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A Long Journey

by Hayden Holden 2 months ago in Relationships
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We had no other way round

A Long Journey
Photo by Tomas Anton Escobar on Unsplash

I’ve always loved train rides, long bus rides where all I have to think about is when I need to get off. My bus to College every day for two years was an hour long. Since moving to London I haven’t had that. Every journey I take is less than forty minutes. Except for the train to my cousins. It takes me from Richmon through the District line, under the river, past South Bank to Cable street. I like watching the stations pass by, the people that come off and on the carriage. It’s easy to fall in love with a stranger on the train. To see a snapshot of their lives, how they carry themselves, the way they wear their clothes. It’s always the guys with fluffy hair and the girls with unique style. Making eye contact with them feels like a triumph, the little flirtation that goes nowhere. Sometimes those are the best kind. The District line has so many stations with stories, personal and historic, all of those transitions. Hellos and Goodbyes forever. One of the stations I pass along the journey, Gloucester Road, has a personal connection to me, not just because of the name being called after somewhere in north Somerset. But Because that’s the last place I saw her.

I was visiting after she moved to London. Now I’m twenty-three, a two year age difference doesn't seem big at all. But when you’re eighteen and the cute twenty-year-old girl you’ve been seeing on and off for a year moves away. Away from the small city that moulded our souls. Then, those two years felt like a cavern of maturity that I couldn’t cross. And I tried.

Usually, my memory is fractured, it’s not perfect and often disjointed. People's faces shift and places melt away. When I try to remember it’s like grasping at a waterfall. My narration is not as reliable as I’d like to think. But then there are these moments that feel like the world revolves around that point in time, like the eye of a storm. A tornado of static surrounding a crystal point of clarity. That night was one of those points, that station. Every crack on the tiles, the cool air on the back of my legs, the shine of her hair under the fluorescent lights, the fact I didn’t turn to see her one last time before the station rolled away from me. Every detail is etched onto my brain. That minute and a half was projected onto the back of my eyelids in slow motion for two months.

The first time I met her was a blur. I’m sure it wasn’t the actual first time, but it was the first time I remember talking to her. After that, I regretted all the times I could have said hello and didn’t. It was just after class, we had been doing a project with the acting students. My college was a weird place, it was created specifically for Film making and media, all the different courses were placed, Usually offices scattered in different places all over the city. The Film course was in the building next to the train station. The actors were down in the old disused firehouse in the centre. As an actor, it was only the third or fourth time she’d graced us, lowly filmmakers with her presents. Us in our glass-lined office, only thirty surrounded by professionals twice our age going to important meetings about business and investors. All the while we became adults in an invisible fish tank next door. We had been tasked with making a short film with the actors for our final module. I sat waiting for my friends at the bottom of the stairs or was it the top. When she came up to me I recognised her, obviously, I did. She wasn’t in my group but I had noticed her. She was beautiful in a way that crept up on you. Like, she would just be a regular person you see nearly every day and then suddenly, some glamour broke and she was the prettiest person I’d ever seen in my life.

“Do you smoke?” Her voice was deep and smooth, like silk streaming into my ears. It took a few seconds for me to reply.

“Err no sorry” I eminently felt guilty, like I should be giving this beautiful girl everything she ever wanted.

“Oh it’s okay, my lighter isn’t working” She looked at me and smiled, looking back this was probably just an excuse to talk to me.

“I think maybe someone inside smokes” I motion to the entrance of the glass classroom/office, “I know Tom does actually, but I don’t think he’s allowed to give lighters to students.” I shook my head a little bit “And I’m not sure I should have told you he smokes actually” I really wanted to impress her and for some reason, I thought knowing secrets about our teachers would do the trick. And given what happened, I think it worked.

After that interaction, we’d see each other more often. Whether it was in college or not, I would see her when I was in the centre of town. We would always make eye contact then smile. And somehow, somewhere outside of my memory, we started to hang out. I think she was at a party I don’t remember. And suddenly all that mattered to me was her. Queerness is something that welcomes you in with a hug on one side and then judges every part of you on the other. Being Bi and a closeted non-binary person, a relationship with a trans lesbian is more complicated than it ever should be.

Being queer inherently comes with fear. The fear when you’re in the closet before you come out for the first time. The fear after you come out for the two hundredth time. When you meet someone new and don’t know if you should get too close yet. Walking down the street with the person I loved most in the world was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I think coming to terms with that fear was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Even now it still hits me at the strangest times, that thing of wrongness. That guilt. Lots have been written about generational trauma in families and Cultures. Most of the time talking about race in America or counties that have been devastated by war. Though the queer community is not a family of genetics, the trauma has been passed down. From the streets of Stonewall to the bodies lining the hospital floors in the ’80s, the courtrooms that debated our rights. Living as a queer person in this world, knowing the history, the politics are traumatic. It’s almost comical how what can feel like the simplest thing in the world has so much baggage and weight, how my mere existence is a political statement. But it is, there is no stopping or denying that. And if I’m truly honest I wouldn’t have it any other way, a society that made me feel all of this shame can’t tell me how to react to it. Political action is in the DNA of my found family and I will no longer apologise for that. My spiritual ancestors started riots so I could have a party.

