In Search of Gender

Dervla O’Driscoll

I spent my life sitting amidst three walls, each one constructed in decaying stone. I would trace my fingers down the crumbling bricks, caressing their greening edges and allowing their cool surface to lay against my cheek.

As I rubbed each inch of myself against its rough surface, my skin began to dissolve. My eyes watered as they saw the pink grazes stretch around the softness of my belly and reach down between my thighs.

It was years before I felt the cool breeze gently nudge my back, the tenderness of its touch sent a rush of terror down my spine. It was months longer before I drew the courage to even turn. As I spun around, my nails dug deep into my cheeks.

Before me hung a great tapestry, the flag of my freedom. It swayed before me, the sun creeping through its exquisite colours. I knew escape was within reach.

I scrabbled at the floor beneath my feet, pushing the dirt from the ground. The deeper I dug, the softer the mud became. Frantically, I tossed the ground to the side. I would tunnel deeper and find the sun. I would tunnel further and find the sun.

It was the weight of the tapestry that finished me. It was the weight of ambition that finished me. It was the longing for difference that finished me.

I reached up to scratch my way further through the earth. I allowed my fingertips to explore the new land at the crown of my head. My fingernails caught the edge of something soft.

The coloured silk only flashed before my eyes for a second before the darkness engulfed me.

I writhed against the weight of my prison collapsing above me. As the earth stole the breath from my lungs, I craved nothing more than the dull ache those walls inflicted.

Dervla O’Driscoll is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Manchester. She has previously published non-fiction works in The Mancunion and Mouthy Magazine.