“Gender, not religion, is the opiate of the masses.”
— Erving Goffman
When I turn on my TV, stagehands are ripping a sequined robe off of David Bowie to reveal the most beautiful white silk dress I had ever seen complemented by matching thigh-high boots. The sleeves resemble a kimono, and the high neck made up for the short inseam of his dress. My 10-year-old eyes were locked onto the screen as the camera drew closer to Bowie’s gyrating hips, exposing his silk underwear. I had never seen someone so powerful. He was wearing makeup and a dress and had a crowd of 3,500 crawling over each other just to be closer to him. As a kid, I did not know the terms non-binary or queer, and I could not picture gender as anything but painful. I had never seen such a blatant disregard of what I’d been told gender was supposed to look like until I watched the entirety of David Bowie’s last performance as Ziggy Stardust. Seeing a male body adorned in a dress, makeup, and heels unlocked a higher level of being for me; David Bowie lived as a cis-gendered man, but his acceptance of femininity was life-altering. On July 3rd, 1973, David Bowie announced the departure of his gender-bending alien rockstar alter ego. As Ziggy bid adieu, so did my binary view of gender.
There is a power that comes with knowing that gender is a performance and deciding to have fun in these roles as opposed to letting them rule you. The sociologist Erving Goffman posed everyday life as a stage. Once we are born, we are thrust onto this stage where socialization teaches us how to play our assigned roles. In Goffman’s theory, there is a front stage and a back stage; The front stage is where we deliver our lines and perform in front of others and the back stage is a private space where we can be our authentic selves. David Bowie’s silk kimono dress evokes images of a young boy alone in his room secretly wearing his mother’s jewelry, dress, and heels while dancing in a mirror. Bowie took this back stage self and gave it power and reassurance. Bringing this ego onto the front stage of life gave opportunity and permission for young queer people to explore the different roles that they were capable of playing on a daily basis. Gender is performed and performative. It is performed in the way that we are taught to play the roles that society gives us, it is performative in that it is produced and reproduced constantly through a series of acts. This is what we are taught to do. I wore skirts, I slathered lip gloss, I drew hearts on my Jesse McCartney poster. That is what I was taught to do.
Seeing David Bowie, or rather Ziggy Stardust, defy what I thought of as tradition sparked something beautiful inside of me. I did not know what that spark would manifest into but I am so glad I nourished that growing sense of identity by questioning my daily performances. Skirts, lip gloss, and Jesse McCartney were no longer a necessity for me to exist as a legitimate person. My androgyny and fluidity flourished as I surrounded myself with people who were of the same vein of weird. In these spaces, shaving my head and wearing men’s pants with a different primary color eyeshadow every day was adored and not questioned. Every person that I have met who doesn’t ascribe to a gender has had magic inside of them. The universe opens for those who reject the daily performances we are taught to put on.
On the tail end of Ziggy’s last performance, he mimes his way along an invisible wall, eventually finding a rip in the wallpaper. Peeling it open, he steps through the wall and pushes it away. The pure existence of Ziggy, a gender-bending alien rockstar, gave meaning to the back stage self that too many have to repress. Genderqueer kids felt like they weren’t alone and didn’t have to pretend to be anything that they weren’t. David Bowie made room for everybody who felt as though they didn’t belong.
“It's really me
Really you and really me
It's so hard for us to really be
Really you and really me”
— David Bowie, Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud
"Windchill" | Riley Mitchell
His words blow me down and lift me into the air and I move with the current he creates. I have no control over where I go, all is decided by what will create less resistance. I make myself small, but I find out that existing is resisting. I make myself smaller. Soon I am paper-thin, light as air, taking up less gravity and less space than I thought possible. And still, I carry the weight that he gives me. Still, I tread lightly. I make myself smaller but the weight grows. I know it will break me. Looking in the mirror, I know that I will do the same.
2. Ruille Buille
My grandfather bought his sailboat in a state of mania. I wonder, what did his family say? Did they say anything? Did he show up one morning saying, “Honey, guess what I picked up?” He went through his life never having to answer the questions everybody was too scared to ask. Ruille Buille is Gaelic for the state of confusion.