TERF’s are Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, a group of mostly women that doesn’t think trans women should be included in feminism. At least that’s how it started. It has morphed and mutated into a political movement with power in the UK government that can impact change at the court level. It is Transphomia and nothing else, they now wish to exclude transgender people from the LGBT+ community altogether. They use feminist talking points to demonise trans women. As if the safety of women doesn’t include one of the demographics with the highest murder rate. These women need protection, not to be discriminated against. I won’t mention her name but I know you can guess who I’m talking about. It’s a real shame that the figurehead for this movement is a beloved author. Someone I also have a personal connection to, I won’t disclose how but I’ll say I’ve never met her. And by the time I had the opportunity to, I did want to. She was ever-present in my teenage years, hearing stories about her. I felt so good knowing that someone I respected so much knew who I was, whenever we discussed her I would use her personal name. As I didn’t need the formality that others did, I felt better than other fans, I had a connection to the sources of magic that tempered our childhood with myth. Now I just feel dirty. Now I just betrayed the escapism I love the connection I valued so much is now tainted with, well… fear.

The queer community can be complicated. “Discourse” is prevalent, gatekeeping happens too often, when I came out as bi I never felt gay enough and of course, I’ve never been straight enough. I had people telling me I didn’t really like girls, I just liked the attention. And let me tell you, I hated the attention. When I started to explore my gender, a journey that took me years. Breaking it down and building it back up, brick by brick. For a while, my journey was halted by people too afraid to understand the journey because of what it might mean. I was told again, that I was just in it for the attention. Though for us in the in-between we always have to defend ourselves. When you’re in between the gender binary you exist outside of it, then you’re somewhere in between the approved sexualities people that have never examined themselves have questions. Because people will always want to see in black and white, define the undefinable. Still, even now I get that I have situated myself in the community, now that I’ve found a place for us in the in-between, I still get the well-meaning “but you’re not that attracted to men” as if my preferences define me as if I’m one of the “good one’s”. And there’s that old tinge of fear again, every time I start to like a guy I think “am I still going to be allowed back”. And then there is that relief when despite the few, despite my fear. I still am. My found siblings understand me and accept me.

Though a good while, I internalised this “discourse” and with it, I hurt her. In my fear, I hurt her more than I could ever know. I hurt myself in the process. I still feel guilt, about all of it really. She was so brave, when my fear wouldn’t let me hold her hand in public, she could walk up to the street preacher that screamed about the devil in the centre of town. She would ask him how he feels about her identity, her sexuality. All while I couldn’t even kiss her goodbye in front of people we didn’t know. And I hated myself for it. She invited me up to London, I think it was to get me out of my own head, to understand there were places where fear didn’t need to be my first emotion. A place where my internalised “chronically online discourse” addled brain could just relax and feel at home. I think that was the plan anyway. I loved it. I felt exempted and loved eminently, I was never questioned or interrogated about my romantic history. I met an out and proud Non-Binary person for the first time, it was a turning point for me. And she saw all that. She saw me being myself, she saw me loving my surroundings. She saw me being able to hold her hand. And I saw her pull back, the rejection my fear had caused her over the years, hit all at once. Every time I dropped her hand, every time I didn’t kiss her goodbye at the bus station, every time I didn’t want to go to an event. All my insecurities fuel her own. I don’t remember most of the time we spent in London, and not just because of the drugs, It was just so long ago. I know we were in her flat, I know we spent time at a bar, and I know I felt completely comfortable. Safe. I couldn't feel the resentment starting to build in the body next to me. She hid it well. That is until we got to the tube station. We joked about the name of the station, how North Somerset is following us everywhere we go. The train to take me to Paddington was in a few minutes. She didn’t want to come with me, that should have made me think.

“Did you have fun?” she asked me but she knew the answer.

“Yeah I really did” she sat next to me on the bench. I turned to her as it was my turn to ask a question.

“Do you think I could come back” she didn’t look at me, just staring down at our hands, they were joined together. She paused for too long, and I knew. It took everything in me not to cry.

“Did I do something wrong? Did your friends not like me?” she quickly shook her head at my assumption.

“No no, not at all” she was looking at me now. “They loved you.”

“Then what is it?” She held my face in her hands and kissed me. I didn’t flinch away, not even thinking about the people around us. The kiss was gentle and only lasted a second then she pulled away.

Then she whispered to me, “Because you need to find a way to be yourself anywhere.” Then I felt everything in slow motion. Her hair shining in the artificial lights, the brick walls behind us emitting cold air. The way her warm hand felt on my skin. I knew what she meant and I hated myself just a little bit more. And that’s when my train rolled up, mocking me and shortening our goodbye. In a daze, I collect my bags and walk to the open doors. She wished me well as I stepped on the train, I didn’t look back at her as the train sank into the ground. After that day we texted but I never saw her again. Never had an escape. I had to learn how to be myself in my own way. Not someone else's.


About the author

Hayden Holden

Character and world-building are the most important to me as a writer. Scripts are where my passion lies, though prose-fiction and editorial can also interest me. No matter what I want the reader to feel immersed.

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  • Cliff Baines2 months ago

    Very well written

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