Introspection is a series in which my current nineteen-year-old self has imaginary interactions with my fifteen-year-old self. For more information, click here.
I take a seat on the low stone wall, looking out at the sea. I rarely make it out to Dun Laoghaire these days, even though it’s one of my favourite places.
I spent a lot of time here as a child and always loved doing so. My family only lived down the road, making Dun Laoghaire our local town. I have such fond memories of ice-cream and beach visits and shopping with my relations at a time when days out of the house were so significant to me.
I check the time on my phone. I’m unusually early for once. Perhaps because I’ve been thinking about this encounter for a while. He’ll be on time. He’s much better at keeping time than I am, but he also has a lot less things to manage than I do.
“Don’t say stuff like that to him,” I remind myself, “you’ll only piss him off.” I smile slightly. He hates to be patronised and he’s incredibly stubborn, unable to hide when he’s irked by something you’ve said. It’s a quality I appreciate.
I’m feeling quite nervous as I await his arrival. Nerves aren’t something I’m used to feeling, so it’s an effort to look nonchalant as I sit here.
I’m unsure what I’m nervous of. I know he’s going to like me, but I know that he’ll study me upon his arrival and I can’t help but feel conscious of that fact.
I agonised over what to wear. At first I was against wearing anything too feminine, fearing I’d scare him a little bit. But I soon realised that I was underestimating him. I sometimes forget how open-minded he is, even at his young age.
In the end, I settled on a long, Summery wine dress, a knee-length charcoal cardigan and simple brown pumps. My white-blonde hair is blow-dried so it looks all fluffy (my regular hair style) and I’m make-up free except for a dark red lipstick. On my face I wear my favourite pair of brown sunglasses and I carry my favourite black handbag.
I take a deep breath as I see him approach. He takes long strides, holding his head up high as he approaches me.
I watch his walk, comparing it to my own. The steps he takes in his flat shoes aren’t quite as graceful as mine. He’s still a long way off my trademark strut but he’s getting there. His current walk exudes confidence as he stares straight ahead, gazing almost dreamily into the distance.
I can’t help but smile as I watch the air of unapologetic confidence that he’s exuding. It strikes me how admirable it actually is, considering his youth and his circumstance. People say that to him all the time, but he doesn’t really see just how impressive the fact that can brush off the numerous stares he’s getting is.
I forgot how gaunt looking he is. I expected him to look thin, but I didn’t really expect him to look this unhealthy. I know that if I vocalised this, he’d get kind of flushed. He’d brush off the observation, feeling embarrassed that he was being analysed like that. But tonight, he’d lie in bed and feel happy that I had pointed this out. He likes when people notice how thin he is, mistaking people’s concern for flattery.
He’s dressed somewhat fashionably, wearing a tight-fitting red hoody, a copper coloured shirt and a green pair of chinos. He’s carrying a brown, satchel-style bag that’s full to the brim and he’s wearing a flashy pair of bright blue shoes with multi-coloured laces. When I’m describing this outfit, I make him sound hideous, but I don’t mean to. Honestly, he’s kind of rocking the multitude of colours.
His chin length brown hair has just gotten blonde highlights and I know he’s only delighted with them. I resist the urge to wince as I recognise that this is the beginning of his fascination with hair dye, leading to some questionable decisions on his part. But I’ll tell him about that another time.
As he comes to a stop where I’m sitting, he beams jovially at me. I can see a bright curiosity in his eyes as he looks me up and down. His eyes come to a stop on my dress. He looks somewhat surprised but he takes it in his stride. He declines to make comment, probably in an effort not to make me feel uncomfortable.
He’s quite used to feeling uncomfortable, meaning that he’s almost hyperaware to any behaviour that might make others suffer. It’s a nice thing to recognise, how considerate he is.
I can sense that he’s also curious about my lipstick but again he doesn’t ask anything. I know he’s admiring my looks, probably thinking that I’m prettier than he expected, but he’s probably noticing my flaws as well, in particular how much heavier I am than him.
I thank him for meeting me and he tells me that he was very happy to get the invitation. “I chose Dun Laoghaire because of all of the childhood memories we both have here,” I inform him. He looks at the ice-cream shop across the road and smiles at me. “Are we going to get ice-cream?” He asks in an almost sassy tone. He’s probably scoffing at how predictable I am. I smirk at him and inform him that we are.
“Well I hope you’re paying,” he declares as he begins to cross the road towards the shop. I follow him with a smile on my face. It’s clear to see that he’s immediately comfortable around me, which makes me happy. The fact that he’s making jokes and testing my sense of humour reassures me. This is also how I show that I’m comfortable around a person.
“How was the journey up?” I ask him. “Liberating,” he responds immediately, “I always feel such a sense of relief when I get to leave Wexford for the day.” I smile, I remember feeling that relief. I also remember the despair I’d feel when I had to leave Dublin. I feel sympathy for him, knowing that he’ll be experiencing that soon.
As we begin to queue outside the ice-cream parlour that we’ve been to so many times he turns to me with bright eyes. “Is that a Versace?” He asks, pointing at the handbag dangling from my arm. I nod and take the sunglasses from my face, handing them to him.
