To Friend 1

Dear Close Friend,

I have always sat in relative awe of you and I think it's only in the last couple of years that we've really gotten to know each other as people. That awe has never gone away: I work inside my head, you work out loud to other people. It astounds me! You can pick up anyone, carry on a conversation with anyone, talk to your problems with anyone. I know your problems and I know they are not banal. You know half of mine and I think (and not unreasonably) that you think they are banal.

Of course you would! What have I told you that is of importance in the last six months?

In a parallel universe, I am dashing and courageous and I've already told you my weird, insidious secret. You're talking to your friends about me - your new friends - all the popular kids in skirts and heels and dresses. You're saying, "She's so weird. All my friends are weird. Especially her. Although, of course, the poor nutter gets us to call her a him." You'll roll your eyes to the laughter of the others. "She'll kill me for that! What can you do with these freaks? Ha, ha!"

Well, you could treat me with some respect for a start.

"Respect? Oh, sorry. I mean, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, I just think it's a bit...you know."

No I don't. What?

"You know. Oh, you know. Weird."

Oh, well I know that bit, I overheard you and your friends. I know your opinions on such subjects. I remember you telling me, when we got to know the people who would complete our friendship group - then fresh-faced, young and innocent.

"Um, yeah. But that year was pretty bad. I mean, we were always arguing. There was so much drama."

Yes. We rather inflated the issue, didn't we? Made a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak. You wouldn't leave it alone. You still don't.

"Well yeah, but come on. I mean, I know what they're into and all, and I find that kind of gross. You know."

Different perhaps, gross, not really. Love is love, right? Or not?

"Yeah, yeah, I agree with that. But I hate how they always talk about everyone as if they were like them, and they never let us say 'That's so gay!' any more. I miss that."

I don't.

"Um, I suppose I agree with you. But still, I'm so glad that's over. Phew! It was a terrible year, we almost stopped being friends. But the group's more close-knit now, and it's come out all the stronger."

More precarious, I'd say. You've told me several times how you didn't like it.

"That's because I don't. I mean I'm cool with it, but..."

You can stop now, you sound like my mother. I know why you're uncomfortable, it's because they're gay, and you're not, and you think that everyone assumes you're gay because you're with 'the gay group'. And that's terrible, isn't it?

"Well, I'm not. So it's a misconception."

And I'm not female, and it would be a misconception if people put me in skirts and say 'she'. And they do. You did yourself, five minutes ago.

"But you are. I mean, you're built like one, so you must be..."

Gender's what's between your ears, not between your legs. I'm well aware of what sex I am.

"Oh, uh, right. Listen, I think you need to go and see someone. My friend has a really good therapist, if you want the number."

You are the best friend anyone could wish for. I feel extremely comfortable confiding in you, thank you so much for your kindness and compassion.

"Don't get sarcastic with me, I was only trying to help. You sound a bit confused, that's all. I think you need to get out more."

Nothing will let me escape from this, my dear friend. I'm doomed, the secret is eating away at me like a worm inside my gut, from the outside in. Don't give me funny looks! I'm trying to describe how I feel.

"Well, I don't really think I know what you're on about."

I said I'm depressed, I feel awful all the time, I'm in tears most nights and I have fallen into misery and misanthropy. Nobody will ever understand me, I'm a loser, and I'm kind of ugly as well.

"Preach it, sister! Life's so hard for us single ladies! I'm always there for support, dearie!"

And that's the kind of rubbish you talk. You are there, half the time, and I think my support link with you will get more and more strained as you come to terms with my misalignment. I hope you'll stay with me, because you're one of my better friends, but I'm seriously questioning our future. I know your reaction intimately, I know exactly what you'll do.

Yes, I've met you before, you are a recurring theme in society. This time the stakes are higher and the victory - in the unlikely event I'll win your friendship after my disclosure - will be the sweetest.

But in the attic of a solitary mind I see darkness, sadness, and loss, the creeping dread, the whisper of yet-spoken words, the echo of yet-done actions; the tiny pattering of events yet to be, appearing for a moment as a glint on the horizon and then diving back down again into the perpetual darkness of my ignorance.

The End

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