It had been a few weeks and for some reason KA was still with Michael...or maybe that was the other way around. They spent a lot of time talking about things...they even included me in some of their discussions and--as much as I wanted to feel great for my friend, I felt like I was slowly getting cut off.
I mean, I felt less like a friend and more like the girl in the movies that was a little crazy but also had an unrequited love to the guy who saw her, but thought of her as a friend....which I was.
"Maybe we should double date sometime."
I looked up from my books as Micheal sat up form the couch. We had skipped our afternoon study sessions due to Karen Anne wanting to spend so much time with him; so much so that his grades were slipping a little. I had stepped up to save him, but that required him to tell KA that his life--not to mention his truck--were in jeopardy if he didn't bring his grades up. I loved that we could spend more time together, even if the love wasn't mutually shared.
"That's kind of funny," I replied.
"Karen Anne's dad seems to think that we're up to something."
"Are you?" I asked as I moved my hair away from my eyes.
"No, not really. But the other day--" I closed my textbook. He had my attention. "Nothing, I'm--"
"Kind of heavy?"
"No, it's just that she tried so hard and then her mom came into the room."
"I can't talk about it, you know."
"Keep it respectful. I got it."
"Her parents must think I'm a perv."
"I think they know how KA is--they're just hoping that someone can prove them wrong."
"Kind of glad they do that, I--."
"Mike!" A grizzled voice yelled from the other end of the house.
Mike left the room to answer his uncle, a man I had seen only three times up until that day. I picked my books up as it was getting late.
MHe walked back into the room with his keys in hand. "Ready?"
"I need to run to the store before we stop at your place."
"Fine by me," I replied as we left the room.
We drove a few miles toward my house and stopped at a local grocery store. Mike never talked much about his uncle so I knew very little except that he was probably Mike's great uncle and had an unknown health condition. He would always send him to the store for mundane items. It was always a small list and always had some form of beef jerky on it.
We walked into the store and grabbed a small shopping cart.
"One day, I'm going to be doing this on a weekly basis, I think."
"Not gonna let the little woman do it?"
"Only if she wants to."
"If it's Karen Anne, she's going to hold you to that."
I had never seen Karen Anne's mother ever carry a shopping bag. Either food magically appeared in their house via a system of elves that would have made Santa jealous or Federal Express delivered them on an every other day basis. My vote was on the elves.
Mike's uncle's list was larger this time with a case of Dr. Pepper, wheat bread, cheese slices and milk to go along with the beef jerky.
"Does he live off of this?"
"He said he used to camp out in the woods for days with a small cooler of stuff while hunting for deer. Always had the beef, or was it deer, jerky. Oh and beer, but--"
"Can't send you for beer," I said as we passed by the frozen foods case. I saw our reflection and how odd it looked. Here I was, dressed in a black shirt with my hair still way too long for the school dress code standing next to this taller guy who could have whoever he wanted...and...I guess he kind of did with Karen Anne.
"Couldn't do that. I can spend a few days out on a ranch. You know, some place that at least has some form of running water."
"Oh yeah, gotta have the biscuits. But to sit up in a tree for hours, whizzing into bottles to keep the deer from smelling you just to maybe bag one. Give me a saddle and a horse to ride anytime over that."
I had never figured out how many different versions of "being country" there were and even though you'd never get me in a saddle or in a tree, I wouldn't mind wearing the tight-fitting jeans if I knew who was waiting for me after the ride.
I took several short glances of my face in the mirror to see if everything looked okay. I refused to wear any make-up. I mean why bother? Who was I trying to impress? I wanted to feel like myself and caking foundation all over my face, even if to hide a few hairs here and there, would feel like a mask. Halloween was over. It was time to walk out of the dorm hall as me.
I closed my eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath.
"Ready for the day?" Mike asked as he stepped, fully dressed, out of the bathroom.
"No, ready to withdraw from class and jump right back in that bed."
"No, you're not," he replied as he wrapped his arms around me.
"You keep doing that and I'll drag you with me. You know that, right?"
"Tempting." I leaned into his arms. "Very tempting."
