I met Gina sobbing on the bike racks behind my work. She paused to hiccup and check her cell-phone display before heaving into another round. Interview gone wrong summed up my first impression. Expensive black suit, tasteful ruined makeup, and high-heeled shoes.
She looked the age my mom would be, forty-eight or forty-nine, but decked out in fancy clothes instead of the denim miniskirts and ripped fishnets showing the “life is shit” tattoo on her inner thigh. It had stars around it to soften the message, but the lines shook like her artist was snorting speed between points, which would, to be fair, paint an accurate picture of that night.
She—Gina, not my mom—kept going with the cell-phone-bawling process while I stood in the door waiting for her to leave. My hands were wrinkled and peeling from another shift at the sink, scrubbing crusted marinara and garlic while hot water soaked through my apron. “Hey,” I called out when the bawling slowed down. “You okay?”
“No.” She rubbed her eyes, smearing mascara across her face. “I mean, yes, I’m fine. Could you give me a minute?”
“You’re on my bike.”
“You’re sitting on my bike lock.”
“Oh, God.” More tears. “I’m sorry, but this is not my day.”
I walked over and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Sat down next to her. “Want one?”
She sniffed. “I don’t smoke.” I shrugged and lit one for myself. She pulled it out of my mouth. “And neither do you. You’re what? Fifteen? Christ. Give me the pack.” She chucked it at the dumpsters and missed. “Smoking kills.”
“Great. Teenage poetry: songs to slit your wrists by.” She reached into her purse, lying open on the ground, and found a little makeup compact. It flipped open to show a mirror inside, reflecting her raccoon face. “Fucking Christ. Do you have a napkin?” I didn’t, so she used her sleeve to wipe some of the makeup and tears away. Her eyes were still puffy and red. “I can’t go back in like this.”
“Say you got food poisoning.” Our seafood dishes were known to kill.
She shook her head and straightened her outfit, looking more collected by the moment. Big sigh. “Okay. Wooh. Okay, I can do this.”
“Do you need help?” She looked like a wreck.
“No. Yes. No.” I wrapped my arms around her and she sank in. “Oh god, I hate my life.” For a minute it seemed the tears might start again, but she snapped herself out of it. “Should you be riding home by yourself? It’s getting dark.”
“Good. Great. You’re a big boy, you can handle yourself, am I right?”
“Alright, I’m going in. Wish me luck.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I need it.” She disappeared and I found the pack of smokes she’d tossed. Good as new.
◊ ◊ ◊
We ran into each other next at a cafe. I was at the register, ordering coffee, when she came over and paid. “Coffee, cigarettes. What is the problem, I ask you, with wanting to be a child?” She winked. “I’m Gina and I wanted to apologize for the other week. You’re a very sweet boy. I’m buying your drink.”
“Fine by me.” She looked like a different person. Hair put together, clothes straightened out, East Coast accent going strong. But something else. Maybe the professional feel: large and in charge. She had the curvature and marble skin of a life lived indoors. Her lips were pomegranate red.
“I’m serious, you know,” she said, carrying my drink to her table. “Only one chance to be a kid. You don’t want to blow it trying to act like a grown-up.”
“Because there’s less caffeine in soda?”
“Smartass. You have a name?”
“Of course it is. Anyways, I’m sorry for having a mental breakdown on your bicycle. Next time I’ll lock myself in the bathroom.”
“Cool.” I ripped a sugar pack open and dumped it over my mug. “What went wrong?”
“Nothing for you to worry about.” Awkward silence as we sipped our drinks. Madonna crackled through laptop speakers nearby.
“So,” I started.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a lawyer. Corporate.”
“Sounds like money.”
“You have no idea. I could buy anything. But money, Seth, does not buy happiness. Remember that. No matter what the Hallmark cards say.” She drummed her fingers on the table. “How old are you?”
“Please. Your voice hasn’t even changed.”
“Christ. I clearly do not have enough friends this side of the country if I’m taking a teenage pathological liar out for coffee.”
I grinned and asked her to buy me a sandwich. She did. Without even thinking, she did.
