I shut myself inside myself,
tight, tight, so I couldn’t get out.
I locked the diary of me
and threw the key into the ocean,
so no one would ever open me up
and pull out my secrets,
wet and shiny and cringing from the light of day.
I knew what was necessary to survive
and I did it, ruthlessly, compassionlessly,
in a way I could only ever do to myself.
Hard shiny plastic
that felt and moved and acted like a real girl
was all that was left.
There were girls who lured me,
tried to pry me open and pull me out.
There were boys who pushed me,
tried to hold my secret self in their hands
and clench it until it was what they wanted.
I resisted, and resisted, and resisted.
I told myself so many untruths:
I’m just not meant for elationships,
I don’t know how to commit,
people terrify me,
I don’t want a partner.
I danced on the thinnest tightrope
as high in the air as I could go,
friendships so intense that they disintegrated,
my wet, shiny secrets too much for them to withstand.
Claw marks, teeth marks, whatever I could do
to make people stay, without telling them,
without cracking the plastic,
reasoning that the key was lost forever, anyway,
no use trying to pry myself open anymore.
Was I happy?
I didn’t even know what happy meant.
I was detached, floating in a void
of my own making.
I watched documentaries about women who loved other women,
men who loved other men,
movies about their tragedies,
and I sobbed an entirely new ocean.
But that ocean had no key, and so
I said, what a good ally I am.
How empathetic. How much I care.
I heard slurs, derogatory comments,
came home to my apartment to fume and cry.
On behalf of them, the marginalized, who weren’t me.
And then, and then.
It happened overnight, or so it felt.
I expanded, my plastic shell splitting apart,
and I was born into the world anew.
Raw and red and shiny and wet,
cringing from the light of day.
The ocean threw my key back at me,
and it burned to the touch until I used it to unlock the diary.
There I was, my true self,
calling myself by my true name.
There was a time when I was scrambled,
my true name like ashes in my mouth,
and so I tried another, and another.
Why couldn’t I just make up my mind?
So many gentle hands reached out to guide me,
so much kindness flowed through the circuitry and signals that make up this world,
and eventually I lay gasping but alive,
on soft grass, and the sun shone down.
But I couldn’t touch anyone else,
couldn’t reach out my living, questing hands,
couldn’t share my newfound self in a tangible way.
I was certain, living, but isolated.
Until I wasn’t.
Until there were hands reaching back,
other living, breathing, nearby people like me.
I couldn’t find them through all the static and hiding,
but the universe knows and the universe provides,
and it provided me an abundance,
more than I feel I deserve.
I am part of a community,
and that community doesn’t always have to be a physical intangibility.
But the only way this was possible
was by showing myself, my raw, terrified, quivering self,
to the world, or at least my part of it,
and trusting it to hold me up.
It doesn’t always, but this time, for me, it did.
And this time, through the visibility of others,
I was able to be a real girl, no more plastic shell,
no more locked diary without a key.
Through the visibility of others,
I was able to visualize myself,
and find ways to exist
without hating what I saw, what I was.
I’m still a little raw, still quivering,
but I’m figuring out how to inhabit myself
and the world I live in,
and I could never have dreamt of this reality
when nothing was visible, everything shrouded in fog.
This is why it matters,
this is why we matter.
This is why I’m alive, and will never shut up.