storytelling

FEATURED WRITER: JAYCE GRIMSHAW

I

 

In the year of our lord, 2015, a transwoman would be killed almost every twenty-six hours. Roughly two-thirds of all LGBT hate crimes would be against transgender individuals. How many more were killed by something not harder to convict but harder to catch—how many kicked out of homes by unaccepting parents, abusive partners, left to fend on streets of a nation that had abandoned them? How many desperate to change no matter the cost? How many driven to suicide? How many unreported?

I have a guess.

Their names are etched along my veins in an ink still too black to read. Too many times I have come close to writing my name next to theirs. I hold a fountain pen above my heart, ready to dye this blood dark.

 

But that
is not yet.

 

II

Wednesday evenings—Tuesdays, Thursdays, school nights in 1996 spent sitting crisscross-applesauce under the dying embers of flickering fluorescents. Cavemen etchings lined the walls of legions of children gone before us, scattered in the halls, the cafeterias, auditoriums, libraries—why remember this? I’m sure she called me something, her “little helper” or some cliché. First, I followed her in wonder, riding a rickety old van to the next foreign elementary school to hear her weave words in a narrative as sturdy as a rock being continually chipped away by the coming storm.

 

Second, I followed wondering.

 

My mother started storytelling to combat a stutter. I started to bury truths in a page under a shaking pen.  She is on the stage now, telling of a faerie who preys upon children.

 

But how strongly will my mother deny it when the wolf is at her own door? I am changing, Mother. It is killing me.


III

Ignore the auditorium
full of however many snot-nosed brats

and listen.

 

Pay attention to this moment:

 

You are a version of Jesus
who knows not the kiss is coming.

 

So too are you Judas
in the days where clear skies and calm waters
held more promise than a bag of silver ever could.

 

You are the wolf before meeting Peter at the pond.

 

Know what follows after.

 

The precipice never looked kindly
on those predisposed to fall.

 

IV

I am frustrated after years of stories, of the tailor that tricks the troll with the whey and with the bird, of Jack and his beanstalk. There were no heroes like us in folktales. You have to be clever to be a hero. You do not have to be kind to be clever. Is it any wonder that people like us know how to write monsters?

The angry mobs did not seek out the white men,
the straight men,
the properly born men.


V

A teacher before a classroom of young minds said that my mother's craft was a dying art. The last story I heard her tell must have been around a campfire where that sort of thing was not yet out of place. But on the phone did they not thrive? Yes, Mom, I’m getting good grades. Yes, Mom, I’m staying worthy. Yes, I’m chaste. Yes, I’m going to church.

 

And in the heart?

Of course, I believe. Of course.
There’s a place for my kind in your heaven.

Hiding identities replaced conversations and bigotry dripping from her lips never made a pleasant song. On the backdrop of this, I created a fiction under the name they gave me. She loves the creation well enough but doesn’t understand the shortened talks, the averted gazes when she spits out hate for the author. She doesn’t understand that I am not a daughter. Not anyone’s. Especially not hers.

But if storytelling was not the dying art,
what between us was?

© 2015 peculiar