◊ ◊ ◊
Lori called on my way back home. I kept biking while we spoke and veered off towards her flat. Found her in a corset pouring drinks. We kissed. I woke up hungover, trying to remember what happened next. I was late to school and Lori watched as I scavenged my clothes from around the house. By the time I found my socks, class had already ended.
“What are you studying again?”
She snorted. “That’ll take you far.”
My head pounded and I felt sick. “Are you my mother?” I started. “Because you sound like my mother.”
I could see her tensing, but I wanted more.
“I mean, I know you’re almost her age, but—”
She slapped me. It stung. We’d done worse in bed. “You talk too much.”
I hung my head, too tired to fight. I wanted to take a painkiller and cuddle. As soon as I gave in she softened. “Come on, I’m buying us breakfast. Wash your face and we’ll go.”
Lori might have been a bitch, but she paid for everything. Clothes, dinner, shows, and a cruise to Jamaica the summer before. Even my rent, those months I couldn’t quite pull through. She liked flashy, expensive things and arm candy wasn’t an exception. With her I learned the difference between Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and third-world knock-offs.
“You want pancakes or eggs?”
“I’d settle for an aspirin-and-orange-juice cocktail.”
She shook her head. “Whatever you want, sugar baby. But if your tits get any smaller I’m dumping you.”
◊ ◊ ◊
We went dancing after the hangover faded, selling another morning for a drunken night. She picked something new: a flashing neon club with skinny boys dancing in cages over our heads. I could grab the bottom bars and swing with them if I jumped.
Lori egged me on until I managed to pull myself up and onto the side of one, holding tight to the edge. The gay boy shook his little hips and pressed his ass against my crotch through the metal bars. He bent over so it looked like I was fucking him. People cheered and hollered for us to get naked—Lori louder than anyone else. I ripped off my shirt and threw it at her, making a tight black bra the only thing between my nipples and the world.
Security edged over, looking grim and parting the crowd. I jumped down before they got to me. The go-go dancer blew some kisses and went back to shaking his ass. Lori grabbed hold of me and shoved her tongue down my throat, hands fixed around my waist. The bigger the audience, the more brazen her act. But security started glaring again, so she handed me my shirt and some money to get more drinks while she danced.
Two bartenders ran around, sweaty and spastic in their booze-lined hole, trying to help about twenty different people at once. I flagged one down and he signalled for me to wait, so I wedged myself to the side of the bar and held on.
House music thumped into my brain, pounding, amplified by the shots we’d done in the car. A girl slid in next to me. She tried to get a drink, failed, sighed, and looked my way. “Fucking crowded tonight, huh?” she shouted to me.
“Is it always this bad?”
“Wouldn’t know. It’s my first time here.”
“Really? I thought they might be paying you for the show back there.” She winked. All pixie cut and silver rings up and down one ear. Cute. She looked about my age. “It was great. You should ask for a job.”
“Maybe.” I edged in closer. “What do you think it pays?”
“Less than you’re worth.”
I laughed. “You might be overestimating me. I’m a notorious flake.”
“I’m willing to take that risk,” she whispered, lips brushing my ear. “Now, are you going to buy me a drink?”
“Depends on if I can get someone to make it.” I shouted at the bartender again. No response, too loud. I rolled my eyes at the dyke. “Sorry.”
“I can wait.”
But Lori couldn’t. I saw her trekking out to me, probably wondering about the holdup. She depended on alcohol as a preservative. Too long without and the effects started to fade.
She came up behind me, shoving her way between me and the girl. “Well?”
“They’re busy.” I shrugged.
“You’re too passive. Hey!” She shouted. “Two vodka presses over here.” The bartender nodded and started to pour. “Come on, let’s go back in.”
“We were kind of having a conversation,” the new girl said, flirtation fading.
Lori turned aggressively towards her. “And now you’re done.”
“Excuse me?” She looked pissed.
“You heard me. Come on, sugar baby, we’re going.” She was already turning to leave.
“Are you even going to ask her what she wants to do?” the girl asked. “She doesn’t belong to you.”
Lori smiled, soft and deadly. “Really? Because I’ve held on for the past six years. And, unlike you, I can give her what she wants.”
“Money.” She grabbed her drink and my wrist, pulling me back to the floor.
Self-righteous bitch, I thought, grinding into her. Doesn’t own me. But she did, she knew it, and she did. I was her puppy, straining for a longer leash.
