She hands me two papers, clumsily stapled together. I ask her for a pen. At first, she acts like she hasn’t heard my question. I’m just another number, another person who was careless enough to show up without a pen. But something in the way I stood there at the counter made her look back. Maybe it was my face, because it usually reminds people of someone familiar. And no matter how much you want to, you can’t ignore someone you know.
She points to a corner, where a cap-less pen lies stranded on a table. I walk over and place my paper next to it. Five boxes, five questions. Five minutes to fill out the form.
Box one. Name.
My name is not my own. I was named after my grandmother, a woman who was married off by her father at the age of fifteen. A woman I never saw because she died two years before I was born. I think of myself at fifteen, dressed in denim and climbing that scrawny tree in my aunt’s front yard. Peeling bits of dry bark from its trunk, the coarseness of which was as foreign to me as the concept of marriage.
Box two. Age.
I am older than I look, and feel older than my years. I am silly around children, somber around adults, and withered among old friends.
Box three. Gender.
I’ve worn dresses and makeup. Helmets and soccer shoes. I wobbled in heels one night and tossed them out because I decided I could walk just fine without them. I’ve spoken softly and loudly, using the same voice. I love math, monarch butterflies, and glitter. I am more than my X chromosomes. I am more than what I choose to wear, what I choose to cover, and what I choose to do with my womb.
Box four. Occupation.
I am a healer, a teacher, a muse. A difficult daughter, protective sister, and the worst enemy you can ever make. Some jobs I am paid for, others I do for free.
Box five. Address.
I’ve lived in three countries and nine different homes. I keep a brown box filled with my childhood toys that moves with me wherever I go. It’s the only one I never unpack. Everything else comes and goes: furniture, carpets, and frames. Nothing stays the same in my world. We move, move along. Afraid of being caught, of being left behind.
Five minutes have passed. The last box is filled and the pen runs out of ink. Five questions, five answers. The span of my life, in five little boxes.