People change for a reason, right?
Whether it’s time or trauma, we all change eventually. That’s why I never understood people who don’t believe in evolution. We’re all evolving, every second of every day, and adapting to any changes that come our way. Denying that is denying having changed at all, and I’m fairly sure that the white, Christian woman screaming that believing in evolution is a sin has changed since she was born.
It’s inevitable. For better and for worse, nothing stays the same. You either keep up and evolve with the world around you, or get left behind.
I’ve changed in a different way though. Dramatically, and far more significantly than regular people. I changed when he entered my life, and I haven’t been the same since.
When I think back to my childhood, I can vaguely remember seeing his silhouette over my shoulder. I remember when I was three, and my dad was teaching me how to ride my bike. He said it’s a skill that every little boy should have. I hated it, but went along with it anyways. When I fell for the seventh time, my dad gave up and went back inside, muttering under his breath how I was useless, and that I better grow up to be more manly.
He never did mutter very quietly.
That day was the first time I really saw him. He didn’t talk to me, just stood there and waved. I waved back, and that was that.
The first time I spoke to him was in the middle of the night. I was kept awake by the muffled shouting downstairs. I was blocking my ears and curling up as small as I could, just praying that they would be friends again in the morning. His hands were cold as they rested on mine, gently pulling them away from my ears.
’Listen to them,’ he had said. I remember finding his voice quite unsettling at first. I didn’t even know how he was in my room, but there he was, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell him to leave. As far as I knew, I’d made a friend, an unlikely and uncommon event for me.
So I did as he said and listened. I could make out a few sentences from my father. He’d always shouted the loudest, so his voice carried up the stairs and overpowered my mother’s.
‘Listen, the kid needs to get his act together. I’m signing him up.’
He had held my hand at that point, with his freakishly cold fingers wrapped around my trembling hand.
‘I don’t care that he doesn’t want to play football! It’ll be good for him, make sure he turns out normal.’
That’s when I realised that they were actually arguing about me. He had excitedly told me that day that he’d signed my up for football club, only to have his hopes vanquished by me saying no. He had given me the silent treatment for the rest of that day, barely looking me in the eye at dinner.
’I don’t want to listen anymore,’ I’d whispered to the figure, sat at the foot of my bed with a steel grip on my hand.
’But you have to. It’s you that they’re fighting about, right?’
I had simply nodded in response to that. I didn’t know what else to do.
As I grew up, we got closer. Well, he got closer to me. He never told me about his personal life. Said that he didn’t have one, that he was living his life through me. He was like that really smart classmate that everyone has. You don’t understand what they’re saying but you say that you definitely do, for fear of them calling you an idiot or leaving you. His methods may have been unconventional, but I believed him every time he said that he was trying to help me. After all, when somebody tells you what you’ve done wrong, it helps you, right? So that you don’t do it again.
But growing up with him changed me. If I was sunshine and rainbows before meeting him, then he was the moon, eclipsing my light and making himself the centre of my world. But even I had to admit that in my teenage years, he was the centre of my life. Made sure I knew when I messed up, and helped me realise some hard facts of life.
After I was outed, he never left my side. Even after my father had screamed at me, red in the face telling me how I would never be his daughter. How I’d always be a boy in his eyes no matter how much makeup I wore. By this point, I’d stated to realise that my gloomy and slightly mysterious friend was maybe a little toxic, but I couldn’t say anything to him. I was a trans girl in a not so progressive part of town, so I knew deep down that I wouldn’t have a lot of chances at friendship. That I had to make this one last so that I wouldn’t be alone again. Who cares if he didn’t let me talk back to him when my parents were in the room? Who cares that whilst my father was repeatedly misgendering me and screaming at me, his only reaction was to let me know that my dad had a point? He was a friend, right?
That day at the pier made me realise that he was anything but.
I had moved out of my parents house two years ago. I‘d dropped out of school and was working three part time jobs to pay rent for a rat infested flat that didn’t even have a real bedroom. I improvised and got a couch that doubled as a bed, but even that was second hand. I was also saving every spare penny to get hormones and top surgery, which is anything but cheap.
I had an hour before my shift in the supermarket started, and I was walking along the pier with him. He was bringing up some fascinating points about my life, and how I could be doing better things. At the time, I thought that he was inspiring me to be the best version of myself. I’d soon come to realise that he had very different intentions.
The water below was fairly shallow, and there were rocks beneath the surface. It was about a six foot drop, so I was always cautious.
He looked over the edge and gave me an idea. He said that if I stood on the edge, I’d feel calmer because I’d be closer to the sunset. I did as he told me to and stood on top of the fence, which had previously been the only thing keeping me safe.
I can still feel his cold hand on my back, sending me tumbling forward and downwards.
I was stupid back them. Misinformed, so desperate for friendship that I was willing to accept it from somebody who was clearly not good for me. I know now that he wasn't offering friendship. It’s like when people did that cruel experiment where they boiled a frog. It didn’t even know it was dying until it was too late. I guess that I was the frog. I know better now, so that whenever he tries to coax me into the pot, I’m ready to resist.
Oh, and I found out his name. I haven’t told anyone his name before. We were told in school that people with his name are very dangerous, so it’s kind of a huge secret in my life. So, if you want to know, I have to ask you this.
Can you keep a secret?
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I liked the way you personified her inner demon (I can't quite figure out if it's supposed to be depression, dysphoria or something else). When you have a strong enough negative voice, it can feel like a totally separate being. I would have liked to see more of the toxicity of the "friend". The sugar-coated poisonous words twisting into her head so that when he finally pushes her into the water, it drives the hurt home even more. You portray the trans struggle well.
What a lovely story. Great use of terse sentences and language, made it a joy to read. Keep writing Elliot.