The beginning was such an odd place. And like all beginnings, it was also an ending. The short version: At 12, I became obsessed with language, with writing. The long version is a bit different, a bit unexplainable, a bit miraculous. Here it goes.
I don’t remember what it felt like before the beginning, before I started to write—almost every day—trying to understand a feeling I could not put words to. Even though I could not find the words, I thought words were the answer, so I wrote them, and I read them, hoping to discover a definition, something concrete.
All I had was an image, a feeling inside of my spirit. I was 12–beginning the 7th grade–and a few days before the first day of school, I decided to “walk” my schedule, going from class to class, to make sure I didn’t get lost. I remember this: Looking through the window of my English classroom. I remember seeing a woman—she was young, and she was lovely. She was sitting with the rest of my teachers, so I assumed she would be one of mine that year. I felt a rush. I didn’t understand why. But I wanted to.
At first, I thought this feeling was purely spiritual, simply because I hadn’t felt it before. I couldn’t find the language to accurately describe it, but it was good—so good that I told my parents I no longer believed that a loving God would send me to hell. If God could create a feeling like this, how could a place like hell exist? That was my logic. I stopped going to church because I was no longer afraid of things I could not see.
Now, at 29, I understand that I had a crush (yes, it was that simple), but at 12 years old, I didn’t know that having a crush on someone of my own gender was possible. I remember going to a psychic in Port Jefferson, asking her why I felt this way. She said, “Do you have romantic feelings towards this woman?” I said, “No, no. Not at all.” I lied. I knew it.
From there, I began to find the language. I wrote about love at 15, about a dream I had—in this dream-place, it was okay to love someone of any gender. The piece I wrote didn’t overtly say this, but I tried to describe it the best way I knew how. I left gender out of the equation because I was terrified of having others know, but finally, I was getting there—grounding, understanding. I called the piece “Stardust Garden,” and it wasn’t quite a story, and it wasn’t quite a poem either—but that was okay. I was finding my voice, and I knew that was a gift. I won second place in my High School litmag, and I wasn’t even going to enter it. My homeroom teacher thought it would be a good idea, so I tried.
Before my homeroom teacher encouraged me to enter “Stardust Garden” into the litmag contest, I remember sitting with her and crying. I couldn’t stop crying. I remember telling her I had a feeling and I was scared, that I didn’t know what to do with it. She told me it would be okay. And I wrote. And I grew. And I haven’t stopped writing. As long as I continue to love, I will never stop.
Ashley Inguanta is a writer and photographer who is driven by landscape, place. She is the author of three collections: The Way Home (Dancing Girl Press 2013), For The Woman Alone (Ampersand Books 2014), and Bomb (forthcoming with Ampersand Books in 2016). Her work has most recently appeared in The Rumpus, PANK, Bartleby Snopes, Adrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer Women, The Good Men Project, OCHO, Corium Magazine, and the Rough Magick anthology. Ashley is also the Art Director of SmokeLong Quarterly, and this year she received an Orlando Weekly “Best Of” award for her poetry. Four-wheeled and wingless, Ashley is from Florida and now lives in California, and she finds blessings on even the longest of highways.
Visit her website at ashleyinguanta.com. Also find her at Echo and Dime, which you can find here: echoanddime.com / echoanddime.tumblr.com / instagram.com/echo-and-dime / ashleyinguantaphotography.com / instagram.com/ashley-inguanta
Photo of Ashley Inguanta by Lauren Laveria / Lauren Rita Photography