Last year, an essay I wrote, "Beyond the Sea", was included in the Connecticut Literary Anthology. This essay was also included in the free Reader's Guide. There are three study questions, and then the following prompt:
It is not until the end of the story that the author comes to the “fraught” friendship with a young girl who attempts suicide. How do all the elements of the author’s own life that [they outline] in the story prepare for and contextualize this final challenge at the end?
This prompt is then followed by eight empty lines. I gotta say, credit to whoever wrote this question. It is definitely a tough one to answer in the space provided! I'll have to take a couple more lines to answer it…
I was going to answer this question confidently, or at least with the performance of confidence. It's what's rewarded in academic and artistic spaces. In academia, confidence suggests authority. In artistic spaces, confidence legitimizes. Think of the aloofness of some artists you know. I would see these displays and admire them. I don't anymore. That much I can say confidently. But as far as moments in my past that prepared me for that realization, let alone the one I mention in my essay? Well, nothing prepared me for my life.
My family loved and raised me. My friendships grew with me over time. Some I have since outgrown. Others I ruptured or let break. But the day the boughs of those relationships broke? I would've never known until they happened. In writing, in prose, specifically, the sequential sentences suggest a fatalistic law or at least a karmic confidence because of their order. Yet prose is not a permutation. These lines are simply a combination that I arrange. And, as someone who likes organizing and reorganizing my things, no one combination or tidying-up of details ever satisfies me.
I may have previously mentioned that this essay was written for my fall semester creative writing project. Did I mention that it was the final essay in my portfolio? Those last few paragraphs almost weren't included in the final product. Maybe two weeks before the deadline, I realized a previous version of "Beyond' was all wrong. I rewrote it with this ending. The second reader for my portfolio thought the ending was lacking. Time away from the work, time to grow and mature as a writer, would provide a more mature and resonant ending. A lot of shit happened since writing that ending a year ago, but still, I have a soft spot for the way the ending feels oddly abrupt. A literal jumping off point for the rest of my writing life. Because really, as much as I would want to know where my previous steps are leading, I'll never know. So I'll take my leap and simply hope, if necessary, that the right people will catch me if I fall.❈
NB: You can read the beginning of "Beyond the Sea" in this Happy Friday post. If you wish to read the rest, email me and I can send you a PDF of the full essay (and the Reader's Guide). As a bonus, you can read the little expansion of the essay in this other Happy Friday post. And yes, I feel a lot of shame that I spelled 'aranha' wrong in the published version of "Beyond". My bad, everyone. Additionally, my pronouns are still they/them/theirs.
FOLX Health has a beautiful website and a beautiful mission: queer and trans clinicians for queer and trans patients. Here's to HRT without stigma!
If you have a cool link to share or recommend—cool art, cool events, cool causes—tell me about it and I’ll feature it in next week’s Happy Friday entry.