"Just Because" by Emma Steckline
Honorable Mention for High School Prose
We stand in the brightly lit room. The sun shines through the dust floating around the air. The floor is scratched up from chairs being shuffled around. I walk in and see my mom reading e-mails, long fingers tapping quickly on a keyboard. I nervously open my mouth to speak.
“Mom can I sleepover at Lily’s house?” His name feels like molasses dripping unwillingly off of my tongue.
“Sure Emma” She says without a bat of her eye.
“Can I still go if Adam and Jack are there?”
“Emma, no sleepovers with boys, you know that.”
A short note on ‘just because’: a short answer for lazy people who have no explanation for why they do what they do; an answer that is thrown around casually. Why do I think this? Would you like a story about why I think this? Do you want to hear why I hold such a bad meaning with these words?
Because they are boys? Because they could do something to me? What Mom, what could they do that my friend that is a girl couldn’t do? My friend who is a girl but actually a boy. My friend who doesn’t feel at home in his body. What about the fact that I don’t even like boys, Mom, what about that?
How about I tell you that I am gay. Gay but not in the happy way. Gay in the way that I am still hiding from you about who I really am. Not happy, not all because of you, Mom, not because of how you say I am too young, or tell me that I don’t understand “those kind of feelings” yet. No, it isn’t just you, it is also the woman who is my grandma. The woman who I tried to talk to as we sat on the couch and told me she loved me, who I tried to share myself with. The woman who says she will never stop loving me any less, and yet seems to not accept the fact that I liked a girl. The grandma who always asks me about boys, who asks me, “So have you liked any girls since when you told me?” in a way that sounds like she has just gone down the road of no return.
“I don’t know”
A short note on ‘I don’t know’: a phrase that is used to cover up something, a phrase that disguises what somebody really wants to say.
Those words are almost as bad as “just because.” Again I say words that cover up what I really want to say, what I really should say. She is asking, she wants to know what my answer is, so why can’t I respond?
Why do the words get trapped in my throat?
Why does the condescending tone she uses when she talks to me scare me into hiding?
Why does it feel like when she looks at me she is only seeing who she wants me to be and not who I really am?
Why do I feel sick to my stomach?
Maybe it is sick because my secrets are buried inside it. Buried inside from the people like the woman who is my grandmother. People like her, who ask me what boys I have a crush on, who point out every single guy I talk to and ask if I want to date them. The people that say it is fine but don’t actually think so.
Why is our world like this? Why do I feel so scared?
When she questions me about my sexuality, the woman who looks at me worriedly, as we sit next to a flowing river, tossing and turning like the turmoil in my brain. She asks if I am sure that I like girls, and I choke up again. Again and again I want to let everything out, but my foot only gets halfway through the doorway before the questions in my mind and from her mouth push me out. The questions that push the truth down my throat and all that comes out is ‘I don’t know’. Maybe, in response to their questions, I should’ve just said two simple words to explain why I am who I am. I should’ve just said to them, that I was the way I am, just because.