I’m drawn towards rainbows,
All those colours;
What sin have I done?
To need to prove,
My right to love.
Was I wired wrong?
Did red go into blue,
And blue hang loose?
Please answer me this:
What am I?
She walks past the bakery, past the tiny dress shop, by the time she passes the newsagent you can see the purpose in her walk. In the long strides, and the solid foot falls. The determination in her dark eyes. Her straight blonde hair reaches just below the top of her shoulders, catching the air as she walks.
She reaches the shop nearest the exit to the centre and stops. She takes in a deep breath, then lets it out slowly through her nose, countering the rhythm of her even breathing of before. She pushes open the door.
Or that’s how I would have liked it to have gone…
Like in the movies; the comic narrator, the upbeat soundtrack, the perfect transformation montage, and ta-da! There I am, the new me. Yet, unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. There was no soundtrack, no well selected video montage, and certainly no narrator. In truth, I tripped just before the hairdresser and fell flat on my face. There’s nothing quite like public humiliation for diminishing my confidence. Forty dollars later, all I had was very short hair and the looming prospect of having to show Dad and my stepmother Christine my very spontaneous life choice.
I walked the long way home that day.
Now that I think about it, that haircut gave me more than just the “…but it’s so short!” conversation with Dad. It opened a door for me to start listening to myself and what I want. Whatever that may have been.
Time would tell though as to whether or not I would listen.
This is a terrible idea.
I look over from where Em is pulling a Jenga block delicately from the safety of its fellows in the tower. Mags is watching closely, breath caught in her throat, as she waits for the fate of the tower. Riley, Mags, Em, and I have known each other since mid high school. Same classes, same oddities in personality, it was the perfect recipe for companionship.
I can feel Riley’s gaze on me, her green eyes stare me down from over the rim of her glass of wine. She can tell I’m not really focused on the game. My third glass of wine prompts me to say something. To ignore my doubts just this once. It couldn’t hurt, right?
Riley shuffles over the carpet towards me, wine somehow staying within the confines of the glass. Her quizzical brow matching her somewhat concerned smile. “Are you alright, Anna?”
Dammit! I think, though I’m not surprised she noticed. I nod. “I’m good.” Riley is not convinced, she knows what the right amount of wine can do to my thought processors. We have only been friends for three years now, but it feels like we know each other much better than that. Still intensely preoccupied with the game of Jenga, Em and Mags haven’t noticed anything’s amis.
What is it you want from them, really? I try to ignore the feeling of dread which creeps up the back of my neck. Collecting in a lump in my throat. Honestly? Relief, freedom, understanding. My answer to my own question doesn’t help. I say none of this aloud, but I know that Riley can sense something isn’t quite right. Her attention at this point is focused on me.
I know it shouldn’t be a big thing to be open about this. Especially as they are the ones most likely to understand. As the lump of doubt sinks and settles in my stomach it makes me feel sick. Palms sweating, hands shaking. It’s not until the Jenga blocks hit the table with a crash that I am jolted back to my senses. I sit up. All three sets of eyes follow my sudden movement. As the silence settles, they can tell I want to say something.
My chest clenches, throat dry, this time though I push away that fear. It’s about time anyway.
The Hume stretches on forever. In the four years we have been driving this same stretch of road it has never changed. There are still sixteen wind turbines on the hill. I know this for certain, but I count them anyway. If I miss one I can blame our Missy Higgins CD. She is our constant driving companion. Sometimes it feels like I know these lyrics better than I know myself.
“What are you thinking about?”
Mums voice pulls me out of my thoughts. Though I can hear Eve’s thought process too, typical younger sister, ‘why is she sitting in the front if she doesn’t even talk!’ Fair enough, I think, but I am two years older. Even now, when I’m nineteen I can still hold that over her.
Strangely enough, I feel more relaxed than anything else, or so I think. The doubt is still there, tingling in my palms, in the rapid beats of my heart. You’ve done this before…what makes this any different? It’s Mum.
That feeble response does nothing to quell my nerves. Mum and Eve. Maybe the closer they are the harder it is to tell them. Logic would say it would be easier, that they would understand most.
What are you thinking about? The question is more loaded than Mum knows.
I smile, and glance back at Eve, just for a moment. I don’t want to see her reaction. Not really. “Not much.” I lie, trying to keep my voice level. “There is something I’ve been wanting to tell you though.”
My knuckles whiten as I grip the back rest of the seat in front of me as the bus lurches dangerously around another corner. At this point I can’t tell if the churning in my stomach is being caused by this questionable driving or the decision I just made. Well, it has been four years in the making.
Dinner with Dad goes well. Relaxed conversation, and good food. I keep up the front that I am completely calm when in reality my stomach is churning. The decision to have wine with dinner not sitting as well as I’d hoped. I chat about uni marks, friends, and the constant state of ‘tired and confused’ which holds my share-house captive. We laugh at that last one. Him shaking his head, me with tears in my eyes. I ask about Christine and my stepsisters, and about his new job. Normal.
My hands are shaking though. This is the second time I’ve dropped that same forkful of mashed-potato back onto the plate. The third time it makes my mouth, but only just. The waiter clears our plates as I start to fold my napkin, unfold it, then refold it again. The creases are never quite in the same place.
I can feel the heat behind my eyes, a jolt deep in my chest, I’m not sure why I want to cry. I know the feeling though. For someone like me, dread isn’t hard to miss.
As I start to speak I can’t quite meet his eyes.
As I stand in front of the mirror I notice the mascara on my right eye is slightly skewed. Too late to fix now. I smile anyway, my lipstick is perfect.
Mags bounds into my room. “You look cute!”
I grin back as her smiling face appears in the mirror beside mine. “Same to you!” I reply as I push my fringe back out of my eyes.
She bumps her hip gently to mine. “Got your hopes up?”
I snort. “You know me. I’d probably make a fool of myself before I’d even finished my first drink.” I hardly go out at all, but the prospect of a pop-up gay bar in Fitzroy had caught our attention. Trust Mags to have the right connections. Plus I have to start somewhere, right?
“You’ll be fine. Trust me.”
I do. Mags had been right about Mum and Dad, Eve too. All that worry for something that didn’t have to be that big. Inevitably, the only one who can’t quite accept myself, is me. I’m working on it though, because if they can still love me, why can’t I?
She walks out of the small hair dresser her head held high. New: buzzcut sides and sweeping fringe. Her knees still ache but the swirl of humiliation from that fall has somewhat left her. She laughs, shaking her head. There’s a slight swing in her hips and a lightness in her step as she walks. Her smile reaches her dark eyes as she heads for the exit of the shopping centre.
She feels more like herself than she ever could have before, though at this point she doesn’t quite know who that is. For her, it’s not just a haircut. It is a doorway to what most would call the ‘new me’. As the light breeze picks at her skirt and tugs gently at her fringe she closes her eyes.
This is me.
Words by Anna Bratchford