I didn’t graduate from High School. I made it to my last year – heck, I made it through my last year. Then it happened. Again.
My parent’s kicked me out. You might think my parents kicked me out because I’m bisexual, but that’s pretty unlikely. A teenager, I had never had consensual sex, and my religiously obsessed mother had made it quite clear that the entire topic was taboo. Everything in my home was taboo. Speaking, thinking, learning, challenging, all taboo. My world was so small and tightly controlled, that as I grew it choked me. I had fought against it, poorly, using whatever words I could fit there in with me. And in response, they kicked me out.
Homeless is too broad a word for so many unique circumstances. Being homeless is like having a home, in that no one else’s home is ever exactly like yours. No one else’s homelessness was exactly like mine either. There were tears. Nose streaming, hollow-chested, wailing-so-I-thought-I-was-dying tears. And hunger. The kind of hunger that makes you want to steal or scream or beg until your stomach is full and your mind is empty. But mostly there was loneliness. The loneliness of being thrown away. The loneliness that changes the tone of the world until everything is grey and grey and only grey. There were other words too, like cold and scared and desolate, words that had burst from the box with me when I was sent away.
Even through homelessness, I went to my last year of high school. I had the highest marks in all three of my semestered courses. I still have the letters that say so. I save them like old currency, worthless except as memories.
Then it all fell down, which hurt more than I expected, being so close to the ground already. Into the system I went; into the group home. Away from my last chance at school and those letters were empty, robbed of their value so quickly.
In the group home there were more fights, but these ones were fair. We were all of us ripped from our boxes and we celebrated our freedom by stomping on each other and sharing our solace with hugs and wine coolers and suicide stories.
“This is my friend.” They had the same name. My housemate and her friend. They looked so different. One dark and feminine and one like a teenaged boy, with soft girl eyes. I played with her hair and she let me cut it. She let me kiss her neck. I would have wondered what it meant about me, if the rules hadn’t been obliterated. Instead I knew she felt good. I needed good. She gave it a name, our connection. The name sounded far prettier coming from her lips than those of the angry ministers I’d heard in my childhood. I decided I liked the way she said it better. I liked her. I liked the way she yelled at boys who gave us funny looks. I liked the way she punched walls when walls dared to get too close to me. Then she said another word.
Pride. She couldn’t go to Pride. She was sad. I was intrigued. So I boarded a subway and rode, not sure what to expect. The train rumbled and squeaked around the corners and newspapers littered the floor. This was normal. This was real life. I heard the stop announced and more than half the train stood with me.
That’s when I knew.
We got off together and crushed onto the escalator in colours and colours and colours.
We exited the station into sunlight and a million people. A million people. And I was not lonely or hungry or desolate or cold or scared. Still, there were tears. Small and growing, happy-thrilling tears. There was a place where I made sense. Where I was not a mistake or a sinner or a girl built backwards. I was in the music and the colours and sun that never failed. I danced until my shoes fell apart and then danced barefoot, meeting friends that I still know twenty years on.
I did not finish high school that year. But I had my graduation.