Today I revisited a site that I used to use photo prompts from, called Creative Writing Ink. This is a weekly challenge and one that I find very useful to aid my writing. I therefore based this short story on this prompt, although I also found the inspiration for it by reflecting on the very real stories on some of my close friends. It’s not a nice feeling when you know that you don’t belong in a certain place or in a certain way, and that’s the message that I attempt to communicate below. I hope you enjoy!
It’s almost as if the white wall in front of me is laughing. It knows my secret, and it knows what I should be; I should be plain, white and ordered, just like the paint. That’s what I should be, but I can’t deny the fact that it’s simply not true anymore. I’m complicated, not plain or ordered. I can’t be put into those simple categories when I’m everything that they’re not.
The wall stands resolute, mocking me.
I’ve probably been sat here for too long, now, but the wall, for all its faults, is my entertainment for the afternoon. I sigh, looking away from it at long last, to instead turn my attention to the freshly laundered, baby-pink sheets that I’ve been clutching. They’re not quite as perfect as they were when I’d been handed them that morning; they’re creased around my fingers and a spider is crawling across one of their corners. I shake it off, sighing once more. It’s time for me to move now.
I change the sheets quickly, then stand, stretch, and begin to walk downstairs. The walls are still white here; they’re all white, because anything else, apparently, would be wrong. I swallow hard. I need to stop thinking like this. The photos that colour the wall alongside the staircase catch my attention. They depict me, and only me, from my first waking moments to a few months ago, all hung in perfect order, straight and in their proper place. I’ve never minded them before, but now, it’s difficult to suppress the urge to rip them from their hangings and fling them down the stairs.
Both of my parents are present in the kitchen when I enter, my father setting out the table for supper, and my mother bent over a hot stove. I look at the clock: 6:29, and suppress a grimace as I take my seat. As predicted, a timer goes off a minute later, and my mother calls out, it’s ready, as if we need telling twice. I smile as usual at her as she brings over the food, and then we all sit together as my father blesses the meal. He talks about gratitude and how lucky we all are, but I don’t join my prayers with his. I don’t feel lucky, and I certainly don’t feel grateful.
When he’s finished, we eat in silence. There’s no music playing and nobody makes any small talk. We just eat, and when we are done, my father brings out some fruit for dessert. I stare hard at the six, ordered pears in a line in front of me, and something begins to snap. I look at my father, with his hand on the cross at his chest and his head bent low in endless prayer. Then I look to my mother, who purses her lips, wiping each inch of food thoroughly before emitting it into her mouth. I look back at the pears. Everything must always be so perfect. It must be right, and ordered, and as things are meant to be. That’s all their world is, and it’s what mine was, too, up until I really thought about things.
I want to seize the pears and throw them at my parents. I want to see the shock in their faces as they stare at me and ask, what on earth has got into you? I want to dance on the table and laugh so loud that their eyes pop right out of their faces from their horror. I want to destroy the ordered world that they commit themselves to, if only to make them understand, because they never will understand anything but what they are. I can’t speak my mind, because they won’t listen. They’ll tell me to sit down and be quiet like a good, little girl. That’s what they’ll say, but I think that if they do, it’ll break me.
I continue up the stairs that evening just as I descended them. I smile at my parents and wish them well, saying, goodnight, sleep well mother; sleep well father. Then I go into my room, shut the door carefully, walk slowly over to my bed, and stuff the newly laundered pillow into my face to mask the sound of my own desperate sobbing.
I don’t hate my parents, because they’re my parents. I love how reliable my mother can be, and I admire my father’s endless devotion to his faith. Really, I adore them, but I hate their world, because I’m not a part of it anymore. I used to understand it, but that’s all gone now. One day, I’d just realised that, over time, my own world had been changing, and as it changed, it had taken me further and further away from theirs. We were in different solar systems now – different universes, even, and there was no way back for me, and no way forward for them.
I sit up, turning the pillow over so that the wetness from my tears is concealed from view. Then I get to my feet, and kneel at the foot of my bed. I haven’t prayed like this for such a long time, but right now I need it. I know you’re there, I think to myself. I know you can hear me, and I want you to know that I’m not grateful. It’s great to be alive and it’s great to go each day not starving or dying of some horrible disease, but perhaps I’m spoilt, because I’m still not grateful. I don’t want to do this anymore; I don’t want to have to pretend, every single day, that I’m a part of something that goes against everything that I am. I want to apologise to my parents for pretending for so long, but I can’t, because I know that I will never, for as long as I live, be able to tell them the truth. I won’t stop. I’ll carry on, because I can and because I’m a good actor… but, as it’s only you who’s listening, I need you to know: I hate myself. I wasn’t meant to be this person. I break every mould that I’ve ever known, but I need you to know, because it must be your fault. You have got to have messed up somewhere; you must made a mistake, because I know, I know, that I’m in the wrong body. Please, understand me when I say this:
I wasn’t meant be a girl.