Definition Of Guy
what if there was another life
and somehow we could choose
if we could be someone else,
what would we have to lose?
“You should go,” I said quietly, without looking at Kayden.
Thankfully, he said nothing more about what had happened in the bathroom, he had asked me only two questions: the location of the first aid kit and if I had antibacterial ointment. For the first time since I could remember, someone other than a nurse had taken my hand in theirs and wiped down my wounds in a manner neither of my parents had ever bothered with. Heat still rushed to my ears when I thought about the soft look he had in his eyes while wrapping rolls of gauze around my burns.
I hadn’t been able to sleep since then. Kayden took my bed—I had insisted—while I claimed the floor as mind like I would have if he hadn’t been around. I never slept in my bed unless I really needed to. It was one of the few things in this house that gave me good memories and I didn’t want to contaminate it with my pain.
Having Kayden sleep there felt right. Now, whenever I felt alone, I could crawl under the covers and remember this night. I would remember it forever.
With more of such thoughts running through my head, I laid on the floor awake, appreciating the silence as I watched the darkness grow lighter with each passing hour. When the alarm rang eventually I rushed to snooze it, not wanting the moment to end.
Kayden got to it first.
I panicked when I saw him glancing around the room, the little sunlight spilling from the open blinds enough to illuminate everything I had tried to hid at midnight. The first thing I said to him was that he should leave. I didn’t even say good morning.
I regretted the words even before they left my mouth but I didn’t take them back. I couldn’t. He needed to leave, my mother couldn’t see him here. Though I couldn’t predict what would happen if she did, I instinctively knew it would be bad. Kayden needed to go before my mother got home. I didn’t want her hurting him too.
He looked down at me with a knowing smile, the pastel pink alarm clock still in his hands. “Kicking me out already?”
“I won’t hurt myself,” I said slowly, trying to reassure him despite the words sounding fake to my own ears. I didn’t know whether I was getting better or worse at deception.
Kayden shook his head and set the clock back on the bedside table. “But someone else will, won’t they?”
I straightened up, dread pooling in my gut. No one had ever guessed it right on their first try. No one ever suspects that someone might be hurting me.
Or maybe they did and they just didn’t care, a voice whispered in my head.
My attention snapped back to Kayden. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I might be homeless,” he swung his legs over the bed and stood up, “but I’m not stupid.”
“I didn’t say anything...” I trailed off when my eyes settled on his back. His muscles flexed as he strode across the room, taking in all the trinkets and photos on the walls.
After taking a bath and wearing decent clothes—mine—Kayden looked... Well, he looked hot.
His eyes were a shade of blue that reminded me of the ocean in children’s books, the one that was always someone the same shade—the right shade—and they never seemed to stay still. Only in proper lighting could I truly appreciate how good-looking he was. Curly black hair framed his face, the strands reached just below his neck but before now I’d only seen them up in a ponytail. I couldn’t choose which look I preferred.
I marvelled at how hefty he was, my clothes seemed sizes too small for him, clinging to every inch of skin on his upper body. It had to be uncomfortable.
I never wore any that stuck to me like that but even my baggiest clothes barely gave him room to breath. I felt bad for not having anything larger in my wardrobe.
I shifted my gaze to the peach blinds when he caught me looking, something strange bubbling in the middle of my chest. I couldn’t tell if it was jealousy or guilt, maybe the both of them?
“What is it?” Kayden asked, startling me out of me thoughts. I found him right in front of me, a picture frame in his hand.
“Nothing!” I said hastily, bringing my hands to my chest only to stare at the careful wrapped bandage around them. It would take weeks for the pain to fade and my skin to heal. And the scars. . .
“It’s nothing.” I frowned, not wanting to remember what I had done. I buried the memory of yesterday deep in the recesses of my mind. It was over, it didn’t need to be relived.
“Is this you?” He held up the photo and pointed at the center, to the little person dressed in a blue gown. By ‘her’ side were two people, a man and woman both dressed in suits of the same color. All three were blonde and had wide smiles.
I nodded silently. It had been long since I had looked at that picture. At one point in my life, it had been my source of hope. It meant nothing to me now.
“Why did you dress up like a girl?”
I could only stare at him, not really able to answer that question. I had never needed to. No one had asked before.
“What?” I asked back. I might have heard him wrong.
“Well. . .” He trailed off, his confusion visible through his eyes. “Aren’t you a guy?”
“I...” Well, what could I say to that? No one really figured it out without me telling them... Not even Arleen, until the day I stood up for her and at the same time defended my gender. “What makes you think I am?”
I knew my voice has a tinge of hurt as I continued, “What makes you say that?”
But I didn’t know why I was suddenly in denial. Someone had finally seen me for who I was meant to be and not who I looked like. I should have been happy, so why wasn’t I?
Maybe it’s because you’ve worked so hard to be what the world expected you to be and now he’s telling you that you were never good enough to have anyone fooled, the voice returned. Maybe it’s because deep down, you know you can never be a B O Y.
Obviously seeing something in my expression, Kayden apologized and put the picture back on the shelf he had plucked it from. “It just seemed obvious. You’re pretty and everything. . . but you’re clearly not a girl.”
“You are the only one who can see that,” I mumbled, picking at the edge of my bandage. What was the point if only one person acknowledged what I identified as? I knew Arleen thought of me as a girl deep down. That was why she said that she could only date me if I was a girl and she was a boy. She didn’t see the current me as an option, not because we were like siblings to each other but because she was straight.
“You don’t mind the pink walls?” I blurted out the question before I could take it back. He had seen everything in the room. The pink wallpaper, furniture and rug; the pink plushes, clothes, curtains and bedsheets; the absence of any other color except pink and white in my living space. It should have been obvious what a freak I was by now. It should have been clear that it was time for him to go.
But he didn’t run. He only made a full circle on the spot he stood and smiled mischievously. “What’s wrong with pink? Isn’t it just a color?”
I could only give him a blank stare, my emotions conflicted. Having one or two pink items was okay, maybe even an entire wardrobe was normal but owning nothing that wasn’t in a shade of the color, was that normal? Did that make pink a color or an obsession?
“Are you even a guy?”
“Depends on your definition of ‘guy’?” Kayden replied, his backpack now slung over his shoulder.
“Thanks for letting me stay the night,” he said before walking out of the room, leaving me stunned as I tried to process what had just happened. My definition of guy?
Till now, my mind was still stuck on: HE LIKES PINK?
It had taken me a few minutes to realize it, but I knew I had to chase after him. I had needed answers since the moment I realized that I wasn’t like the other boys but no one had ever offered to enlighten me. Now though, it seemed I had found the one who had written my questions in the first place.
“Wait!” I got off the floor, stumbling a little as I pulled on my socks while simultaneously putting on boots. I swiped my keys off the kitchen counter and raced out of the apartment, trusting the AI to secure the door for me. “What do you mean?!”
For the first time in forever, I didn’t worry about consequences. I didn’t care what would happen later in the day when my mother came home to an empty house.
All I had on my mind was him. The homeless guy that had spun my entire world on its head in just seven hours.