"Emmett can be a little campy, okay a lot campy. But you've got to admit it takes a lot of guts to be a queen in a world full of commoners."
When you were six, you used to dress up in your mother's blue silk dressing gown and totter into her afternoon teas in her high heels. You'd do your best Judy Garland, since "The Wizard of Oz" was your favorite movie, and Mama and her friends would explode into peals of laughter and clap loud enough to bring the roof down.
They stopped clapping when you were ten.
Mama took you aside and whispered "Emmett, *really*. Don't you think you're a little old for this now? Go on now...your brother's playing football in the back yard."
You went up to the attic instead...leaving her gown and her heels in dainty piles at the foot of the stairs so you could dance inside the cobwebs and inhale the pearly-sweet smell of Great-Grandmother Honeycutt's linen tablecloth.
You know now that the attic was your closet. So big, so wide...stretching across the entire length of the house you grew up in...and the town, too. Maybe across half of Mississippi.
But then...then all you knew was that the rafters were safe. And your voice echoed back to you like something magical.
You tasted dirt and blood when they pushed you down and called you "queer." Your chest hurt because they kicked you and you knew you were crying and it was stupid and they were just going to keep hitting you and calling you names. You rolled over, slowly, in the playground dust and saw the accusations in blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes. So many colors...pretty colors...
Taylor was leaning against the big old oak with the tire swing tied to one branch and you couldn't see his eyes at all. He just tossed the football up in slow motion. Brown and white spirals in the sky. The sunlight gleamed in a halo around his head and you remembered that he got an athletic scholarship to Old Miss and your daddy was over the moon...
"Faggot," somebody hissed. "You're a fucking faggot."
Later, you stared at your reflection in the mirror as your mother clicked her tongue and chided you for fighting at recess with something like pride. You didn't have the heart to tell her you weren't fighting...that you were getting your ass kicked. You didn't have the heart to ask her what exactly it meant to be "queer." Instead, you stared at the blood flushing red on your lips and the blue ringing your eyes and you smiled. You were almost beautiful.
When you were around twelve, they started encouraging you to go to VMI after high school. You turned over and over in your bed, clutching your pillow and thinking of sleek, hard, military bodies under the showers and shuddered when you came. And you said "No."
You told them you wanted to go to New York and study acting. You wanted to be on Broadway.
Daddy drew back in horror...Mama just shook her head, straightened your tie, and pushed you into the pew for church.
That day the sermon was about being pure for God. Daddy fell asleep...Mama leaned over to whisper with Betty May Lewis about Selma's hair "Did you SEE that?". But you listened. You listened good and threw up for two hours when you got home as "Express Yourself" drowned out the sound.
"Jamie..." you whispered, surging up to meet him, feeling the slick-hot-sensation of latex and heat and this lovely pale boy inside you. He had strange eyes...pale green...and he looked like an albino and people whispered whenever he came into town to visit his aunt.
That wasn't the only reason they whispered.
His spiky white lashes barely fluttered when you held hands and skipped down the sidewalk on the way to the movie theater. He was fifteen and he told you he was moving to Florida in that low husky drawl that didn't seem to fit his body...and he told you he wasn't gay.
He told you to forget.
But you held him in the secret darkness of the theater anyway. And you stared at his profile as the projector sputtered and knew you'd always remember.
Warm liquid on your face...your fingers wrapping around the coarse leather handle of your bag as you walked down the street...farther and farther from the forest green door that you'd returned to every day after school.
"And don't come BACK."
The bruises were covered by your too-baggy clothes but your shoulders hunched and you winced when you reached to wipe off the spit.
You didn't cry. You thought bright lights. You thought big city. And you hummed "Respect" as you stepped up onto the bus. Your hips began to sway as you walked up the aisle. By the time you reached an empty seat, there was a definite swing to your step and you were delighted to find out that the acoustics inside a bus were almost as good as those in an attic.
You sang off and on for the first few hours. A guy even gave you a two dollar tip and told you that you made a fairly decent black women for a skinny little white boy.
When you got off the Greyhound in Pittsburgh, you were tired and sticky and dirty and triumphant. You raised your head and stared at all the people around you. People. Just people. Faces. Pretty ones. Ugly ones. Plain ones. And you didn't just *walk* through the crowd...you paraded.
A queen-in-training in your teal tank and the sweatshirt wrapped, carelessly, around your waist.
When an old lady in line for the city Metro line asked you about the purple-red marks on your throat, you winked theatrically and told her "love bites" in a stage whisper...and spent the rest of the ride staring at the nice dark-haired gentleman standing across the way. Accountant, you thought. Probably like you, you thought.
*Faggot*, you thought. And you smiled.
When he got off at Liberty Avenue...you followed him.
You were eighteen. You were finally home.
Coming off the dance floor in a haze of glitter and sweat, you spot the boys over by the bar. Waiting for the bountiful badness of Brian as usual. You roll your eyes and grin. You pinch Michael's ass, making him jump and stop searching the crowd so very *obviously*, and you try not to linger too long on Justin and the aching familiarity that radiates from his pretty face. You've been there. You've lived there. You're glad you left. You loop your arms around Ted from behind, surprising him in mid-complaint about some twink who just passed him over AGAIN...and squeeze him tight, pressing a soft kiss to the bristly part of his jaw.
"Are you on something? What the fuck was THAT for?" he wonders, blushing slightly under your mouth even though he's used to random acts of pansexual vandalism from you.
"Because you're beautiful, Darling," you whisper with a soft smile. "Because you're beautiful just the way you are."
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