I didn’t realize I liked girls until I was 16
because my catholic upbringing never allowed
that part of me to ever see the light of day. Nearly every
adult I ever looked up to said, why would we let
the gays marry someone they love when they could
just suppress their feelings and make it easier
on the rest of us, and that sunk in somewhere
deep inside and it snapped out at every part of me
that wanted to explore those untapped feelings,
pushing them far, far down in the hopes i wouldn’t
find them again. It never mattered how far I pushed, my sin
always came bubbling up to the surface, starved and
half-drowned but alive alive alive.
When I was 17, I kept my mouth shut. So many lovely
girls around me wrapped hot coils around my heart but
I heard the way they spoke about those muslims
those transgenders those gays and I painted my
damned lips shut with the strongest glue. A boy
approached me then, quiet and subtle, and he snuck
in somewhere I never thought I’d let anyone. I never
noticed how his hands seemed to wander constantly and
how his eyes always lingered on my ass, but his rough fingers
grabbed hold of the corners of my mouth and pulled
and pulled until my secret came prying loose. When
it went flying in the hostile air he caught it with the smack
of his hand and he roared, what the fuck do you mean?
don’t you know you’ll burn in hell?
I’ve thought about it forever and ever, I cried, and I know
god loves me whether I like girls or not. and he screamed,
no no no you’ll burn you’ll burn you’re a nasty fucking sinner.
my words fell flat in an endless void, saying over and over
he made me this way he loves me he loves me,
until the void eventually swallowed them whole with bitter, hot shame
to wash it all down. Rotten with hatred,
I watched as my carefully-guarded secret spread like tongues
of wildfire and the eyes of judgment fell on me, cracking
tar-black, hot whips on my head to fold me farther into
the neat box I once came out of.
A week later, my family called to me from downstairs,
you’d better come see this, and out my front door
every organ inside me sank to my toes when I saw
streaming white covering every inch of my house,
my home, my only safe haven. What a silly prank,
my aunts and uncles said, pulling toilet paper from
the branches of our tree, overlooking the fact that
17-year olds don’t TP anymore, or at least not for the fun of it.
This wasn’t lost on my parents. Who would do this?
And why? Tears fell quick down my cheeks as I said,
I don’t know I don’t know, only proving that I did and they
said, What have you done? What did you do to make them do this?
Wanda, come look. I was called to the porch again to find
a bucket filled with water, two goldfish swimming inside,
lost and scared and unaware they were being used
as the strangest statement of hate. Scooping them out into
a bowl of fresh water, I watched them swim in confused and
endless circles, murmuring apologies as the sky outside
turned violet and gold. Who told you to be sorry?
one fish said to me with a gurgling, deep voice. Will you
keep being sorry as they spit at you forever? I stared at his wide,
gaping mouth as he said, You’re everything their god can only
let them hope to be, and they’ll destroy you for it.
So are you going to let them?
Or are you going to tell them to kiss your ass?
The ghost who lives in our dorm room is named Kimberly. She died after going head to head with four bottles of vodka one bleak, crazy night in January, 15 years ago. She’s kind of a bitch, but not enough so to possess me and make my head spin around like an owl. She mostly likes to move our things from place to place to fuck with us. Some days, my roommate finds her snacks hidden underneath her pillow, and when we look at Kimberly, she shrugs and says, I was saving those for later. But as far as ghosts go, she’s really not so bad. On days where the air outside is a sweltering 115 degrees, her presence keeps the room comfortably chilly. She spends all our time sitting by our beds and watching as we do homework and occasionally say, This shit is so hard. I wish I could just drop out or pull a Kimberly. One night in January, we all curl up on the couch in the lounge to watch a horror movie about a ghost living in an old lady’s wall, while Kimberly sits next to me. She likes to watch horror movies and take notes on how else to make us shit our pants, but thirty minutes in, we realize this particular ghost is pretty terrible. The film plateaus into a boring lull, and Kimberly falls asleep, her head dousing my shoulder in ice-cold. When the movie finally crashes and burns, I shake Kimberly awake. Hey, it’s over. You really missed out, I tell her, and she genuinely seems bummed. I miss my mom, she says, her voice a pathetic, whispery breeze. I hate this. I hate everything. I miss being alive. I stare at her, helplessly trying to form the right words, but what is there to possibly say? Kimberly gets up and walks straight through the wall into our room. From that night on, our room is especially, bitterly cold.