“So yeah, I’ve started questioning my gender too. I don’t know. Sometimes I doubt myself. Maybe I’m just a copycat, but then again, the whole concept of being a man never clicked with me, but I don’t think I feel like a woman either. I just need a space where I can safely experiment with this stuff.”, Dennis continued.
“I mean, welcome to the queer community, I guess. I’m glad you’re taking the time for finding yourself or, well, at least a way to yourself. Can I hug you?”, Laura replied while Dennis was wiping a tear off his left cheek and smiling that weird and distorted smile one smiles while being in tears of relief. Dennis nodded.
Laura walked around the small table in one step and hugged them, “I definitely didn’t expect that” she mumbled to herself, but she could feel Dennis shed a long-held tension in her embrace.
As she settled back down into her seat, she asked, “Have you told anyone else yet?”
“No, you are the first person, I trusted enough to tell. I mean you’ve been the reason I started to even question my gender in the first place.”
“I don’t know if that should make me feel honoured or not. I’m just glad you’re closer to the person you want to be”, she smiled, “I hope your parents deal with it better than mine if you should ever tell them.”
“I guess, but it’s still making me nervous. I know my parents have been awesome with you from the beginning, but I’m still scared about how this might affect my relationship with my parents.”
Laura fell silent for a moment, churning over thoughts in her head. After a while, she smiled awkwardly: “Do you mind if we go to yours and — I don’t know — drink a cup of tea? I could deal with a bit quieter environment.”
Space was quiet, insanely quiet. There was no air to carry a sound. You were alone, alone with your breathing. It was a sensation that caused existential dread in so many space dwellers and travellers, but Laura enjoyed the silence, the loneliness. Here she could be just she, just a person without judgement. Under her spacesuit, no one from the outside could discern her features anyhow. It could have been anyone in the bulky white and stiff uniforms of all those who dared to step outside their vessels out of curiosity or out of pure necessity.
Technically, this was a spacewalk out of necessity, but Laura enjoyed the silence of space too much. It was weird. Usually, she was so distractible, so easily bored, but the tranquillity of space just captivated her. It enveloped her in a soft blanket of calmness. The wide-open space in front of her just made her feel like she found herself without societal expectation without pressure. Calm.
“Krchzz … The battery pack is in section C-12b, you need to anchor yourself and then check the connections!”, the voice out of her headset screamed. “Oh well, here we go again”, Laura thought. This wasn’t the enjoyable part of a spacewalk, but what had to be done had to be done.
Dennis took a deep sip out of their teacup. They were sitting cross-legged on the big cushion in the corner of their room. Laura was sitting across Dennis’s childhood bedroom, leaned against the radiator underneath the window, with her own teacup. She was inhaling the sweet steam of her tea. It smelled of cinnamon. She like cinnamon. It reminded her of Christmas and she like Christmas.
Laura looked up through the window above her. All she could see was a star-filled sky. A blueish glow at the ceiling of her world, the milky way a striped band across her firmament. Would she ever leave this earth? She really wanted to see what was beyond this pale blue dot, but she couldn’t see herself as an astronaut. There was too much wrong with her. Hey, wait, this wasn’t about her. They were talking about Dennis… Where were they? She had lost track.
“You seem distracted.”, Dennis remarked with the smirk of someone who knew what was up with their friend of many years.
“Oh I’m sorry, I was just thinking about the stars, and how much I would enjoy being out there, out of this world, away from my parents.”
Dennis looked down at their teacup, “I guess it would be nice, though, well, I think I would miss you.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, you can come with me if the chance should arise. Though honestly, this is just a dream, just like me ever becoming a real girl.”
“You are a real girl!”
“Look at me, I’m an awkward boy, I don’t even have the right clothes, just these awkward wide jeans and this hoodie. I feel like a husk.”
“Your clothes are not who you are, Laura, you are a real girl, and as soon as you’re away from your parents you can live that.”
“Oh, how I wish I was away from my parents.”
Dennis untied their legs and stepped over to her. They took their half-full teacup into their other hand and sat down next to her, leaning against the free spot on the warm radiator. “I know this world isn’t easy, but we’re going to figure it out together”, they said as they leaned their head on Laura’s shoulder.
Manoeuvring in space isn’t easy. Unlike on earth there really isn’t anything that would stop you once you are moving. It takes care to not just fly off into space on a somewhat random trajectory. That’s why space dwellers for centuries used varying techniques to tether themselves to their space ships. To Laura said tether felt like a dog leash. She wanted to be free; she wanted to be enveloped by the blackness of space, by nothing. The tether kept her close to her craft. It had made sure she came back inside on every mission she had participated in. And it would probably do so now after she had fixed that goddamn battery connection. Who designed these things?
She turned around for a moment and looked back onto earth on her way to the battery connection. This time she wouldn’t return. There at the south pole, she could already see it, something was amiss. These weren’t normal clouds these were pure destructive energy. The lightning-bolt-like connections within made the whole cloud tinged in a weird neon magenta. She didn’t really want to know, what this cloud would do if it reached more than the barren landscapes of Antarctica.
They had been nice enough to walk her home. She enjoyed walking next to Dennis through the empty streets of this night. They hadn’t talked much, but she could see their smile. They still seemed like a burden had dropped from their heart and she was glad about that. As both turned around the last corner, Laura stopped, “Do you see that magenta glow, over my house?”
Dennis stuttered, “What the hell is that?”
This is part IV of my ongoing series The Importance of Touching a Tree.