting it. Expect it she did, more, she insisted. Every thought a call which would not be denied.
From within the darkness filling the space before her, which, in some way stretched far beyond; there came an answer. A whirling dervish of thought and sound. A surging call of recognition, welcome, and happiness which was enough to take her breath away.
It was a single mote, a tiny piece of crystalline perfection, dancing in the air before her. She couldn’t help but smile at the querying note it sang, tinged as it was with playful accusation.
“No, dear one, I never forgot about you; I promise.” Bella held out her hand and allowed the tiny creature to tickle the skin of her palm. “How could think so little of me?” She asked in feigned distress, her lips curving upward with each word.
Her answer was a scolding tone which spoke of a lifetime lost to misery and loneliness.
“Really? It has been but a few short months!” Her laughter was light and teasing, filling the air with bell like tinkles of crystal and glass wind chimes on a frosty December morning. The mote seemed to give a sniff of distain and wounded pride.
Relenting, Bella softened her tone and spoke her words honestly. “If I could, I would have you with me all the year long, yet such cannot be. Even this visit is but a brief respite until the world turns once more.”
Emerald green was her least favorite color. It brought memories of stifling heat and blinding sun. Too warm skin and air so hot it was impossible to breath.
Give her clear blues and brilliant whites. Giver her air so cold it frosted on the windows and goose bumps on her skin. Give her icy winds and clean cold snow to hold in her hand. Looking out the window was enough to bring a sweat to her brow even with the air conditioning as low as it could go.
Low enough she could hear the unit straining from across the house, which meant it was almost time for a new one. She gave a little snort, she knew she was hard on the equipment, but really, they simply didn’t build them like they use to. The first unit her mother bought when Bella was no more than a baby in arms lasted for nearly two decades before no one had the parts to fix it any more. She still missed the oversized window unit with all if its rattles and wheezes.
She sighed, there were something she could do, had done once in the past, though she had promised her mother to never do it again.
On the other side of the glass, Summer was in full swing, the grasses and trees vivid in the bright sun which was dimmed for but a moment by passing clouds in an otherwise spotless sky. From here Winter seemed a lifetime away, all of her friends and playmates were off frolicking elsewhere.
Well, all but one…
She returned to the kitchen. To the gleaming perfection of the porcelain white refrigerator which dominated the small space.This too was something her mother frowned on, but had never forbidden her to do.
She hesitated only a moment before reaching up and slowly opening the freezer door.
Inside it looked the same as ever, just a small box containing rack upon rack of ice trays. Cold air swirled out, a frosted river of vapor pouring out. She set her glass on the table. She needed both hands as free as her mind.
Turning again she reached inside and pressed the light switch.
In the dimness she drove her vision and with it her mind, burrowing into the darkness which seemed to grow and expand with each heartbeat until it was all she could see.She barely recognized her own voice as it whispered between her lips, a tiny twist of mist and vapor wending its way along her thoughts and into the darkness.
At first there was nothing, a stillness found only in the heart of a Winter’s night, then faintly, distantly, came a response.
How many times during this journey have I wanted to give up? To stop in one place and never move again?
How many doors have I passed through? Some with too much thought and some with not enough… Knowing each would close behind me, never allowing me to retreat, always pushing me forward?
Over the past several weeks I have found myself drawing closer to another of these doors. Again I am faced with a decision; this one more difficult then the last, or the one before. It is the culmination of every step which has brought me to this place. Steps I never could have imagined taking, never imagine not taking.
As with all the others, I stand on this side knowing where I am, what I face, the day to day battles large and small. It is the devil I know. On the other is the unknown, an entire life I could only live in day dreams and fantasy. One, not so long ago, which seemed forever beyond my grasp. It was more than my heart could stand, stronger than my courage. Of course I could say the same of so many things; walking out the door the first time on Halloween. The first time I went to therapy as my true self. So many firsts, indeed, which I never thought to experience in my life time. Yet I have. Walking in public. Feeling the sun on my face. The wind in my hair, the sidewalk under my feet.
To be seen.
Yet not… all of my fears melting away as I realized no one was going to stop me. There was no laughter, no pointing or staring. No name calling… no punches, or kicks, guns or knives… nothing. It was as anticlimactic as I had feared it would be climatic.
Another lesson in human nature.
I went from once a year to once a month. To once a week, then every weekend, my days at home spent building my confidence. I was growing… becoming… faster and faster with passing day.
Still, I fought to maintain a double life.
There were, and are, good reasons to try and live such a life. There are so many stories of ruined lives, unemployment, homelessness…
The truth is, my discomfort wasn’t stronger than my fear.
It’s difficult to live you life in fear. To let it define you. To build walls around you.
There comes a point where something has to give. The unstoppable force or the immovable object.
The fear of taking a step or the pressure to move forward.
In my mind, I see it has standing on a ledge. A wall on one side, an unknown expanse of darkness at your feet. You can step out and hope something you cannot yet see will support you or you can wait until the wall slowly pushes you forward until there is no where left to go.
Either way I face an uncertain future. A great unknown as large as any I have moved through so far and I know once I take this next step, the door will slam shut behind me. No going back, no do overs.
Yet I cannot stand still, as much as I want to. I cannot hide anymore, safe in the known…
Safe? An interesting choice of word. Is where I have been truly safe? Or was safety as much of an illusion as who I tried to convince myself I was? Another lie along with so many?
Yes and no.
It was a toxic wasteland which was slowly destroying me from the inside out. Fear. Self loathing. Hate… Depression. Dysphoria. Suicide.
The poison ran through my veins with every beat of my heart.
Sometimes salvation is only found when you have no where left to run…
No. I could no more stay on this side of the door than I could any of the ones before. Oh, I tried. Yes I did, just as I have every time. Just like all those others, I have found myself pushed forward by my heart, my desire for life.
The unwavering quest to becoming myself.
So here I am, faced with a decision which really isn’t a decision at all… To remain behind the door, knowing the world which I face or I walk through to the other side and a world full of the unknown. Do I live with the devil I know or the one I don’t?
Either way I cannot continue as I have. I cannot live two lives. It is slowly tearing me apart. Every look in the mirror, every whisper of his name. Every male pronoun, every assumption or expectation about who I am or should be, is a death by a thousand cuts.
It is either step through the door and go full time living as myself or sinking back into his world, once again becoming an non entity. A ghost. A reflection.
More than anything this is what I cannot stand to do any longer. To live a life of lies. To accept deceit. I am not who they think I am. I never have been. I never will be. To allow them to think otherwise is beyond my ability. It is beyond my ability to continue with the charade, to live, breath, eat, and drink a life which is not mine.
It is theirs.
I want to be me.
I want to be free.
Free of lies and deceit, expectations and reflections of a society which has never fully claimed me as its own, nor I, it.