The bottom of a closet is a welcoming place. I know - not the greatest sentiment for a queer person to express, but just try to hear me out on this one.
The hanging clothes hardly graze the tops of our heads, never before have I felt so hot as our steaming breath blisters around us. Yet the thought of opening those sliding doors, even for just a single fresh crisp breath, was rejected from my mind without the slightest hesitation. Within the four cramped walls, four bony knees pressed tightly against one another, and four eyes wide with doe-like anticipation, somehow I felt safe.
Four sets of heavy footsteps resonate within my ears. Despite being three locked doors, thirteen stair steps, and almost ten years of fear, malfeasance, and rage between us every nerve ending within my body is crying out. Two wolfish badges in the foyer and two broken hearts standing opposite them. Four sets of thunderous footsteps surrounding the shell of the person who was once my teacher, my tormenter, my eldest sister.
Long forgotten and tucked away with the winter coats and rejected hand-me-downs, my double and I hold our breath waiting for the powder keg below us to explode. The flames of our father’s rage could raze this home to the ground. The two police officers who brought her home were licking their lips with delicious anticipation. Never a stranger to violence, Big Sister may have been caught, but would never go down without a fight.
An enchanting wonderland, a secret place to squirrel away Mother’s holiday treats, and an endless maze in which to create forts and visions. The closets of my childhood must have been like any other; stacked high with what feels like an infinite amount of bins stuffed full with the resentful holiday decorations of the 90s, overflowing with prom dresses, communion dresses, wedding dresses, graduation gowns, and teeming with the lives of four children and a couple clinging to their long-abandoned childhoods.
With eight hours and two states worth of driving separating our home from our kin, the preservation of our history was something stored in the closets of my youth. No memory was too small to save and no pain was ever so brutal that it didn’t have a place to be stored in the back reaches of our home. It was only fitting that in the darkest days of childhood that I would be fit snuggly beneath the communion dresses and stifled silently amongst the countless bins of home-made love letters and holiday projects.
But in the mind of a child, fear is always forgotten and the ever marching clock propels us each forward. How could I have known that these fears would be etched into my growing bones? As I grew older my spine began to curve, holding on to the safety of playing beneath a slanted roof that each day became more difficult for me to stand underneath. I was outgrowing the playroom of my youth and the safe haven from my nightmares.
In my teenage years, I removed the sliding doors that had once engulfed me in protection and magic. Having my own bedroom and personal space for the first time in my life perhaps this action was representative of a much larger change occurring within me. Perhaps a rejection of the fear I had accepted to be a normal aspect of my childhood, perhaps a desperate attempt to project that same comfort and magic I had once found there into my life, or perhaps I was simply reconciling those two parts of myself. In any case, the anger and fear of my teenaged years was something dark and feral that oozed from my pores and stained the clothing hanging in my closet unrecognizable shades of black.
Yet throughout this hormonal angst, I could feel the beginnings of who I was to become. I celebrated my queerness. With no regard for closets or questioning, I refused to come out. The sharp, bony knees possessed by my twin and myself had begun to round out in ways our minds could not handle, but as our bodies developed together our emotions lagged behind. In the closets of our childhoods, we were the same. I have never felt a need to differentiate between us simply for the fact that while one experiences sexuality heteronormatively the other experiences sexuality fluidly beyond gender. In the metaphysical closet and yet out, I have experienced my queerness as a reflection of every experience that has made me who I am. While I am proud, a part of me will always be the young child hidden away amongst the storage.
In the blink of an eye, my childhood had ended. Cliche, I know, but in the simmering of anger and fear that brewed in my final years living permanently in my childhood home, I had convinced myself that this place was the problem. I did what every young beatnik does and I simply ran. I ran as far and as fast as my intellect and drive could bring me. It was only when I stopped for breath that I was able to see the world clearly. The magic created in my home and in those closets was born of the same source as the anger and of the trauma. At the risk of dipping into cliche once more, the lifeblood of my identity was and will always be my family.
With no need for apology, I ran home into the arms of my parents and was quick to sense the same magic I had felt once before. I wandered the halls of my childhood home searching for the source of this feeling. I soon found myself facing the closet doors to which I owe my childhood. With a simple touch, the door swung open in welcome. A new magic has overtaken these walls. One untouched by fear.
The daughter of my eldest sister has taken my place. To her, the bottom of her closet is a fantasy world built for her alone. Her head grazes the hanging clothing like the lamb-soft touch of an angel’s wings and the doors remain propped open wide for her laughter and singing to float through the home as if dancing on the gentle breeze of her breathing. She welcomes me into this space and I wish only for us to remain here together forever.