Monday, February 18

Spotlight

By IAN JOZEL N. JEREZ

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece is one of the works in a five-part series in line with the Dapitan 2019 theme Insureksiyon. All works that are part of the series are written by the Flame’s Letters staffers.

art by YANNI KAYE A. WINGARTS/ THE FLAME

MY COUSIN told me she saw a man walking along the side of the road last night. She described the man to be dressed like a woman, to which I responded: “How could you tell?” It is not difficult to distinguish a person’s identity through the clothes they wear, she explained to me.

She went on to provide a more vivid description that illustrated how the man so obviously appeared not to know how a woman walks and, in particular, how a woman speaks. I was barely listening to her as I was lost in my thoughts. The (wo)man my cousin saw walking along the street last night was no one else but me.

Two days had passed since I conversed with my cousin. We barely know each other, but we live in the same household. As someone who is not comfortable being with anyone, I always distanced myself from my family, especially my father, whom I feared the most.

I remembered that day in my childhood: that afternoon when he pulled out his belt and thrashed me hard

on my behind as I knelt on a pool of mung beans. He asked me in a terrifying, masculine tone: “Are you a boy? Answer me, you freak!”

I did not respond to his question, afraid that the belt would bring further detriment to my delicate skin. I implored him to stop, but he did not. Behind him, I saw my cousin staring down at me with a familiar glare of condemnation on her face. From that day on, I decided not to talk to anyone unless they approached me first. Looking back on that horror, I realize now that I lived not only in fear but in perfect remoteness, as my own home failed me. They had failed me. I had no one but myself.

That night, before going to bed, I decided to release myself from the burden of my clothes. I went through my wardrobe in search of better clothes to wear. I found the first dress that I ever bought, but had never worn. Holding it in my hands, I wondered what had gone through my mind, as it was not even necessary to wear a dress to bed. Once more, I was bombarded with thoughts that undermined my worth. I knew that I had recently been bothered by what my cousin told me, but another part of me felt satisfied that she had seen me wearing a woman’s clothes and a wig. If only she had recognized me, I would have loved to see that familiar look of distaste and that hideous frown on her face.

With no hesitation, I put on the dress, but left my wig by the table this time, as I had always kept it hidden in the lowermost crevice of my wardrobe. Finally, I surrendered myself to a deep slumber.

In my dream, I heard voices. They were not whispers from underneath the surface of my bed; they came from the darkness that lay ahead before my eyes. No one was behind me. I was all alone. I sensed everything around me slowly vanishing into thin air. As I turned around, a red curtain rose, and I was suddenly standing on a stage in front of a crowd who screamed no one else’s name but mine. It was the name that I swore to take as I transitioned into a new persona.

This was what they had always feared, and this was my resistance.

I looked down to see that I was wearing the same dress I chose from my closet, and as I looked up, I saw a balcony full of audiences cheering as gracefully as the ones who were seated in the orchestra. I could finally assure myself that no one was here to hurt me. Amid the crowd’s thunderous applause, I heard a voice whispering in my head: Go ahead, my dear, and fly!

I smiled and took a step into the spotlight. F

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