Where the wind sings by the river
Hair swept out into the water,
Ripples of black
A Tales of Us story..
A Companion Piece to Waiting for You
Lincoln Park, New Jersey… sometime in the recent past
The boy walked down the tracks; stopping where he thought she might still be in a way. Between the train traffic in the intervening months and the weather since, there was no sign she had ever been there. He felt like a fool for even trying to find where it had happened. He paused and shook his head.
“It wasn’t… she was….” Tears spilled freely as images never seen rushed past his closed eyes. No event or happening; unspeakable evil visited Jo that day.
“I should have…” Should have what? Then where one had laid dying there would have been two? And who could have known? He knelt down; one spot being equally as horrible as any other.
“I’m….sorry, Jo,” he said aloud; the halting words barely escaping his lips. He looked down at himself. The girl known as Grace had retreated after the grass had grown over Jo’s grave, leaving a coward instead who spoke only in whispers or behind the protection of home.
“I hate myself,” he said at last; signaling a return of Grace, so to speak, since that part of him was self-loathing and lost in a way. He fell to the ground and rolled over almost instinctively; barely missing being run over by the train that had barreled around the curve; unheard. He sat up in the hollow between the rise and the hurricane fence that paralleled the track. A calming breeze seemed to replace the rush of wind that accompanied the now departed train and he relaxed.
“Grace,” he thought he heard in the rustle of the bushes that peeked through the fence. As he went to stand up his hand happened upon an object next to him; soft and dark. And leather; a faded purple. A very distressed-looking, abandoned purse. Jo’s purse. Her cousin Jo’s purse. He… she looked slightly up at the tracks where only moments before a train nearly had cut her in two. A sign? She thought she heard the voice again speak the name…her name.
“Grace…” The shame was too much to bear, and she laid down right there, weeping harder than ever….
The office of Hannah Paretti, LCSW, a few days later…
“I know you’ve worked hard. But I also know how awfully painful this past year was for you.” Hannah half-smiled as the girl leaned against the back of the couch. Moments like this were agrodolce, as her grandmother would say; the bitter mixed with the sweet, Grace had overcome so much but remained fragile if growing stronger each day.
“I hate….I just hate going there.” She stared off to her right, as if the high school was right outside Hannah’s window.
“You… how about this? Perhaps the diploma can be mailed?” Hannah urged Grace to argue. If anything, Grace would be at graduation just to spite her tormentors; a very vicious if thankfully diminishing cadre of transphobes, as Grace had called them. And no help from the school either for the most part, which led to stealth, which led to more feelings of guilt.
But the painful dread came not from those few who would be at graduation but from the absence of her cousin. Grace knew that Hannah provoked her for her own good, but there’s nothing written that she had to like the insight she discovered in therapy even if it was her own.
“It’s her birthday on Saturday,” Grace said haltingly while choking back a sob even as she gained more resolve for her decision.
“So you’re going to do it?” Hannah already knew Grace would, Few if any valedictorians choose to miss their own debut, so to speak, but this would be a coming out for the ages; at least for Boonton High School….
She looked in the mirror over her dresser; the image was ethereal as the gentle spectre embraced her with tentative welcome. The face over her shoulder missed her but sought no company for the time being. Just a reminder that she would not be alone in her plans. Her Mom and Dad and her sis would be in the audience and her angel would steady her at the podium. With two more in the conspiracy she was as ready as she would ever be; for her speech and beyond….
“Please join me in welcoming the Valedictorian of Boonton High School’s Class of 2018, Tyler Lindell.” The man seemed a bit set aback when no one immediately appeared at the podium. A smattering of tentative applause accompanied a second and third mention of the name followed by an embarrassed silence. A second later a slight looking young lady strode with confidence to the podium. She dispensed with the traditional pleasantries; speaking carefully.
“Good afternoon.” The principal’s eyes widened in recognition as the girl waved playfully to her parents and sister before shooting a grin his way. He turned in the direction of the sound board and used a slashing gesture to cut off the girl’s speech. A tap on the shoulder by the Superintendent of Schools indicated a heretofore unexpected support, leaving him to sit down without protest.
“I want to encourage each if you not to wait a single moment to follow your dreams.” Gasps came from in front in the audience and behind her by her classmates it sank in just who this interloper was.”
“Way to go, Tyler,” a girl shouted from off to her left. Nia Phillipousis of course knew it was Grace, but saying her boy name would nudge the attendees into rapt if confused attention. Nia added to the moment with another shout.
“That’s my girlfriend!”
“My cousin quoted me some words to a song… that I think really fits here, I… some wanted me to just go away….or worse, to stay but just like they wanted to see me… like they forced Jo….” She faltered; a moment memorialized by the gasps and even sobs of her classmates. Who had also been Jo’s classmates.
“But like the lyric goes, life figures on. My Dad and Mom tried their best to help me and Jo. They did their best to help Jo’s Mom….my Mom’s sister…” A sob came from directly in front as Grace’s Aunt Alice leaned close to Margaret; weeping softly.
“I didn’t have the strength to be my parent’s daughter even after Jo died. But I was listening to the music, and I realized that she was waiting for me…. To move on. That’s my only word to you, A hero… my cousin is telling us all not to wait for even a minute.” She paused; choking back a sob. Removing her mortarboard she tipped it toward the audience, revealing the letters J C in white medical tape… Jo Colhagen. A moment later, a few of the graduates had done the same.
“My name is Grace. Grace Tyler Lindell. Like my cousin, I learned at a very early age that I was a girl, and somewhere along the way recently I let others define who I am. No more.” She pointed skyward.
“For Jo,” Grace said finally before walking off the stage and into her family’s loving arms, as her life indeed had figured on. Grace was no longer running away from the life she had led but finally running to the person she was always meant to be,
Where the wind sings by the river
Hair swept out into the water,
Ripples of black.
Run, you better run,
You better run for your life.
Oh it rips through the sky.
Oh life figures on.
Jo, I know you will see.
Don't wait for a minute.
Goldfrapp is Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.