Bright Lights, No City is a project dedicated to documenting the stories of LGBTQIA+ youth from country WA. We thank Community Arts Network for funding this project.
The Centre for Stories collected a number of written and oral stories. Each participant’s story has been thoughtfully crafted with the help of Oral Storytelling Trainer, Sisonke Msimang, and Writing Expert, Susan Midalia. This project was funded by Community Arts Network (CAN). CAN manages the Catalyst Community Arts fund on behalf of the State of Western Australia through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.
In this story, Damo worked alongside Susan Midalia to craft and perfect, ‘The Hybrid Stories,’ a dream-like story reflecting on Damo’s experiences.
About Damo: My name is Damo. I’m a design student, and I have a passion for all things creative—which is why I was thrilled to be a part of ‘Bright Lights, No City’. I want to share my experiences growing up as an LGBT youth in a country town. My story sheds light upon some of the difficulties I’ve encountered—bullying, exclusion and discrimination—while also detailing some of the more intimate and empowering moments that I’ve experienced too. I want to inspire other readers with my story, reminding them to embrace their true identity, no matter what, and to treat every life experience—the good and the bad—as an opportunity for self-growth: to further discover aspects about themselves that they never even knew existed.
Damo’s story was developed as a written story. You can listen to an audio recording of the story below, or scroll down for the written version.
‘The Hybrid Stories’ by Damo
An identity is defined as who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that makes them different from others. Sometimes in life, as I myself have grown to discover, these differences are not always celebrated. They can become oppressed, rejected or silenced. However, it is these elements that should inspire us to relentlessly celebrate and embrace our identities – the thing that defines who we are. I’ve discovered, through both positive and negative experiences, my own identity. Who I am. It’s something that I have found in myself, and through others. I’ve experienced love, recognising that it has the power to diffuse any degree of hatred or negativity. I’ve experienced heartbreak – a single bullet that leaves behind a gaping exit wound. Yet time heals, wounds mend, and tears become lost in the rain. And with every experience, you continue to move forward, forever discovering parts of yourself that you never knew existed. The possibilities are limitless. And I dream of them.
There is the sight before my eyes. An ornate, four-poster canopy bed is situated in the centre of the room, swamped with plush, red velvet blankets and cushions. The smell of Frankincense permeates the room. I see a young woman on the bed, spread like an eagle. She is awake, giggling in a hallucinogenic trance, but completely unaware of my presence. Apart from her Louboutins, she is naked – vulnerable, but somehow ethereal too. Suddenly, the space between her thighs starts to morph. I am unable to move, as if arrested by this surreal scene that is unfolding before my eyes. Folds of skin begin to morph into hair, teeth, eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth, until it becomes the head of a lion. All the while, the woman’s laughter is becoming violent and erratic, but is immediately silenced by the lion’s ferocious roar. As I look into its eyes, I am overwhelmed by its form – a wild, aggressive predator, threatening to devour me as its prey.
Silence is the ultimate way to disempower oneself or another. There is nothing as destructive as not being heard. I was not heard. There is a hurricane of suppressed words and emotions culminating within me, a violent magnitude force far beyond the predictability of the Saffir-Simpson scale. The eye is the calmest part of a storm, yet flood waters are raging from mine. There is no rainbow shining through, only dark clouds. The storm’s violent velocity wreaks havoc and devastation within me. My lips had been laced together with a sewing needle and a thread. My tongue had been swallowed. My throat had collapsed. All that remained from this tragedy was negative space. A depthless void, hollowed empty, destroyed. I was not allowed to speak.
The warm summer breeze is caressing the hairs on my skin, even though the sun has long set. The moon casts a dim light over the grass, showing me where I will find him. As I tread closer and closer, forms begin to materialise from within the darkness into sight. I begin to make out the shape of the chestnut tree – its mighty canopy, a protective retreat. Then I see him at the base of the tree – a tall, muscular form sculpting itself from the darkness, like magic. I lift the green curtain and am immediately settled beneath it. One by one, lights begin to flicker and beam, until the canopy’s interior becomes a display of golden brilliance. He’s smiling as he outstretches his hand, beckoning me in towards him. Closer and closer, until my skin fuses together with his. Here I am safe. Here I am free.
When an acid is spilt, it has the power to dissolve the surface that it has made contact with, destroying it until nothing remains. Like acid, love too, has the power to erode everything that once was.
I sit next to Sam. We do not speak or touch. We do not look at each other. Instead, I inquisitively peer into the water in front of me. Even though it is a warm afternoon in November, the water is dark, and the ripples distort our reflections. I peer closer, and see the contorted faces staring back, like a Francis Bacon portrait. Our lips move up and down, intersecting then moving apart. Our eyes opening and closing. Only through the water, do our bodies touch.
Sam says to me, “I don’t think you and I will work. We’re too different.”
I stand up and walk forward, closer to the water’s edge. Dropping to my knees, I stretch out my hands until they dip beneath the water. But there is no cool touch. Instead it pierces my skin like a million needles. I pull my hands from the water, burning like fire, and bring them to my head. Slowly, slowly, my hands travel down my face, my neck, my chest, along my arms and down my legs, until my whole body is ablaze with this piercing sensation. And then I begin to dissolve. My body starts to disintegrate and fall apart into millions of particles. Until there are no longer two people standing at the water’s edge. Only Sam, staring at a million tiny pieces. Just as I gave all of myself to him, I chose to take it all away too.
For three months, my pieces lay scattered atop a crystal made of rose quartz. During that time, the pieces slowly begin to come back together again. The repair or coping mechanism, post-trauma, begins to initiate itself. One by one, each particle begins to fuse together again. Bones, muscles, flesh and skin start to regenerate. A miraculous conception of a new self, with all pain and suffering shed. Scars and wounds healed. Once the last particle aligns, a blinding, ultraviolet light pierces from the centre of the stone, radiating warmth and energy. Gently, it starts to dim, and I am standing atop the crystal – fully restored. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, stepping down from the crystal, onto the soft carpet of green grass. Droplets of dew glisten like diamonds all over its surface. I look towards the sky, a richly saturated azure hue, and make out the golden constellations traversing across its midst. A ship sailing through the sky, past the shoulder of the Southern Cross. Schools of fish swimming in hasty rhythms. Scorpions retreating in and out of the blueness. Nymphs playing ornate harps and flutes, their melodies projecting angelic symphonies. And into the space in front of me, I take a step forward, then another. Ahead I walk, without ever turning back.
Copyright © 2018 Storyteller (Damo).
These stories have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of these stories, please contact the Centre for Stories.
This story was originally published on May 20, 2018.