What A Little Girl Learned
There is a little girl in the universe right now who is learning to not speak.
For example, when a little girl is in first grade and she kisses her best friend on the cheek as a joke. She can’t explain why but it makes her happy. But the other little girl just giggles and lets out an “ew, gross.” And so she says it too. “Ew, gross.” And her smile falters a little bit, but that’s okay. She’s in first grade. She doesn’t know what she wants.
For example, when that little girl is nine and her mother asks her if she has a boyfriend, and she responds with no, she doesn’t want one, thank you very much. And her mother just giggles knowingly with a “you’ll change your mind” tossed over her shoulder like a forgotten promise and it clings to the little girl. And her smile falters again, because she may think boys are ick but girls are not. And she can’t explain why but her smile falters, but that’s okay. She’s nine. She doesn’t know what she wants.
For example, when that little girl is eleven and she goes to church and listens to her pastor like the good little Christian girl she is. And he tells the whole congregation that girls who love girls and boys who love boys are sinful and unclean, and that we should love those poor souls but definitely not befriend them. And her smile falters, but she rolls with it. Because he knows better than her, right? He’s older and wiser and she’s just a little girl, just a confused kid who can’t even see straight, much less think that way. But she doesn’t like labels, so she listens and nods along, holding her tongue like she’s been taught. She goes home and when her friends ask her about gay people, what’s that?, she responds with—a sin. It’s a choice and it’s a sin. She is diagnosed with trichotillomania, a stress disorder where you pull out your hair. She tells everyone it’s because of school that she’s stressed, but that is the farthest from the truth she’s ever said. At eleven years old, she learns how to lie, and lie well. And her smile falters again and again but that’s okay, she’s eleven. She doesn’t know what she wants.
For example, when that little girl is twelve and she gets her first hard crush, the first time she’s ever felt butterflies curl up in her stomach and try to break free. The first time she’s ever felt woozy just looking at a person, the first time she can’t think of anything but how soft their hair looks, and how gentle they look, and how much they just want to hold them and call them theirs and be with them, forever. And her crush is a girl. And so, one day, the little girl goes up to her and asks if she’d date a girl, and she says—no. And the little girl feels those butterflies shrivel up and fall into the pit of her stomach and be consumed by a tide of nothing, a churning void of blackness that just makes her feel like a hole. And she goes home and cries, and cries, and cries. And she can’t look her mother in the eye because she’s in love but it’s not right, it’s not pure. And she can’t look her mother or her father or her pastor or her good Christian friends in the eye because she has failed them, the disgusting sinful being she is. But it’s okay, because she’s not even a teenager yet. She’s going through a phase—they all do it, it’s a puberty thing. She doesn’t know what she wants. And her smile doesn’t just falter, it disappears.
For example, when that little girl is fourteen and she’s finally over the girl who tore her up inside, she doesn’t want to go to church. Trichotillomania, the stress disorder, is beginning to devour her. She has no eyebrows, and her friends are noticing. But she’s learned to lie by now. She looks her pastor and her parents and her good Christian friends in their eyes and she tells them everything is fine, she’s just stressed out. Her hands shake all the time, whether she’s had coffee or not. It’s an essential tremor, she says. It runs in the family. She’s gotten very good at lying by now. She’s perfected the craft over the years. She can even fool her mother’s all-seeing eye. She doesn’t want to go to church, because it reminds her of how everyone there hates her, how everyone thinks she’s filthy and disgusting, how she should be stoned for her sins because that’s what the Bible says, right? Gay marriage is legalized and she is scared to celebrate. Scared it will give away her secret she’s worked so hard to hide, to cover up in layers and layers of lies. Wait until you’re eighteen to tell your parents, her friends--not the good Christian ones--say. That way they can’t kick you out because you’ll already be moving out. Wait. Wait. Wait. But every day she waits another hole is eaten into her chest. Every day she waits she feels like a part of her is dying, slowly crumbling into ashes and her body is filling up like an urn until the ashes rise to her throat and she can’t breathe. Every day she wonders what it would be like if maybe—just maybe, she hadn’t kissed that little girl on the cheek as a joke in first grade. Not that it would have changed anything, but—she wonders. You might even say she prays that things would have worked out differently, that she could have been born just a normal girl, but that would be a lie. She doesn’t pray anymore. She can’t pray anymore. And the ashes are rising to her throat and filling her lungs and throat and her nose, and she’s choking but she cannot say anything about it. But…it’s okay. She’s only fourteen, what does she know. And the smile reappears, but it’s not a smile. Not really.
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thank you so much for the reply!! it really means a lot!!!
I've been here and it's hard. This piece was immaculate. Amazing job.
sorry i didnt see this until now, but thank you so much!!