Three Words | Barry Quinn

What length should you go to protect who you are?

Three Words

By Barry Quinn

For The Enlightened Award

The clock strikes midnight, and her final day on Earth begins.
She carries out her daily routine. It’s monotonous but necessary. First the makeup, then the wig, and afterwards the dress. The makeup emancipates the femininity within, the wig coronates her a woman. She’s tried everything to hide it, but it hangs like a perpetual reminder of her wrongness. She’s tucked it and taped it, but there it remains. Once she’s in her dress everything seems to righten; the dress floats around her waist, helping to conceal her bulge. She’s shaven her legs and wants to show them off. Why shouldn’t she? She isn’t harming anyone.
But nor is she fooling them.
Abuse is hurled. Screams of “faggot” and “fairy” and “freak” rent the air, crescendoing into oblivion. She is pushed and shoved and punched, but somehow she manages to keep her head held high. She has nothing to hide. This is her. She is no longer him.
The night is dark and cold. A billowing wind seems to push her onwards, and she clutches at her handbag. Inside is held her destiny. If she looses it, she looses herself.
She doesn’t feel destined, though. She feel’s a fraud. She totters in her high heels, stumbling more than once. Her Adam’s apple bulges. She has to readjust her stuffed bra. And all the while tears fall, relentless in their rivulets, trailing mascara down to her recently shaved jawline. She doesn’t brush them aside. They have to see her pain, the torture she has endured.
She journeys through the labyrinthine maze of streets and alleyways until she arrives. She can see them far below, the cameraman and the boozing students, all rowdy and randy, oblivious to her plight.
She drops her bag and unloads her destiny.
She ties one end of the rope to the railing of the bridge as the icy wind blows at her wig, threatening to pull it away. She straightens herself out. She ties the other end of the rope into a noose, and slowly clambers up onto the railing. She’s shaking, terrified of what is to come, but she knows it must happen. She cannot live like this. A year. That’s what they said, the doctors and the psychologists. A year – she has to live as a woman for a year until she can truly become one. But she is one already; a year seems too long to righten her outward appearance. She’s tired of the abuse, the loneliness of being herself. Alone, she can’t cope. And she knows she’ll always be alone.
Her present is bleak; her future is austere. She can’t imagine a future for her.
So she takes her final bow. Head bent to the gathered drunkards below, she pulls the noose up and over her head. She tightens the strap and drops it. It hangs limply like a necklace around her neck. Then she unzips her dress and allows the front to drop. Her stuffed bra paints her feminine, but her stomach is naked to the wind as she shows the world her true self. She takes a step forward. Her stomach lurches; her heartbeat seems to stop.
She tilts over the edge and drops.
Flashes of life stream before her eyes. A baby. Her mother laughing. Her father shouting. A punch. A knife. The doctor’s office. A bruise. A broken rib. Another punch. Her best friend’s disgust. Him.

Her neck snaps from the jolt of the taut rope and she swings like a grotesque marionette’s puppet. Below come the screams, the cries of terror. The camera swings up, forgetting the report of underage drinking, and zooms in on the woman hanging from the bridge. On her naked stomach is scrawled three words, three words she hopes will change the world.