The night you eventually try it on, you only manage to look in the mirror for maybe 30 seconds before sobbing and pulling the dress off, throwing it deep into a closet. You don't look at the fridge. You go straight to bed.
The next morning the dress is on a hangar in the closet, smoothed out. It isn't prominent, just cared for.
I THOUGHT YOU LOOKED NICE
IM SORRY IT HURTS
The therapist appointment helps. You don't solve anything but it gives you a place to cry and be listened to.
You put the magnets up before bed.
The next morning they say IM SORRY I MADE YOU MAD
You lean against the kitchen counter and quietly say you weren't mad at them. Just at the world and at yourself.
because the world is scary and hard.
because you want things that are impossible.
the magnets don't move for a moment
NOT IMPOSSIBLE. JUST HARD.
You start to feel angry again. You breathe like your therapist reminded you about.
You change the subject. You ask where the ghost went.
YOU SEEMED TO WANT SPACE
you did. Or, you thought you did. But it ended up just making it hurt more.
I WORRIED IT MIGHT BUT DIDNT WANT TO FORCE IT
thanks, you say.
After a moment you ask WHERE they went
I CANT LEAVE THE HOUSE. I WENT TO THE ATTIC.
YOU DONT GO THERE. I DIDNT WANT TO SPY.
YOU KNOW WHAT MAKES ME SAD the fridge spells out once you've finished crying
What? you ask
I DONT KNOW WHO I AM
I DONT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MYSELF
that is sad, you agree
I FEEL THINGS SOMETIMES BUT IT ISNT THE SAME
the letters start rearranging faster as the ghost keeps needing letters that are already in use
I DONT WANT THINGS
I DONT HAVE A SENSE OF ME
I DONT KNOW WHAT IS LIKE ME OR NOT LIKE ME
I DONT HAVE A STYLE OR A PERSONALITY OR A STORY TO TELL ABOUT MYSELF
the letters stop
..not coherent? you ask quietly
you feel a ball of anxiety in your gut. Its been there for months. It feels like it is pulsing there, like a second heartbeat.
You know the feeling, you say quietly
ITS NOT A GOOD FEELING
not, it isn't
A long silence.
I HAVE TO BE THIS WAY
you don't respond. Tears are threatening again and you can't bring yourself to speak.
Another long silence. You wonder if the ghost has left.
It's a few minutes later. You went into the washroom to change: the ghost told you when it first started speaking to you that it stayed out of those rooms, that they were private.
You're in the kitchen, in the blue dress. You feel tall and misshapen and ridiculous. And also the ball inside your stomach hurts just a little bit less.
You ask how you look.
good? You snort. You look like a cried-out, awkward mess.
YOU LOOK ALIVE
It's a week later. You just got back from therapy again. The tea kettle has the low rumble that means it will begin whistling any moment. A mug with a bag of something flowery sits ready.
WELCOME HOME, the magnets say
you're being really nice lately, you reply
YOUVE HAD A HARD WEEK
you snort quietly.
DID THERAPY HELP
some, you say. they gave you some resources, at least.
IM PROUD OF YOU
thanks, you say quietly.
The kettle whistles
It's a month later.
You left out a list of names you got from baby name websites.
Every morning the fridge greets you with a GOOD MORNING and one of the names from the list so you can see how it feels.
After about three weeks you came downstairs, saw the fridge, and felt a pang in your chest.
Do that one again, you whispered.
Every morning since then, the name hasn't changed. It feels weird. But good.
Life can be hard. Not everyone understands as you share your new name, as your wardrobe changes, as your priorities shift. Some old friends leave. Some new friends appear.
The ghost doesn't leave.
As the months go on, the hard things feel less hard. They're still difficult, but you find that facing obstacles isn't as scary when you have a sense of who you are. And sometimes you think its kind of nice, to know you've done things that are scary and made it through.
You and the ghost have a routine, now.
When you get dressed and prepped for the day, you always stop in the kitchen. You do a slow turn, a complete rotation, arms spread wide.
How do I look? you ask the room.
YOU LOOK ALIVE, the ghost always replies.
Day by day, you realize that you feel it, too.
It's good to be alive.
FINALLY I get to announce some very exciting news!
"Ghosts", the story upthread of this toot, is being published! It will be (in a slightly edited, improved form with better intro and a few lines that read poorly changed) one of the stories featured this year in Transcendent 4: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, Edited by Bogi Takács and published by Lethe Press! Info and preorders can be found here!! https://www.lethepressbooks.com/store/p568/Transcendent_4.html#/
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