Sunday Reading: Fire and Water

words Gabriella M Geisinger; photograph Luna Craig

My mom went into labour on the evening of 22 July 1989. It was the last of a stretch of inordinately hot days, the kind that make the Manhattan skyline waver against the clouds. I do not know if you could see the stars that night. She was 37 years old, and was in labour for 22 hours. On 23 July, at 6.08pm, I was born. A Leo.

I’m no great believer in horoscopes. I find the platitudes to be self-soothing. One more way that we absolve ourselves of responsibility for our actions. I never met an Aries I liked – I’m a Capricorn so it’s no wonder we don’t get on. We toss our hands up to the heavens and blame the stars for our misfortune – mercury is retrograde; the moon is full.

I was born at 6.08pm and was the colour of terracotta. I was in an incubator for a few days before I could be sent home to our one-bedroom apartment. It was on the 16th storey, though really it was the 15th – the 13th floor had been abandoned for fear of bad luck. Superstitions, like horoscopes, are not something I believe in.

And yet.

I grew well into my pre-ordained, star-lined path with a wild head of curls – a lion’s mane. Once I was old enough to read Teen Vogue I discovered that, technically, I was a Cancer-Leo cusp. More so than I knew – for then my mother’s 22 hours of belabourment were still unknown to me. Had the physicality of my mom’s body been different, I would have been a Cancer. Had the doctor agreed to a C-Section several hours earlier, I would have been a Cancer. Perhaps I am. That first Cancer’s breath expelled as a sad sigh when I sit, alone, at a party without anyone to talk to. Afraid to approach a stranger. When I spend a whole weekend lost in a world of books. The years I spent as a competitive swimmer, still claiming that I feel more myself in the water – that my body was not built for land.

There is a fault line that stretches through my personality – from tiptoes to crown. It is a fault line that defines me, and splits me in two.

As a child I had a penchant for volunteering and then, upon being chosen, quickly retreating to my seat – my cheeks the colour of beets. As a teen in school, I’d raise my hand to read my favourite passage of a book and then, when my lines came, my heart would block my throat and no words could eke out. I trembled. The pages shook. I felt feverish. Take pity on me.

The duality of my nature is that I both love and fear adventure – attention – risk.

I moved to London in September 2013 and I knew no one in the city. On my first night I befriended two girls in the courtyard of my housing complex. I walked up to them and said hello, fresh off the airplane from New York City. The Leo in me took over – it said this will all be fine. The Leo is most often my motivation – to be liked. It is fiery fearless when it needs to be. It seeks the limelight by way of the byline.

These two elements are not so disparate – but I agonised over them. They made for a more interesting (re: difficult) life. Parties left and then returned to an hour later, realising that I didn’t actually want to be home alone. When my mom finally told me the story of my birth, the metronome of the ticking clock, ushering her from one day to the next, it clicked into place. I reached an understanding; instead of trying to marry these two personalities, I decided to let them co-exist. Horoscopes are, after all, self-soothing. 

I am no great believer in horoscopes.

And yet.

There are two halves of my self – and to chalk it all up to a simple arrangement of molecules and chromosomes feels, somehow, less magical than the alternative. That the particular trail that the stars drew across the sky that night pulled and pushed me into being. The arrangement of the heavens, the planets and asteroids, as the world spun from one day to the next pencilled itself in me. A map of changing constellations under my skin, all variations on a theme.



Gabriella M Geisinger is a freelancer writer specialising in music, societal commentary, and poetry. For her MA in Narrative Nonfiction at City, University of London, she completed her memoir The Many Lives of my Father. She uses words like bricks, building houses that keep you safe for a time. You can follow her on twitter, and visit her website


For more stories of magic, pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 33