Or a weaker mistress.
◊ ◊ ◊
Gina had given me one of her cards, embossed with the gold and black lettering of the bourgeoisie, just in case I ever needed anything. It gave an address, business not home, that I decided to drop by and see. Better than sticking around Lori’s apartment getting hypnotized by the sheer strength of her personality. If she wasn’t so hot, I’d tell myself. If she wasn’t paying my student loans…
I dressed up for Gina—my tightest bra and baggiest shirts layered over scrawny hips. Hair gelled into crisp little spikes that lengthened my face. I made a prettier boy than girl with a nose too big, square jaw, and hips lacking for traditional feminine beauty. I was twenty-five.
People assumed. More so at work. My breasts were small and the apron covered any bulge I may or may not have had, and the high cut made my shoulders look wide. It suited me fine. Boys never got followed home or their asses grabbed by pricks in suits because they think working in the service industry means willing to give full service. The way I dressed, people thought I was just another fag. But it took a special kind of self-involvement to avoid every sign to the contrary and keep talking to me like a wayward, dependable nephew.
I avoided downtown for the shops and beggars wanting money I didn’t have. My last time there, Lori drove us straight into the mall parking garage, managing to skip fresh air altogether. The view from my bicycle was impressive. An antique-futuristic city whose faded stone exteriors and Greco-Roman mouldings contrasted against modern sparkling towers. The metro rolled through the skies overhead, winding between rooftops, looking as dirty and reliable as public transit should.
Gina worked in the tallest, sleekest building, entirely cut from one-way glass. I locked my bike to a parking meter and took the elevator up twenty floors and then walked down the hall and past secretaries dressed in this year’s Parisian lines to where her name was etched in the heavy metal door. I knocked. The nearest secretary looked me over once and scowled. Knocked again. No response. I twisted the art deco handle and pushed.
She was crying again, softly, so no one would hear. Her makeup looked like goth night gone wrong and she clutched a pillow to her chest. The black leather couch occupied less than an eighth of her space, more fitting for a therapist than a lawyer. A box of fresh tissues sat to one side, wastebasket filled with crumpled remnants on the floor.
“Is this a bad time?”
She shook her head and mumbled.
“What was that?”
“Who’s ever going to want me now?” Face down, tears dropping on the carpet. “Oh, Christ, I’m such a wreck.”
I sat next to her and patted her back. She sagged into me, so far that her head fell to my lap, heavy breasts shifting around in her shirt, hitting my leg. I was transfixed by her lack of boundaries, both horrified and jealous that crisis could lay a person so bare. Lori once accused me of being a cyborg—too much machine for emotion. A rich older woman who succumbed to tears in front of and on top of me was, in a perverse way, sexy.
“No wonder he left for some barely legal bimbo freshman whose tits aren’t making a beeline for her knees. You know what? If we had been able to have a child, it could have been her age. How’s that for Freud? He wanted a kid so bad that now he’s boning one.”
I wondered if this was what it felt like for real teenage boys, curling up with a woman you want to fuck so bad the tips of your crotch are on fire, seeing how subtly you can move your hips back and forth before she’ll notice, while the object of your affection tells you how she could never take someone your age because it would be dirty and immoral and wrong. As though that helped to curb your fantasy. Because twisted role-playing games never got anyone hot.
“And now I’m hitting menopause and it’s never going to happen. I always thought it was him—he had the tiniest balls I’ve ever seen on a man—I thought he was sterile but he got her pregnant.” Her voice cracked on the last four words. “Now what am I going to do? I’m divorced and infertile and I’m getting fat.”
“I think you’re very attractive.”
She rolled her eyes. “Christ.”
“Really,” I said.
“You’re such a little sweetheart. I don’t even know what you’re doing here, watching an old lady fall apart. Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“Then shouldn’t you be at an arcade or something like a normal kid? Off necking in a parking lot? Stealing phones?” She smelled like perfume. The angst and thrill of being a real teenager lurched through me: doing something naughty and knowing I’d probably get caught. That Lori would smell her on me. I leaned in close to her face and, when she didn’t turn away, brushed her lips with mine.