My father tells me about their trips to Catalina Island with fondness, venturing to say that they were the highlight of his childhood. I think of the tension that comes with having a bipolar father in an Irish-Catholic household— I know that my father is familiar with this. The precise steps you take to avoid a storm. The tightening of your muscles when you notice the winds changing. The look in his eyes tells me that he knows this well. Still, he claims the memories from that unsteady boat are his favorite. I wonder if my father repressed the negative memories or ignored them in honor of his father. Did the whipping of sea air sting as harshly as his words? Will I repress or ignore?
My father sits at the dining room table and I face him on the other side. He’s on his computer, finishing his work. I continue talking about my day, despite him not looking in my direction once. My father puts his head in his hands and suddenly a chill enters the room. I stop speaking, waiting for his first gust. He stands and turns our dining room into a whirlwind. He is not screaming at me— I didn’t do anything. But he yells. He yells as if my face is the amalgamation of all those who have hurt him.
I comfort him, ignoring the words being hurled towards me. I dodge and duck, trying to protect myself without giving the impression that I need protecting. I listen to his words attentively as they berate me but I can hardly hear him over the vacuum that our dining room has created, my mind constantly alerting me that this is not safe. I am not safe yet I know that I need to be here. I comfort him, despite his words piercing me. If I do not soothe him, the winds will never stop howling. His lungs grow tired, and the gusts soon cease. I sit at the dining room table alone now, weak and bleeding. He doesn’t know how hard he makes it to love him.
4. The Rain Poured
He chased us in circles around our living room, my brother and I jumping from couch to couch. We couldn’t stop laughing, not noticing the damage around us. Typically, he would have yelled but tonight his feet had an unsteady rhythm and his breath smelled like medicine. He chased us down the hall, at the end of which we felt our joy dissipate. Turning around, we faced our father. His breathing was heavy and his shoulders were slouched. He swung his arm out to grab us and we laughed. We were scared of him but we laughed.
We barricaded ourselves inside our father’s bedroom— the only room with a lock. My father thought that we were playing. We laughed because there was nothing else we could do but all we felt was fear. We picked up the phone and called the only one that could give us a way out. The phone rang for 32 antagonizing seconds before her familiar voicemail played.
“Mom, help us! Daddy is going crazy! He keeps banging on the door, trying to get in! We don’t know what to do!” We were laughing but we were scared. She didn’t call back.
Time had passed, how much I don’t know. Enough to know that it was safe to open the door. We peaked as the door creaked open and saw our father lying limp on the ground, finally having lost consciousness. My brother and I, too small to lift his body, put a blanket on him so he wouldn’t feel the cold. The path that was behind my father was pure destruction. A hurricane with no remorse. We did not know that it wouldn’t be the last. Too small to carry our home on our shoulders, we picked up the pieces every time he ravaged his way through it. We did so with a naïve hope that one day there would be calm.
5. The Rain Burned
When your home cannot shelter you from the storm, there is no peace. There is no escape. There is no way to get out. I could not negate the rain so I drank what was poured onto me. It burned until there was black, and then there was none. I took solace in the dark space where I had no responsibility to myself or others; numb became the only peace that I knew. Every fifth, sixth, and seventh day I found myself here. My bedroom, my meek shelter, my only protection became a grave I had dug myself. I retreated into this dark space knowing it could not last forever but that it would always be there, waiting.
The cold currents push needles into my skin. I pull my jacket closer to my body in an attempt at some sense of mediocre protection as I trudge forward, knowing that I’m on a journey I can’t delay. The streetlights are the only thing illuminating my path, the thin trail of light surrounded by complete darkness. I plant my feet firmly on the ground with each step that I take, watching dead leaves whip past me. Looking forward, into the light, I can’t see an end but I know that I cannot stop.
7. The Oldest House
My home stands tall, proud, strong. It has weathered many storms— seen many lives pass through its halls. And still, it stands: Tall, proud, strong. I listen to the wind whip against its bones. My home contorts slightly, the floorboards creaking but the walls remain intact, as they have for over one hundred years. I look out my window at the trees whipping in the wind, the familiar streetlights illuminating their quivering leaves. I settle into this space with ease, knowing that the winds will pick up and die down but I will remain protected from the storm. This home will stand after I’ve left, and it will become a home for many lives after mine. In this space, I have found myself: tall, proud, strong.
