The Breathing of My Sunlit Skin

I dreamed last night that T and I were living in a totalitarian time, where it was outlawed for couples such as us, without a state marriage license, to lay together, in all meanings of the term. But this dream was not frightening. It was epic and beautiful in the magic that came to visit me.

We were laying together in a bed not our own: white sheets, sunlight streaming through the window. T had his head on the pillow, and my upper body and head was stretching pleasantly off the foot of the bed. Then we heard the knock on the door. It was time. They had come for us… for me.

I arose and put on the shapeshifters’ magic. I now wore the image of a man, though I myself did not change, but the good illusion was benevolent, strong and protective. If I was disguised as a man, they could not find me. Time to flee to a safe house.

Out the door I swept and onto the long path of leaves and greenery, which at once were my guides and protectors. These friends of the plant kingdom whispered to me, “If you see us, go through us. We will cover you.”

I made it to the house of my friend, Jess, but she was not home. I went inside and began to breathe a sigh of relief, when I heard the approaching catcher at the door. Had he followed me?

Cleverly, I let him in. There was no better option to thwart his suspicions. “Excuse me, sir,” he inquired of me, “but have you seen a fugitive young lady here? She is escaping the authorities and is wanted for laying with a man without a state license.”

In my best deep, male voice, I answered, “No, sir.” The magic was working. Before the catcher’s eyes stood a young man with a man’s voice, an image who did not betray any truth of my hidden self.

“I’ve heard that runaways from the law come here to this ‘safe house’,” he growled suspiciously. “So what’s your business here?”

Sorry, Jess, but I had to embarrass us both. “I’m a-courtin’ Jess,” I suavely fibbed. “She’ll be home soon.”

The catcher blushed. “Yes, of course.”

“Let me show you the garden,” I offered, and led the catcher out to the green beings, who were already whispering their plots against him, though he could not hear them in their rustling language of leaves.

“And here we have the pathway,” I announced of the bricks forming a small trail, “that leads away from the house. You can travel it on your search for the fugitive.” He thanked me and went on the way.

Turning back inside again, I knew it was time to go. It had been a close call. I wondered if my shapeshifter’s cover of the male image was fading, as I was feeling the need to cover my chest. I took my shirt off, and my chest and torso were those of an adult female, to my awareness, and I wasn’t sure if the cover was still holding up for others’ eyes. It was the precarious moment when I was not sure what the catchers could now see when they looked at me.

I continued on from the house, following the same brick pathway I sent the catcher on. At a fork, I took the true and less obvious pathway into the forest.

Emerging out of the trees, whose presence restored my shapeshifting magic significantly, I arrived at the home of another friend. She was a woman, like me, but was hidden in the form of a child. Her parents were sympathetic to the catchers, so she had to be very stealthy with her shapeshifting and hiding of fugitives. But I knew she was a true ally, because of the doll she perched at the entryway, and the particular way it was dressed.

“Come in!” she beckoned in hastened, whispering squeaks.

I went in, breathing comfort. She took the doll down from the entryway, now that I had arrived.

“I need to make it back to T,” I said. “They’ll come after him, too.”

And as I told her the story so far, I filled a glass jar with layers of colors, and every layer was a piece of the story, and every color was the color of liberty.

“I wish you could stay longer,” she sighed.

I could feel the skin and muscles of my own chest so sensitively, not in pain or worry, but in joy. And now there was nothing to cover or hide, no hunching of my back in shame or fear, only the breathing of my sunlit skin, and the love and valor of the inner chamber of the heart. I felt that this part of the mammalian creature carries great power, a presence of aching and thriving beauty reaching out in tender vines of connection to every other living, breathing chest akin to it. It reaches into the beating rib cage of each beloved creature who has gone on before us, whose bones now lay in graves or ashes and who, being born to another life, now breath through the wind of the skies encircling us to enter our own living lungs. Neither the presence nor lack of my female chest bothered me. Instead, it was the openness to the same breath of the same naked air that soothed me, feeling the breath of the world touch my bare skin in the same liberty as when I am a man. The same love and vitality, affection and virility, was with me and on me and in me, cloaking me wherever I go, without worry or sadness.

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