◊ ◊ ◊
She wanted to meet for another round of apologies. Or to clarify boundaries. Something like that. I wondered, sullenly, why she bothered phoning at all. Easier to ignore and pretend it never happened. We met in a city park, public enough to stay decent but sparse enough for private conversation.
I guessed she wanted to talk about how she had grabbed me and started making out back in her office. I made the first move, but she took the lead—hands going up and down my back as if wringing the water from a towel, mercifully stopping short of my chest and the breasts that even she wouldn’t be able to ignore. Or maybe the other way around—perhaps she felt guilty for the sudden turn to steel, professional lawyer face on, telling me that I had better leave right this minute. As though I expected her to drop to one knee and propose.
A flyer advertising next week’s campus occupation was handed to me by a black-clad anarchist with several bandanas tied loosely around his neck. It read: Tuition down! Taxes up! Make education free! He fist-bumped me and walked off to the next batch of proles. It had rained all night, making the grass a brilliant green and the seat of my pants damp. I watched a child, Anglo-Saxon and dressed in bright, organic colours, run up and give the protestor a handful of change. Her parents watched from afar, perched on the cement barrier circling a fountain. They thought he was homeless and busking his way towards lunch. He patted her on the head and sent her back to her folks with flyers. The sky turned a steady shade of grey, predicting rain, and I wondered whether or not Gina would show.
And then she came, the only person wearing a suit to the park, marching unsteadily across the grass, her heels sinking into supple earth. “Yesterday was a mistake.”
“It shouldn’t have happened, I am three times your age, and I don’t know what I was thinking.” Her open hand chopped the air at each point. “It was wrong, not to mention fringing on illegal, and I think we should forget anything ever happened.”
“Is that all you have to say?”
“Yup.” I pulled up some of the grass and rolled it between my fingers. Damp.
She sat down. “I hope you know that I am not trying to hurt your feelings. I mean, it is such a compliment”—she pulled my chin up to make eye contact—“for you to express interest in me. You are such a lovely boy, just beautiful eyes.” Her fingers stayed on my face, tender and firm. “And if you were ten years older…well, that’s not even worth thinking about.”
“I have been thinking about you, about what happened, non-stop since yesterday.” We were close enough to kiss again, enough I could hear her heart beat. “But it would be wrong to use you like that.” She couldn’t have hit any more of my kinks if she tried. Her hand dropped from my chin to my leg. Her palm was hot, sweaty, and pressing too hard. She wanted something from me, something core enough to make her desperate. It seemed everyone around us must see the fire. How could they not? She needed me in a way Lori never could.
“Aaafternoon!” The anarchist singsonged, tearing Gina and me apart, back to the outside world. He pointed at Gina. “I don’t believe you and I have gotten a chance to talk about the college occupation.”
“Excuse me?” she blinked, trying to navigate what had just happened and skimming the flyer. Her face set back into lawyer mode. “Try getting a job,” she said. “You won’t like upping taxes so much when you’re the one paying them.”
He smiled. “Come on, it’ll be fun. We have jugglers.” He wanted a rise from the symbolic bourgeoisie. “Promise not to charge you anything. You might even learn something.”
“Here’s a question: if we gave every would-be socialist in this country an income, a smartphone, and a car, how many apps would it take for them to wake up and realize we live in the most affluent country in the world?”
“I already have a phone.”
“Then donate it to orphans in Ghana and stop bitching about how difficult your life is.” He opened his mouth but Gina sat up and raised her open hand before he could start. “I don’t need to hear this crap. Seth, come with me.”
She had parked nearby. I got into the passenger seat without talking. Neither did she. Chopin played softly through the radio. It wasn’t a long drive to the rich part of town, houses the size of apartment complexes with even bigger yards. They were lined up with military precision, each constructed to fit within its own square fence, filling the gap between sidewalk and home with crewcut lawns and cement or brick or stone walkways to eliminate the need for any actual contact with said grass.
Her living room was filled with boxes, some of them open with the contents sticking out or on the floor. Crisp brown boxes stacked on top of each other. “I thought perhaps we should speak in private.”
