In Between and Neither
The hardest part of waking up from a deep sleep is the transfer from blissful nothingness into the waiting arms of harsh reality. This thought occurs to me as I lie there, still with my eyes closed. Slowly opening them I'm greeted by the well-known ceiling of my bedroom. I can't even imagine how many hours I have spent just lying there on my bed, staring at every single detail on the ceiling's surface, whether I actually saw and noticed them or not. Sometimes I would have been crying only seconds before that. Sometimes I'd just be lost in thought, either contemplating or feeling lost and depressed.
This morning I'm not entirely sure what I'm feeling. There's this feeling of lightness, of light and warmth on one side, and yet this depressing weight of darkness and doubt on the other side. Remembering yesterday's events at Catherine's place I feel so happy, at having found a place where I am accepted, where there is someone who actually, truly understands me and with whom I share a bond beyond any description. Yet at the same time I can't help but feel the immense fragility of it, like it's a thin, pure fabric upon which I am about to place the full weight of my troubles. I can only imagine it corrupting the fabric with its inky darkness, causing it to turn corrupted and shattering.
Rolling over onto my side, I see my desk with the chair positioned in front of it. All neat and orderly as it should be. Through the curtains in front of the room's windows some light is filtering through. I guess it really is time to get up. A quick glance at my alarm clock confirms my suspicions as I pull back my covers and swing my legs over the side of the bed. I'm wearing my usual pink night gown. Though it's summer, it doesn't hurt to cover at least one's shoulders while sleeping. Besides, it's also handy if you have to get up in a hurry and you don't have to quickly put on something rather than rush out practically naked. I'm practical if nothing else.
That I think that this night gown is also really cute doesn't hurt much either, of course. Call me girly, but I like my gown with its pinkness, frilly bits and drawing of two cats curling around each other.
Also girly is the reflection which greets me from my dressing mirror. Standing at a height slightly taller than the average for women in this country, with curly dark-brown hair and a heart-shaped face, I'm not surprised that I have been told repeatedly by others that I could be a model. Pulling the night gown over my head and dropping it onto my bed, I look into the mirror again. Nothing to complain about there either. Fair skin, no unnecessary fat, and measurements which make it a snap to find clothes which fit me. Everything is pretty much perfect except for...
My eyes glide down my reflected image to my nether regions. The panties I'm wearing can not hide the fact that there is where the image of a nearly perfect, regular girl ends. I smile bitterly at this thought. If only I had been born normal, just as a plain old girl, not necessarily very pretty either. In a sense it's very ironic that I have been given this body which makes so many women feel jealous, yet to have been... cursed, I guess, with something which makes me so very different. So very much not a part of what is accepted. And in a way also not beautiful, like a succubus, with its nearly perfect female body aside from the hoofed legs and spiked tail. So very tantalizing and so near, but extremely repulsing at the same time.
I grimace. Part of me doesn't like the thought of comparing myself with some kind of demon spawn, yet when I recall how others treat me, I am forced to grudgingly admit that there's a grain of truth in it.
Sighing, I proceed to get dressed. There's no use in pondering like this. My life sucks. I get it. There's also nothing I can do about it but to get dressed, eat breakfast and head towards school so that I'll at least have something of a future. Even if it isn't what I would have preferred.
Arriving downstairs, I see that my mother is already sitting at the dinner table, eating breakfast. A single slice of bread with cheese, accompanied by hot tea. I greet my mother and proceed to prepare my own breakfast while pouring myself a cup of tea. Looking outside through the large windows of the kitchen, I can see that it is going to be another warm summer day today as well.
I glance at my mother. She is reading the newspaper while sipping from her tea cup. I feel somewhat guilty for not telling her about what happened yesterday between me and Catherine, but how could I possibly tell her about Catherine's story? All I have told my mother so far is that I met this really nice nurse at school with whom I often share lunch. I guess there is no reason to upset my mother. She has been through so much already these past few years.
It's curious, I think, that mothers can be so involved with what happens with their children that they can be more affected by it than those children themselves. See my case for example. I'm the one who has to live with this body and all the troubles which come with it, yet my mother seems to be the most frustrated and drained by our experiences with the medical system of this country.
Or maybe I'm at least as affected by it, but I have been pushed harder and had to tap into reserves I didn't know existed. Thinking about the frequent times when I feel so terrible about everything that I felt absolutely ready to just quit it right there only to drag myself out from that sorry state moments later, I think I have to agree with the latter option.