"You're going to drop me, aren't you?"
"I'd never do that to a lady."
"But you want me to go out that door and dive into the cold, cruel world."
I shook my head as I stood back up and then spun around to face Mike.
"Seriously, how do I look?"
"You look great. How do you feel?"
"Like a little boy in a dress, actually...but-"
"It will pass once I get out that door." I grabbed my satchel and my camera. "Here."
I opened the case, removed the lens cover and handed it over to Mike.
"What's this for?"
Mike nodded and gave a sly grin.
We walked out of our dorm room into the quiet hall. No one was in the hallway. Not that I wanted our entire floor to come out of their rooms and line up like it was a runway but I kind of wanted to get a reaction. At that moment I was not thinking about any repercussions. I didn't care if someone took offense, swallowed their chewing tobacco or had their faces melt like that guy in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". I had taken a brave step. I wasn't wearing a costume or living scripted lines, I was me.
I was happy no one was in the stairwell though as I nearly tripped over my own shoes as I stumbled down each step, laughing all the way. One could say I was drunk, especially as I zigged-zagged, almost skipping and swinging around the turns at each floor. I looked back at Michael once or twice. He tried to hide a smirk, but failed at it as he stepped down next me and took my left hand. We continued our haphazard descent to the first floor.
The door to the front area of the dorm room--a small meeting room with a TV in the corner along with Richard's office--opened with a loud creak--quite possibly done purposely by Dick so he could always see who was leaving, as the door was past his field of vision. He poked his head out of his office and his expression, which was usually a combination of constipation mixed with pissed-off, was...well, the best way to say would be shock. Not like "it's the end of world" or "oh crap, a bomb just went off!" But there was just enough of a puzzled look on his face.
"Click-clack" The camera shutter whirred and clicked along with the flash and I possibly had a great picture for my own version of the "The Daily Beacon". Rick's face stayed the same, the same slight shock as we walked past his office. I opened the door and turned to meet Micheal's eyes and to see if Rick was still looking.
"Mission accomplished," I whispered.
We sat in our same location for breakfast as we always did--near the coffee dispenser.
"Well, we made it so far."
"Yeah," I replied as I held a cup of coffee in one hand and my camera in the other. "Maybe we should destroy this picture?"
"If you want to, but I thought-"
"Yeah I did want to keep it. I almost thought about using it as a dart board."
"What changed your mind?"
"I don't know...I guess I don't want to sink to his level...even if its just between the two of us, I--"
Mike nodded as he took the camera from me and flipped a switch.
"What are you doing?" He pointed the camera at me.
Any other day, at any other time in my life I would have thrown my books at him or turned away sharply but I sat there with a smile on my face. No posing, just an honest pic.
Micheal hesitated to take the picture--I guess to see if if I would dodge the shot. I only smiled and nodded.
The flash whined up and the shutter clicked,
"I hope I didn't get my thumb," he replied as turned the flash off and passed the camera back.
"What other pictures are on that roll?"
"Ones we can't take to Walgreens."
I'm sure I turned a little red at remembering that session in the middle of the breakfast rush.
We picked our books up and left for our respective classes.
There were a few glances from some people but for the most part they were either in a hurry to get food and dash to class or couldn't see through their sunglasses, courtesy of a weekend hangover.
My English class was across the campus and I took my time to get there--wanting to admire the view and the "clopping" of my shoes on the sidewalk. It was a different kind of sound--one I never heard with tennis shoes or my Birkenstocks; these were something I never experienced before, short of standing in my bedroom, looking out the window and wondering why I felt different.
I knew why but it didn't click in my brain.
No, it clicked but something was always turning it off...unlocking the door...something like that.
There were times that I just wanted to smash all of my pictures, cut the images into itty-bitt pieces and then take a jabbed piece of glass and jab it into my left wrist and just sit and watch the blood flow...as my parents had wanted to make sure that blood would never flow from other part of me. I came to the crossroads so many times and I only took small slices into my arm, under my long-sleeve shirt or where a watch would hide it. I didn't have to take PE at school due to taking so many medications for my "conditions" that no one would ever see the marks on me.
