Secrets dance on our tongues just waiting to leap into the world
We sit across from each other at the table. The restaurant hustle and bustle has faded as we look at each other with saddened, tired eyes. I wonder where the love has gone, we used to be so full of it. Was it the kids, the bills, the routine? What killed our affection, our intimacy? I think I know, though I don’t feel safe to speak of it. Secrets. We have them. Maybe my secret is the destructive one, in fact I know it is. I’m sure you have secrets too, but if you do, you’ve hid them well. I don’t blame you, my secret has been killing me and also keeping me alive for a long time. Decades in fact.
The thing about about a secret is that it can’t stay a secret forever. Very rare is the secret that stays itself forever. Once a secret is shared, it’s really just out of its own control at that point. Secrets yearn to be shared. They burn in our bellies and control our emotions. Secrets dance on our tongues just waiting to leap into the world.
The thing with my secret is that you know it and have asked me to keep it a secret. I have violated your trust, for my secret could not stay a secret forever. When everything that I am is a secret, the air becomes heavier to breathe, the taste of food becomes a little bit duller, the sparkle in my eyes begins to fade. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, secrets are my whole experience.
I have shared my secret with others. I have violated your trust, broken your promise. My secret simply can’t be contained. In retrospect, it started with you. I never meant for you to find out the way that you did, but it could not be helped. When a secret is as large as mine, it has its own ways of escaping its prison. A hint here, a whisper there, and each secret gets closer to freedom, to its own demise. Secrets are the most suicidal beings in existence. Once a secret is out, it morphs into something else entirely. Secrets become truth.
In actuality, secrets are truths all along, but are repressed and held down due to human instincts. All people have needs: to be loved, to exist, to pursue happiness. Secrets are both a tool for humans to fulfill these needs, and sometimes an impediment to satisfying these needs. Secrets let us explore our wants and desires without judgement from our friends and family. They are a vehicle for finding passion, for relieving pain, for avoiding shame. Secrets protect us from public consequences. They are an external shield for those who have them.
Internally, secrets like to eat. Secrets are hungry and will eat away at a person’s emotions. Some secrets are smaller, less hungry than others. These are more easily kept down. A drunken kiss at the office Christmas party when your spouse was at home, a sexy dream about your younger neighbor, memories of stealing candy from the convenience store when you were a child. These secrets can often turn into fun memories, able to be swallowed and locked away forever. The bigger a secret is though, the bigger teeth it has. A steamy affair, a criminal side operation, sometimes even a whole identity can be a secret.
My secret has consumed me. I simply cannot keep it from eating me any longer. It has eaten my social life, my mental stability, my career. My secret, having been kept secret, has turned into resentment. My secret makes me short and angry and petulant at times. It has taken the twinkle from my eyes and swallowed it, leaving a blank, hollow shell of a person. When a secret is as large as mine, it simply cannot be contained.
When you ask me to keep it a secret forever, you are asking for the impossible.
This is my shame, that I cannot keep this secret for you. For you, my one unquestioned love of my life, this secret is bigger than me, than you too. It is eating us. I tried and I tried but the secret left my lips nonetheless. It starts small, you know, a whisper to a friend, judging their body language as they consider their reaction. Then it spreads. It constantly finds ways to spread, through word of mouth, through the tapping of keys on a keyboard, through desperately furtive notes to coworkers. I now have two secrets, my secret and the fact that I haven’t kept it a secret. Secrets beget secrets. Secrets eat each other.
I don’t know how to mesh my secret into our lives together. I think it’s impossible. Should I let you go and let the secret out in full? It will be painful. We will lose each other as partners, as lovers, probably even as friends. What about the kids? They probably have secrets too, but kids are amazingly resilient. I think they’ll be okay in the long run. It’s you that I worry about most, you know. You are gorgeous, industrious, smart, and witty, you are everything I’ve ever wanted in a partner. You are unquestionably the love of my life. But my secret will destroy us, in fact it has already.
As I sit across the table from you, silently taking in our amazing dinner together, I am thinking of secrets. It’s too much for me anymore. I quietly stifle a sob when you’re not looking, imagining my life without you. Secrets are also truth, and it’s time for me to live mine. But for you? I wish you all the best in your life. It will break both our hearts that we couldn’t overcome this and I just hope that you can find happiness with someone else. I adore you my love and I’m sorry that my secret has eaten us. I forgive you for making your choices, there is nothing else either of us could have done.
There’s nothing else left for us to do. It is time. Time to let go of secrets. Time for secrets to become truths. Glancing up at you, we lock eyes. Tepidly I start, “Honey, I think we should talk…”
Katelyn Burns is a closeted transgender woman and an essayist, though her high school self laughs at both ideas. She lives in New England with her family and loves soccer and reading. She welcomes your feedback by email at Katelynburnswrites at gmail dot com or on Twitter @closettransgirl.