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17th June, 2014
jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies
You're seven, and you don't like mirrors.
Mirrors confuse you, make you see things that should be true but aren't, and make you feel things that shouldn't be there but are.
See, you're not right—at least, you don't feel it. You don't feel okay and there's nothing you can do to fix it. It shouldn't be that each time people confuse your gender, you get a little thrill. Mirrors tell the truth but doesn't that feel like a lie anyway?
And how can you tell people that you don't like it? How can you tell people that you thinks you're wrong and bad and there has to be something screwed up with you for feeling this way. You're not normal.
You're ten, and someone notices. You know he knows—of course it would be a boy; there are never any girls here—and you don't know how, but it's okay because they never bring it up. He never says anything. He just treats you as another person. You've run away, see. Run away from an empty life and found a full one waiting with this ragtag group of other children
When he accidentally walks in on you binding your chest far too tight to be normal, the floor littered with the remnants of your hair, you're twelve. That same boy who treats you as a person and doesn't say anything.
Thirteen; tattoo your face to hide the feminine cheekbones and soft smile.
He doesn't care and when you see him next it's like he never met you before. You don't know his name yet, and he doesn't know yours, and so you pretend with him that you've never clapped eyes on the other. Of course, when he approaches you, you can't help but tense and bristle, but he takes no heed. He just sits next to you and continues his meal, never speaking but throwing you strange looks all the same that obviously don't mean what you thought they would.
He seems to have arched into you as his friend, but you still have no idea who he is, or what he's called. You try to ask, but he just gives you those same, strange, meaningful looks. You're only young—and isn't there supposed to be a 'cooties' phase?—but that's okay. You get along better with him than anyone.
You still try and not let him see, though. You don't like being different to him, and so you start wearing looser clothing when you can't bind your chest further. You begin to talk with a voice that is gruffer, harsher than it should be, but he doesn't think anything of it.
You have just turned fourteen when the unthinkable happens, and you awaken in the night, heaving. The pain in your stomach slows you down significantly, but it's late, and you manage to leave the treehouse and head towards the river without waking anyone up (or so you think). There's a tight sensation in your abdomen that gets better the more you walk, and a feeling in your leggings that you wish away with each step. It's hard to assess the damage by the light of a waning crescent, but even so, you can still smell it.
You don't know what to do.
The dread you've grown so accustomed to feeling is growing in your gut and you just want to cry. Why did your body have to forsake you this way? You take off your shoes, wading half-naked into the river as though it will wash away everything, but it doesn't. Your shirt comes off, and you sit in the water, it reaching just above your bellybutton. The liquid is warm, and it helps ease the twinge in your stomach. Suddenly, you're angry. You can feel it gurgling in your chest, this complete rage that seems to have been building for years (and of course it has). You bring a hand down half-heartedly on the water, watching the ripples be washed away by the current before doing it again.
The water should calm you, but it doesn't. You're extremely cognisant of the fact that you're by no means being quiet; that you're out, alone, in the middle of the night; that you're in pain and most of all, that your body has failed you again (or have you failed it?).
This simple question gives you pause. After all, your body can't choose what it does. But you can. Are you choosing to hate it? To not be grateful that you have one? What if this is the Spirits' way of making you pay for not being grateful?
You are shaken from your thoughts when you feel a presence behind you. Turning slightly, you peer over your shoulder, eyes widening slowly.
That boy, the one who doesn't talk, is crouched down low but obviously not spying. He's too far out in the open for that. He watches you with those intelligent eyes, but you can't move. He doesn't look away from you and you would be embarrassed if there was any space left in your chest to feel anything else. For now, you just want him to go away and leave you in peace, but you don't want to actually vocalise the thought because you can feel your voice cracking already. Your stomach gives a sharp jolt as though to remind you that you're sitting, almost naked, in the very shallows of a river. You grab your under-bindings, letting the water give them at least a partial clean as you slide them on. When you stand, there's a slightly cooler breeze, and you shiver in your wet clothes. He doesn't seem to notice or care that you're in your underwear, because as soon as you reach your other clothes, he stands up.
Do you mind? you hiss, but he either didn't hear you, or doesn't care. You pull on your trousers and shirt, avoiding his unwavering gaze as you stare angrily past him. You know that if you look at him, you won't be able to hold back the distraught tears that have been lurking behind your eyes for Spirits only know how long. It doesn't matter, though; it never does.
Why me? you hear yourself saying. It's not the words that you wanted to say, but ones that needed to be said nonetheless. Why does it have to be me?
You're shaking now, but you know it's not just the breeze. It's not just your anger. You just want to hit something, but even as he moves closer, you find it's not aimed at him. Because the boy with no name and no voice knows what you need as he puts his hands on your shoulders and peers into your eyes.
Why not you? he asks, in the softest of voices. There's nothing wrong. Only you can be you.
And, for the first time, he smiles.
Notes (please read)
I actually feel the need to add a note to this story. Okay, if you didn't realise this was based on Smellerbee, well... we need to have a talk @_@ because I don't know if it's me or you who got that wrong.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, I've never written anything like this. I'm not claiming to be an expert in matters like these *points up*. So, sure, constructive criticism to say 'that's not an accurate portrayal' is fine. Actually, I encourage it.
Do I believe Smellerbee wishes she was a boy? Hmm.... to some extent, perhaps. This story isn't really about that, though. It's about being envious of someone you aren't—of someone (or the idea of someone) who you think is better than you. In society, people look up to celebrities and famous people and go 'oh, I wish I was them', but that doesn't affect you on a personal basis—wanting to 'be them' is usually not a personal thing, it's a societal thing. We look up to people we, and others, deem to be important.
I can safely say that, at one point or another, I wished I was someone else, and this story is supposed to reflect that. It's not a character study of 'oh, is Smellerbee transgender', because that's unimportant. It does not matter. If you think she could be, well, that's fine for you, however what this story is designed to achieve in lieu of that is simply to show that people have different ways of expressing who they are, and who they want to be, and sometimes, these are impossible. All you need is someone who believes in you as you believe in yourself and the rest becomes unimportant.
For the collective works of the author, go here.