Boys Don't Cry
© 2011 Zoe Taylor
John's descent into Sarah
John stood outside Zoey’s office, fidgeting. The initial meeting had gone surprisingly well. John’s mother Margaret seemed at least initially cordial toward the therapist, which was more than he could have hoped for. He brought his sketchpad, including the drawing of Sarah and Christina.
He nearly leapt out of his skin when the door opened again. Margaret, with tears staining her face, stepped out. She didn’t say a word as she motioned for John to step inside. He nervously picked up his sketchpad, and Margaret closed the door behind him, remaining outside.
Somehow the combination of the heather blue tank top and short black shorts made Zoey look much younger to him than she had even the previous day. He noticed it when they first entered as well, but now dwelled upon it, perhaps to distance his thoughts from what came next.
“Well, your mother is certainly a very strong and caring woman,” Zoey began, jarring John from his thoughts. He stared, trying to dissect what she meant by that. She smiled and motioned to the chair beside her. “You can stop trying to figure out what I meant, sweetie. I was being honest. She loves you, but she doesn’t know how to talk to you. Communication is going to be key going forward.”
Zoey paused to stand. John stared at the back of her legs for a moment as she paced to the window. She folded her arms and smiled, even as John lowered his gaze. “I have a name,” he mumbled. She turned back to face him now.
“So soon? I wanted you to take some time to really think about it.”
“No, I did think about it. Actually it was my friend Christina that suggested it.” He flinched, waiting for her to put two and two together. Though her face showed recognition, she chose not to say anything, instead returning to her chair. She leaned forward slightly, giving John’s hand a squeeze.
John turned his hand over to return the gesture, and then shifted, handing her the sketchpad. “Last page,” he again mumbled, afraid to even look her in the face as he waited for her response. She carefully opened the pad, and though she could easily have thumbed through all his drawings, she chose to skip ahead to the end, where the two teenaged ballet dancers stood side by side. She studied the picture for a moment then glanced at the signature.
John bobbed his head slowly.
She smiled. “My partner considered that name for awhile. So why did she choose Sarah?”
“She said it’s because I was always there for her, like Sarah, her favorite doll. But it ain’t right. I’m the reason the whole town turned against her!” He looked up again, tears in his eyes, but Zoey smiled as she gave a careful and measured shake of her head.
“No, Sarah,” she answered simply. A chill shot up John’s spine as he stared back at her. “This wasn’t your fault. The people of your community, your father, even your brother can share in some of this blame, but let me put it this way. Would you in good conscience blame LeAnn for any of this?”
“”No, of course not!” he shot back defensively.
“And would you blame me for what happened?”
“No,” he answered more calmly. “You weren’t even there.”
“Precisely; I wasn’t there. I had no control over the situation. Neither did you. Neither did your mother, LeAnn, or Christina. Sometimes things happen that are just beyond our control.” She paused to let that sink in before adding, “This picture is incredible.”
“Thanks. I kinda found that sketchpad on the last day of school last year. Y’know, locker cleanout. Can’t find ‘em in stores anywhere so it musta been an old one. Hey,” he paused, laughing quietly, “You’re changin’ the subject.”
She chuckled, giving a knowing smile. “Not really. I just wanted you to think about that for a minute.”
“So why’d you call me Sarah?” he finally asked.
“I wanted you to hear it from someone else, to know what it’s like to be called by a female name, but I won’t do it again unless you specifically ask.”
John nodded. “It’s okay. It just kinda felt weird, but not really in a bad way y’know? I kinda liked it.”
“We’ll ease into it then. I don’t want to push you too far, too fast. For the moment, I want to bring your mother back in so that we can discuss how we’re going to proceed from here. Is there anything you don’t want her to know?”
John shook his head slowly. “At first I didn’t want her to know anything, but now I think maybe it’s okay. Before you do that though, um… What’d she say about those blocker things?”
“She was reluctant at first, until I explained that all it’s going to do is give you a chance to make this choice for yourself without suffering the way my partner suffered. She’s not comfortable with the idea you might be transgendered.”
The young woman paused in thought for a moment before standing and turning to approach the door. She stepped out for only a moment before returning with Margaret, at which point she motioned for the two of them to follow her to the small sofa and chair. She seated herself delicately, waiting for the two to sit before continuing.
