How To Be Straight

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Tuesday

The texts were getting more ridiculous. People can argue about the silliest things. I stayed up half the night watching the texts go by, not answering them, not wanting to get involved in which brand of pillow was worse for your head, or why penguins had wings if they couldn’t fly or any of the other silly things that people talk about when they are still children. And they were. We were. In that moment we were all children again, carefree and happy. Like babies. Like kids.

We seemed to have forgotten who and what we were. We seemed to be living in a dream state where everything was peachy and scrubbed clean of anything less innocent than us.


The next day I decided to stuff the hair dye into my backpack and stop on the way to school to actually die it. I didn’t know where I was going to stop until I passed the coffee shop we had visited the day before. I pulled over and ran in, praying the same barista from yesterday would be there. She was, luckily, and I quickly asked if I could please please please use the bathroom to dye my hair. She agreed and I ran in and out in just a few minutes- it was just the spray on stuff, and my hair was barely long enough to require a fuss. On my way out I stopped to offer pins to a few adults, most of whom graciously accepted, though a few looked at me like I was crazy, and one yelled at me to get the hell out of this coffee shop. He also called me some other stuff I don’t care to repeat.

I hurried to school, rushing in just as the warning bell rang, and then slowing to a walk. (The last thing I wanted was to get in trouble for running).

I walked into my homeroom just as the starting bell rang, and had to bite my lip to bleeding to stop me from laughing at the outrageous colors in people’s hair. More than half of the class wore a red pin on their chest, and, when I looked, so did the teacher, though her hair wasn’t dyed, unfortunately. (What I wouldn’t give to see 60 year old Mrs. Herrick with rainbow hair, even if there was white and black of the straight ally flag mixed in.) The thought made me giggle a little as I found my seat, sitting tall for attendance. This was the most rebellious thing I had done in a while. Or possibly ever. I didn’t really break rules. It wasn’t my style. It was always- had always been- OUTOUTOUTOUTOUT. It had never occurred to me to leave New Redmen better than I had found it, only to leave New Redmen.

But now, as we chattered in homeroom (the teacher’s red pin having convinced us it was safe to behave normally instead of being overly cautious) I found I was laughing and I couldn’t stop. Heads turned to me, strange looks that made me feel a little too vulnerable after so many years of avoiding prying eyes.

“It’s just,” I managed through big rolling roars of laughter, “It’s just so fun. So precarious, so… I’m so alive.” I laughed more, not caring that I sounded insane and over dramatic and that I hated being both of those things.

Then Shay, who was in the class with me, started laughing too. I knew that as confined and afraid as I had always been, she was more so. But now she wasn’t. I looked back and smiled at her, surprised by the pink purple and blue she was sporting.

I walked up to her desk as the other people continued chatting while we waited for the bell to ring to signify the beginning of first period.

“You’re bi?”

“Um, yeah,” she replied slowly. “I mean, it’s more figurative. Like, I know that in theory, one day, far away from Ohio, there might, emphasis on might, be a boy I might sort of like.”

I laughed, letting the smile play across my lips a little longer than normal; I had 7 years of minimal smiles to make up for. “Theoretically bi.”

She laughed, nodding. “I like that. Should get it put on a T-shirt when I get out of here.”

I started to say something else, probably about the news story the night before, but the bell rang and the teacher called us back to our seats by saying something like, “Kay kids! I may support you guys’s cause, but that can change if it distracts from work!” As I sat back down I noticed there was only one person who didn’t have a red pin on. I smiled. This homeroom was probably better than most, but it was still a good sign that there were so many people.

We all hurried to silence. We needed all the help we could get and so we sat through class like good little girls and boys and people.

The day continued as semi-normal. Gracie wore her hair in rainbow, not bothering with the lesbian or bi or any other specific flags. “I don’t like labels. I like girls, and someday, I might like boys. I don’t want to put a name to it.” It made enough sense to me.

By now, there were a lot of people. Many of them sported only pins and a promise to bring letters the next day. Never had there been such well behaved students. We didn’t whisper in the halls for fear of being yelled at for yelling. We didn’t pass notes. We didn’t talk in class unless called on. We raised our hands so we wouldn’t get in trouble for not participating. We knew that as soon as they had something to pin on us they would do so. We were even careful to follow the dress code, which I was pretty sure hadn’t been enforced since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. We could not afford to get in trouble.

I had never smiled so much. Never laughed so much. Never been so hopeful. We could make a difference.

At the end of the day we went back to the cafe and passed out more red pins. We had run out. We asked the barista if she had more. She gave us another bag of them and told us she was proud of us. I liked her. She was nice and smiley, around 30, but hip and cool, wearing all the latest fashions, even more up to date on that stuff than, if possible, Shay.

She asked what we were going to do the next day. We smiled and explained our plans. A letter on every desk. Hand written. This one I was nervous about. It was borderline allowed. There was no rule that said we couldn’t but….

Too late now. We were writing some letters. Anonymous letters. I pretended this wasn’t dangerous. I pretended we were okay. I pretended I was absolutely sure that things were going our way. I hated pretending.

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