We could only go into the shop at midnight on Thursdays, through the back door so the neighbouring shopkeepers couldn’t see. Sometimes, we were loud in our excitement and late-night passersby would come looking. Once they saw what was happening in the Big and Tall Ladies store, they’d call the police and we’d have to stop going for a while. It was the only time we could come together, the only place to hide from the town and cowboys who couldn’t understand. We just wanted to wear the clothes that felt right, to look in the mirror and not be ashamed of the faces staring back at us.
So, I have my first writing job. Like official, getting paid for, writing job. It’s a summer position co-writing a creative nonfiction book for a professor from the University of Alberta. It is already challenging; I have nine weeks to produce an entire novel, and it is overwhelming in its content. But I am excited and eager. I’m writing it with a peer from University, someone who’s work I really admire, and we’re writing about a boy who grew up with and around mental illness and addictions, topics truly in my interest and close to my heart. I mean, it’s CNF, which is the genre of my master’s thesis. I feel like these pieces are almost fitting too perfectly into my life. Like they sort of fell into place and I don’t know exactly when or how. I just opened my eyes and there they were.
In my research, I read Catherine Mardon’s Screwballs. It details her experience dealing with clients with mental illnesses, physical disabilities, gender identity issues, and of society’s overall treatment of the misunderstood and disenfranchised. It’s a truly captivating and eye-opening read. One part really stood out for me, and I used the details for my flash piece today.