"Sterile" | Renee Owley
failing to bear or incapable of producing fruit or spores
failing to produce or incapable of producing offspring
a sterile hybrid
free from living organisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms
a sterile syringe
a variant spelling of tocophobia
an abnormal fear of giving birth or becoming pregnant
from Greek tokos childbirth + -phobia
Growing up, children seemed an inevitability. I have maintained from age twenty that if I ever spawned a boy-child, he’d be called Benjamin Kenobi [Insert Last Name]. But the desire was never really there. I have never felt the need to be a mom. I think a big part of it is that I wasn’t around younger children much while growing up. I’m an only child, am the middle cousin on my mom’s side and rarely saw my younger cousins, and am the youngest on my dad’s side. I rarely babysat because we didn’t know many families with young children. I detest babies and everything about them. Young children disgust me with their constant noise and stickiness.
Despite my—ahem—distaste for children, everyone around me has always been certain that I will, in fact, pop out a crotchfruit someday, saying that I’ll change my mind about having them and that I’ll feel differently about my own child. These thoughts have always baffled me. Why on earth would someone bring a human life into the world unless they were sure they would love it more than anyone else, and knew they wanted to do so? Nearly everything else I could possibly do can be undone; tattoos, marriage, debt. The only thing that can’t, aside from murdering someone, is having a kid.
I started asking medical providers about a tubal ligation around age twenty-two, but I was too young and unmarried.
“You’ll regret it,” they said.
“Oh, you just haven’t met the right man! You’ll want a baby with the right guy,” they told me.
At twenty-five, my doctor told me she certainly wouldn’t tie my tubes, and that my only chance would be finding a “very progressive,” likely female doctor, going to her with my husband (yes, I would need to be married), and expressing our mutual desire to not have children. It would be much easier, I was told, for my boyfriend to have a vasectomy. None of my long-term boyfriends, all of whom have also decided against children, were willing to go through with the procedure. Birth control has always been on me once exclusivity and a clean bill of sexual health for both parties were established.
At twenty-six, I learned about Essure; a method of permanent birth control now banned in the United States. They are a method of tubal occlusion, which means they are implanted into the fallopian tubes to block sperm from reaching a waiting egg (Mundell). Essure implants are very small coils inserted into the fallopian tubes via the vagina, cervix, and uterus. It is considered an outpatient procedure and is often performed with no sedation of any kind. According to available literature, the procedure causes some women “mild discomfort.”
Essure implants received FDA approval in 2003. At the time, it was marketed by a company called Conceptus. Bayer (the pharmaceutical giant behind products like the Mirena, Aleve and Advantage) acquired Conceptus and its products in 2013. Before that, however, in 2011, a woman named Angie Firmalino started a Facebook group called “Essure Problems” following the implantation and subsequent removal of her Essure Implants (Firth).
Strangers and people who know me well are often confused or even offended by my decision to not procreate.
“Doesn’t your mom want to be a grandma?”
Well, no, but even if she did, I do not exist solely to make my mom a grandma.
“What if your husband wants kids?”
My fiancé also doesn’t want kids. I wouldn’t marry someone who did.
“You’d be such a great mom!”
Maybe so, but no thanks.
“I think you need to have a baby,” a former coworker once said. I told him that I most certainly did not need to have a baby.
“Who’s going to take care of you when you get old?”
Someone I pay to do so. Imagine having kids just so you’ll have someone to guilt into taking care of you when you’re old.
People hiding behind keyboards have said even nastier things. “Fuck you, cunt. Have fun dying alone,” one said on a child-free page.
“Enjoy your fifteen cats, bitch. Because no man is gonna want you,” another said.
My experiences remind me of the Hulu drama The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel by the same name, it takes place in a dystopian future where it had become almost impossible for couples to have children. Most of the United States have been overthrown by a totalitarian regime that forces fertile women into sexual slavery. Once a month, they are raped by the powerful man (“Commander”) they serve while his wife holds the “Handmaid” down. The goal is to impregnate her with a viable fetus. When she gives birth, she is passed to the next Commander (“The Handmaid’s Tale”). Handmaids do not even have names. They become Of_____. So June, the main character is known as Offred, because her commander’s name is Fred. Another Handmaid is Ofwarren. Oferic. Ofjoseph.
Like the women of The Handmaid’s Tale, I feel as though I am seen as merely a vessel for potential offspring. To them, I am “Ofmatthew.” Instead of asking me about literally anything else, people ask my partner and I when we’re having kids.
