How To Be Straight

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What do you mean? My hands were shaking. She couldn’t have guessed. She couldn’t have. I rocked back and forth with my knees pulled to my chest for a few minutes before turning on the movie again. Anything to distract me. Anything. But my phone in my hand was a heavy reminder of the text I was dreading. I felt like I was kneeling before a judge, waiting to hear my conviction, knowing I was deserving, knowing it was coming, just needing to know what my punishment would be.

I hadn’t been obvious, had I? Had anyone else noticed? Had anyone really looked hard enough at me to realize I liked girls instead of boys? They had no proof. They couldn’t say anything about me. They couldn’t say I was-

Except I was. And because of it they could ruin me. Shay could destroy me. I was an ant, just waiting to be stepped on. Once again, I paused the movie, because I wasn’t paying attention anyway, and opened my phone.

Instead of the text app, I opened the dictionary and typed in the word ‘homophobe.’ Instead of taking me to the definition of the indicated word, it brought me to Snapchat, an app which I claimed to have no interest in. I clicked on the only conversation going, and sent a snap of my TV with the image paused on a bloody battlefield. Lousy day, I typed.

Okay, recap. Hidden in the dictionary app of my phone is the Snapchat app, and hidden in Snapchat is a group chat called ‘Kill The Gays’, and yes, it is filled with a bunch of hidden gay and trans kids from all over the country. Most of us are so far in the closet we can’t even see the light of day. I drummed my fingers on the bright light of the phone screen while I waited for a reply. Cece was the first person to respond, in her bouncy, kind way, texting, I’m sorry, what happened?

I smiled sadly as I typed back, I think it was bad karma to name the chat this, so parents don’t question it or for whatever other reason we did it… It’s going to become a reality.

Less than 30 seconds later, I got her response: OMG, did you tell them?

I laughed at her enthusiasm. There are all kinds of prizes that we have set up for the first one out of the closet, but I never intended to win them. Not on purpose.

I could practically hear her sigh, which I knew from various FaceTimes with her. What happened?

I smiled, genuinely this time. If our weird little group of online friends was a family, Cece would be either the mom, or the kind older sister. Through a long exchange of short texts, I described my day, ending with a screenshot of Shay’s texts, with her last name scribbled out for her sake. Note the times, I added.

By now Treavor had joined the conversation. He was a trans boy who Mia had found and invited in a few months ago. Damn, he wrote, I bet I know what would make you feel better.

I already knew the answer, but I played along, a small smile finding its way to my lips. What?

A date with me. Yes, he asked me out almost every day, and yes, he was joking, and no, I would never say yes.

I ignored his text, and wrote back, But what do I do???!!!

Nothing. Cece said. I had to do a double take when I saw that. Nothing?

What do you mean? I asked, realizing that this was the second time in an hour that I had typed that sentence. I must be getting clueless.

You’re lucky, Cece responded almost instantly. If she hasn’t said anything, maybe she isn’t going to. Asking what she meant was a good move. I’ve heard you feign straightness before, I’m sure you can do it again. Don’t bring it up again. Don’t give her strange looks, and for hell’s sake, Jame.

Yeah? I responded quickly. She was the only person in the world who could call me Jame.

Be careful.

I woke up funny. I had fallen asleep texting with my online friends, and had never brushed my teeth or wiped off my makeup. A mistake. My body was sore as I pulled myself out of bed, and to my bathroom, turning on the shower. It occurred to me that I had no concept of the time, as I had forgotten to set an alarm as well. I had fallen asleep around midnight, I thought, after hours of texting. I looked at my watch and sighed. Even worse than being super late. It was four in the morning, far too early to start getting ready for school. But with no other choice, since I was already in the shower, I woke myself up with a pinch and got started with my day. Yesterday’s events came back slowly, and I soon was groaning with the reality of what had happened.

Shay. Shay had guessed me. Shay had put me on the spot. Shay had accused me of liking girls. Shay had been right.

I sighed, turning off the water and grabbing a clean towel off of the never ending stack. I traced the J with my finger before wrapping the cloth tightly around myself. I stepped out of the shower and onto the white bath mat before rubbing the towel over my hair and hanging it to dry. I returned to my room and grabbed a white tee and a black pair of jeans from the drawers, changing hurriedly. I returned to the bathroom and stared in the mirror for a second, looking at my dark eyes and pixie-length hair.

My parents never really cared how I wore my hair or what clothes I bought. They never minded me being a bit of a tomboy. They never minded me being self-sufficient. They were fine with all of that. They just didn’t want me to be gay. But as long as I was still straight in their eyes, they were the loving parents everyone believed them to be. They had never even pressured me to get a boyfriend. I think they were relieved when I told them I had no interest in dating right now, even though it was only a partial truth. The whole truth was that I just had no difference in dating boys.

Under my eyes were dark circles, which my poor night’s sleep had not helped. I pulled out some makeup wipes, slowly erasing away yesterday’s makeup before starting on today.

I took a breath. This was an art, my makeup. It often took almost a half hour even when I was on time. I think my obvious talent was one of the reasons Shay accepted me as her friend anyway. (The main one was probably just that we had grown up together). I covered the dark circles first, before adding blush, blue and pink eye shadow, and little wings of eyeliner. After finishing with mascara and lip gloss, I nodded at myself in the mirror, satisfied.

Shay had never understood how I could cut my hair short and talk about superhero movies with boys one moment, and create art with beautiful, perfect makeup on my pale face the next. Neither did I. But I loved the daily routine of applying makeup almost as much as I loved to run. And was there anything wrong with wanting to look good? No. Of course not.

I grabbed my book and made my way down to the kitchen, positioning myself on the stool and making myself a bowl of yogurt, since the cook had not arrived yet; it was still only five. After I ate, I made my way back up, and sat on my bed.

I had a history test to study for. I’d never get out of here if my grades weren’t perfect.

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