“Promise you won’t tell?” she said.
That’s all it took. One word and I was trapped. One word and my wrists were put in shackles with no key. One word and I would be kept up at night. One word would leave me with no one.
The words she whispered in my ear sent goosebumps down my skin.
“Are you a lesbian?”
I’m not. I’m straight. I have a crush on a boy in my math class. I have told her as much. What I don’t say is he doesn’t like me back. And it secretly kills me. Secretly.
Does she understand me at all?
I thought she would have the sense not to accuse me of that. Less than a year before, she’d been accused of the same thing. Not by me. By some of the other kids at school. It tore her apart. She started wearing makeup. She started dating a guy who I hated. She was never a lesbian. But it was the rumor that killed.
And I stood with her the whole time. By her side. Because that’s what sisters are for. Twin sisters. Not identical. Never identical. But twins all the same.
And I understand her. I’m not like her. Never. We are complete opposites. But I’d thought she’d be able to understand why I do what I do.
“Do you have a crush on Chase?”
Chase is my best friend. Yes, she is a girl. She and I have a close bond. We are tighter than any other friends I know. Yes, I love her, but as a friend. A best friend. Nothing more.
My sister never had a true best friend. Not the kind of best friend that you can feel completely yourself. Not the kind of friend who brings out the best in you while accepting the worst in you. Not the kind of friend you can shed tears with without fear of judgment. Not the type of friend who knows all your secrets. Not the kind of friend who is your other half.
She’ll never understand.
The rest of the conversation is mostly bits and pieces in my memory. My mind was too busy. My chest had too many bricks. My stomach was having too big of a storm. But there are a few things I will always remember.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a lesbian,” she said.
“You do wear boy clothes,” she said.
“Did you just fake your crush? Was it ever real?” she said.
The look on her face.
The feelings in my gut.
I wear the clothes I like. If that means a t-shirt that doesn’t hug my body or show my stomach, that doesn’t mean anything about my sexual preference. If I don’t wear makeup except on special occasions, that doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian. Is the only acceptable reason for the fact that my shorts can’t double as underwear that I like other girls? Is it not possible that I wear clothes for me? Is it so hard to understand?
The reason I don’t fawn over guys is because I never felt that I could. My sister talks about boys all the time. Our mom says that she used to as well, when she was in school. She also praised me for not being as head over heels for any boy. I’m supposed to, expected to not talk about guys. I’m not supposed to care. It makes her proud. And I would do anything to have even that tiny bit of acceptance. But I do care. A lot. It pains me that he will never like me. I think about it a lot. But no one knows. I could never say. I couldn’t disappoint my mom, who was so proud of me. Just for a tiny bit of acceptance that I so desperately yearn for. Well, I was paying for it now.
I know there’s nothing wrong with being a lesbian. I’ve always thought homophobia is stupid. There’s nothing a person can do about the way they were born.
My issue with the accusation was the way she said it. The look on her face. She was fascinated. She knew it would torture me. And she enjoyed that. She even had me boxed into a corner by having me promise. Like I don’t have enough issues.
I deal with social isolation every day. I feel alone all of the time. My best friend has been stolen from me. I stress about everything. And I am so introverted, I never tell anyone. I keep to myself. I prefer to work alone. I am reserved. But I threaten to crack every day. I don’t. I hold my head up. I walk around. I use the small amounts of bravery I have. And she decides to torture me.
It’s the worst. The knowledge that she finds it entertaining, fascinating. She takes pleasure in my suffering. She does this all of the time. She likes to watch me dance. The feeling of never being understood.
And she made me promise I couldn’t tell a soul. Even I could gather the courage to tell someone, I couldn’t. I am bound by my one word. The shackles on my tongue and soul. Promise.
One thing I shall never surrender is my honor. A person is only as good as their word. I am a girl of strong principles. I didn’t tell. I will never tell.
I will always be misunderstood by the people who claim to be closest to me. I will never be accepted. I am shaded by solitude.
Now I am forced to replay the question every day as I get dressed. Every time I miss my best friend. Every time I think my family understands me. Every time I fantasize that I have people who support me, it brings me back to the cold stone of reality.
I walk alone. Always alone. Forever alone.