Authors: Raziel Reid
I liked Mr Dawson. He looked like an Old Hollywood movie star with finger waves and eyes that would still be beautiful in black and white. I had this weird thing for him. I wanted him to be my father, and I wanted to blow him.
Story of my life.
I saw the letter when he went to the teacher’s lounge to get another cup of coffee. I didn’t go looking for it or anything—it was just there. I got up to check out the books on the shelf behind his desk and my name jumped off the page. It was signed by Mr Callagher:
We have a student who has decided to express his sexuality by sometimes wearing makeup or girls’ clothing. As long as he isn’t breaking the dress code, this is permitted. Some students don’t seem bothered, while others have been more sensitive to the issue. We ask that you communicate with your class: they don’t have to like it, but they have to respect the student’s rights. Keep an eye on the situation for any problems, and please contact me with questions or concerns.
I was tempted to steal the letter and have it framed, but I wasn’t quick enough. Mr Dawson walked back into the room complaining about how weak the school’s coffee was. I just kept thinking: they don’t have to like “it.”
“It” was another one of my stage names. It was my JLo. People meant to be insulting, but I found It empowering. I always thought they were referring to the Stephen King novel because of my ability to shape-shift into their greatest fear. It’s amazing what a pair of heels can do.
When Angela still hadn’t shown up by English, I was worried that she had passed out in a ditch again. I checked my phone under my desk, but there were no messages. I went on Twitter and saw that @mmcmillan was trying to trend #WhyJudyShouldDie. Matt Macmillan. He was my number-one fan. @Madisonsmusings retweeted and wrote, “bcuz no one would miss him.” Madison Sinclair, a girl about as sweet as the blood that gushed out of the cuts in my arm every time I thought about her. @KennyRan tweeted, “so we can PARTY!!!!!” with five exclamation marks again. One for each of his brain cells.
“Mr Macmillan, eyes up please,” Mr Dawson said to Matt. “Don’t you think I know when you’re on your phone? Seriously, no one just looks down at their crotch and smiles.”
“Yeah?” Matt laughed. “You seen my crotch, Mr D?”
After English was gym, which was my favourite class because I got to see all the boys in their underwear. Plus, Mr Mead didn’t care if I participated; he actually seemed relieved when I didn’t, because if I didn’t have to change, he didn’t have to figure out which change room I should use. Not that his indecision stopped me from sneaking down to the boys’ room for my daily peep show.
I was sitting on the sidelines when Angela showed up. As soon as I saw her, I remembered about her doctor’s appointment. She told Mr Mead that she had cramps and came to sit next to me. She never changed into gym clothes either, but she wasn’t going to fail gym. Mr Mead knew how to deal with her heavy flow as well as with my painted nails.
“How’d it go this time?” I asked her.
“I asked the doctor if he could suck out some fat when he took the fetus, and the nurse looked at me like I was masturbating with a crucifix.”
“Why are crucifixes sexy?” I asked. “Because there’s a naked man on them!” A whistle blew, and everyone started running laps. “Mr Mead is such a sadist,” I said, admiring Luke as he ran past.
“Look at that tongue action,” Angela said. “It’s a whistle, not a clit!”
“You know you want me!” I yelled after Luke. He didn’t even flinch, but Madison flipped me off and called me a faggot.
“Go get date raped, bitch,” Angela yelled, and Mr Mead pretended not to hear. Madison just kept running, her bleach-out bouncing off her shoulders.
“Anyway,” Angela sighed, taking off her jacket. “Do I look skinnier?”
At lunch, we went to the Day-n-Nite and sat in our usual back booth. I didn’t bother opening the menu; I had it memorized. We always came to the Day-n-Nite, mostly to get away from everyone else who went to McDonald’s.
We’d made the back booth ours ever since Angela slept with her second cousin and started keeping a list under the table. We always sat there because she always had a new name to add.
“Alexis tweeted, ‘bcuz satan’s hungry,’ ” I told Angela, passing her my phone to show her the #WhyJudyShouldDie thread.