Years of facing one uncaring doctor after another, as well as psychologists who tried to convince me that I was deluding myself into thinking that I am intersexual. That all I could be was a transsexual, or something else. Something crazy. Years of uncertainty about my physical identity combined with the people who were supposed to be helping me telling me that I'm crazy and delusional. I can still hear them exclaim their twisted opinions. You're just a regular boy with feminine features. You're kind of weird up there, but therapy can fix that. You just want to be a woman, right? It's an endless nightmare. Even now, though it's been about a year since I last visited a hospital or saw a psychologist, it still haunts me. In my dreams and during my waking moments alike. I have frequent flashbacks during which I relive these events, and there are many triggers which will instantly make me feel physically ill, such as when I'm confronted with something related to transsexuality, and even intersexuality. Traumas are a terrible thing indeed.
Shaking my head to clear it of these disturbing thoughts, I sigh quietly and drink the last bit of my tea as I finish up breakfast. With the way I'm going around in circles inside my head like this, I'll soon be ready to be carried off by the men in white coats, I think to myself, only half-serious. At this point I notice that my mother has already gotten up from her chair and is packing her bag for another day as a primary school teacher.
I get up as well and after a quick trip to the bathroom to brush my teeth I wish my mother a nice day and head off towards school.
Living only about a kilometer from school, it's very natural that I walk to school. Biking would be faster, but not worth the hassle, and besides, it's a nice route, along the river and through the more scenic parts of the city. It's also about as close to feeling like a part of this world as I can get, walking through the hustle of the city, walking with and passing others like everything is as it should be. It's here, outside and away from home, from school and everything surrounding it that I can feel somewhat free of the burden of my existence, as dramatic as that may sound.
The day is still asserting its presence, which is the moment I love the most of a summer's day, before the worst heat strikes and the sun hasn't fully risen yet in the sky. It's still somewhat chilly at points, but not uncomfortably so, while in the sunshine the promise of plenty of warmth can be felt. It's so very invigorating.
While walking like this, past shops and random people on the streets, I also do not feel the need to avert my gaze. They do not know who I am, nor do I know who they are, and neither of us cares. If I smile at someone they usually smile back. If I pick up something they dropped for someone, they thank me, I say it was no problem and I resume walking. It's all natural and so very liberating in a way I can not fully explain.
It wasn't always like that, though; before I discovered what was going on with my body, the subconscious turmoil combined with the conscious thought that I was a boy caused such uncertainty that I had trouble talking to people, would stutter and mumble while doing so and walking into a store would result in a serious case of tunnel vision, due to the near-panic I would slip in at the thought of interacting with people. I guess I really did get over that by realizing and facing my problems.
By the time I'm approaching my school I'm feeling pretty alright. My experiences with Catherine yesterday have shown me that I am not fully alone with my troubles, and after this morning's walk I have the feeling that at least some things in my life are finally sliding into place.
Together with a number of other students I walk through the school gates and head for the main entrance. Everybody is all chatty as usual today. I'm already beginning to feel like a ghost again, present yet ignored by most. Better than haunted and bullied, I think to myself.
As I unlock my locker and open it to get the books I'll need for the first few classes of the day, I notice an envelope lying half on top of a pile of books. It's white and unmarked on both sides, as I notice when I pick it up and look at it. It's not sealed, so I open it. There's a single folded sheet of paper inside it. Maybe a love letter, I think jokingly. Feeling somewhat apprehensive I unfold it and read its contents. Before my eyes have scanned the second line of text I can already feel the gorge rising from my stomach. It's indeed not a love letter. Scanning through the rest of the letter, I resist the urge to crumple it up and throw it away in anger. Instead I fold it up again and put it back into the envelope after which I put it into my bag together with some books.
“You found this in your locker this morning?” Catherine asks me, a note of worry creeping into her voice.
“Yes, a friendly note from someone, I'm not sure who, who wants me to reveal my 'secret' to the whole school, or they'll do it for me. Or something worse.” I say, while feeling like things are beginning to turn unreal again as they slip out of my control. This can't be happening to me, can it?