Karen Anne made the cutting stop for a while and when she did see one, due to my watch band snapping off I told her it was a paper cut from a playbook and I demonstrated how it happened and how it stung for awhile. She let it go after that and I was afraid to tell her--for as much as she was my friend she was still a human being, not an ever-loving goddess.
I walked up the steps to the English department and the door swung open.
"Thank you," I replied with a smile to the guy I didn't know who held the door. He smiled back and nodded. That would not have happened last Friday as no one would have held the door for me in my jeans and slouched down look.
Half of the class was in the room, and about fourteen pairs of eyes looked at me as I stepped in. Eight went back to what they were doing, four turned around abruptly. The remaining pairs continued to look. I just pulled my books out and took the usual seat in the front row. I didn't pay too much attention to it at the time, but the volume in the room dropped to nothing, like we were now in an anechoic chamber. Anyone who walked into the room who was talking would abruptly stop. I didn't think it as a negative. I didn't think, "OMG, they're all. Looking. At. Me!" They would look at me if I wore anything else, because I would at times....but I'm sure a few were mulling over what the deal was.
A few minutes later, Mr Stephens walked into the room at eight thirty-five, his usually time.
"Sorry I’m late class, had to get my kids off to school and traffic, I-"
I looked up to see Mr. Stephens, his eyes on me.
"Hope...everyone’s weekend was...was eventful. I'm assuming yours was, Mr. Novoselic?"
"Sir?" I asked.
"Your weekend, Mr. Novoselic. How was it?"
"Actually, sir, I guess Miss Novoselic would be a better choice and my weekend was okay."
"Or you can call me Kristi."
"I'm a bit...so this is not a new production?"
"If all the world's a stage then, yes, you could say that--"
Mr, Stephens sat down at his desk and put his hands on his head.
I kind of thought that maybe I should have given him a heads up but to be honest, then I would have to put out a declaration and get approval from every living thing; just in case I might have upset their fragile sensitivities but no one ever asked me how I felt when life slammed me down with the name Kris and the quasi-macho persona I was supposed to take up with that mantle: like I had to like football or I had to stare at a girl's chest--well I was kind of okay with that--but you know if I wanted to spend my days watching "Sailor Moon" and dreaming about wearing a bridal gown one day, then I was going to.
My next class was more or less a rehash of my first one with the exception that the instructor didn't look at me and addressed me as Kristi without any prompts. No one in my English class was there so either he went out on a limb and just decided to risk it or he had been informed. Besides, he had a larger gauge in his ear and that, along with advance quadratic formulas, took more of his attention.
"Hey," a girl who seldom ever talked to me said as we left the building. "Looks good."
"You're being brave." She said with a slight hush to her voice. Her name was Amanda Marks and she sat in the back of the class and stayed to herself. She never looked my way, not that I ever begged her to but she also never acknowledged my existence by walking right by me without a nod or a wave and at that moment she was talking to me as if we must have had slumber parties and passed folded notes to each other in high school.
"No, just truthful."
She was someone who was a lot like Karen Anne--the kind of girl who wouldn't give anyone who looked beneath her a second thought as it violated the social order in most schools. High school or college, it didn't matter, as there was always some sort of pecking order; there was always someone smaller, strange or introverted to pick on.
Amanda was not as brash as Karen Anne was about things though. She kept to herself during class and seldom did I ever hear her ask a question. She had very long blond hair and it always looked like it was in perfect condition; like she could go to sleep and "Poof" be ready for the day--Disney Cinderella style without having to wonder if her face had any marks or any hairs around her lips. I had wished that my DNA was more on the XX scale as it was on XY...or wherever in Hell it actually was.
"Tired of faking my life. So..."
"So, you're really a girl?
"Maybe, it depends on the day and how I feel sometimes." I instantly regretted saying that; not knowing where she would take it. But it was true.
There were days that I didn't feel like anything that could be identified in a textbook or a student questionnaire. There were always two choices but I was always forced to choose "male" and even if I did check "female" someone would change it; either my parents or the person behind the counter or with the clipboard. There were times when I thought that flashing them would get my point across but it was never worth the cost of a new psychologist and the time in prison.
