In the morning I ate breakfast (cereal and tostadas with dulce de leche) and wrote the first draft of my coming out letter. I sent it to five of my closest friends and went on what was now a very poorly timed first date with an Argentine guy I met on OkCupid (it was fine, we got coffee, we never spoke again) and then to Spanish class. I carried on through my days as if a universe wasn't creating itself from the space dust in my mind.
By the time Tuesday rolled around (and now it is October the 8th), I had revised the letter and sent it to sixteen more people. I was itching to publish it on my study abroad blog and just get it over with already, but I waited. Something still wasn't right about the identity, and I thought I might figure it out in the Andes.
At about seven or eight that evening, I boarded an overnight bus at the Estación Retiro headed for San Miguel de Tucumán, a city in the Northwest region of Argentina. I was headed for the Salta and Jujuy provinces, a vast and diverse desert through which the Andes run. For the following week I was to hike and write and travel and pray, spending each night in a different town as I worked my way farther and farther up toward Paraguay.
When I awoke on the bus in the morning (Wednesday, October the 9th) it was already my twenty-first birthday. I had left my native city and country, and now even left the new city I was calling my home. With my new gender identity only six days old, I had embarked on an adventure through the mountains. There was no going back. I neither saw anyone that I knew nor had a single drink of liquor that day, but I hiked to the top of a hill and screamed “SOY ELLA” down into the valley and then bought myself a few rings.
On the fifth day of the trip (October the 13th—a Sunday, fittingly), I arrived at the farthest north point in my expedition in the tiny town of Iruya, population 1,070, but that on this day held many more for an enormous and annual religious festival. Blue tarp tents filled the valley with those who had come. People were looking at me strangely the whole day, and not only for the uncommon color of my skin. My transfemininity was already seeping outward like a glow I could not control, and so I went hiking alone.
By then I had grown weary of this impossible revelation: if my life was to change in a self-actualizing evolution, then why was I still so unhappy? The substance that had by now circulated through the entirety of my veins and arteries and made itself a home in my body still felt everything like light, but still something like poison as well. I felt sick constantly, scared of the shit that was surely awaiting. I thought about how deeply discontented I had always been living as the wrong person, and I thought about much easier that was. There was no one around, now, just me, the mountain, the Lord, and the wondering what would happen if I were to fall and no one came to look for me, if life stopped here, on the brink on something big and never stepping over.
And as I reached the top of a hill (the mountain still stretching far above me), the lingering unease dissipated with the swooping alight of another revelation, one that explained the years of chasing after men for all the wrong reasons; for trying to vomit when the food and fear of Something was all too fucking much; for trying to make myself into many things, none of which I ever was, nor could be, and hating myself when I couldn't; for being small; for being wrong; for being that which is not; for not being; for needing to stop—I stopped.
Compressing and quelling my transgender identity for twenty-one-years-minus-six-days had disastrously ruined any semblance of self-worth in my psyche, a trauma from which I am still and slowly recovering. But as I stood there, in the sun, I finally saw that I had blamed this familiar and unknown force for so very much in my life when really, all she wanted to do was to be. To bea.
When I came down the mountain I revised the letter one last time, scratching out entire paragraphs and adding entire new ones. I will keep those three heavily edited papers forever.
I finished my empanadas, my bottle of Malbec. I looked out over little Iruya at night—not so well lit now, still noisy from the religious revelers, protected above by a glittering dome of all the stars you never see in Chicago. I went to bed.
Tomorrow I would begin my slow return southeast, toward Buenos Aires. Toward real life, toward coming out. Toward a life that did not end on a mountain, but rather began. No longer on the brink.
I was already living in the something big.