“I’ll be perfectly honest. Ordinarily I don’t feel comfortable giving my approval for any sort of hormonal intervention with a new patient until a very extensive evaluation period. John’s situation is unique though, in that if you wait too much longer, puberty will make irreversible changes…”
Shortly after Margaret dropped him off, John found Christina waiting outside his apartment with a duffle bag slung over her shoulder. More than that though, she had dressed very casually, and much more girlish than he had seen in the past. She wore low-rider faded jeans with a white belt, a very nearly midriff-bearing white t-shirt with pink sparkly glitter designs on the front, and a pair of star-shaped hoop earrings dangling. She smiled brightly and wrapped him in a hug as he approached.
“How did it go?”
John flinched slightly, but letting down his guard, put his arms around her and sighed. “She wants me to start those blocker things, and Mom’s said it’s okay. There’s something else though. C’mon inside. What’s in the bag?” he asked as he slid the key into the lock. Christina just giggled.
“You first,” she answered.
John pushed the door closed, resting against it as he stared back at her. “Can’t believe I’m sayin’ this. Mom said that if I wanted, that I can start dressing like a girl around the house, y’know, just to see if that’s really what I want…”
Christina’s giggling interrupted him though. She stepped forward and leaned up to kiss his cheek, something she hadn’t done since they were little. “Dress like a girl? Sweetie you are a girl. You just don’t look the part, but I can help.”
“You have a small frame. You’re taller than me, but you’re kinda wiry — no offense.” She giggled again. “All you really need is to pull your hair back, a little makeup, and the right clothes and you’d look great.”
“That’s all well and good, but I’m not exactly living in the lap of luxury here.”
“Yeah, and that’s why I brought you something.” She grabbed John’s hand, tugging him along toward his bedroom.
“I look ridiculous,” John whined as Christina delicately brushed his hair back, shaping and pulling. He now sat on his bed wearing a pair of tight girls’ jeans with a daisy embroidered design on the pocket, an emerald green tank top, and a silver chain necklace with a small unicorn pendant. A pair of matching socks nearly completed the outfit, save for his ratty old sneakers.
Christina rolled her eyes. “You look cute. Hand me the Alice band would you?”
“What, this thing?” he asked, holding up a black headband with a small bow offset to one side. He smiled to himself as he stared at it another moment before passing it to her.
“Yeah, that’s it. Hey Sarah, did you know there’s a big Euro band making a one-night stop here on their way to Little Rock?”
“Really?” John, now Sarah, asked, completely ignoring that Christina had used her female name. “Who are they?”
“Heedless Despair. They’re playing at the carnival if you want to go.”
Sarah stared down at herself and sighed. “I do, but not like this.”
Christina giggled as she leaned forward to rest her head on Sarah’s shoulder. “I didn’t mean to suggest you should. Your mom would lose it. You can still wear the underwear though…” she teased, kissing her cheek lightly. “Anyway, the show’s not for a couple of hours. That’s plenty of time to just relax and hang out before you change back to John.”
“I guess…” she answered reluctantly, and then asked, “You really think I look okay?”
Christina climbed off the bed and grabbed Sarah’s hand. She pulled her along into the bathroom and stood her in front of the mirror, stepping up beside her.
“What do you see?”
Sarah stared blankly, bewildered and a little frightened. Her hands began to shake violently as she backed away from the mirror, and Christina quickly grabbed her in a hug. By the time Christina had gotten her back to her bedroom, the taller girl hadn’t so much burst into tears as she had exploded.
“Shh-shh, it’s okay,” Christina whispered as she held her. “I’m here.”
Neither girl heard the key in the lock to the apartment, nor did they hear Margaret call from the living room. She froze in the doorway though as she stared in stunned silence at the scene before her. Her youngest son was nowhere to be found. Instead she had found a strange girl with pretty hair crying uncontrollably on Christina’s shoulder. Christina gave her a token glance and a nervous smile, but shook her head slowly.
Margaret stepped closer and sat down opposite Christina, placing her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”
Sarah tensed, burying her face further and shutting her eyes tightly. If she’d had the strength she might have shoved her fingers in her ears as well.
Margaret, uncertain what else she could do, hesitantly leaned forward to wrap both girls in a hug.
Sarah sniffed as she leaned back against her mother just slightly. “I-I’m sorry Momma,” she whimpered, causing it to sink in for Margaret.
“John?” she asked hesitantly. Christina quickly corrected her.
“No ma’am. This is your daughter, Sarah.”
“You look so…”
“So what?” Sarah asked as she slowly turned to look back at her.
