What do you want to be when you grow up?
A ruler lands sharply on my knuckles. Not a real one. We still get slapped in supermarkets but not with rulers. Don’t be ridiculous.
It’s a microsecond of terror on my mother’s face before she saves it. This is not my first experience of mortal shame. I know what to do.
I will never burn like this again.
I’m watching gender nonsense, the binary. I’m studying. I adapt. I am a boy.
I am safe in here.
I grip the bars. Shame backs out of the room. Soon I forget.
I stare outwards, forgetful, for a decade.
I play sports in public. I read my sister’s magazines in a locked room. I’ve no idea why I’m sneaking around.
I try on some identities: Nikola Tesla, Christopher Hitchens. A decade passes. I move to the country. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Another decade passes.
Back to the city for another try. A Casanova? An entrepreneur? A hot mess?
Nope, nope, nope. Exhaustion.
With cheerful encouragement from someone who sees parts of me that I no longer can, I try on a frock in an op shop and the bars begin to dissolve.