What to do when the world sees you as what you are not? Does Erika think about this every day? Does anyone want to know what passes through Erika’s mind? What colors her world grey? The countless questions asked at pointless intervals throughout the night? Who asks the questions Erika wants to be asked? Who cares enough to ask? 1, 2, 3, zero? Mom…. Dad? Does Erika’s mother even know who her own son is? Does Erika’s father know who his daughter is? Is he a father? Do The Andersons have a daughter or a son… does it matter? “Choose.” Why must he be put in a neat box? Why must Erika decide? Why must he choose between dresses and tennis shoes? Why can’t she wear makeup and a suit? “Choose.” Why must he like boys? Can she not like girls? Is liking both a sin? If she is both, is liking either a sin?
Does Erika like working out? Are muscles on a “girl” attractive? What about tattoos? Does her father accept that he can make her own decisions? “Choose.” Is she allowed to be gay? Is he allowed to be straight? Can he be a lesbian? Can you be a queer Christian? “Choose.” Would the guys accept him? Would the girls talk to her? Would he be a mother? Would she be a father? What would being raised by someone so indecisive do to the child? “Choose.” Is it okay to subject a child to these questions? Is it okay to ask anyone to answer these questions, to choose a box?
Did Erika’s mother ask, “Ericka, what are you wearing?”
Did Erika respond? “What am I supposed to wear? What do you want me to wear? Will wearing those clothes make you love me? Like me? Can make believe on my part result in reality on yours?” Or was it merely a fantasy? Did he walk out after that? Did Erika stop to listen for an answer? Did he wait to see if her mom would stop him? Change her mind? “Choose.” When Erika heard no other comment, did she then trudge up the stairs with tears in his eyes? Or was his head held high as Erika marched to his room? Did she then close the door to her room, sit on his bed and then make up her clouded mind? “Choose.” Would she then make eye contact with himself in the mirror in which he applied her face every day? Did he like what she saw? Were his eyes swollen and leaking? Were her lips cracked and dry? Was there any semblance of what he truly was? Was who she is on the outside just a layer of paint, reapplied daily until it matched who he was inside? How long would acceptance take? Would it ever come? If the very people who brought you into the world couldn’t accept the real you then who could? Was the pain that came with that question worth bearing? “Choose.”
Would he then get up from the edge of her bed, walk over to his side table and pull out that pink notebook his mother had given her for his sixteenth birthday? Would she then take out his pen that he had used to write love letters to her last girlfriend, who had left because Ericka couldn’t decide who or what he was? “Choose.” Did her feet slip from beneath her, while his back journeyed down the wall as it had many times before? Did the pages of that forsaken journal begin to fill with thoughts and smudges? Or did he just cry? Both? Either? Did his feelings come pouring out of her for the first time? Did the paper tear from salt water or from sloppy handwriting? Could the words that made up Erika’s entire world be deciphered? “Choose.” Was this paper, that had been so ardently crafted, then ripped out of that confusing notebook and folded in half? “Choose.” Was that pen, used for the final time, discarded on the wood floor? “Choose.” Was that enticing cabinet, that had served as a home to Erika’s antidepressants for years, opened once more? “Choose.” Were the pills that had served as a lifeline, her own private fool’s paradise, for so long emptied carelessly onto her dresser? “CHOOSE.” Did stray tears collide and mingle with pills as they journeyed to the ground? “CHOOSE.” Was that piece of his soul then signed and placed among her last ounce of hope? “Choose.” How many “lifelines” made it to her mouth and how many were claimed by the floor? How long did he sit there? Lie there? “Choos..” When did she give up hope of her mother coming in to apologize, to beat back the end? “Choo…” Did it make it easier when the door didn’t open? “Cho….” Did she know that his eyes would not get the chance to look upon his mother’s nor any loving face before her clock hit zero? “Ch…..” How long before his sobs became a barely audible whimper? “C……” How big did the puddle of tears grow? “.......” How long before his chest no longer expanded? ……?
How many minutes, hours, before her mother came up the stairs and knocked on his door? “Erika you need to quit your pouting and go walk the dog before bed.” Did his mother then rap on the door harder and yell for her daughter to get out there before she was grounded? Did the former mother then pull the door open with her face red, pulsing with anger? How long did her face stay red before turning white? How long before her legs failed to work? Did she then place one hand in front of one knee and another hand in front of another knee until her knees were soaked and she could touch the still, cold, form that lie in front of her? Did she check for a flutter of a heartbeat? Of lashes? Did her tears mingle with those of her sons in which she knelt? Was the signed piece of her daughter’s soul discovered on the dresser amidst the chaos? Did her shaking hands scratch against the dry paper as it was fearfully and delicately unfolded? Did an incoherent sound escape her red lips as her eyes scanned the page and came to rest on the last words? Their first and final choice? The signature?
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