only in pseudonym

The time you screamed the word dyke at me in our parents’ bedroom, it came out like a two car
collision. Your voice veered so wildly out of control back then. Scraping metallic, a guttural

And I thought of when we picked out the same blanket for our new big-kid beds, yours brown,
mine pink, and that first night, how excited we both were. The next day, when I wanted to sleep
in your bed again, and you let me. The games we invented for each other with the changing
rules. Our attempt at a shared language.

Well, at least I’m not a fucking retard.

The consonants hung in the air. I couldn’t look at you. And I thought of the time, after some
argument had reached a height neither of us could see a way down from, when you told me that
everyone is afraid of me. They’re afraid of what you’ll say next.

It was a word I would refer to only in pseudonym, fearing its ugly syllables, its thick stench of
shame. I wondered how it felt so at home in my mouth. Had always been there, heavy at the
back of my throat, patient as a bullet in the barrel of a gun?

WILLA TINSLEY is an 18 year-old high school student at St. Francis School of Louisville. Her writing has appeared previously in The White Squirrel and several notebooks around her house.