Lez-bee-iiin? What a funny word. What’s a lesbian? Why am I a lesbian? Jackie looked as if she’d just scored the new not–squeaky swing after she said it. “Carly , you’re a lesbian!” Do I get mad? I guess I do. I should. I tell Jackie to shut it and crane my neck out from under my heavy backpack. Maybe Mom won’t be last car today. I really wanted to be in the backyard with the dogs. School gave me that stale, dizzying feeling. When I’m with my dogs, I forget about school, Jackie, and Dad.
A scoff brought my attention back to Jackie and her band of aggressors. She stepped forward abruptly, hard and in false assault. When I didn’t respond, her shove reminded me of my place at school. Right where I should be, at the bottom.
I made my situation worse without a second thought. I dropped my things and lunged. Jackie was going down. I landed my fist in her stomach and she stumbled back in confusion. As I turned, her hand slipped under my t-shirt sleeve and clawed me on the shoulder .An adult took notice of our altercation. We were separated by a couple pushes and grabs by a younger teacher that I didn’t know. I felt burning and with a look at the bloody scratches on my shoulder a rush of terror swept through my whole frame. My stomach ached and my body tingled. Dad was going to know. Going home with the marks of fight was a nightmare. The last time I fought, he belted me in my bathroom. He had rushed in without a second’s notice and raged. Naked and bewildered, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t stop the blows. Soon I wouldn’t even try. I’d take his punishment if it meant that I would learn to be good. If I could learn to be good then he wouldn’t need to hurt me.
Why can’t I just be good?
The teacher sluggishly brought me and Jackie to the office. This cost her precious energy. She’d been with kids acting like assholes all day and now these two decide to maul each other. She silently prayed that the vice principal would just deal with it and take them off her hands.
Lucky for me, he did just that.
Mr. Parks was an aging black man with a small fro that somehow always looked wet. I was memorized by this hair and often stared at it when being reprimanded. He was a kind man, intent on doing his work for the good of the young ones. I felt the tingles dissipate when Mr. Parks took me into his office first. While Jackie waited and sulked with the secretary that smelled like soap, I sat in the same squishy leather chair that I had bounced into many times before. I squirmed into a comfortable position until Mr. Parks looked up from his paperwork. He always had stacks of pages and file folders around. It amazed me that one person could have so much to read for work. I wondered if he had to remember it all. Mr. Parks sighed at me and I felt tears coming. I knew what seeing him meant. It meant punishment and today I was going to be punished for being a lesbian. Mr. Parks assigned me to I.S.S. for hurting Jackie and told me he would be calling my parents. He reminded me that this was my third fight and while he did not think I was a bad kid, that I needed to stop acting like one. I wondered if Mr. Parks could teach me to be good and how to not be a lesbian.
When the phone call came, I begged a silent god for my father to not answer. My body stiffened when I heard his voice sweep into the room. He was that loud, or maybe I was just searching and waiting for him. I hated myself. The other kids knew how to be good, why couldn’t I? When my mother arrived, she was crying. “How could you do this again, Carly? What’s wrong with you?” I slinked away from her. Her teary, shouting pleas made my stomach hurt and I didn’t want her to look at me. She must hate me because I’m a lesbian. I just wished she would tell me what it meant. At home I sunk into a corner in the back of the house, hugging my knees. He was coming for me. It wouldn’t be long until he came home like a whirlwind, storming through the house to come get me. I kneaded the carpet with my fingers and tried not to breathe.When I heard gravel crunching and brakes squeaking outside, a familiar shock went through my body. He was here. Doors slammed, my mother wept, and I could hear him calling for me. I prayed that I would disappear, that I would never be a lesbian again, and that I could be a good girl someday. Maybe this time would be the last time.
I surfaced this, now decades old, memory to better understand the paradox that exists within my very nature. Recently I wrote a letter to my younger self.
“I am so sorry this happened to you. I am sorry that so many years of your life were spent waging a war against yourself. I am sorry for the unknowing that surrounded you. I am sorry for the denial that bruised you time and time again. I am sorry for what you went through. And I am sorry that I left you alone.”