These words have been written a million times over:
It cannot be a sin to hold her pinkie crooked in mine. It cannot be a sin to slide my leg over hers and feel our soft hairs catch. It cannot be a sin to feel her reach into my chest and eat my heart, final and slick.
She throws a piece of garlic bread at me from the doorway. I can’t catch – my eyes always misjudge the space between my hands and what’s being thrown – and so the greasy chunk of bread falls through my fingers and crumbs scatter across her bed. This is my greatest sin: I am messy. I spread too easily, too far. I am too big, too much; my footsteps sound like stomping no matter how softly I try to pass along her wooden floors. When we shower together, I feel like a sea monster that has crawled from the plug. I watch her back muscles move underneath her pale green crop and my stomach lurches. It cannot be a sin to watch her like this, I remind myself.
I am split down the middle. I am two separate halves. Irreconcilable. Irredeemable. There are twenty years of sermons sitting pretty in my bones and weeks of church youth camps simmering in my veins. The older I get, the more I realise how much time was stolen from me to spend on self-loathing and beliefs that do not, have never, made sense. Some days I am so furious about this that my tongue is paralysed in my mouth and I cannot swallow the spit that pools against my cheeks. Some days, I almost convince myself that this time was, in fact, stolen, and that I didn’t give it freely, hiding behind being the good girl, the eldest daughter, the role model, the gifted sister.
I am tired of being half a person. I am tired of having two lives, and being my best self in both, but each unrecognisable to the other. I know my mother aches. I know my father holds disappointment above my head, a stone-sharpened butcher’s knife. I can see my grandfathers, both of them. They stand stiff and solemn in their black suits on a red-carpeted altar, ALL HONOUR TO GOD emblazoned above their heads. I want to be a child crawling into my grandma’s soft arms. I want to sit on her kitchen counter and read her gingernut biscuit recipe aloud, even though I know she knows the quantities off by heart. I want to hold her hand in church, trace her arthritis-swollen knuckles, admire the scars from the pins in her ankle, and un-know that she will refuse me once I tell her I love a woman in all the right-wrong ways.
She is playing video games in her loungeroom with her roommates and friends – our friends – and I am frantically sweeping the crumbs from her doona. Somewhere in here is an unfortunate metaphor for my life. I remind myself, again, for possibly the hundredth time today: this cannot be a sin. We are floating, we are euphoric, we are everything I didn’t think I could be. It is less about the person, and more that I am pulling those halves of myself close, blanket-stitching them together with lavender embroidery thread while she paints and bakes and makes me countless cups of tea.
I want to say: I am working on it. I want to say: I cannot sew as fast as I am ripping out the stitches. I want to say: Thank you. I want to say: I know I don’t owe anyone any apologies, because I am growing and learning and changing. I want to say: I am so sorry.
These words have been written a million times over, but they are taking so long to sink through my skin. This cannot be a sin, for I feel so very holy. This cannot be a sin. This cannot be a sin.
Or maybe it is. I think about stitching my selves together, and I wonder if I’m Frankensteining towards hell. Maybe it is a sin, but one that is always, has always been, forgivable. Because when I’m alone, and I’m sticking my embroidery needle and its purple thread into my joints, sewing the soft webbing of skin between my fingers and trying to hold it all together, I feel angelic. And on Sunday mornings, at the same time church bells would ring, she rolls over with sleep-stale breath and limbs loose and soft and the sun is a halo on her pillowcase.
Ellie Kaddatz is an emerging writer, editor and artist based in Brisbane/Meanjin. She is a third-year creative writing student at QUT and was runner-up in SLQ’s 2021 Young Writer’s Award. She writes about nature, magic, and the delicate balance of relationships, and dabbles in various arts and crafts. She likes to drink too much tea and has way too many feelings.