A story from Emma’s youth.
I knelt on the bathroom counter while the shower water ran, teetering on the edge of the sink in a red cocktail dress while caking on my mother’s makeup in the most unprofessional and satisfying manner. I paused for a moment to examine, one eyebrow raised and the other lowered in a delirious half squint, red was not my color after all. The showers have become a ploy. Everyone noticed that my showers have all recently become a great deal longer, they believed I was just becoming more image conscious. I most definitely was.
I hid the clothes away and cleansed myself of the evidence. For all of my need to be feminine I could never allow myself to be open and honest about it. I toyed with the idea, I guess I wanted to. My heart raced when I would dare to walk from the bathroom to my bedroom with the clothing visible, but bundled tightly in my arms. I would leave the doors of my room unlocked as I sang along to Alanis Morissette in a short skirt and tank top. I have no idea how my parents are so oblivious, I came out over a year ago and I don’t exactly hide it.
The small, independent clothing store half a mile from my home was my supplier. I suited up in my most unassuming jeans and flannel shirt and headed over, I was in dire need of a new pair of sparkly sandals. I was a young teenager already earning a little bit of money selling pets at a local flea market. I even had the temerity to pay my own fare and ride 12 miles on a dilapidated rail system alone to get to work, you might have called me an industrious youth. The bell above me rang as I opened the door and the small woman behind the counter, with her eyes half shut and walnut face, turns slowly from her daytime stories to watch me wander conspicuously through the racks of clothing and hide as I try on the women’s shoes at the back of the store. I don’t know why she watches me; we’ve been through all of this a few times before. I find the perfect ones, silver and black to match the streak of mean girl I’m feeling at the moment. “You like sparkly sandals, huh?” She asked me just loud enough to make me glance around to make sure no one else was there. “That’s okay, you come in and you buy whatever you want.” She smiles and I smile. Well, there’s someone I’m pretty honest with, I guess.
I get rid of all excess packaging and tuck the shoes in my baggy flannel shirt and pants. I thought it was dangerous to crossdress, and in the gangland of my youth it almost certainly was. No less dangerous than actually being in a gang, maybe in some sideways fashion crossdressing saved my life, I don’t know and can’t really say.
Home is just a few yards away. My father steps out onto the front yard and moves deliberately towards the back yard gate. “Hey guy, come here, we have to dig up some holes and repair the back fence.” He stops for a moment and looks me up and down, “I have no idea why you take such long showers and still dress like you’re homeless.”
I smile awkwardly and my palms begin to sweat, “I don’t know. Let me go inside a second and I’ll be back there in just a minute, please.”
“Alright, hurry up.”
The gate’s bolt rattles and nearly 6 feet of diesel mechanic disappears behind the house. I shudder to think I could ever turn out that way. I walk inside and hide the shoes deep in my closet. I put on some rattier old clothes and look down at my hands, they were going to get roughed up out there… I take a deep breath and I return to whatever reality I was living in, walk outside and through the fence.