I keep looking out my bedroom window.
My window is small and squeaky, above the old radiator that gives my room the best heat in the house come winter. If I lean over the radiator just far enough, I can see the mail truck in its usual spot across the street, outside the house with the in-ground pool and the group of laughing, splashing kids I’m jealous of.
I move downstairs when the mail truck door clangs into place and the carrier steps out. I flit between windows like a ghost, hoping my father stays in the living room, and my mom stays on the computer, hoping the package really is coming like the tracking information from the email said it would.
I listen for the sounds of the mailbox opening and closing, a metallic rattle like a cookie jar lid. I throw open the box, and there, nestled among bills, is a rectangular manila envelope, the kind with bubble wrap that doesn’t pop lining the inside. It’s as light as the bills, and I slip it under my shirt because I hear the couch springs creaking as my father gets up. I run upstairs before he can see me.
I tip the contents into my hand. The pin is smaller than it looked online, smaller against my pale palm than blown-up on my laptop screen next to the ruler the website included for scale. It’s cool and smooth, dark pink stripe on top, dusty purple in the middle, bright blue underneath.
No one knows I ordered it. No one even knows why I wanted to order it, why I wanted this little piece of who I am to hold in my hand instead of in my head and on my diary pages. A little self-reminder that this is me, this is who I am, even if I haven’t kissed anyone or dated anyone or told anyone. A little self-reminder that I don’t need to do any of those things to be who I am.
I toss my jean jacket on my bed, my hands ghosting over the soft denim, trying to find a spot to stake my claim. I decide on the left pocket, next to my Freddie Mercury pin, underneath the little banner pin proclaiming Introvert, a birthday gift from an old coworker.
I pry the clasp loose and work the needle part through the fabric, turning and twisting until it goes through and the pin is arranged right over where my heart will be. I slip the needle back into place and curse at the sharp prick of pain. Enough to hurt, but not enough to bleed.
I let the jacket sit on my gray comforter and stare at it, imagining pushing my hair back so the pin is in clear view, sunlight reflecting off the stripes and blinding people. Will the girl looking at this pin now become the confident one I want to be when I wear it? Confident enough to challenge the people saying it’s all a phase, or that seventeen is too young to know who I am.
I know I won’t be able to wear it—won’t be able to be that girl—around here. In a small city like this, it’s likely no one will know what it means. My own family probably wouldn’t know, and neither would my friends at school. But they can guess, can pull out their phones and look it up, and somehow I want the entire world to know yet don’t want them to at the same time. Not the people in this world, at least. My little world where people—people like me—and their love for anyone but the expected are pushed down dirty high school stairs and pointed at and talked about in loud whispers. The pin will have to come off and stay buttoned safely inside the pocket, where its colors won’t reach this world.
When I go shopping in the bigger city an hour away, maybe, I can slip it out of the pocket and into the light like Clark Kent ripping off his glasses to become something more. Maybe there, I can walk around with it proudly and not care who sees.
And maybe, one day, I’ll be in an even bigger city, and the pin will be a beacon rather than a nail in a coffin. Maybe people will notice and smile, or maybe they’ll notice and not say anything at all because they accept who I love. Maybe the pin will be met by someone with their own pin, in the same colors as mine or different ones, the whole damn rainbow right over their heart.
I pat the pin and hang the jacket back up in my closet. Even with the door closed, I still hear it.
A tiny whisper of who I am, until I’m ready to let it be a shout.