I watched The Great Gatsby remake, the one with Leonardo DiCaprio, in theatres the spring of 2013. It had the most profound effect on me. James Gatz, never feeling like he belonged in his life, becoming Jay Gatsby, a charismatic mogul of ambition throughout the Prohibition era. He made an empire of foreign territory, all in the name of love. It’s still one of my favourite films of all time, and I rewatch it often.
I remember a line where Jay admits he might’ve been a great man if he had never fallen in love.
I can’t help but relate.
As I said, my alleged attraction to April was something that I felt I inherited and didn’t quite know what to do with. I found her interesting but irritating. Once when we were out walking, she saw graffiti that said ‘I’m punk’ and started laughing, fake and loud, like some sort of anime villain. “No true punk would actually write ‘I’m punk’! Ahahahahaha!” She punched my arm when I stared blankly, telling me that the only reason I didn’t find this funny is because of my autism.
She certainly had an interesting view of autism as a whole. Neb had quite accepted her autism. Suddenly, her automatic assignation to the classroom’s favourite target began to make sense to her.
I don’t think that *I* actually am autistic. This brain has autism. I feel that my core personality fights with it at all times. I try to hide it. I used to deny having it. It doesn’t suit me. I feel like, as an alter, I was never meant to have autism. Couple that with April’s theories to self-aggrandize, then it gets even worse.
“See, I’m a sociopath and you’re autistic. They’re actually pretty similar; neither of us have any empathy or conscience. It’s just that sociopaths are a more charismatic and charming version, and you’ve got the awkward end of the spectrum.” Yep, that’s actually what she thought. The pinnacle of charm, that was her.
Oh, and autism was also the reason I disliked her favourite game series, Legend of Zelda. It wasn’t personal preference. It was autism, obviously.
By this time, I had started going by CLockwork. (CL for short. Told you I was probably based on Black Butler.) Neb had her brief stint into Steampunk to foreshadow me, (two top hats and a tailcoat. I still wear the tailcoat) but I wanted more. Thankfully, dear ol’ Mum had a good windfall during the holidays and I was able to buy myself a couple of ruffly tops and my very first velvet frock coat.
See, Neb had hardly been able to experiment with her wardrobe. April, with her artistic experience, had pronounced herself the authority on everything colour, shape, layering, and brand. Anything Neb bought, from make-up to clothing, was run by April first and usually rejected. Neb’s hair was April’s own personal project. Deviation of this was guaranteed ridicule, as every decision made without April’s input was inherently inept. “Oh, you bought That brand? It’s only going to make your chest look even bigger, you should’ve gotten this other brand, that colour washes you out, it’s bad with the redness in your face–”
But I went out in my frock coat that I didn’t tell her about. I was shaking as I did it, nervous that I was as hopeless at aesthetic as she professed. But I wasn’t. And I looked fabulous. Almost a decade of Neb hiding herself with jeans and hoodies, and here I was, in the same body, looking bloody glamourous.
My Victorian fashion became my first rebellion as well as my first declaration of identity.
I don’t think this was this system’s first time switching hosts. Neb used to insist that she had someone more confident and more artistic than her, who she called ‘Star’, who ‘died’ when Shadow did. I figured the same thing had happened again, and that it was my turn. My magical inworld was very much based on souls, including soul-splitting, so this seemed like something that could just happen. I told those closest to me that I felt like a different person. Vex didn’t seem surprised. April seemed dismissive. How could Neb possibly go dormant when she had April’s sunny disposition to look forward to?
Soon, came the summer. April was preparing to go on break when I met Elisabeth at my favourite café, Gallery Espresso. Elisabeth was a tiny slip of a thing with crystal blue eyes, short brown hair, that dressed like she was also from another decade. More specifically, the 1940’s. Skirts, polkadots, pantyhose, lace blouses, all in black with dashes of sapphire blue. We chatted for hours in the café where I learned that she was in Savannah for summer break from university Nova Scotia, she was bisexual (an important fact), that her mum was homophobic, and that she loved foreign film.
It was love at first sight.
I’ll do my best to sum it up, but it was that sweet sort of puppy love. We would talk over free wine at a gallery openings and get giggly on the couch. We would chat endlessly about books, languages, and teas. It was her suggestion that I bleach my hair blonde, much like the character I was based off of. “You really are like a fictional character. I swear, sometimes it feels like I’ve made you up.” Gods, I still melt at those words.
We dated for about a month and a half when I learned that she had unfortunately passed away, due to a sort of childhood illness she never told me about. It was a short relationship, but I still ache over it to this day.
I resolved to base a character off of her in my rewrite of Zeitstuck, and I did. This, however, put me in a vulnerable position of tragically unspent romanticism.
April was already home for summer break at the time. She had gone on a couple of odd tangents, about how the young man in the fedora was flirting with her and probably wouldn’t feel that way if she were a boy. In fact, she planned to pretend she was a boy to try to trick him into losing interest. I was already exasperated by her rigid adherence to labels at that point, so I didn’t take it seriously. After all, she said it was pretend.
Then she posted a comic. It’s lost to the internet archives, and I don’t even have permission to post it. But it featured the two of us, as chibis, in a three panel comic. April’s chibi says, ‘That guy’s cute!’
And mine says, ‘I’m a lesbian.’ As if I’ll dismiss any observation of male beauty because my alleged Sapphic nature had made blind to anything masculine.
Her chibi had a speech bubble of the Mars symbol, then an arrow pointing to a flat chest. The piece, I believe, was labeled something like ‘Forever Alone.’
I found this annoying for quite a few reasons. *I* had never explicitly stated I was a lesbian. Neb had, but by this point, I had already explained to April that I felt like a different person. I was still figuring out my sexuality and still had no clue of my gender. I also hated labelism at that point– it seemed like lazy writing. Also, Neb had asked her out several times and had been turned down, even before April seemed to start questioning her gender.
I confronted her on it. Basically saying, ‘Listen, I’ve been telling you for months now, I’m not Neb. I feel like a different person.’
And her argument, summed up, was basically, ‘Just because you started dressing like you came out of a costume store doesn’t mean your personality changed. If you aren’t a lesbian, then why aren’t you dating me? I’ve been telling that guy that’s had a crush on me that I’m a boy, so I’m sure that’s why you won’t date me. If you were bi, you would’ve asked me out already.’
And I did. To prove a point and win the argument.
If that wasn’t the most fitting way for this clusterfucked nightmare of a relationship to start, I don’t know what is.
Generally, it’s bad practice to refer to a trans person by their old pronouns when referencing past narratives. However, I was led to believe that this closeted April and the person who came about after were two separate people, much like Neb and I. I even thought that they inhabited separate bodies. It would later be revealed to be a false narrative I had been told, but the differentiation still matters. That being said, no identifying information has been used thus far in this blog, and I’ll continue to use an alias for the post-transition identity of this person, too.