I’m not sure who made the first move, but we rolled onto the plastic-wrapped couch, my thigh pressing between her legs, lips clamped. Terrified she’d touch my chest and find out, do God knows what, I rolled on top. She moaned. “How are you doing this to me?” she asked. All our clothing stayed on, so hot I couldn’t breathe. Better this way, we both knew. Keep it PG-13.
◊ ◊ ◊
Now, I see her about twice a week. We go out to dinner. We go to the theatre. We take walks in the park, but only when it’s empty. I can almost hear her telling herself it’s okay as long as we don’t have sex. That I’m practically an adult and obviously consenting. She’s trying to convince herself that she’s more a mentor than anything else, so we have long talks about personal finance and the loopholes built into tax law. I know I can’t live off my lovers forever, but I’d rather marry one than think about IRAs. Maybe I can pull the alchemy from sugar baby to trophy wife before I have to. But not until I have to. I’m way too young for a life sentence.
She tells me about the battle for alimony with her ex-husband, how she paid for everything when they were together and now he wants more. She wants to drag the battle out as long as possible, willing to suffer if it means forcing him to drain his bank accounts paying for a lawyer. She never asks for a response. Instead I compare her to Aphrodite in my head—not the exposed goddess from The Birth of Venus but the one who pushed women to murder their husbands as punishment for neglecting her worship. The vindictive one who curses unbelievers with incestuous lust. Terrifying, maternal and infinitely beddable.
We’re splayed across the back seat of her car. My hands are under her shirt, one touching her breast. Gina massages the bulge in my pants. I’m getting more ambitious with the size—rolling extra socks into a semi-convincing boner. I consider strapping a dildo against my leg and wonder if she’d notice the change.
I pinch her nipple. She starts to unzip my pants. Stops. I’m so turned on it hurts. She drops me off at my bike. I don’t want her to know where I live.
◊ ◊ ◊
Lori calls me a succubus when I explain the situation—though incubus fits better. She has a new twink and leaves the evidence all over her flat. It’s her way of telling me to play around all I want because she can always find a replacement. Plenty of other androgynes running around.
“What am I supposed to do? Pull the socks from my underwear and shout, ‘Fooled you’?” I’m pouting. I wanted to have fun, not take a microscope to my life. “It’s not like she ever asked.”
Lori snorts. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you when this blows up in your face.”
“Whatever. I’m just messing around.” I’m about to make more excuses, but she wraps her fingers around my throat and pushes me against the wall. Gina’s leftover tension explodes in Lori’s hand. We kiss. She fucks the shit out of me. Afterwards, in the bathroom, I notice a fat hickey on my neck. I steal some concealer out of her makeup bag for work.
“I ran into your new playmate, by the way.”
“The fuck?” I call out, rubbing the foundation into my neck.
“Don’t act so surprised. I saw pictures of her in your phone.” The sound of a cabinet door and glassware chinking. “Besides, I know your type.”
“I don’t have a type.”
“Already did.” The smirk is audible. “I don’t like her. She’s too, what is it, fragile?”
“You talked to her?” I slam the makeup onto the counter and storm out. Lori fiddles with a recorked bottle from last night. The top won’t pop. She hands it over and I twist the cork. “Jealousy doesn’t look good on a woman your age.”
“As if. I bumped into her at Nordstrom’s. It’s hard not to talk when the perfume boy is hosing you both down with a new Calvin Klein, which, by the way, worked better for me.”
“And vanity doesn’t look any better.”
◊ ◊ ◊
Gina takes me to a museum. I asked her to. She thinks I’m dumb, sweet and dumb, and assumes that high art is lost on me. I like to feed that impression, but Statues from the Ancient World came to town and I want to nerd out with it.
Egypt is brilliant, but it’s the Greco-Roman pieces I can’t leave. Baby Heracles strangling snakes. Aphrodite standing. Adonis borne from a tree and killed by a boar. Spartan wrestlers.
“Homoerotic,” Gina comments. The two male bodies intertwine, one pinning the other against the floor, crotch pressed into ass. Frozen in motion. They’re nude, which the marble amplifies.
“Spartans,” I answer. “Homoerotic by nature.”
“Really?” she asks.
