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sit behind the mask

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i.

you take your first breath and your parents name you Quentin, paint the walls in blue. you are a knight —a prince— in the bedtime stories they tell you. you are a cowboy, a husband, a father, in the games you play with your older sister.

already you feel short of breath, ill-at-ease in your skin. it’s not so much that you don’t like the games, than that you don’t like what they’re implying. you don’t fit.

 

ii.

you’re a healthy little boy, and if you are a bit aggressive, if you get into fights more often than not, no one thinks much of it. your parents smile, indulgent though a bit embarrassed. boys will be boys, and you are your mother’s brave little soldier.

you like playing dress up, wearing your dad’s suits and ties, ill-fitting to a comical extent, but when they gift you one on your birthday, you kick and you scream; this is not you. your parents don’t get it, and you don’t yet have to words to understand it yourself either, but the bottom line is this: playing dress up made it unreal, distanced from you. the implication was you wore them as a joke.

you’re already friends with Santana, and she sneaks you one of her dresses as a gift. you sneer, but when everyone is gone you try it in front of the bathroom mirror and smile. this, you know, is you.

 

iii.

your parents want you to wear the uniform, a navy- and red-clad immaculate schoolboy. you know that way you’ll get away with your singing, but you can’t help it: the thought of an all-boys school makes you feel like passing out. for one, they scare you, and then you don’t think you could ever fit there. you’d rather be a deception, the son that had so much more potential, the prospect of such a better future, but that settled for less, for mediocre. this is your choice.

you’ll go to high school at McKinley High.

.

you join the cheerleading squad with Santana. you stand next to Kurt and try not to see the way you two stand out, lean and athletic but also resolutely boyish.  you try to concentrate on the girls around you; not because you want them, although you certainly do, but because you envy them, because you wish you could be them. you only ever wanted to fit in.

.

Santana stands with you in a bathroom stall when you can’t even breathe, lets you try on her uniform. she knew the words before you could do so much as get them past your throat, and she’s reassuring when she makes fun of you, because she does the same for everyone else.

in Santana logic, that means you must be normal.

 

iv.

you date boys, for a while, and you think maybe that’s what there is to it. somewhere inside your mind, you feel confusedly that if you feel like a girl, you must like to date boys. (that’s the first time you come this close to putting a name to it.) you don’t know much about homosexuality, beyond the Sundays at church where you hear it’s a sin, so you reason this is what it might feel like. you don’t know about the sin business. all you know is that you don’t feel all that comfortable about it.

you never try to look it up online, to search for people that would feel like you. it’s not that you don’t want to listen to whatever they could have to say, but you’re afraid there might not be anyone that feels the way you do. this is the thought that keeps you awake at night. this is the thought that slashes through your veins and scars harder than the knife on your skin, your arms, your thighs.

when you feel you can’t breathe, you hold on hard to the golden cross around your neck and you pray. you whisper to yourself until your throat is hoarse and you keep right on repeating until you can find the strength to believe it for one more day: God has chosen you to bear this burden.

 

v.

you hold onto Santana under the pretext of being heartbroken; and it’s true your teacher, your boyfriend, went back to his wife and made you the mistress, but you are past the point of caring. (you don’t know if you were ever at such point.)

you get drunk to ease yourself into it, and at first you think you made up her flirting inside your mind, when Santana says, i only do ladies. you nod like you understand, try not to look disappointed. you knew what she liked, anyway. that’s when she giggles, slurs your name, that means you, queer.

.

it’s so quiet inside your head while you press your hands on her skin, kiss her lips, lick across her flesh. you’re not comfortable with being on the receiving end, not for now anyway, but when Santana calls you a lesbian you are closer to coming than you’ve probably ever been.

you know you’re not quite there yet, but at that point you are happy.

 

 

i.

you tell it to her first, the morning after. you know it’s not a surprise, you know from age five she was always aware of what was different in you. she was the first to call you Q when she realized you didn’t fit into your name, and when you tell her you ask her to pick a new one for you.

you know it’s not a surprise, but you know it’s the biggest step you’ve taken in your whole life, a leap forward into empty space. you take it anyway.

.

Santana holds your hand through all your research, through the shopping trips and the fittings and the frustration. Santana holds your hand through medical appointments and hormone injections, and she holds your hands through legal procedures and red tape until you are legally Quinn Fabray in every aspect.

Santana holds your hand while you tell your parents, and she holds it when you exit the house crying. she holds your hand through packing and unpacking your whole life, fitting memories in tiny cardboard boxes.

she’s been holding your hand all your life, up until the moment when you turn to smile at her and slip a gold band on her finger, and you are her wife.