On cold September days when the world has forgotten me again, I grab a blanket, a cup of coffee, and a book, and curl up on the floor of my closet. It’s a small space, the closet. There’s only room for one. There’s only room for me.
I like it, in there, where it’s dark and cold and quiet. Where I’m alone. I’m safe. No one can touch me, or talk to me. No one can hurt me. I’m in the closet alone. The closet knows all of my secrets. The closet has kept them quiet. The closet has been there when I’ve cried, when I’ve failed a test, when I liked someone. When I had my first boyfriend. When I broke up with my first boyfriend. When I realized I didn’t want to have a boyfriend.
The closet knows everything about me. Things no one else does.
The closet is the place I never want to leave. My sanctuary.
I’ll come out eventually. I always do. When it gets late or too cold or my flashlight dies, I come out. But I always go back to hiding. I always go back into the closet. The closet where it’s dark, and cold, and quiet, and small, and safe. The closet where my mother can’t find me when she’s mad or yelling. I do my homework in the closet. I study for tests in the closet. And I do it all alone. I like doing it alone.
I haven’t come out of the closet I built in my head. The one that keeps a girl trapped in a cage. A girl I am to everyone else. The girl that gawks at hot guys and giggles at cute books and movies with straight relationships and listens to music about girls falling in love with guys. The closet I built in my head isn’t my closet. It’s not where I feel safe and calm and alone. It’s how I keep from being laughed at and judged and isolated. It’s how I stay safe. It’s not where I am safe.
Sometimes I listen to music in the closet, sometimes I listen to it out loud, sometimes I put in earbuds and turn the volume up until it blocks out the silence, until I’m alone again. I like being alone. Alone with my thoughts and my secrets. Alone with only me. Alone in a place where I can leave the closet in my head. Where I can be the girl who gawks at hot girls instead of hot guys and giggles at cute books and movies with gay relationships and listen to music about girls falling in love with girls.
And then when I leave the closet, I go back into my closet. I don’t have to stay in my closet. But I do. I stay in my head. I stay safe.
I remember the first time I fell in love with a girl. The closet kept me safe while I learned to let it go. But after that I couldn’t go back into the closet in my head. It wouldn’t let me back in. The fake girl in the cage died, she faded away until I had nothing to hide behind.
The closet was still there, though. The closet in the corner of my room. The closet where it’s dark, and cold, and quiet, and small, and safe, and isolated.
It’s been years since I was that girl.
I miss her, sometimes.
We pull into the driveway, and my grip tightens on the wheel like it always does when I go home. It’s been a year since I was home last. My parents aren’t home yet, they’re both still at work.
She puts her hand on mine. “It’s okay,” she says.
We get out of the car and I dig through the coats hanging in the patio and pull out the house key. The house is quiet. My sister won’t get home until tomorrow.
“I love your house.”
I smile, “I know you do.”
She puts her stuff down and we go upstairs and walk down the hall to my room.
She’s the first person I ever showed the closet to. It’s my sacred place.
We close the closet door behind us and sit down. It’s the same closet it’s always been. It’s dark, and cold, and quiet, and small, and safe. But there’s not only room for me.
There’s room for her.
There’s room for both of us.