In ninth grade, we were forced to watch a video of an amniocentesis and a woman giving birth. I was apparently so pale one of my table-mates was concerned that I was going to pass out. I was so horrified by what I was seeing on the screen. I couldn’t imagine carrying for over nine months and then birthing a literal parasite. I still can’t. I would literally rather die than become pregnant and give birth. That’s when I figured out that I have tokophobia. A few family members swear up and down that it’s not a real thing.
After all my research and my struggles obtaining a tubal ligation, I decided to go with Essure. I had a consultation at Planned Parenthood. The provider gave me forms to sign, noting that the biggest risk associated with the procedure was regret, especially in “younger women.” I was ready to have the procedure as soon as possible, but state law required a thirty-day waiting period. I had to wait another month or so after that for an opening at the one Planned Parenthood clinic in the area that performed the procedure. My Essure Implants would be getting placed in April of 2018.
The day of the procedure I opted for the “minimal sedation” which came in the form of two Vicodin and two Xanax.
I still felt everything. I screamed in pain on the table. I was told that most women returned to work the following day and only dealt with “mild cramping” while scarification occurred, but the next five months of my life were hell.
I never knew when the pain would hit. Walking, sitting, standing, even just lying in bed. Once at the store, I doubled over and sobbed because the pain was so sudden and severe. Once while driving I almost vomited out the window of my car. This went on for months and I finally went to the emergency room after spending about twenty minutes curled up on the living room floor in a fetal position from the pain.
The doctor at the hospital didn’t even know what Essure implants were. I had to explain the device and the procedure, and he seemed skeptical that I knew what I was talking about. He ordered a CT of my abdomen and thought everything looked normal, even though shortly before he’d never heard of Essure. Planned Parenthood ordered a pelvic and trans-vaginal ultrasound. And then another. After three pelvic and three trans-vaginal ultrasounds I was told that the implants were in the right place, and that the scar tissue must still be forming.
“Don’t worry,” they told me, “you must just have a low pain tolerance.” Well. That’s simply not the case.
In July, following the FDA announcement that Essure implants would no longer be sold in the US after December of 2018, Bayer said they were voluntarily halting the sale of the device. This was around the time I decided I needed the Essure coils removed. In August, I met with a surgeon who had removed Essure implants from other patients.
The surgery would be robot-assisted, which meant smaller incisions and easier healing. The surgeon and the robot would remove my fallopian tubes and the corners (“shoulders”) of my uterus, thereby removing the troublesome little coils. My surgery was scheduled for the last day of the month but was pushed back a week because my surgeon had a death in the family.
My insurance covered the surgery at 90% but my share of the procedure was about $10,000. I was only able to afford it with financial aid from the hospital.
I told a male member of my family that I had “gotten spayed” and he just scoffed at me. He thinks there’s something wrong with me because I don’t want kids.
At my post-op appointment, my surgeon showed me the photos taken by the robot during my surgery. One photo clearly showed that one of the implants was a hair’s breadth from puncturing my tube, and the coil could be seen poking through the tissue. That explained my severe and unpredictable pain. Had I not had the implants removed I could have been severely injured by those tiny metallic coil
All of this could have been avoided if I’d simply been able to get a tubal ligation. But I was told that I was too young. That I’d change my mind. That my husband would want kids. But the thing is, a tubal ligation can be reversed. Essure can’t. If my doctors listened to me rather than perpetuating outdated, patriarchal stereotypes, I could have had a simpler, less painful, more affordable procedure.
I still accomplished what I wanted, but it happened the longer, more painful, more expensive roundabout way.
I wish people saw me— and other childless women— as more than a waste of space. I’m tired of being vilified.
“Not having kids is selfish!” they say.
“It’s your job to have kids! That’s what your family wants. Your mom must be so sad she won’t be a grandma!” It goes on.
Maybe it is selfish, because I’m choosing to live for myself rather than kids I don’t want. Maybe I’m not “doing my job,” but I’m okay with that.
"Keep Your Head Up" | Tiera Nhem
“Keep your head up.”
Long, slim fingers gently but firmly push down on the back of my head, raising my gaze from the label on the curl cream back to my reflection in the mirror. Above me, I watch as my mom readjusts her grip as she pauses to grab a rubber band off the counter before deftly securing my dark, curly hair in a high ponytail, making sure to smooth back any unruly edges.
“Alright, there we go,” she sighs as she leans past me to wash her hands. I step out of the way to give her room and peer back into the mirror at her work. I give a few small head bobs and watch the curls bounce around my head.
She made it look so easy.