“No. More like society.” I’m blowing my bimbo act, but who cares? This is my love. “Imagine a world where every man lives in same-sex army barracks until he’s thirty and the women stay home to run everything else. Marriages were arranged and by the time newlyweds had to bed, they were so used to same-sex relations they needed to fake it to make babies. The bride would cut off all her hair, dress like a boy and wait in the dark for her new husband to pop her cherry. They’d go on like that for years before ever settling in together.”
“Wow,” Gina says. “I hadn’t realized you knew history so well.”
She hasn’t realized I enjoy anything but cheesy horror and making out because she’s never bothered to ask. I wonder if she realizes I’m flirting—for real this time—as myself.
“And when did they stop pretending?”
“It depended. Whenever the couple was ready to settle in, I guess.”
We walk around the exhibit. Her heels click and echo against the tile. Not a scuff on them. She asks me about more of the art. I can answer most of her questions. I watch her struggle to relabel me and settle on “savant.” Pretty boy with a talent.
“Are you going to college?” she asks.
My heart skips a beat before I realize she’s talking about the future. I think for a moment that she’s seen me on campus. Then I realize that’s silly. She probably hasn’t seen a city college in her life. She probably comes from a long line of Harvard graduates. I bet her whole family is loaded. They have auditoriums named after them.
“I guess. I mean, if I can afford it and all. My parents aren’t big spenders.”
“You should. There are scholarships for tenacious young men.”
“I’m tenacious?” I run a light finger across her palm. The skin is creased and thin. She shudders.
In the car, behind tinted windows, I kiss the flesh under her bra. Her breath is heavy; she squeezes my ass. But beyond the desire, I feel her watching me, like she wants to look through me. It’s unnerving. When I go home that night, I can’t sleep for thinking about her hands on my body.
◊ ◊ ◊
Friday night and I’m avoiding both of them. I shut my phone off to avoid temptation and shove it inside my dresser. History of Italian Renaissance Art doesn’t do much to hold my attention; the urge to root through my sock drawer and see if she has texted overwhelms the influences on Michelangelo’s work. I decide to go on a bike ride instead.
Summer days leave me sticky and dull, but the evenings are perfect. Eight p.m. and the last glows of sunset are still fading away. I wanted to ride through the park, but it’s too dark to see and I lost my light weeks ago. Instead I laze through the brighter parts of town, wondering if it’s an omen when the streetlights go out over my head. Thinking, riding, feeling. Not sure what I want. I find myself in the outskirts of Gina’s neighbourhood, fighting the urge to curl up in her bed. Not for sex, something else.
I tear myself away, towards a pizza parlour closer to my house. I forgot to eat again today. Seeing the edge of her yard woke something up and my stomach felt alive with hunger. When my body wants something, it takes over every bit of thought and self-control I have.
Sometimes Lori pins me under her and teases and teases me until I could die from the tension. Then she kicks me out of her place, barely able to walk, to try rubbing myself to sleep. She knows I can’t get off that way. I go home shaking with frustration, feeling impotent, and swearing never to see her again. Up until the next time she calls and I come running.
No, no more women today. I’m biking without thought and find my way to campus, where the twenty-four-hour protest is still going on. There is music around a trash-can fire, someone ladling beans out from a giant ceramic crock into the plastic to-go tubs people are using as bowls. I walk through the tent city where my peers have gathered with painted signs and banners to redistribute wealth in America. A guy from my English class nods. He’s asked me before, I remember, to join the struggle.
But I don’t like picking fights I’m guaranteed to lose. Better to let them swallow you whole and choke on the anger—the shame and guilt and hatred you harbour. To find the faces that tormented you later in life: the social worker who said drug addiction tends to run in the family, the judge who berated your jeans in court, and the lawyer who did every fucking thing in his power to convict your mother on a third strike and lock her up for the next seven hundred and seventy-seven years. Foster parents in three-storey houses and rich kids flashing their designer sneakers at school. Accept them as your betters and let them foot the bill.
A student runs up to the quad from the main part of campus and claps trash-can lids together. “There is a debate on the Israel/Palestine conflict in Humanities 314. Free pizza for everyone in attendance. Humanities 314 in eight minutes.” There’s shuffling and discussion amongst the campers and about half of them peel away from the crowd to the pizza debate. “Israel and Palestine,” the crier continues, jogging through the encampment. “Room 314.”
