Of the Dark, by Tzula Propp

I remember the dark, it was the first thing there.

You think dark is smooth, but I know better. There are shapes, textures in the dark. In time, you would see them too.

The shapes gave me a boundary, the textures taught me to feel. There were silent voices in the dark, they showed me how to be.

It was like this for a long time. And it wasn’t bad, it was just all that was, all I knew.

But I knew one thing else, that this, it wasn’t me, wasn’t all that could be. Resist the dark, I told myself. Don’t let it in! Shut it out! I belong, just not here. I can be my own light!

Silent voices in the dark pleaded back at me, “Don’t go! Please, stay here, with me.”

But the silent voices needn’t have spoke, my struggle was as hopeless as an ocean wave, fighting to leave the sea. There was no direction that led away from the dark. I swirled and stormed against the only border, my border. Like the wave, I was smashed and renewed and smashed and renewed, inescapably. During that time, I became less of my form, and more of my forming—my boundary expanded. I was my escape, my prison, my home, my storm, my struggle, my voice, my dark, me.

All throughout, I expected mocking from the dark. But the silent voices understood, they were even sympathetic. This was just how it had to be, always. No one belonged anywhere, it would be death.

And this is how it stayed. My storm petered out, and again I was of the dark. I was rejoined with the walls of my prison, the first battleground of my rebellion, enveloping me like a lead blanket. And in time, I forgot why I had tried so hard to leave…

I was comfortable in the dark, and then, my eyes fluttered open, and there was light.

——————————

Playwright: Tzula Propp

Context: This piece has three major inspirations, which are also three different interpretations of the character.

The first inspiration is Brocksandra, a canonically trans character I created for a game of Dungeons and Dragons. She came to life for me more than I meant her to, I find myself returning to her often. She is a tragic outcast from a world of shadows who, despite her bardly demeanor, is deeply incompatible with the world of light around her (she is a Drow, if that means anything to you). I imagine her performing, taking on the role of Najm, the androgynous (and in my interpretation, non-binary) goddex of curiosity. The story is of Najm’s birth from the primordial chaos and rejection of nothingness, but has been made autobiographical in Brocksandra’s telling.

The second is the question, “What is a photon before it leaves an atom?” This question is one without a unique interpretation, and here I give mine.

The last inspiration is the adolescent experience of a non-binary child in a darkly and deeply repressive society. The omnipresent struggle, internalized, is the subject. The final self-coming out happens unexpectedly, following the deepest repressive phase they’ve ever experienced, almost forgetting who they are.

Note regarding the last line: in my original conception, it evoked a sense of divinely tragic irony, somewhere between almost-hope, loss of safety, and being lost. But now I’m not so sure, and encourage individual interpretation.

Contact: Tzula Propp is a grad student at the University of Oregon, where they study quantum information theory. They can be reached at spropp (at) uoregon (dot) edu

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