The letter which follows was written after reading about writing to your past self. I struggle with my visibility and talking openly and freely about my sexuality, but this letter, as personal as it is, is something I am proud of. If you read it, I hope you find some comfort in the journey many of us take and struggle through. You are not alone.
I know you remember her blonde hair and the butterfly-dying, nail-biting sensation that you wanted to be her, to embody her body and become the girl your mother would love. But your eyes were never as blue and she was better behaved than you. Your mother said so and you swallowed her disappointment whole. You realise now how much you loved her: how much you wished to become her so you could love her. But can you imagine? Two seven year old girls brazen in their love with undiluted dreams of a future together? Can you imagine? I’m afraid the answer still sounds like no, still sounds like a denial of the wishes resident in our bones.
And this is because you still remember the fear, the hungry maw of truth when someone finally loved you. When she said I’m a lesbian, when she said I like girls and you suddenly felt too much girl to handle, too much girl to hide. And you ran. You ran to the bitter taste of laughter echoing in your parents’ throats because they found her admission hilarious, because they teased you, loaded girl crushes into a gun and shot you through; taught you that dishonesty is the best policy. You ran because the truth was you were afraid because her courage made you human. Her courage made every thought you ever had flesh real and something to aspire to. But laughter can choke you and they made jokes about how she watched you undress through the keyhole; they didn’t stop until you began to look at your own body through a keyhole and you are only just learning how to stop.
You cannot forget the girl who loved us. You remember her as well as I do. The secrets. If walls could talk. You would silence them with rags torn from blouses: you would paint over their damp mouths. You loved each other in silence; pushed each other on the swings; whispered sweet nothings; believed in the innocence; never for a second believed it was wrong. But shame creeps like ivy. Shame lets itself in even when the doors are locked. A plague tugging at your teeth and the hands which used to hold each other; hot breaths just memories and moments you wish you could forget. She’s married now. She’s married to a man and the red plague cross has been scrubbed clean from her door. I’m sure if you looked close enough you’d find the flecks of a life once lived, but at your fingertips they fall away and crowd beneath your nails. You’ll always be the one carrying the heavy. You must learn to put it down.
Remember when you were put down? Smothered by the boy you fell in love with, thinking he was the cure. Paintbrush in hand, you attempted to paint over your own red cross because he hated you for you, loved you for everything you became for him. He teased you for loving beyond him, punished you for not judging anyone on gender and sex. You love them for something he could never understand because he never loved you, for you. That’s so gay and biphobia decorating his bedroom walls. The walls within which you struggled to breathe. The walls within which you became a thing. Something to be broken. To be rebuilt in a fashion after him.
The chisel marks remain. You’ve stopped trying to cover them up. You cannot erase how you loved in spite of yourself. You cannot erase how much weight you rested in his chest or how much you believed him when all you wanted was to be believed yourself. I know the blonde hair and blue eyes haunted you then. I know her courage came back to visit with an I told you so and no matter how hard you tried to drown her, give her to the sea, she would return, a glistening mermaid with a siren-song heart. You almost took a harpoon to who you were. Almost. Almost took yourself for granted and rebuilt a woman made of stone with sharp edges and an immovable frown.
Eventually you remembered yourself. You remembered the beauty that is being as bold as you deserve. And the moment you found freedom you found it in clubs, in dancing, in the feel of hands on your hips. The slow yet necessary settle into who you really are. The slow exhale. The steady discovery. You like girls. You like boys. You like everyone. You are not curious and you never were. You knew, yet dressed in every colour except pink, purple and blue. I know how exciting it is to wear this skin. I know how proud I am to watch you shrug off old layers of guilt. I know how precious it is to love you again. How precious it is to know that it does not matter that we’re not blonde girls with blue eyes. How precious it is to know our eyes turn more grey with age and the laughter you lived in will become a shell of itself. How precious it is to know we have finally built ourselves a home, a home which is not made of stone.
We have built a house of soft pillows and freshly laundered sheets. Mermaids woven through with thread. Courage lining every foldable edge.