I missed half of the Steven Universe season one finale because I was being yelled at.

He was angry. He was always angry. Angry about me, about himself, his father, his brother, about the world, about anything and everything and it was always my fault or my responsibility to fix it. But I never could. I knew it then, and I know it now.

That night, his unkind words had pelted me for hours and reeked of old smoke. Eventually I’d had enough of the back and forth, of the constant shouting and swearing. I just wanted a break.

I wanted to break.

So I carried myself to our room on the other side of the house and dropped to my side on the bed. The television was on. It was always on. An endless stream of corporate commercials and materialistic, vapid things blasting through every waking and non-waking hour of time in that room. The only light that reminded me of an outside world.

But it was not always bad. Sometimes, the stories told on the screen caught my interest. One of them was called Steven Universe.

The show featured a young, spunky boy with magic powers that came from a gem on his stomach. He wasn’t the only one with a gem that gave him powers, just the only half-human one. The others were strong women who kept the Earth safe from mutants and monsters. He wanted to be like them. Who wouldn’t?

I hadn’t avidly followed the series, but when it came on I sat and watched. The commercials had promoted these new episodes, and as I watched the cartoon unfold and begin I cursed myself for having missed so much.

They were in a prison of some sort. I didn’t understand why. I only recognized some of the characters, not knowing who the little red one or the singing blue one were.

Just another thing that the constant fighting took from me. What was one more thing? This was hardly even worth making a note of. I’d forget about it tomorrow. I always had to forget to keep going.

But then, the red and the blue characters found each other. A ruby and a sapphire. They ran to each other, arms outstretched, eyes searching and loving.

Ruby and Sapphire held each other tight. Tight like they were trying to get closer to each other, as close as skin and blood. So tight that they became light!

The light shimmered and sang. It rose up and brought the two gems together and as close as anyone could be. The light solidified and became…

A garnet. Our Garnet. The strongest gem in the show, and the most patient. An imposing, but awkward, loving, gem.

I’ve been surrounded by garnets most of my life. January’s birthstone surfaces almost every year when I open gifts. A deep red gem that could be as small as a pomegranate seed. Garnets keep travelers safe. It’s protective. It invigorates the healing process and brings about renewal. It means love.

I sat forward on the bed, a pillow tucked to my chest. The pain stopped. A weight lifted.

Every moment of doubt about myself, pushing down the thoughts and daydreams of the past, pretending that when girls I admired gave me their attention didn’t make my heart flutter, or that I didn’t want to worship the ground of the most beautiful girl I knew, it made sense. And at the same time, it fell away.

Chemically, rubies and sapphires are the same stone. Love between them was so clear and obvious that it created something new. It brought out a dark secret that deserved to be celebrated.

All at once, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to fall in love with a woman like me. I’d loved men before, or thought I had, but the ones who loved me only loved to hurt me, and the men I loved could never love me back when I needed it.

I wish I could say that I had, in that moment, packed my things and left. I didn’t. Instead, I took that new feeling and held onto it. It became the candle light in my heart that broke through the darkness within. A little light of mine.

The fire eventually caught and burned inside of me like a phoenix that rose from its own ashes. I soared over the heads of those who had once snuffed me out.

I never missed another episode of Steven Universe.

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