The idealists are stretched too thin, trying to care about everything at once. They’re going to burn out and I don’t want to watch it happen. I climb back on my bike and ride home. My roommates are clustered around the TV, reliving our collective childhoods through nineties reruns. We stay up half the night arguing about which Pokémon is the biggest stoner. Snorlax wins.
◊ ◊ ◊
Lori dumps me. I saw it coming—talking too much about Gina, blowing off dates. I wanted her to.
It’s date night with Gina, who is running late. She looks pissed when her car finally rolls up. Tired and pissed. Single hairs poke up around her brow and the skin beneath her eyes is purple and thin. She’s in the final stretch of divorce court, reminding me of classmates who drag themselves in for exams, strung together with caffeine, mumbling, reciting facts.
She pulls me into her as soon as I open the door. Grabs my package and sticks her tongue down my throat. “Where are we going?” I pant.
She doesn’t answer. But the neighbourhood looks familiar enough. We stop at her gigantic house. We’re making out as we walk, fondling, tonguing. Through the door. Upstairs. Into her bedroom. Falling on the king-size mattress, enveloped in silk. She rolls on top of me, the weight of her pushing me further into the sheets. Her mouth is hot and wet. I pull off her shirt, drop it next to the bed. Then her bra. Her breasts swing over my face. She has stretch marks. I don’t care.
And then she flips me over and starts to tug on my pants.
“Wait!” I say, but the blanket muffles it into a groan and before I can think my pants and boxers are off in one swift move. For a moment, she doesn’t notice. I feel her knead my ass, sending sparks to my clit.
Puts her hand between my legs. Her fingers brush my outer mound. First they feel the absence and then they realize what’s there—the soft cleft and moistened labia pushing out, trying to open. I’m frozen. Until she withdraws, sudden and violent, jumping to the far side of the bed as though my cunt could hurt her. But it can only damage me.
“What is this?” Her voice is softer than I’ve ever heard it.
I don’t answer.
“I don’t understand. How could…what are you?”
I close my legs and reach for the boxers but she grabs them away.
“Oh no. No, I want a fucking explanation.” Her voice climbs to a screech. “What the hell is going on here?”
I don’t answer.
She’s looking at me in a different way. I see the thousand little hints connecting in her mind. The soft skin, rounded thighs, small hands. My absent parents. “How old are you?”
I mumble something.
“What was that?”
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“Some puerile fucking stunt? Did you look at me and think, ‘Well, there’s a fucking patsy. She’s been screwed over by every other damn person in this world, why not me?’ Is that it?”
“You,” my voice falters. “You never asked.”
“Everything you told me was a lie,” she shouts. “And I’m not gay.”
“No, you’re a fucking pedo.” I sound bitter. I am.
Her cheeks colour.
“I’m sorry. Was that too blunt?”
We sit on opposite ends of the bed and glare. She throws the boxers at me. “Get out of my house.”
“Fuck you.” I’m shaking.
“If you don’t leave I’m going to call the police.”
“And say what? The kid I was trying to fuck turned out to be legal? Forget it.”
“How about trespassing? Malicious deception? Defamation of character? You’re in my house and I want you gone.” She squeezes fistfuls of sheets until her knuckles turn white.
I pull on my boxers, pants, and then shoes and start to walk away. I can hear her break behind me. Don’t know why she’s crying. She never really cared.
There’s a full-length mirror next to the door. For a moment I only see the boy. The hollow, shaken face of a little boy. Dull child eyes too exhausted for anything more than the basics: grief and fear. There is a part of me that wants to reach out and touch him, bring him home and keep him safe. Then I see the wrinkles forming between my eyes and the illusion’s gone. I tear myself away and walk out the door, dialling a number on my phone.
Fifteen minutes later Lori rolls up and I jump into the car. I’m shivering. It’s almost September. She hands me her jacket. “You owe me, sugar baby.”
I put my hand on her thigh. Long fingers run through my hair. She pulls. We go.
Calvin Gimpelevich is a trans Cascadian writer. He has work in Glitterwolf, THEM, and The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard. His webcomic, Wolfmen, was awarded the 2014 Prism Comics Queer Press Grant. http://www.calvingimpelevich.