“Ralph Lauren,” he breathes, taking them gently in his hands. He turns away from me towards the window and puts them on his face, adjusting his hair while he checks out his reflection.
He has such a good eye for designer products. I remember what it was like to place such importance on items like this. To flip through magazines and websites, sighing at the beauty of the designer accessories. I start to wonder when I lost that passion.
“Are you rich,” he asks me, meeting my eyes. He’s never been shy about questions like that. However blunt he can be, I think that I’m a lot blunter. I shake my head, “I just got lucky in some sales.”
He looks disappointed as we approach the counter. I watch as he requests an array of toppings, not shying away from spending a lot of money. I decide to copy his order. I’m not against spending extra for a bit of luxury either.
The man behind the counter’s smile widens when he takes my order. He’s a little softer in his approach to me. I suppose what he perceives to be an attractive female is more acceptable than the flamboyant teenage boy standing beside her.
When I take out my purse to pay, he tries to argue, but gives up pretty quickly. I suppose he’s used to his family paying for everything and it’s kind of the same thing with me.
With our ice-creams in hand, we begin to walk side by side down the beach. People stare at both of us, but I seem to be more aware of this than him. He’s staring out at the sea and looking appreciatively at the scenery, while I’m more interested in looking at him and looking at people’s reactions to him.
Because however much harassment I get (which is a lot), he gets a ton more, for a lot of reasons that I hope to discuss with him eventually.
“Do you live near here?” he asks after a minute. “I live in Glasnevin, I don’t think you know it. It’s a two hour bus journey from here.” “The bus?” he asks, “do you not drive.” I did nine lessons when I lived in Wexford, but I haven’t been able to do anymore since I moved up.”
I tell him that I’ve lived here for two years and I can see this confuses him. “If you’re 19 and you’ve lived here for two years, does that mean you moved up when you were 17?” I nod. “You know you’re going to be 17 when you’ve finished the leaving cert and you move up then.”
I can see he has more questions but I intend to tell him more about this later. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asks eagerly. I smile and shake my head. He seems disappointed and also a little confused as to why I’d possibly be smiling at this fact. He’s judged me for this, but I forgive him for it. He’s young and naïve. “Do you mind me asking whether you’re a virgin?”
He goes a bit pink when he asks this, I can tell he’s trying to seem nonchalant. I shake my head again and he looks delighted. His naivety surprises me, but I do have to bear in mind that he’s only 15.
“What do you work as?” He asks me. “I’m a writer and a model,” I tell him. He is overjoyed at this information. “A model!” He looks me up and down. “Well,” I add, feeling self-conscious, “more of a writer.”
“I’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a writer recently,” he informs me, “either a writer or a primary school teacher.” I laugh out loud at that one. “You’re much happier being a writer. Rachael is a primary school teacher though.”
He smiles at this. “I remember when we were kids and we used to play school. Rachael was always the teacher and she’d make me be the student.”
“She was strict,” I add, “never letting you put your own stamp on the game. You wanted to make the school go on fire, or add a robber or a kidnapper, but all she ever wanted to do was play at being in a normal classroom.” We both laugh at the memory.
At this point I’ve finished my ice-cream. I stop at a bin to throw the tub away, he does the same even though his tub is still half-full. He looks at me and tells me that he was full. And I believe him. I remember that disgustingly full feeling. It was sickening trying to pack any more food in at those times.
“What about the rest of the family?” he asks me. “I’ll tell you more another time,” I tell him, “but it’s all good.”
“Is Gran your favourite person?” he asks. Then he frowns and looks panicked for a second. “Is Gran still alive?” I nod quickly. “We almost lost her a year ago, but she’s still going strong.” He looks relieved.
“What do you like to do?” I ask him. He thinks about this for a moment. “I think my favourite thing to do is socialise.” I smile and nod. “Mine too.” He asks me do I socialise often and I nod, “probably a little bit too often.”
We’ve walked up the strip of beach now and we turn to one another. I look down at my feet and kick a stone. “I’d love to hang out again sometime, if you’d like to do the same?” He nods enthusiastically and I smile.
He opens the bag that hangs from his shoulder and begins to dig around. I glimpse a diary, an e-reader, a bottle of diet coke, knitting needles and a ball of wool. He pulls out his battered iPod classic and a set of earphones.
“What are you listening to?” I ask, gesturing at the iPod. “I’m loving this new artist called Lana Del Rey. Her music is a little bit depressing but I’m getting really into it.” I smile at him. “I’m obsessed with her. I actually used her music to get through a heartbreak. I have such an emotional connection with it since then.”
His brow furrows. “You had your heart broken?” “Yeah, but it’s fine, honestly.” He looks unconvinced, but doesn’t push it any further. We hug, even though I know he doesn’t really like being held. It makes him feel uncomfortably vulnerable. He gives me a charismatic grin before turning away from me and setting off down the road.
I watch my younger self stride happily along the path, sighing slightly. He has a lot coming for him, but I know he can handle it. When he disappears from view, I put my sunglasses back on and walk towards my bus stop.
We have so much to discuss.
I can’t wait.
Watch my poem “Hi, I’m Transgender” below:
Read about a terrifying experience I had on a night out here.