I lay in bed for a moment after waking up, listening. Waiting. My ears search for the sound of running water from the kitchen, the clunking of pots or pans, or footsteps moving throughout the small duplex but find nothing. Except for the faint chirps of birds outside my bedroom window, all is quiet. I stay there a moment, basking in the space between wake and sleep before my grumbling belly finally propels me out of bed and into the hall. Yawning, I realize it’s Saturday. Saturday!
Before I learned to let her sleep in on weekends, I’d come barging into her room, attempting to wake her at unholy hours (which was any time before 8 o’clock). It took me a while to understand her reluctance to part with the sweet embrace of sleep. Cracking her door open, I can see that early morning has bathed the room in a soft, dreamy light, filtered by her green curtains. Her bed, planted squarely in front of the window, takes up most of the room—the surface so massive I can’t even tell which side of the bed she’s on. As I peer in from the doorway, it almost seems as though I’m gazing into another world.
Quietly, I call out her name, but there’s no response. My belly growls again, fueling my second attempt, and a muffled noise that barely passes as speech that I decide to interpret as “Yes?” replies from underneath her comforter. Slipping through the door, I cross the room and rest my arms and chin on the creaky wooden frame at the foot of the bed.
“Mom, it’s morning, it’s time to wake up.”
A beat passes before she manages to get out, “Just give me a few more minutes, Tia, and I’ll get up. Just a little more.”
I trace and retrace the edges of the ornate patterns on the duvet with my fingernail. Dusky green and tan. “Ok, but it’s Saturday,” I say expectantly. After a bit of silence, I do as she says and leave her in peace to fully wake up. I keep myself busy by letting our dog, Koda, outside and feeding him. My very short list of responsibilities fulfilled for the morning, I leave Koda munching happily away on kibble and retreat to my room to play videogames. It isn’t long, though, before I hear the slow creak of Mom’s door, and I hurriedly switch off the console to make my way to the kitchen.
Saturday meant no school and no work. Saturday meant pancakes or French toast and most importantly, reggae. For only a few hours, only on Saturday on KEXP, could we tune in to hear it. All it took was a few adjustments of the dials on the pink Hello Kitty radio I lugged out of my room, and we’d be dancing, the jaunty, breezy beats and cheerful horns, synth keyboards, and a plethora of other wonderful instruments filling the kitchen—something about the music seemed to promise a day filled with possibility. For those few hours, there was nothing to do but enjoy the morning and our time together. Saturday was our day.
“Where do you think we should go today?” she asks, leaning back from her cleared plate. “Maybe…” she trails off a bit as I stuff my mouth with pancakes and strawberries, eyeing her with bright anticipation. “I think we should get outside today, what do you think?”
I agree enthusiastically. “Can we have a picnic? We can buy sandwiches!”
She ponders it for a moment, as she gets up to place her dishes in the sink. “How about we make them instead?”
We smile at each other. It’s settled.
We were partners in crime. The dynamic duo. We’d go everywhere together (looking back on it, there wasn’t much of a choice). Whether it was to the park, the movies, a museum, or even a simple trip to the grocery store, every excursion felt special. Being included made me feel like an adult, like she thought I was mature enough to handle her world.
We went to the library a lot. I remember one particular time I went to check out a hefty stack of books to keep me preoccupied during the summer:
She eyes the bounty balanced in my arms. “Do you have any nonfiction books in there?”
I pretend I had not neglected to pick any on purpose and make a show of going through the stack I was carrying. “No… I don’t think I do,” I shrug.
Her brow furrows a little. Here we go. “C’mon Tia, don’t just read fiction. Expand your mind!” I try to resist the urge to roll my eyes. “Do you know how much you could learn if you read as many nonfiction books as you read fiction?” She continues, ignoring my expression, “There’s so much knowledge out there, but you have to seek it out for yourself.”
“But I am still learning, Mom,” I pause, thinking of a way to convince her. “I’m developing my vocabulary,” I say jokingly. “And plus, do you know how many new worlds and characters there are in each book I read? That’s expanding my… acceptance. Of other people.” I try to will any of the library patrons with us on the main floor to save my case, to take my side and magically manage to convince my mother, but they remain oblivious, continuing to read or browse on the computers.
She shifts her weight to one leg, unimpressed. “One nonfiction book.”
I sigh exasperatedly and turn back towards the shelves.
She ended up being right though.