“Alexis is the one who’s hungry,” she said, rolling her eyes. “You should tweet about her bulimia. Have you smelled her breath lately?”
“I sit behind her in Spanish.”
“They can’t get over you, can they?” Angela asked, like she was jealous. I swear, she was only happy if there was something nasty written about her behind a hashtag. Sometimes I thought she had shaved her head just so people would call her a dyke. When someone wrote “muffin muncher” on her locker, she just laughed and drew a muffin with a big smile and razor-sharp teeth. She claimed she shaved her head because she was a Buddhist, but the shave lasted only until her hair grew into a pixie-cut. I shaved my head once too, but just because I wanted to be like Britney Spears.
“Luke wrote something,” I said, looking down at my phone.
“Since when can that retard type?”
“He wrote, ‘so that the school doesn’t have to make him his own bathroom.’ ”
“Madison is deluding herself with him. Did I tell you he passed me a note asking if I can deep throat?”
“He really is a retard if he had to ask,” I said, maybe a little edgier than I intended.
“Don’t worry, dude,” she laughed. “I would never do that to you.”
Brooke, the Day-n-Nite’s waitress who hated us because we never tipped, but loved us because we didn’t squeeze her ass when she walked past like all the truckers at the bar, took our order. After she walked away, I turned to Angela and asked, “I wonder if anyone’s ever seen your list?”
“Probably some kids,” she shrugged. “Who else goes under tables?”
“You and number four,” I said. “And number twelve, if I remember correctly.”
When I got home from school at the end of the day, the house was empty.
I danced down the hall into my mom’s room. It smelled like perfume and sweaty sheets. I could see the imprint of Ray’s body in the lumpy mattress. I went straight for the closet. It was all my mom’s things; Ray used only two drawers in the dresser. The top and bottom of the closet were piled with shoes. There were so many that I kind of lost my breath every time I saw them. I took out the black dress that I tried on before because I knew it fit, and I wasn’t sure how much time I had. It was short, lacy, and you didn’t need boobs to fill it out. I got the dress on fast and picked through my mom’s hairpieces but decided not to put them on because it took too long to take them out, and I wasn’t sure how much time I had. Plus, her hair was dark, and I only wanted to be blond. Blonds have
I put on some jewellery instead, a couple of bracelets and a cubic zirconia ring with a rusted band. I tried on a few pairs of shoes, but my heart was already set on the thigh-high boots that made me look like Julia Roberts in
. Like I don’t kiss on the mouth.
Once I was all dressed, I lit a cigarette out of a pack on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed, crossing my legs as I posed in front of the mirror.
Smoke coiled above my head like a halo.
y mother went off the deep end again. She was always going off the deep end. It was so annoying. Going crazy is never as glamorous as it looks on an
E! True Hollywood Story
Ray had disappeared. I didn’t know where he went, and I don’t think I wanted to, judging by how he looked when he eventually came home. I was just relieved that he had the decency to get lost every now and then. He was like an obnoxious commercial on TV that was louder than everything else and made you feel like you had just inhaled one too many whip-its.
I always knew when he was about to disappear because of all the little things: he’d tap his spoon against his bowl of cereal, stick his finger through the buttonholes in his shirt, and bite his lip like he was trying to chew it off. He’d be in the bathroom slicking back his black hair, and if there was one piece that had a mind of its own, he’d lose it. He’d go into a rage and break the comb or the mirror or anything stupid enough to get close to him.
“He’s hot, but I bet he has raisin nuts,” Angela said the first time she met him.
“He doesn’t have ’roid rage,” I told her. “He’s just a maniac.”
He did look like he was on steroids. He liked to show off his muscles and always wore wife-beaters. That was basically the extent of male fashion in my hometown. I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did.
Ray always pulled himself together for a few weeks, and then he’d fall apart again. He’d take the car, saying he was going to pick up some McDick’s. Keefer would jump up and down screaming about the toy he wanted in his Happy Meal. My mom would tell Ray to bring her a strawberry milkshake, but I could tell by the sound of her voice that she knew he wasn’t coming back.
