People used to mistake me for a boy when I was a child. At times I felt like I was.
I found myself disparaged for being a girl—and a boy.
“What, are you crying? Looks like you’re learning how to be a woman.”
“Men have needs, Amelia.”
“All men are pigs.”
I was almost raped—wasn’t I?—but was told I was not assaulted.
I was eight and didn’t know how to explain what he did.
The doctor examined my body in the wrong place.
No one wanted to feel guilty or sorry for themselves.
Besides, he was just a boy.
At 19, I was deemed the man in a relationship with another woman.
Everyone laughed at the funny joke.
I came out “straight” a few years later.
I dieted and lost pounds to shed what I, and certainly others, felt were remnants of my masculinity.
I entertained some bad men in my quest to prove myself a good woman.
Erroneous badges of honor. And still I carry that weight.
But I wanted to feel beautiful as a woman, and I did.
I’m a wife now, to a man. He’s “one of the good ones.”
Everyone sees how perfect I am. And still I carry that weight—
My grown hands clutch at the small hands of the children I used to be: girl, boy, now ghosts.
I marshal us through the vastness, through the darkness of this life that I live for them.
All for them.
Amelia Cotter is an author, storyteller, and award-winning poet. Her books include This House: The True Story of a Girl and a Ghost, Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, and Breakfast with Bigfoot. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in journals like Barren Magazine, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, The Heron’s Nest, tinywords, and many others. Amelia is a member of the Society of Midland Authors.