I stare at my reflection with mounting frustration. I’ve been attempting to tame my hair for what feels like hours this morning before school and once again, the wish to simply have straight hair like everyone else in my class is something I couldn’t want more. As I continue staring, I feel a dry heat rising in my throat and my eyes beginning to prickle.
You can’t rely on her for everything.
Why can’t you do this one thing by yourself?
She has enough to worry about without you crying to her all the time about your hair.
Viciously swiping the tears leaking down my face, I rake my fingers through my curls, willing them into submission before tying it into a tight, simple ponytail. My scalp throbs in protest of my rough treatment, but I ignore the pain. It will be a long time before the hair on my head ceases to be my enemy and becomes a source of pride. For now, I curse its existence. Narrowing my eyes almost as if daring it to act out, I tighten the rubber band, pulling the hair taut against the sides of my head.
The way I find out Santa isn’t real is when I wake up to find nothing under our tree on Christmas Day.
I start sobbing, big, hot tears rolling down my face. Santa really isn’t real. Those kids at school, whispering what felt like ugly, unimaginative truths were right. I wonder what else I don’t know about the world.
Mom starts crying with me, though I don’t know why she would be so upset about me finding out the truth. She pulls me in close, wrapping her slender arms around me, and hugs me tight, both of us just crying for a while until she eventually calms me down and the tears run out.
Later she’ll produce a gift—her own black velvet Victoria’s Secret jewelry box fixed to read “Tiera’s Secret.” There’ll be an envelope with money and a long note apologizing for something that is not her fault.
“You’re too beautiful to cry on Christmas Day,” is just one of the lines.
Later she takes my cousins and me to the mall to search for my own Christmas gift.
When school was canceled because of heavy snow while I was still in elementary, I didn’t think twice when my mom brought me to her work—I was just excited that she thought I could handle myself well enough to come with her. A children’s dentistry with video game consoles, dozens and dozens of stuffed animals and other toys, a playhouse, books, and an actual arcade machine was practically a wonderland for any child. To me, it was a treat to be able to go there.
I didn’t question why I was there so often, why I became really close with all the dental assistants, or why my mom’s bosses, Dr. Camm and Dr. Sun, almost felt like uncles to me. It didn’t feel out of the ordinary to go to my grandpa’s house every day during the summer or to have him watch me after school, having caught the bus all the way from Tacoma. His, and my aunt and uncle’s house felt like second and third homes to me.
It will be a long time before I realize what this means. For now her effort seems easy, and I will not notice the lost hours, the intricate, time-consuming network woven by her to support us, nor its impact on her, until I am much older.
“Tonight, do you think you could read me a poem?”
She smiles and takes the thin, white book of poems from my outstretched hands.
Quickly snuggling under the covers and wrapping my arms around the soft, sandy brown body of my stuffed dog, I close my eyes expectantly.
Save for the golden shaft of light being let in from the open door, my room is completely dark. Then, her smooth, clear voice fills the air, as she begins reading.
Her words paint shimmering images of faraway worlds in my head as she describes story after story. Worn and tangled paths through woods.
The endlessly infinite eyes of a simple fish. A cat and owl deeply in love. Undiscovered wonders of the sea. Soon I no longer feel my bed, and I slowly drift off, riding the waves of her voice.
I finish drying my hands and straighten up to view my work. Soft, black curls cascade down my shoulders, glistening in the light as I move closer to inspect the crown of my head and the clip securing half my hair.
“Need any help?” She bumps open the door to the bathroom, leaning against the door frame.
“I don’t know, what do you think?” I ask as I do a slow twirl for her to see my hair from all angles. I smile, a bit shyly, a bit nervously.
“I think… You did a great job. Don’t need me to do anything.” She smiles and straightens. “Are you ready?”
My throat’s a bit dry as I swallow and nod firmly. “As ready as I’ll ever be. I don’t think I can possibly practice anymore— I want to save my voice,” I laugh, but it comes out more like a quick exhale.
“Remember, start strong. It might be hard to look out to the audience with an instrument, but make sure you project,” she pauses and shifts a bit before looking at me. “I’m so excited to hear you sing.”
I don’t know why, but I suddenly feel a pressure behind my eyes and tears threaten to well up as I continue looking at her. Almost seeming to sense it, she leans in, and although I’m a bit taller than her now, she still wraps me in a hug. All the energy that had been buzzing around my body evaporates and I squeeze her back even tighter.