When Ray was gone, my mom walked around with mascara-smudged eyes, drinking booze out of a coffee mug. Sometimes she’d even blow on it. She’d text him, but he’d never answer. Most of the time, he couldn’t reply even if he wanted to because he had already sold his phone. She’d paint her nails and then nervously chip off the polish. She’d chain smoke and watch chick flicks because they gave her an excuse to cry.
This time, my mom was extra-hysterical that Ray was M.I.A. because we were having dinner with “Satan in a Sunday hat.”
When we got to my grandma’s house and she saw that Ray wasn’t with us, she didn’t seem surprised. She probably just thought he’d been in another meth lab explosion.
I knew it was really bad when my mom got wasted at dinner. She had stopped drinking in front of my grandma after my grandma wrote to A&E, trying to get our family on an episode of
. But that night, my mom drank almost an entire bottle of gin at dinner, plus the bottle she drank before we drove over, so she was pretty drunk.
When my grandma told her to go freshen up in the bathroom, Mom picked her head up off her plate and stumbled off. We could hear her puking all the way down the hall. Keefer laughed, and my grandma just turned to me and asked, “More potatoes?” My grandma may have played pretend for all the wrong reasons, but I always admired how dedicated she was to her craft.
That night back at home, I had a dream about Luke. But this dream wasn’t like all the others. He wasn’t inside me. We were at the dance and everything in the gym was pink, like the walls had been painted with my nail polish. There was a big streamer over the stage that said “Happy Valentine’s Day” and, even before I tasted it, I could tell by the way everyone was dancing that the punch had been spiked. I was wearing Glinda’s pink ball gown, the one I’d stolen from the wardrobe department of my school’s production of
The Wizard of Oz.
I took it as revenge when I didn’t get cast as Glinda. Sometimes, I wore the dress alone in my room. It matched the walls in my dream, and I slid across the gym floor in graceful sweeps. Everyone turned and stared like they wanted a piece of me. But even in my sleep, I felt the timer in my heart. I knew that when the clock struck twelve, I’d wake up, and it would all be over.
Luke was standing in the middle of the gym wearing a tuxedo. He looked like a prince. And as I walked toward him in my gown like a lamb to the slaughter, I was his princess.
I woke up wet and jerked off thinking about him, but I couldn’t come. The Luke fantasies were so overplayed in my mind that the images would sometimes lose their lustre, and I would have to think of some celebrity, or my dad, if I wanted to get off. Oh God, that reminds me … This one time, my grandma took me to see a shrink after I attempted suicide because I hated myself so much for jerking off to Chris Brown’s nude selfie. Don’t act like you haven’t been there! I agreed to go only because I thought I’d get some free drugs out of it, but unfortunately he was the last doctor slow to reach for his prescription pad.
He kept asking me about my father because, before I had my first session, my mom called to tell the doc that it was all my father’s fault. I only opened up to the shrink because he had signed a confidentiality agreement upon getting a guest role.
I don’t have a lot of memories of my dad, but my earliest are of the feel of his stubble, the car grease stains on his blue jeans, and the way he always smelled of beer and cigarettes. There’s a picture of us sleeping in bed together when I’m a baby, and I’m cradled in his arms with a pacifier in my mouth. He looks like a baby, too.
My mom was always yelling at him. She wanted more for him—she wanted more for herself. She totally became a stripper because she thought she was the next Anna Nicole Smith (RIP, you delicate angel) and was going to snag her very own J. Howard Marshall. But she just wasn’t a gerontophile and became easily distracted by low-rent Romeos like Ray.
My dad didn’t have any ambition. He thought he had it all so long as he had a six-pack of beer and his name tattooed on my mother’s ass. But tattoos can be removed or covered over. Maybe he was only comfortable with himself when he was on something that made him feel like he was someone else. In any case, he started ditching work at the mine to get drunk most days. After he got fired, my mom started working at the strip club. She used to tell me how he’d get into drunken rages, show up at the club, pull her off the pole, and try to beat up anyone who so much as looked at her. And the way she told me, it was like she was proud of him. She measured the depth of love by the deepness of the bruises.