Honi Soit writing competiton. Entries close July 29

A Cerulean Sea of Queer Possibility

There is a peculiar loneliness that springs from a lack of experience, from vicarious living through screens and dreams.

Art by Bella Henderson

When I was eleven I dyed one strand of my hair blue – bright blue, like a pure cerulean sea. I’d been begging my parents since six years old, and my resolution rewarded me; six years passed and slowly my hair was saturated in sapphire. Its blue burrowed deep into my scalp and I felt it grow. I was bewitched. I would take baths just to submerge myself in water with open eyes and watch as my hair swirled around me like tendrils, tentative to touch.

When I was eighteen I realised I had a crush on a girl. It crystallised as I drove down the M4, thinking about a party from over the weekend. Thinking about a girl. About her silken skin gliding over mine, her arms bracing my waist, heat from her touch seeping into my skin and soaking my bones. About how strange was this deluge of thoughts about her, about how she flooded my senses until I was suffocating and I remember pulling over and having a panic attack—

I remember

cold sweat dripping down my body

bubbling blood as fire flows in my veins

drowning in air grasping at breath

skin bluer than water

I felt like dying

I was raised to understand there were no limitations to love. From my earliest age, I knew unconditional, bottomless love; I knew whoever I loved, I’d be loved by my family. The anxiety storming my mind was personal; a deep reservoir of internalised homophobia was roiling inside me, ready to burst. And it would continue to swell, and swell, and swell, because not long after I was shut away—my world distilled into an LED screen.

There is a peculiar loneliness that springs from a lack of experience, from vicarious living through screens and dreams. I am isolated from myself, wading through thick liquid thoughts that slip through my fingers. I feel afloat on a raft of unknowing, I feel tempestuous and rough-hewn—like whoever made me also didn’t know who I’d love. I feel I need the touch, love, heart of a girl to understand. And right now, I am stagnant.

do you know what happens to stagnant water?

it becomes dangerous, infected,

underneath its glassy surface it festers

unbroken by motion, I see my

reflection mirrored, a serene facade

yet I was myself split open

by her. not undisturbed,

I was underpowered and overwhelmed. 

overcompensating? (or overthinking)

all certainty sadistically slipping away

black ink dripping sinks into blank paper

in stark definition, but rigid, unyielding

I write – I am bisexual, I am nonbinary

but it is a scarlet stain that scours the page

because the dual sides of clarity are sharp

it cuts both ways

this water is menacing because it is restrained

it is not meant to be placid, but gushing

rushing over sand and rock, spraying

and dashing and surging and hissing.

it is meant to be alive. effervescent.

yet, we are stagnant.

When I was nineteen, I dyed my hair purple – a sweet purple, like lilac petals. I’d not forsaken blue, but heartbreaks and heartaches made it too vivid for me; I needed something blurred. That year, my best friend cut my hair. I sat in my living room and watched as hair fell like purple rain to the floor, and I was a cloud growing light after a storm. 

There are things in the world that elude us – the universe, the ocean, time – hidden depths we’ll never dive to, complexities beyond our understanding. But humans are calibrated to compartmentalise, for communication and control. Labels are tools we use to categorise an otherwise impermeable world. Labels are ways of fitting indefinite objects into boxes of best fit, but it is cramped and smothering and I can’t—

breathe easy, I breathe—easy—

a drumming fills my ears

pounding, I am submerged

but if I breathe, if I swallow air

fill my lungs with it

it will drown the echoes out

Now I am freshly twenty, and I know there are words for the waves of cresting ineffability I feel about gender. That same isolation that created stagnation has removed the surveillance that dictated my life as “woman”. The constant effluent of gendered norms is now a trickle, easily dammed, and as time ran on I stopped performing. I felt hushed. I felt liminal. Free. 

think of me like the ocean’s waves,

eternally oscillating, ebbing and flowing

prismatic shades of green, blue, purple—

endlessly singular yet unchanging

or the salty breeze sweeping a cliff’s edge

bearing the echoes of the ocean as

waves smash upon jagged rocks like

hapless sailors to a siren’s call

think of me like a dewy sunrise

icy wind caressing your cheek

as granules of sand cling to sticky skin

even as you wade, deeper, chasing the sun

think of me like the ocean.