The Sun is Inside the Gender Neutral Bathroom

By Kyra Skye

There is a person staring at me in the bathroom on the fifth floor of the library. It’s quiet except for the gentle drip of the sink faucet, plinking against the ceramic like a runny nose. We are inside the gender neutral bathroom. The bathrooms are fairly new and they are the most spacious public bathrooms I’ve ever seen. You can lock the entire bathroom and have it all to yourself.

Or share it with another person.

I reach out to touch them. They reach out to touch me. My index finger is on theirs, like that painting of God and the naked guy. I don’t know what it’s called. But it feels the same as that moment, reaching out for something, for someone just out of reach. My hand drops and so does theirs. We look at each other. It’s not a glance on the way out to wash our hands, nor is it to see if there are flyaway hair strands that need to be pulled back into a ponytail. It’s to look at them. It’s to look at me.

They have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. They are a deep shade of brown, like the soil you unearth to nestle a seed into. There’s a spark in them, like the spark of life when roots rest into soil, receiving Earth’s love for the first time.

They look at me with an unfamiliar adoration. I look at them and understand a fragment of what it’s like to love this person.

I have seen this person before, but not quite like this. Only in photographs. There’s one where this person is surrounded by their mother, stepfather, and two little brothers, who just happen to be very small dogs (and are technically much older in dog years). The five of them take a family photo on their front porch and their smiles radiate off the paper. It looked like the photograph itself was glowing. This person looked so happy, so real that I almost didn’t recognize them.

There are other photographs of them — all of which are them on stage, with a guitar or microphone or both. There are photos of them singing or shredding on the guitar, or looking up as the stage lights paint their skin in a wash of color. They are smiling so hard and you know there’s nothing else in the world that can make them this happy. I remember what it felt like to be that person.

That person is here. They are looking at me and I am looking at them. They are beautiful. Brown skin from head to toe, sweet as chocolate. Dark hair that falls in waves at their shoulders. A button nose and soft cheeks — and dimples! They’re smiling now so I can see them, along with two rows of white teeth. The left one on the top row is chipped from a bike crash when they were eight years old. They’ve had it fixed once or twice, but the cap always came off. It’s looked like this ever since. It’s their favorite tooth.

Their eyes crinkle when they smile. Tiny folds of skin bunch together on the sides of their eyes and stretch out like bare tree branches in the middle of autumn. They’ve smiled with their eyes before the chipped tooth had even grown in from the soft gums of baby teeth. Will those tree branches continue to stretch across their face as they age? What will they look like with wispy white hair and freckled skin? What will they look like with grandchildren at their hip? Will those eyes still look at me like this? Will they be clouded and blurred at the edges? Or will they still be the black coffee pools I’m used to — warm, dark eyes that have seen so many things? So many beautiful things and so many difficult things.

I look at them and they look at me and it’s not painful like it used to be. We used to look at each other out of necessity — to see if their high school uniform was stained or if their neck brace was on securely. The eyes that stared back at me used to sink into the holes of their skull, sagging dark circles underneath them. Veins would pulse against them, making their eyes weary and bloodshot. Their body became a desolate plot of dust and parched dirt. The folds of their brain were cluttered with weeds, for that was the only thing that could sprout from it. Neurons fired in the wrong directions until there was an earthquake — a body seizing on the floor, screaming until it was over. School uniforms turned into hospital gowns and white walls became their only companions.

I look at them and they look at me and it’s different now. There hasn’t been an earthquake in ten months — the longest it’s been since they started. I spent the summer yanking weeds from the crevices of my brain, churning them out through words on the page. It hurts, having to tear out parts of yourself in order for things to grow. Weeds filled with negativity were grabbed by their heads and tossed out onto a page. Their power was taken away through naming them, pulverising them into sound, and transmuting their energy into a melody. I took them and made them into songs — alive, tangible beings that are something new on their own. I made room for the first flower to sprout with nothing to block it from the sunlight. The bud pushed through the soil and a sunflower rose for the first time in years.

It’s so easy to talk to them now. Though no words have been spoken out loud, I know they can hear everything. The channels of communication are clear now that the weeds are gone. They hear me and I hear them and they see me and I see them and it’s all happening at once, right here, right now. It’s quiet, except for the gentle plink of the faucet. But I can hear their voice and they can hear mine. They smile at me. I smile back.

I love this person. I love them and how we’ve grown so much together. I want to hug them. I do. I wrap my arms around my body and these arms are mine, but they feel new, as if they belong to someone else. They hug me so tightly and there is a warmth that grows in my chest and spreads throughout my body. This body of mine. Their body. My body.

There is somebody in the gender neutral bathroom that looks like me. They are the most familiar and unfamiliar person I’ve ever known. Like that person you walk by in the supermarket who looks just like your mother and you almost reach out to touch them to make sure. They look at me. I look at them.

“I love you.”

I watch their mouth move and the words echo off the sink, the urinal, the toilet, the tile, the doors, the mirror. The words melt into my skin and into my ears and I hear it and I absorb it and I let it sink into my pores. It feels warm and tickles, like apple cider that’s a little too hot to drink, but warms your chilled fingers around the mug. It rests into the soil of my core and for the first time, it is not too rocky or barren to be planted. It curls its roots inside of me and receives the love that’s been patiently waiting to be shared. It’s always been there. I just never made room to receive it.

I look at them, they look at me. I say it again.

“I love you, I love you, I love you.” Each time, the room gets a little brighter, a little warmer, and the person in the mirror looks more familiar, more real than they’ve ever been. I touch the glass and they touch me. I look at them and they look at me. I look at me. I look at me.

That’s me.

Stillwater Magazine