“Come, we have to show this to the principal right away.” Catherine says, getting up from her chair and fixing her clothes. I nod and open the infirmary's door, stepping into the hallway and waiting for Catherine to follow me. Together we walk down the hallway, past an occasional student, down a stairway and down another hallway until we reach the principal's office, right next to the teachers room and the administration office. Catherine's knock is immediately answered by the gruff voice of the principal.
I have only seen the principal up close once, when I first entered this school, and my unusual registration caused some questions to be raised, so that I was asked to have a talk with the principal to explain matters. I didn't have to explain a lot back then before he agreed to have me registered as being female at this school, seeing the reason behind my request.
Opening the door quietly, Catherine steps inside the office, followed by me. As I close the door behind me, Catherine is already moving towards the principal's desk.
“Sir, we have something you should see. I'm afraid it could be quite serious.” Catherine says, handing the envelope and its contents to the principal, who accepts it.
As he unfolds the letter and starts reading his eyes quickly widen to then narrow, as his face begins to take on a serious look.
“Where did you find this, Miss Catherine?” He asks.
“Alice here found it in her locker this morning. She came to me with it earlier.” Catherine responds.
The principal's gaze returns to the letter on his desk.
“Alice, we know all about your secret. You are a disgusting freak who doesn't belong on this school or anywhere else. You are going to tell everyone on this school that you are a freak before the end of this week. Or we'll do it for you. Everyone here has the right to know what kind of horrible creature is walking around on this school. You can not keep it a secret. Everybody hates you anyway.”
As the principal reads the letter's contents, I can feel every word physically hurting me. My thoughts are in turmoil as I try to make sense of things. I guess it does make some sense with Bruce attacking me before, and his threats.
My thoughts are interrupted as the principal slams his hand on the desk. Feeling somewhat shocked at this behaviour from someone who is usually so calm and composed, I look up wide-eyed.
“Unforgivable.” The principle says, his voice trembling with contained anger.
“For such a threat to be made against a student on this school, because of something like this... this can not be tolerated.”
He looks up at me. “Do you have any idea who might be behind this threat, Alice?” His voice is calm again, though with a hint of worry and impatience.
I do not know what to say for a moment.
“Well... the letter wasn't written by hand, so I can't tell whether it was Bruce or someone else, but he did threaten me a few times the past weeks.” I pause. “The way it's written it doesn't sound like Bruce, though.”
For a few moments it's quiet in the room. Through the tall windows behind the desk the trees lining the front of the school are visible, with the clear blue sky as background. For just a tiny moment it seems like my troubles don't matter, that such a perfect day wouldn't allow a tragedy to unfold. Yet, this moment soon passes as the principal resumes:
“Well, regardless of who is behind this, I think we have to take it seriously, considering what happened before.”
At these words a cold lump of fear forms in the bottom of my stomach. The first time Bruce kicked me into unconsciousness. If Bruce or someone else attacks me again, I don't know what might happen. As the thought of getting killed for the mere crime of being intersexual flashes through my head I can feel my composure slipping away as emotions overwhelm me. It's just all too much...
I can hear a deafening roar, as the world around me slowly seems to shift and blur. I notice that I can no longer breathe, so I claw at my throat and shirt to find out why. The roar keeps getting worse, as I stumble around to find a way to escape. Then everything fades away.
Softness. Warmth. Light. Such peaceful sensations. Something gently brushes along my cheek. And again.
Slowly opening up my eyes I find myself looking at Catherine's face, before realizing that I'm once again lying in a bed in the infirmary.
“We do seem to end up meeting here a lot, don't we?” I say, weakly.
Catherine responds by grabbing my left hand tightly as tears begin to flow down her face. Pressing her hands with mine embedded between them against her forehead, she just keeps sobbing like that for a while.
On some level I realize what's going on, but I'm still too dazed to grasp the situation. As memories come flooding back, the feelings of weakness, and of being helpless return in full force. Every sense of peace is gone. Yet I feel no desire to cry. There has to be a way out of this, right? I mean, I can't just get beaten up, injured or worse at my own school. Can I?
As Catherine calms down, she puts my hand back onto the bed covers before wiping the tears from her face while she carefully tries to smile again.
“I'm sorry for just crying like that... I just...” Catherine starts.
“I understand.” I say, as I reach out with my hand to brush across Catherine's cheek. Smiling at each other, we then share an embrace, losing ourselves for a moment in that one perfect moment of shared understanding.
Author: Maya Posch In Between and Neither – Part 3 Date: 2011/02/20