to be your own pall bearer @xylocopa
Chapter 1 the author is nonbinary, but not genderfluid, and is tme. please let me know if i've overstepped in any areas regarding that.

Your hair is getting long, your mother observes.

You don’t think it’s meant to be malicious. Not really. But it still stings. 

You tuck a strand behind your ear, mumble, I don’t mind. 

As long as it makes you happy, son, she says, and you flinch at that.

It’s not that you’re not a man, it’s that you’re not just a man, and it feels just as wrong to be called him some days as it does to be called she on others. You smooth down the skirt she can’t see over video call, hands bunched in the soft fabric to reassure yourself of who you are. 

How’s your job, honey? I know you can’t tell me much about what you’re working on, government secrecy and all, but…

It’s fine, you say. 

That’s good, she says, and then, your father and I miss you, you know. 

I know, you say. I’m sorry.

Do you know when you’ll be able to visit next, she asks. You knew this question was coming, it always does, but you still dread it. Every time.

I don’t know, you lie. 

You’re allowed to visit family once every three months, and on holidays, and you guess if you went through enough paperwork you could get away for a weekend too. But you don’t think you could go back there, now that you’ve been out to your coworkers for a year. You don’t think you could survive being called he and him and not being able to wear a dress and paint your nails and having family friends make passive aggressive comments about the length of your hair and the way you hold yourself and the makeup you put on hoping no one would notice. 

Even if you came out to your parents and they accepted you, you think, you’d rather do anything but go back there. 

That’s okay, James, she says. Just let us know when you know, okay?

You nod. Tell her you will. Another lie. You’re good at lying, these days. 

Well, I know you probably have work to get back to, so we won’t keep you any longer, she says.

You nod, and don’t tell her you’ve finished all your paperwork for the day.

We love you, James, she says.

You force a smile. Love you too.

 


 

You try to find another name, you really do. 

But you've been Talloran for so long that it's the only thing that really fits, because James feels bitter on your tongue and J is too short and anything else feels so foreign to your world, nicknames that a middle-aged cisgender twice-divorced businessman might have, and you don't want to change your name for real, don't want to admit you're anyone other than who you were before It. 

So Talloran it is, and on paperwork you sign Researcher Talloran and on legal documents you scrawl your signature as illegible as you can make it, and your boyfriend leans into you your head on his shoulder because he's still taller than you, the asshole, and asks if he can call you Tall, and you wince and say please don't, because anything other than Talloran feels wrong wrong wrong at the back of your throat. 

 


 

In the eyes of those with high enough clearance level to know what happened, usually cisgender, sometimes straight, your transness has always been defined by It. There is a before and an after, and the realization of your gender identity is in the after. The before Talloran was cisgender, focused and academic, always wearing button-ups and slacks, neatly trimmed short hair and understated black-framed glasses. The after Talloran is genderfluid, wears skirts and paints their nails dark, stays at the edges and keeps to themself but still manages to draw curious stares on the street, eyes burning their skin as they pass by.

It's not true, of course.

You're a different person than you were before, they were right about that. You can’t go through something like that and come out the other side unchanged. But not in the ways they see. Not because of the dresses and heels. Not because of the labels you use. Not because some days you use she and some days you use he and some days you use neither. You hope, if you had learned that you didn’t have to be one or the other, if you had known other non-binary people, if you had found out pronouns didn’t equal gender, didn’t confine you to a box, that you would have identified as genderfluid before It. You wish you had been given that choice. 

It’s something deeper. Something rotting in the hollow cage of your ribs, something you want to tear it out with raw fingers and scratching nails. You wake up to find yourself clawing at your chest. 

 


 

Your nightmares are always about It. 

Of course the amnestics couldn’t burn It from your head, no matter how long they tried, six million years will sear something so deeply into your brain that It is intrinsic to who you are, even if you can't remember the worst of it. And that is the cruelest part, that you as you are now cannot exist without the horrible thing that happened to you, that you are not and will never be the same person you were before It. 

But you are still surviving despite it all, still waking up and you are doing what you can, and some days this means getting out of bed before 9 and eating a hot breakfast and going on a walk hand in hand with your boyfriend, and some days this means only managing to brush your teeth so your mouth doesn’t taste like shit before stumbling back to your bedroom and lying there in the dark until you fall asleep, but you are surviving, and you tell yourself you are more than what It made of you, because you stared into the center of everything and nothing and made it out alive, because you are center of everything that happens to you, not It. 

Not the thing that hurt you so much and for so long amnestics cannot scour it from your memories, even though amnestics took your words and your legs and you spent months to relearning how to speak and write and read, even though you still forget sometimes how to use your hands and watch helpless as they go limp, your body made of meat and electricity torn apart by the cruel god of a ravaged reality and sewn back together with Class Es and sleeping pills. 

You fucking killed It, ripped yourself open to kill It and woke up alive, and It can’t fucking hurt you anymore, so you pull yourself together every day and tell yourself you are going to survive and you fucking do. You survive, because if you don’t It will have won and you will never let It have the fucking satisfaction.

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