I remember black-and-blue patterned shirts and the stale smell of sebaceous oil.
I remember light-filled middle school stairwells.
I remember reading Little House on the Prairie. I remember feeling grown up. I remember telling people I was gay, meaning happy.
I remember telling people I was gay, meaning homosexual, and waiting for their response. I only remember some of their responses.
I remember wearing a blue sweater and realizing I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been happy. It was in math class.
I remember a red-cheeked teacher who accused me of lying. (I was.)
I remember the first lie I ever told. I was three, and had pulled all the toilet paper off its roll, crayoned it green, and stuffed it into the toilet. I blamed my neighbor.
I remember when my kindergarten teacher used the phrase “mom and dad” and I realized I was in completely unfamiliar territory. To this day, I still say “mommy and daddy.”
I remember sneaking stuffed animals into my bed: polar bears, a tiger, a hedgehog and her best friend, a calico cat.
I remember doodling hearts with the name “Matt McCartney” over my social studies homework. I remember hoping he would see them.
I remember a long night, laying next to my best friend. I wanted to say, “Let’s try kissing, just to see what it’s like.” The words were on the tip of my tongue for the next three months, and then she got a boyfriend.
I remember dim lights and “Cosmos,” (the Neil Degrasse Tyson remake) playing in the background.
I remember nights crying loudly and hoping nobody would hear. I wrote a lot of poetry this way.
I remember sipping coffee and telling him I liked bright pink lipstick because I had been watching old movies. This wasn’t true. I remember wondering why I couldn’t seem to tell the truth around him.
I remember when I finally cleared my bed of stuffed animals. Three polar bears, a tiger, a pink bear named Bubblegum, a hedgehog and a calico cat all relegated to the closet. I cried for the rest of that afternoon.
I remember the most intense loneliness I’ve ever felt: I remember a summer when my best friend was grounded and my other best friend had lost interest because I didn’t want to date him. The sun was hot and I was bored of rereading the same books. This was the first time I considered taking a knife to my own skin.
I remember a study session and a hug that lasted longer than we meant it to. As he walked out the door of the café, our eyes met and he smiled. That was the second time I fell for him. The third time was a mistake.
I remember being confused about how sex worked.
I remember laying backstage and sobbing. The older kids had told me that the theater was haunted. It wasn’t time for my entrance yet, but everyone else was onstage. I didn’t want to die. I was seven years old, wearing a bright pink cardboard pig nose, and petrified of ghosts.
I remember the Columbus Science Museum and the women who would become my sisters.
I remember my crush on Andy Stanford. We played with his model Power Rangers on the playground behind the school. Twelve years later, Andy grabbed my ass and told me it was an accident. It clearly wasn’t.
I remember the coffee shop alcove where we kissed. Neither of us knew what to do with our hands.
I remember leaning against a wall and sighing her name, like in the movies. I remember feeling weird and creepy for doing that. I never talked to her again.
I remember staying up until two in comfortable conversation. We’d start to drift off and then think of something else we wanted to say. I remember having the song “Norwegian Wood” stuck in my head the next day.
I remember coming home from school and my parents taking off my coat with shaking hands. We were all crying. (That night, we watched the Terry Gilliam movie Brazil. I felt uneasy and uncomfortable and unable to control anything. Death will do that to you, and so will the movie Brazil.)
I remember donut shops and interlaced fingers.
I remember a red mail-deposit box marked “To Santa.” I remember writing that for Christmas I wanted an end to global warming and for Justin Trudeau to be president of the United States. I hope I made someone laugh. I didn’t mean to make anyone mad.
I remember beating the shit out of the punching bag in my basement, until my knuckles bled. This was never enough.
I remember standing in my closet, picking out tomorrow’s outfit and writing a poem for the first time.