Robin’s beautiful daughter, Michelle, is also the author of the poem that appeared here, “There’s a skeleton in my closet”. She is an articulate and deeply thoughtful young woman. This is a story she wrote for an art therapy course.
“Perfecsheea” was one of the first things she shared with me when we started getting to know each other. It moved me to tears then and does so now, as I reread this metaphor for her own experience of inviting family and friends to accept her sexual identity.
Perfecsheea discovers her uniqueness
Once upon a time, deep in the jungle, a very special day dawned for the monkey family. A beautiful new life in the form of a teeny, tiny, hairless, newborn miracle—and they named her Perfecsheea.
As time went by, Perfecsheea grew bigger and brought so much joy to the monkey family. She blossomed and continually achieved life milestones—her first banana, her first flea grooming, and she learned to swing safely from branch to branch in the jungle. That is what monkeys did, and Perfecsheea wanted to be a very good monkey and make her family proud.
One day, as always, Perfecsheea woke from her monkey slumber, happily breakfasted on ripe bananas and began to pick the fleas from her arms and tummy. She turned to start on her tail and was so shocked by what she saw that she fell from the tree and landed on the earth below with a hard “THUMP”, completely knocking the wind from her little monkey lungs. She rubbed her eyes and slowly turned her head to check again and sure enough—the strangest thing—Perfecsheea had a bright red tail!
She scampered straight down to the river and began to scrub and scrub and scrub until her skin was stinging and cracked, but the red only became brighter against the brown contrast of the rest of her monkey fur.
Monkeys reject her
Perfecsheea could hear a group of other monkeys coming towards the river and was relieved to see it was her monkey friends. When they saw her bright red tail, the monkeys began to squeal and chitter. Some of them laughed nervously. Some of her friends pointed and stared at her, and the others ran to tell the rest of the monkey colony.
Perfecsheea was beside herself with confusion and couldn’t answer the questions of her monkey family as to why her tail was now red when yesterday she was like all the other monkeys. She wondered the same thing herself. When she tried to explain that she, too, was surprised by the red tail, the monkey colony just chittered and squealed louder, drowning out her voice so no one could hear her.
Perfecsheea’s friends didn’t want to play with her anymore. Even the adult monkeys would swing to a different tree if Perfecsheea happened to land in the one they had been comfortable sitting in. No one wanted to groom her fleas anymore. She couldn’t understand why this was happening. She didn’t feel any different. Even her own Mother only pulled fleas from her fur if no other monkeys were watching.
One morning, as she sat alone, she began to stroke her tail. She noticed it was very, very soft—much softer than the rest of her brown monkey fur. It felt so lovely. She wished the other monkeys would touch her so they could feel how velvet-like Perfecsheea’s red tail was.
It was not long until Perfecsheea was covered head to toe in itchy flea bites. She was always hungry for no one shared bananas with her. As she stroked her velvet soft red tail that day, she wondered if anyone would miss her if she left. Maybe, just maybe, beyond the jungle, there were other monkeys who also had red velvet tails.
The scabby flea bites covering her little body were too much to bear. With a grumbling, empty tummy, Perfecsheea left her family, friends and home with her head hung low and her velvet red tail between her legs.
She swung from branch to branch feeling very sad, confused and lonely as the jungle passed her by. She swung and swung and swung until she was exhausted and hungry. Perfecsheea could only think of big ripe yellow bananas as she swung aimlessly through the trees.
She could go no further and finally stopped to rest. She sat in the quiet stillness of the jungle, feeling very frightened and alone, when she noticed a bush with plump, juicy berries covering the whole bush. She plucked one and licked it cautiously with the tip of her tongue. The taste was exquisite, sweet and tantalising.
Perfecsheea becomes her truest self
She began to eat the berries, one by one at first, but she was soon shoveling handfuls of them into her mouth, like she couldn’t get enough. She had never tasted anything to delicious in all her life. The berries were even better than any banana she’d had. With a full monkey belly, Perfecsheea fell asleep and dreamed of her friends and family and life as it had once been in the monkey colony.
When she woke up, she looked down at her body and screamed!! ALL of her fur was red, from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. Once again, she raced down the river to scrub at herself in fear and shame, but when she got there—she saw her own reflection in the water and stared at herself in wonder.
The red fur was so beautiful. She felt like she was looking at the loveliest monkey she had ever seen. She turned around to see if there was someone behind her, but she was all alone. She was seeing her own reflection in the river.
She touched her face, and the plush velvet fur was so soft that Perfecsheea couldn’t stop stroking her own beautiful red features. She wanted her mother to feel her velvet cheeks too. Her heart ached to be back in the secure comfort of the colony.
In a frenzy, Perfecsheea began to swing and swing and swing back through the jungle. Soon she was going so fast she could feel the wind on her rosy red cheeks.
As she neared the edges of her colony, Perfecsheea could hear her friends calling her name. She grabbed each branch with all her might and swung as fast as she could, desperate to see her family. Her mother heard Perfesheea’s squeals as she got closer to the family tree and raced out to the edge of the longest branch so she could be the first to see Perfecsheea coming.
Their reunion was as sweet as a plump, juicy berry . As Perfecsheea’s mother held her, she began to stroke her fur. It was so soft and beautiful, like nothing she had ever felt before.
All the monkeys came. One by one they touched her fur in amazement and began complimenting her on how the red suited her. “Goes well with your eyes,” they said.
Perfecsheea beamed and her eyes sparkled.
Life went on as usual from then. The breakfast of bananas, the swinging from familiar branch to familiar branch, but now everyone bickered and rushed to de-flea Perfecsheea each day—eager to touch her special red velvet fur.
She would often be found sitting quietly, stroking her tail and smiling—knowing that although it was red, she was very comfortable in the skin she was in.