“So different. I didn’t recognize you. Is… Is this really what you want?”
“I don’t know mamma,” she answered softly. “I just don’t know.”
Later that evening Margaret dropped Christina and John, now dressed in a baggy, grungy old flannel shirt over a plain gray t-shirt and second-hand jeans, off at the visiting carnival. Though it was more like a county fair than a true carnival, the promise of a big-name band giving a show for the cost of admission to the carnival swelled numbers and interest substantially. They could see from the gate the huge stage that had been set up already, with a massive circus tent-like tarp hanging off the sides and back.
The pair walked around for awhile, taking in the scenery, until shortly after John bought Christina some cotton candy. John was just about to try his luck at a ring toss game when the voice he had been dreading shouted.
“There you are you little freak.”
“Fuck,” John muttered, trying to disappear into the crowd, but Nathan was too quick, planting a large hand on his shoulder and spinning him around.
“You’re gonna wish you were never born,” he growled, but John laughed, causing him to pause. “What’s so funny?”
“I already wish I was never born,” he shot back. “But at least I don’t have to project my insecurities onto anybody I think’s weaker than me.”
Nathan stared back at John for several seconds. He seemed like he might go cross-eyed for just a moment before he pulled his fist back. John ducked out of the way and sprinted away. He completely lost sight of Christina in the crowd. He rounded a corner and disappeared under the tent-like tarps near the stage.
“Ow!” an older female voice yelped as John stumbled backwards. Through a haze of cigarette smoke he could see three very creepy-looking women staring down at him. They all seemed to be wearing corsets except for the life-sized doll holding the cigarette. She smirked as she bent down to offer her hand, pulling John to his feet.
He nervously backed away, bumping right into someone else. He spun around to find himself face-to-face with what appeared to be a ghostly bride. He shrieked, causing her to giggle.
“Relax sweetie,” she cooed in an accent John couldn’t quite place. “What’re you doin’ back here?”
“Sorry. I… I mean…”
The woman with fuscia hair rolled her eyes. “Aw, Shadow, you always get to have all the fun. Why not let me have this one?”
The lady in red shook her head next. “Okay girls, let’s not give him a heart attack. Who were you running from exactly?”
John stepped back again as the one they called Shadow stepped closer to the others, obviously trying not to giggle. “Sorry. I was tryin’ to get away from a gorilla of a football player. Thinks he’s hot stuff because he’s an athlete, and he’s double-pissed ‘cause his girlfriend left him. Anyway I’ll uh… I’ll just be gettin’ outta the way.”
“Suit yourself,” Shadow responded simply. “But we do so love scaring the piss out of little boys with too much ego, should you change your mind.”
“John?” Christina called as she passed by outside. John glanced over, and Shadow approached.
“Really though, if there’s a problem, just give us the name and we’ll have our security people handle it, okay?”
John frowned. He glanced between the tarp and the woman, finally calling. “Over here Chris!” He returned his gaze to the woman. “I appreciate the offer, but I got enough shit to wade through already. I gotta pick my battles, and right now I ain’t in the right frame of mind to handle the fallout.”
“All the more reason to let us help you,” the redhead added with a hint of sincerity in her British voice. John finally sighed. “Alright. His name’s Nathan Beckham. Over six feet tall, built like a freight train. You can’t miss him.”
“John?” Christina called again, peeking under the tarp. “There you are!” Without really acknowledging the women she raced to his side and wrapped him in a hug. “Christ I was looking everywhere for you.” Christina paused, slowly turning to face the, now grinning, four women. “Ohmygod.”
“Hi there,” the ghost bride hissed playfully. Christina squealed.
“You’re Heedless Despair! This is SO cool! I’m like your second-biggest fan!”
The four women looked at each other and giggled. The fuscia-haired guitarist slipped away from the others, returning with a pair of 8x10 photographs and a pen. After signing and getting the others to sign, she stepped closer, offering them to the two.
“Listen, it sounds like you both had a bad day of it. Take these, and go have fun. Then when the sun goes down come back here and we’ll make sure you get a good seat for the show, yeah?”
“Wow, thank you so much!” Christina gushed excitedly. John smiled weakly.
“Yeah, thanks.” John offered. Christina smiled as she leaned up to kiss his cheek.
“Come on, I dropped my cotton candy when Nathan started after you.”
The four giggled as they watched John and Christina leave.
“Cute couple,” one whispered, just loud enough for them to hear. Christina giggled as John’s cheeks began to burn.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.