By Eva Grace Martinez
Volume 1 Issue 8
June 8, 2021
Image provided by US News
It’s October 3rd, 2015; you are sitting in your room taking an “Am I Gay?” quiz from Buzzfeed. You are crying. Your lips tremble, and your voice has been lost to sobs. It’s something close to three in the morning. You are not crying because of the results; you are crying because there are none.
Like some magic 8-ball from Lucifer himself, the test has told you that it is up to you to determine your identity. You are someone who lives in a world of memorizing answers and rote learning. Your parents taught you how to think critically about art, music, religion, and politics, and all the other big words adults like to use. Still, they never taught you how to think critically about this part of you. You suspect they never had to.
You’re too scared to Google anything. You don’t want your mom to see your search history. So you let the questions fester. They burn into your soul with a fervor you never knew was possible.
You would like to say that the burning hurts you. That the pain shapes memories and decisions, or it informs some greater understanding of the universe around you.
Instead, it sinks down into the shade of who you are becoming. If your eyes linger too long on the pretty woman on the magazine cover, who would blame you? You try to convince yourself that it’s just because you don’t know her name. This will not be the last time you fail to convince yourself.
You know that there are words for people like you. You watch the Obgerfell V. Hodges’s decision live on TV. Your mother smiles and says, “good for them,” and that is that. You do not tell her that you feel like crying; she does not ask why you are smiling so strangely.
You wonder what it must feel like to dance in the sea of colors you see on the streets of DC. Your dad smiles and then changes the channel; he wants to catch up on the Mets game. The images of rainbows large enough to swallow the capitol building are tattooed onto your synapses.
Later, you see the first gay couple to be married in New York on “Say Yes to the Dress”. You sit quietly, waiting for a comment from your grandma. The comment never comes.
Once, you will creep up to your parent’s bedroom door. It is 6:30 on a Saturday evening, and you will open your mouth to speak. The air around you will still for a moment; this is the first time in your life silence slips its greedy hands over your lips. It will not be the last.
It will take you two years to find a space where thoughts like yours seem normal. You know better than to discuss it with your friends at the time, so you turn to the internet.
Suddenly there is an explosion of life. There are words to refer to every type of person you could ever meet, and someone is always making more. The words scare you. There are too many, and they all hold so much weight.
You are lost in a sea of language, of prefixes and suffixes that make your head spin. The riptide pulls you out to sea, and you are assaulted by a barrage of letters, all jumbled to become one infinite black ocean. You know nothing of who you are and where you will go. Here, you cannot breathe water or air. Sink or swim, you will not survive.
Until you do.
You survive because the water is only as lonely as you make it out to be. If you sink, you will find mermaids with tails that glitter like oil slicks. If you swim, you see ships with stories of every place you could ever know.
Survival is ingrained in you, so you continue to survive. When you are done visiting mermaids, and the sailors have run out of stories. They may ask you a question or two. They simply wonder how it is precisely that you define you.
You still don’t have an answer to that question. You expect the worst; you have visions of teeth and talons. You expect to be sent off the plank. Instead, you are granted kindness. They don’t know who they are either.
They tell you that this ocean is for all of us who don’t know. You are shocked that the “us” includes you; it doesn’t feel wrong, so you stay.
You learn to tie knots, and you learn to navigate using the stars. You know how to grow your own tail now, and the murky waters, once terrifying, now feel like home.
With joy, you tell a sailor this. You see the sadness in his eyes when he tells you, “that means it’s time to leave.” You don’t want to leave. You have just found warmth in a murky black ocean. You had just learned to sail this ship, and now you are forced to chart a new course.
You wave goodbye to the friends you made. You don’t know if you’ll ever see them again. One of them shouts your name, but just as you turn to face them, a wave crashes in your vision. There is no time to be sentimental now; you must keep yourself afloat.
You take your map and plan your route. It is only when your boat touches land that you realize where you are. You are home. You are home with new scars and new memories, but this is still home. You ask your dad if the Mets won last night and your mom if she wants to go book shopping. For a second, everything is normal. You did not just walk off a boat from a magical sea. Your hair has not grown, and you have not changed.
As the seconds pass, though, any sense of normalcy shatters. Your mother squints and asks about the strange flag on your ship. Your dad tells you not to move. Your parents have always been good with words, and the confession they drag from you is sharp and messy like broken shells washed too far onto the shore.
Yet, they collect these broken shells and press them together in their palms. They tell you that you are loved, no matter who you happen to be in love with. Just like that, the cracks in the shell begin to fade. They are not fixed, they are still brittle, but they begin to heal.
Oh, what healing will do. No longer will you drown in waves of words too niche for how you feel, nor will you struggle to explain why your gaze lingers on the pride displays at Target. You will still be awkward and messy, and you will cry too much over silly things, but that’s growing up.
You are happy now with who you have become. You would like to think that 10-year-old you would be satisfied too. She deserves to be happy. She deserves to love herself in the way you do now. You are so far away from where this story began and yet still so far away from its ending. You no longer strain against the weight of your own fear. You are strong. You are one drop of water in a sea of color, but here, you are home.
You have survived through four long years of inner turmoil for this day. It has been exactly four years and four days since the Obgerfell V Hodges decision. In that second, you realize how light you feel, no longer bogged down by the heavy questions in your soul. You have grown up, and you are no longer worried about precise definitions. You are loved by your family and friends, and you might just love someone too. Nobody cares who exactly that is. Your friend is next to you; you giggle as he smacks a rainbow heart sticker onto your forehead.
It is June 30th, 2019; you are somewhere in downtown Manhattan, and you are laughing. You are waving a rainbow flag that your parents bought for you amongst a crowd of others. You hear music start playing, and then you are dancing. You don’t have to wonder anymore how those people in DC felt four years ago. You know it now too.
You stand with your shoulders back, laughing and dancing. You smile at the sea of color surrounding you, and your mom catches a photo of you dancing, flag in hand. You are strong here. You are safe here. You are a part of an “us” larger than yourself. You are crying again, but this time you are happy.
You are proud.