Red twig dogwood
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Red twig dogwood
“I mean, I did pretty well in high school, so I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
When I was 11 I met my grandparents for only the third time. I had vague memories of them from my toddlerhood. Here was a grandfather with a crooked smile, a grandmother who really liked floral print, but I was keenly aware, even back then, that I didn’t actually know anything about either of them. But now was my chance. I could finally know them as more than photographs and the occasional anecdote from my mother’s childhood.
I sat on my mom’s bed in my sleep-shirt, sobbing uncontrollably. She asked me again and again what was wrong. I had only been home from school for two days, surely nothing could have happened in those two days to upset me so much.
If you’re reading this, know before you even start, that you are about to learn one of my best-kept secrets. If you already knew this, know that this means I trust you beyond belief. If I already told you this, know that you mean the world to me. You listened, and you didn’t treat me any differently because of this. If you didn’t know, all I can hope for is that this doesn’t change the way you see me. I’m throwing it out in the open.
My family is deeply religious. My father’s side is wholly Irish Catholic. My mother’s side is not Irish, but my grandparents on her side were sure as hell Catholic, and, of course, so is she. I believe we may have some Baptists in the family somewhere but I have not heard much about that.
It’s always the quiet ones. That’s what they tell me anyway. I’m pretty sure the whole expression is, “It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for,” but to be honest, that doesn’t help me understand it much. Do people expect me to jump out from behind their blackout curtains just as they’re settling in for the evening? Steal the highlighters I borrow from them? Occasionally say something snarky? The horror.
You’ll know it when you see one. We sit in the front row of every class, answer every (rhetorical) question, flood review sessions and the 6 p.m. JHMI shuttle and follow professors around like lost puppies until we’re sure they’ll write us a letter of recommendation. Hopkins is our battleground, and we are feared and despised by our peers and faculty alike.
I’ve spent the last year trying to write screenplays and short stories about teenage girls struggling to come out to their families and friends, and one question always came up from my peers in workshop and my professors: “I don’t understand why it’s so hard for her to come out.”
"You’re a man now! Stop crying.”
I think it was in fourth grade when I truly came to grasp a sense of my “otherness.” It was a hot August day, and I was playing on the swings at my local community center. A girl with mousy brown hair and glasses came up to me and asked, “Why is your face so flat?”
San Francisco. My mother’s womb. None of your business.
Last summer, while looking for a free bike on Craigslist, one thing led to another, and I ended up working part-time at a Chinese restaurant in D.C.'s Chinatown. Since then, people have asked me what I did there, and I can't really say.