When You Discover You’re Free

Photo of a road, sets of train tracks behind a fence, and some low-rise buildings with a clouding blue sky above containing a late afternoon sun. The streetlights cast long shadows and the image has a yellow hue from the light. There are many green, yellow, and orange trees and bushes beside the road and train tracks.

You discover you’re free spontaneously after driving down a country road on your way home and pulling over for gas. You fill up your tank and are about to leave but choose to go inside the general store instead.

In that country general store, you find rows upon rows of things, going farther back, back, back. It’s bigger than you imagined. You wander through the aisles and mistake it for a hardware store. You pass by shelves full of boots.

You can buy boots here, you think. You can buy everything here.

Then you see the shirts.

They’re hunting shirts covered in nature patterns. You touch one with long sleeves and see it’s in your size.

What if I bought a hunting shirt? You let out a laugh at the back of the general store. You check the price, thinking it’ll be expensive and you’ll have to find your whimsy elsewhere. The tag, scrawled with sharpie ink, reads $7.99.

You have to get it.

It was meant to be.

You carry the shirt through the many misaligned aisles of the store with a small smile on your face. You don’t look like someone who hunts. You look like a queer who isn’t from around here. The tools, nuts, and bolts look back at you on your way to the cash. You greet the cashier, who folds your purchase without giving you a second glance. They must get all kinds off the highway. Your shirt comes to just over $9 with tax.

You hold it to your chest and walk excitedly back to your car. Your small smile breaks large, and you begin to laugh. You place the folded shirt neatly on the back seat, get behind the wheel, and pull back onto the October road, leaves all a-colour around you.

I just bought a hunting shirt. You don’t hunt. You’re a vegetarian.

You end up joining a line of cars following a great old truck when you discover you’re free.

You’ve been chasing this feeling for your entire life, but it’s not one you can arrange or orchestrate. It comes upon you unexpectedly and stays for a few fleeting moments.

You’re on the highway, in a line of cars led by a big old truck. The trees are orange, yellow, green, and red. Everywhere that isn’t road is trees. Your new shirt sits folded on the back seat.

The radio plays hits from another decade.

Your mouth plays laughter.

Your eyes play across the dashboard, the cars, the trees.

You’re headed home, but you could go anywhere.

It is October, and you are free.

You are free.

Published by Sage Pantony

Sage Pantony is a writer, poet, and zinester. They write about gender, sexuality, mental health, trauma, creativity, and the best ways to cook eggs. They are the author of several zines, including a trilogy about transitioning as a non-binary person. Sage’s work has appeared in publications such as Coven Poetry, Idle Ink, and The Varsity. They currently reside in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal with their pet dinosaur, Peter.

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