Between, between, b e t w e e n.  Repeated, it became, unlike other words, more beautiful.

It was a dictum, an absolute, a directive especially for her.

Be tween.

That was the place or the state she must get to. A magical place like the edge of the mortal world and the realm of faery, so easy to imagine on the Irish Coast, so difficult here in Boulder.

There was beauty here, of course, and the Indians had lived and breathed in this part of the world, imbuing it with a certain spirituality. But they had been decimated, as had the Incas, the Mayans, the…no, this was not the thought path she had intended to go down.

Why couldn’t she control her mind more easily? Why did it wander down dark passages? And then there was the getting stuck problem. An image, an ugly image, say of an Incan blood sacrifice. And then her thoughts would be on a wheel, like a Ferris wheel, each bucket seat containing images spilling out at each jerky stop. Forward, back, the same image of agony repeating in her mind.

The OCD had got her again. She could neither go ahead nor stay behind this image and the other concurrent imaginings of painful gruesome death. There would never be tween for her. No soft grey light, no susurration of the sea upon the shore.

Colorado. She was in Colorado and her heart was craving the sea. Her soul demanded the tween, and her mind would not give her the peace to take any action but crouch and cover her head. But each painful blow did not rain down upon her head, it welled up from within it until she was sobbing and rocking. A pathetic and useless fragment of humanity.

It all started when her father had started to change. She never told anyone because she only saw the happening in her dreams, whereas the results were there before them all.

She was 14 and her father suddenly decided to become a transsexual.

He’d had his fill of treading the competitive waters of manhood, the military, university, travelling,  marrying, having a child.

But earlier, more chillingly, more tellingly, he’d burned the word “slave” into his back using a clever mirrored machine of his own devising, a clever DIY self-torture machine, whilst living under the roof of his hated uncle and beloved aunt.

He’d tattooed a cross on his forehead, proving to the world and to himself that he was a marked man.

The army had dealt to that, removing the distinctive marking from this young man’s face, and he himself hid the word slave under a succession of growing tattoos on his back.

He hated his body, himself, his life. What better way to change the skin of a human than to cover it with pictures? People would be so taken with the surface of the thing, the skin of it, they would entirely forget to see the small pained self that it encased. Hiding, fearful.

The army was salvation.

The army provided money, education, travel, structure. Other than basic training, which just about killed him, it proved an excellent choice. A road to freedom. A road taken by many an American black man, escaping the history of slavery, the prison of poverty. Perhaps it was this remarkable similarity that instilled her father’s fear-riddled hatred for black people?

She didn’t know. Her father presented her with a constant nagging puzzle. When she was 14, and needed to be tween for her very survival, her father got there first, stole her rite of passage, her steps onto the sand of the sheltering between.

By thrusting his tongue in her mouth when he kissed her, and massaging her breasts when he stood behind her, he elicited rage and disgust. Her elbows thrusting back, trying to connect with some soft part of him. Her mother was there too, seeing, but not seeing.

She was amazed and horrified at this revelation of a monster. She had adored her father, had seen his clever mind and been proud of all it could do, and she had seen the hiding child and was always trying to treat the boy with tenderness.

But this! This was not computable, not acceptable.

And that is when she no longer longed, but needed, to be admitted to the tween.

Transsexualism…the flavour of the day, parents bending over backwards to ensure their child is treated to the gender it desires.

All to the good, she thought. But her father? Questions, computations must be asked and done. For instance, what of the preoccupation that started the hiding, the retreat? The actions that for many years satisfied and contained the savage triple headed beast of compulsive behaviour, self-mutilation, and self-preservation?

Tattoos! Now so popular, had been his first preoccupation that caused gossip and thoughtless questioning.

But the tri-headed beast required more, much more. And transsexualism was the offering laid at its feet.

The world did not see what she saw. It was dazzled by the weirdness of it all, the newness of it, the interesting intricacies of medical interventions.

But the dreams showed it, the transformation into werewolf, vampire, a desire for magic, for the between of life.

Only she saw the real changing.

The world jumped on the band-wagon, turned the actions of an unhappy man into a grand statement.

It was such delicious gossip.

Go to the source, she thought. Do not ask me.

They had it wrong, she knew; it was only more hiding and self-abnegation. Not a new road, but a continuation set long ago.

This next chapter started in secret.

He stepped off the plane, having already started hormone therapy, worse than fangs were the hair clips in short hair, the prominent chin, the Adam’s apple, the shaven beard.

She had failed. It was her fault. Had she been prettier, more feminine, more accepting of his overtures, perhaps he would not be throwing her and her fragile mother into this fresh new hell.

Oh to be tween, I want to be tween, I need to be tween.

That’s when the rock came, and she had clutched her pounding head and screamed. It was an elliptical grey rock, suspended. If she moved, it moved too, slipping in the viscous liquid of her mind and banging at her temples. Pain. Much pain, no between, just one side or the other, bang, bang, bang.

And the dreams of her father changing into the monster.

Her father, her friend, her escape from her mother’s madness.

He was gone. Quite gone.

And that love, the love of the small fragile part of him that she could see….

She had failed to rescue that boy, the one being built over, buried under more construction and reconstruction.

Such a clever camouflage, a disguise in the form of a revelation.

“Ah!” Said the world. “How brave!”

And the rock in her head went bang bang bang, she could see the kernel of this person, the boy being buried alive under this new obsession.

“Ah!” said the world, the stupid one-eyed world. “You are not accepting this great truth that has been revealed by this brave soul.”

She could not breathe. Panic. The taming of the shrew, but no, this was not a taming; this was the demolition of a girl.

A girl who had been groomed…what more can be said?

She was 13 and did not see. Had she slipped into between, she might have heard the warning bells, been able to take that backward step. But no, she felt beautiful and loved. One year later, the axe fell, the insistence that she was a “young woman” now; she could feel the sexualization in the air. Her disgusted retort that she was a “girl” was a desperate plea for it to go away.

Then the sudden secretive trip, and the confession later, much later, that one of the reasons he chose to be a transsexual was his growing attraction to her.

So, it had been her fault?

But at the time it was unspoken and there was just this…thing, this weighty action (this “madness,” he would call it later) hanging in the air.

It repulsed and angered her. To cover up one inappropriate action with yet another public one seemed to her so aggressive.

A ruthless subjugation of the truth, leaving her contending with the world, its specious comments and salacious questions. Things had gone from one hideous sexualization to another. Anger at the betrayal of her truth overwhelmed her. The loss of her small hiding friend deeply saddened her. Oh, to be tween, to rest in that gentle light, to breathe ozone-laden air, to calm her eyes on the great ocean.

The rock went bang bang.

Her hands shook as she opened a bottle.

How she longed for a rest, a space, just a moment in be tween.