"But you're in the guys dorm?"
"There are worse places to stay."
"That's...that's a bit weird."
"Uh-huh," I replied as she stopped walking.
"Your name really is Kristi?"
"Great to finally talk to you," she replied as she turned the other way.
"You're welcome," I said and then turned back to the way I was walking.
I took a few glances back to her to see if she was looking back.
I turned back around and felt a flushing in my face. I wasn't about to tell Mike about this--as much as I knew he would understand he would ask me why I looked back at her and I didn't have a good answer except that someone else acknowledged my existence.
I went back to the dorm room, and threw my satchel on the bed. I would have at least an hour before my next class and I thought about taking a short nap but that didn't happen as I heard voices outside the door: Michael and Danny! The door lock clicked and opened.
"I'll install it for you."
"All right. I've been wanting to try it. I-"
The two looked at me as I straightened out my dress.
"New play?" Danny asked.
Mike looked at me for a visual clue, I didn't have one.
"No. New life."
"What?" Danny asked.
"Close the door and I'll explain."
"Does Karen Anne know this?"
"Actually-" Mike started.
"I didn't know she was into the kinky stuff."
"She's not," I replied as I looked in the mirror. "And no, I'm not either."
"Then what's with the dress?"
"Okay, Danny. Let's start by saying that Karen Anne is not my fiancée."
Danny stood next to the door with his hand very close to the handle. His body language read that he desperately wanted to flee in terror. I mean he had fights with the boyfriends of girls he tried to pick up at bars on an almost weekly basis and for some reason I? Was frightening, him?
"You're out of class early?" I asked Mike.
"Prof didn't show. We waited for, what? Fifteen minutes?"
"Yeah, yeah...fifteen," Danny sighed and took a deep breath. "Have you guys always been gay?"
"No one is gay and you're saying that like it's a crime."
"So if I open that top drawer, I'll find---"
"Whips, chains and candle wax," I stormed over to my dresser and opened the top drawer. "God, Danny, what do you think you'll find? Take a look."
He stepped over as if I was going to grow tentacles or something and try to attack him.
"Socks and underwear...women's."
"Those are new," Mike stated.
"How long have you known about....wait a minute. Allie is a shortened form of Allen--"
"Allie is my real middle name."
"So, the two of you...whoa...I...need a beer." Danny took a step back--it looked like he was ready to hit the floor.
"It's only noon." I said as I closed the drawer.
"Tequila, then. So, you're a chick?"
"Genetics Lottery? Lucky draw?" I replied with a shrug.
"What about you and Karen Anne...and wait you went out with her too, and--"
Mike nodded as he stood next to me.
"I'm really in need of a beer." Danny said as he tried to avoid eye contact with me.
"I'm still the same strange, weird, off in their own world person you've always thought of me. I don't plan on judging you."
"Did you wear that to class?"
"Uh-huh and it felt real good too."
"Okay. So, are you still going to stay here? In the dorm?"
"Until they come and kick me out, yes."
Danny locked eyes with me for a second. I wasn't irritated nor militant, but his eyes had a hundred yard state--when you're brain has snapped and pauses all of your thoughts until you're snapped back into reality.
"Would it make you feel better if I wore pants?" The question wasn't asked to make him feel more secure, but more to point out that he was acting just a little bit like an ass. Like it was HIS life that would be forever under the microscope.
"I don't know anymore," he replied. "I think...I think I might skip class this afternoon, I-"
"What is the big deal?"
"I'm just trying to get over the fact that I know a hermaphrodite."
"Lets try to not use that term. It sounds like a bad porn."
"Well, I have--"
""Don't want to hear it."
"You watched it with me, Mike."
Mike's face turned red. "It just came up while we were browsing."
"Whatever," I replied, while wondering how something like that just comes up. I never understood the internet.
"And you're going to dress like that for the remaining of the year?" Danny asked with an expression that was one part exhausted and two parts bewildered.
"Yes. Maybe less."
"She picked out some pretty good outfits," Mike replied to a slack-jawed Danny.
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