The world reducing to icy blue landscapes highlighted by grey shadows.
Orange house light spilling onto drifting lawns. Wooded patches reducing in detail, fading into black.
As I walked through the neighborhood, blowing sleet stinging my cheeks, icy wind whistling. I approached the edges and I remembered.
Unbidden and in a flash, the memory that floated through my mind on the flickering shadows was of being a hidden trans girl of 12 or 13 in the little village of Marstons Mills on the sandy spit of Cape Cod.
Dressing up alone. Barricaded in my room. Bursting at my teenage seems. Desperate to be honest and out in the world. Afraid of anyone knowing.
So it was to the woods. On snowy, blustery days, much like this. The days when a timid teenage trans girl could count on all the watchful watchers staying snug and secure, away in their homes.
Carefully, in my room, I would dress underneath. A secreted skirt from stored away clothes. Stockings stolen from my mom’s dresser drawers. Whatever odd items I could acquire, awkwardly arranged.
On top of this, wet winter, cold weather clothes. Bulky layers that keep the wind out and secrets in.
I would go outside. Down the street, around the block, to the edge of the neighborhoods. To the woods by the pond.
Deep into the shadows I’d go. Just out of sight, just beyond the edges of the spilling orange light. Out through the scrub pines and the bramble.
And there I’d strip off my layers. Peeling away the winter weather androgyny. Down to the summery girl underneath.
And in those white wooded patches, snow stinging my nearly naked legs, wind biting through my too-thin dress. For a few moments I was exposed. Unhidden. Out in the world.
With only the trees for company.
I always was nervous of being caught. Or hopeful of it perhaps. Of no longer needing to hide. Of having my secret stripped away, very like those warm winter layers.
But I was clever at my lies. I was too good at hiding my secrets just beyond the edge of the woods, or in my bedroom after school.
For a few moments though, I was out of my room. Out of the house. Standing shivering in the stinging wind. Just a scared young girl, happy to be without a mask, in the shadows of the woods.
The stinging, shivering, punishing cold acceptable payment for the price I supposed I needed to pay. A manifestation of the guilt and the shame I manufactured for my imagined sins. But for all that, as well a glorious reminder of being alive. Unavoidably aware and awake to the moment.
Eventually, all too soon really, I’d begin to put the layers back on. Replace the damnable disguise. Slowly, even against the cold. Savoring the danger of being exposed. Caught out in my carefully crafted lies.
Once again, bundled up and secrets hidden, I’d trudge back out of the snowy woods. Pretend to be a boy. My secrets sufficiently safe.
The trees never told a soul.
But every so often, when the wind whips and the sleet stings. When I walk through the dusk into the darkening night. They whisper to me on the wind.
And even though I no longer hide, no longer cover my secrets in androgynous layers. Though I celebrate the woman that girl has become. The trees remember the time before.
And I do too.