The second part of this week’s bumper edition of Creative Friday! Two talented writers from across the university have submitted their Valentine’s themed short stories; Tom’s short story takes place in a world where homosexuality is the norm and Ellen’s is a short fan-fiction.
[divider]’In Lieu of Rings’ – Ellen Lesser[/divider]
They had decided that, if they were to get engaged, they would not have rings. Rings were too common, too normal.
They were not normal. They were not normal individuals. They were not a normal couple. After all, how many couples had their first dates interrupted by being summoned to a crime scene? As a result, when they sat down to their candlelit dinner, the boxes they were hiding were too big for rings.
“Will you marry me?” they each asked. “Yes.”
Then, after they had exchanged boxes, John donned a brand new blue scarf, and Sherlock, an oatmeal jumper.
[divider]’Inversion’ – Tom Ffiske[/divider]
“You’re going through a phase,” said all my friends. They were unconvinced that I was, for the lack of a better label, a heterosexual. I still remember shivering after announcing it to my closest friends, and the short sip of alcohol did not help to calm my nerves. Thankfully, my friends quietly accepted the new information in the end, and I was grateful. But there was something about their quietness afterwards. I could tell that the gears in their heads whizzed and turned in thought, and a host of personal questions formulated around my supposedly ‘new’ identity, as though my true face has been revealed to all. They didn’t mention what they were thinking – but I didn’t need to hear their thoughts.
Word spread around the school like wildfire, though conversations crackled under hushed whispers, and almost never around me. Some close friends relayed to me whatever everyone was thinking in some classes I didn’t participate in. Some were predictable, like “Sarah’s heterosexual? Well then, she might like David, or Sam, or maybe even Danny!” It became a small running joke in some social circles that I must like one of them. That just because I was with Dan a lot; that I must be in love with him; that I wanted to have sex with him. I never really understood it. The fact that I’m straight shouldn’t mean that I wanted to be with any of my friends.
Over time, that became my identity around school. I was Sarah, the straight girl. I wasn’t seen as myself for many other qualities – not for how hard I worked, or how well I did in sport, or even my hobbies or interests. None of them. Instead, my sexual orientation became my natural label, the one character trait which every single person referred to me within their minds. I hated it. I despised it.
If it wasn’t for Alex, I am sure I would have cracked under the pressure.
We found each other in the community center, near where I lived. It was a sullen place withered with age, with every object battered into antiquity. There was a table tennis table, but someone stole the last bat some time ago. There was a television, but someone broke off the antennae to fish out a coin between the floorboards, before losing it afterwards. There were chairs, but the cushions had their plump lives squashed out of them by many generations of children and adults. But that didn’t matter. None of it mattered, for Alex was there. Always, straight after school, waiting for my arrival.
Up to this day, I never adequately expressed why I liked Alex so much. Words cannot possibly convey the myriad of emotions and thoughts whenever I am with him. Nor can I convey how he was different from my past few partners. But there were times where I came close.
Imagine a cool glass of cider, the first you’ve ever had. The liquid shined with a golden glimmer as beads of condensation dropped down its side. You drink the first glass, and you appreciate how it refreshed and cooled your mind to a warm glow of satisfied happiness. Then you drink the second glass, a new kind of alcohol which you wanted to try. It was not as sweet or special as your first, but you appreciated it regardless. It reminded you of that first taste, that special flavour which you pleasantly enjoyed. But then comes the final glass. It arrived a long time later, on a warm summer day as you reflect on your past experiences. You were a changed person, your tastes refined. And you consider to yourself: why not one more? What’s the harm in a shot in the dark, to taste something new after all this time?
Alex was the third drink. He was not an expected visitor in my life. He was not someone I prepared to see, and I never made any effort to please or impress him. But after so long, Alex suddenly brightened my life into an evanescent brilliance of joy. A man who, unlike anyone else, I always felt comfortable being with.
Alex had a way with words. He could formulate a perfect description of an emotion or desire, or any feeling of any kind. He broke it down into poetry, as a natural flow of words which expressed their beauty. My favourite has to be his description of anxiety. To him, anxiety was a quiet beast which lurked in the back of your mind. It doesn’t have a distinct shape or form; it metamorphoses depending on what you’re anxious about. It becomes your worst possible future outcome; your worst fears made real, your vilest future created. Then it sits there, as a heavy burden on your consciousness. It doesn’t speak, or move, or make any outward movement. It simply rests there, watching you suffer within your cognitive iron cage, unable to escape those black thoughts which constantly arise, without warning, outside of your control.
He showed me the wonder of words; I showed him the wonders of physics. I was a scientist at heart, never a writer; so I showed him the beauty of physics by telling him facts about the universe, and the possible outcomes which existed. One afternoon, we endlessly debated about the possibility of alien life forms existing. I argued that aliens must exist, for the universe was so large and expansive that it was statistically probably to find civilised life on a planet within the goldilocks zone. Alex replied that, despite having images which can stretch towards distant galaxies, no evidence of intelligent life has ever been found. We would argue for hours on end, but it never got personal. We were both friendly, enjoying the retorts and replies while working together towards the best answer.
We hung out together after school. We met at the community center however long we can to talk about our lives, do some homework, and play some games. We bonded over how uncomfortable we felt during school, and that we hoped university would be a better experience. We hoped so, anyway. We’ve found heterosexual groups on the internet, but many were too alternative for our tastes. We found it difficult to meet many people of the same interests we got along with. In the end, we felt comfortable just being together, with no outside forces.
Then, as the sun entered dusk, we walked together to my place first, before Alex disappeared to his home. Initially, we didn’t hold hands. Sometimes we felt uncomfortable about the accusatory glances we get while we holding hands. A straight couple was an oddity, an object of interest for most people. Even on the bus, we get long sideways glances as his hands rested on my lap. But over time, we grew braver. We were prepared, together and strong, to fight against their preconceptions. We were happy together, and other people’s quiet, unspoken opinions should never matter to us.
Today, we are still partners. Our experiences made us strong, and our bond became iron-clad, stronger than the constant erosion of time. We are happy and accepted fully by our friends and family. And as of right now, the constant heterophobic remarks withered to a dull voice, an inaudible squeak which I rarely hear when I sleep. I always considered the discrimination of heterosexuals to be bigoted and misled, as there is only one defining characteristic within a relationship; the care and attention the couple gives to one another. And for me, that was shown through Alex – my third drink, the light of my life.
Christy Ku, Online Books Editor
Many thanks to our writers Ellen Lesser and Tom Ffiske. For the poetry part, click on this link! If you enjoyed these poems, please comment below or follow us on our Facebook and Twitter pages! If you wish to submit some of your own work, please email it to email@example.com me