There are some things that are hard to believe, even as we live through them.
I never really bought into the line that "truth is stranger than fiction." But there are parts of my life I couldn't invent, no matter how much I tried.
There is a story - part of my story - that was over twenty-four years in the making. And after it was over, it was another two years before I even realized what had happened.
I don't think stories really have beginnings. There's always some antecedent, some context, some background, something prior. There are moments that are easier to start at than others, however, so that will suffice.
The starting point for this fragment of my story took place in a small house off a nondescript side-alley of a minor road, in a city most people reading this in English would never have heard of.
The house didn't matter, to this story; the city didn't, either.
What mattered was that I had my bedroom in that house, and a small single bed. I was eight years old, or perhaps nine; somewhere around late second-grade. In that bed, one night, I had a dream.
At such a young age, I had not yet begun to appreciate the subtleties or the intricacies of human dreams. I'd dreamed many dreams before. But that night was the first time I had a dream that I remembered vividly, that seemed more real than waking, that stuck with me - haunted me - for days after.
Or, as it turned out, for decades.
I dreamed of a girl, about my age, who was powerful, beloved, amazing in every possible way my tiny young imagination could conjure. As often is the case in dreams, I had no notion of how we'd met, why we were together, or why any of it felt so important.
We adventured, together, in that vaguely abstract and indescribable way of dreams; I had no idea what it was we were doing or why, but I knew it was important.
I knew I had some kind of connection to her, one that I couldn't quite explain, either in the dream itself or the days after that I spent brooding on it all.
There were many firsts, in that dream. It was the first I remembered so clearly, and it was the first that had a profoundly confusing symbolism within it.
At the end of our adventures, and what I somehow knew even in the moment was about to be the end of the dream, the girl pulled me aside from it all. There was a foundation, a place to build a building, to construct something. I knew it, even then, as the life that somehow we were supposed to share.
She gave me a watch - not one that worked, but one that seemed frozen, that made no sense... as the notion of time often tends to do, within dreams.
And together, we buried that watch, under a corner of the foundation, knowing that somehow it meant a promise - albeit a tragically delayed one.
I knew she would be back.
Or rather, I knew she wasn't really gone.
But as she evaporated from my awareness and I drifted awake that morning, all I could process was that I'd lost her, somehow.
I spent days, carefully trying to hide how much the dream had unsettled me, pondering and contemplating it constantly, trying to understand what had happened and why this nonsensical event during sleep had rattled me so deeply.
I couldn't articulate why - not for many, many long years after - but I kept it secret. Somehow it felt like betrayal, like sharing her secret - our secret - to even whisper about it to anyone else.
And so after a few days, I concluded I'd probably never understand why I'd woken up crying, that morning, aching for the loss of a girl that wasn't real and didn't exist.
And with my mind made up, I set about slowly forgetting what I'd sobbed quietly to myself before leaving my bed; the name I couldn't make sense of, the person I couldn't understand from a place in my head, the connection that I wasn't quite sure actually even occurred.
Twenty-four years later, I was sitting in my car, in traffic, one late afternoon... the afternoon of April 8th, 2019, to be precise. I knew I wasn't who I thought I was, but I had no name to call myself; or so I thought.
And I flailed, for just a heartbeat, mid-sentence in a thought in my own head that no one could hear, trying to figure out how to refer to myself, this trans person in the midst of self-discovery.
On that day, in that moment, I remembered my name.
I struggled to describe it, for almost two years afterwards; it couldn't really be a memory, could it? It felt like a reunion, like coming home, like returning to something long lost and deeply forgotten. For months upon months, I caught myself thinking of my journey as going back - I kept stumbling over the word "again" as if part of me knew that this wasn't the first time I'd understood myself.
But how could that be? There was no way; surely just a meaningless slip of the tongue. I scoured my memory - fragmented and traumatized as it was - for indicators that I'd ever known "before" or that there was any real precedent.
And now I've finally found them: the signs that there was understanding before. Prior to the dysphoria. Prior to the social struggles. Prior to anything I'd thought was relevant.
When I was eight years old, I awoke one morning from a dream, crying over the vanishing of a girl I didn't know was me. And I knew I had to keep her secret, forget her name, hide her memory, even as I knew it hurt, and I had no conscious idea why.
One spring day, not long ago, at the age of thirty five, I remembered who I'd been crying for all those long years ago. What I said, over and over, for the agonizing minutes after I'd awoken.
My Princess Amelia.
It turns out I kept that promise after all. Dreams have always held a profound, almost mystical, fascination for me. She turned up, over and over again, across the years - to the point that I even broke my silence about her at one point, without even knowing.
Maybe it's all just a bit too hard to believe, maybe it's just easier to brush it off as revisionist wishful semi-fiction.
But I'll always know the truth.
I love you forever, Amelia.