Becoming

The sun was melding with the blue morning sky. Lilac and salmon light saturated the suburban trees and brown rooftops. I sat on the curb at the end of the street awaiting my school bus. I had a small blue mug in my hand and took gradual sips out of it, attempting not to burn my tongue. I remember looking out down the street. Young oak trees lined the sidewalks evenly. A park at the center of the neighborhood had a swing set and a white stone gazebo where nobody ever sat. Three neighborhoods down, there was a large pond with a fountain that ran midafternoons and every weekend. At night, pond lights lit the fountain illuminating a champagne tint. During the holidays it was lit in assorted colors which gave the neighborhood a festive glow that was flamboyant yet pleasant. Not my little neighborhood though. All we had was a field with an empty gazebo.


The Houston heat caused a thin layer of perspiration to lay on my tan arm. I was warm. Growing more uncomfortable by the second, wishing I had spent ten more minutes in bed—not that my nerves would have allowed it. More people from the neighborhood were arriving at the stop. None of them friends; none of them friendly per se. I sat alone awaiting my bus. The first day of the summer school was rough; I recall asking myself why are you doing this, again? Do you know how lame you are? The other side of myself though, the too-responsible-for-my-age side realized this was a head start on high school credits. Selecting an easy A course o free up room for other fun electives was my main objective; so, naturally, I settled on Art101. The bus ride was bumpy, but I managed to keep coffee from spilling anywhere, and by the time we arrived at Taylor High I had an empty cup on my hands. The sky was now in full view, a
cornflower hue.


The light brown cinderblock walls with painted cobalt blue accents dated the place. My school, Seven Lakes High, was newer, larger, and better lit than the other high schools around the city. I scanned the halls for any friends or acquaintances. My only friends who would be around the building took a different bus than me. I assumed they would be scattered since theyhad signed up for AP classes. The hall opened to an enormous rectangular cafeteria where most of the other students were sitting with their Cokes, Honeybuns, books, and cellphones.


“Linda!” I heard from the center of the room.


“Jordan, what’s up?”


“Oh, absolutely nothing, have you seen Kevin?”


“Didn’t y’all ride together?”


“He wasn’t on the bus this morning”


“That’s weird, it’s literally the first day.”


Just then the bell rang and almost mechanically the entire student body rose from their seats. Less robotically and more ant-like, everyone split into different directions. Jordan’s eyes were perfectly round with chestnut irises. Her casual stance changed, and her large purple backpack straightened. Somewhat stiffly she replied, “Gotta go, see you at lunch.”


Brick silver Nokia in one hand and my folded white paper schedule in the other, I searched for my art classroom number. Looking up, I noticed the cobalt numbers directly diagonal to me and cut through the tables, behind the raised stage that acted as the front of the cafeteria. I wandered into the classroom and saw my name on a table that I would share with four other students: all girls.


Observing their faces, I determined none were cute. I did this often. Scanned other girls for possible romance. Do they look gay? As our teacher explained how the 6 weeks would be split up into units, I began thinking about Allison. My mind began to wander to Heather. Then to Lauren. Then Hannah.

****

At 23 when I come out officially over the Mormon pulpit during my sacrament talk, my guy friend asks what my type is.


“Oh, you know shy, smart, pretty, historically straight. If she has a boyfriend, even better.”


I grin at the last part. It is painfully true. I remember Allison.


“What about you?” I ask through the memory. Allison is sitting next to me in Mrs. Oroe’s English class. It’s our end-of-unit poetry party. We had to write ten poems and scrapbook them in true Martha style. The lights are dimmed, and Mrs. Oroes has beanbags and blankets arranged around the makeshift stage which is an artist’s stool with an antique yellow lightbulb shining directly upon our faces. She’s going alphabetical and I know my turn will come before Allison’s. She’s sitting so close I can feel her knee against the fabric of black skinny jeans, my thigh just
underneath.


“I typically go for petite girls, smaller, kind of preppy…” I nod, pretending I care about his responses.


Allison’s hair is like October fall. She wears it straight. Her bangs swoop to the side of her face, framing her freckles. Her eyes are wide and hazel and brilliant, and I desperately want her to see me and I—


“I’d date other kinds of girls though I just usually don’t have a connection,” he said.


“We all know the real criteria is the kkkk sound” I tease. He only dates Kaitlins, Courtneys, Kylies.


I think about holding her hand, here in the dark. I think about inching it closer to her, Imagine Me & You style. My mom tells me not to watch the HBO channels. I ignore her and go looking. I watch Boys Don’t Cry and learn how men will try to carve out all your gay, try to punish your queerness. Emily Blunt kisses a girl in My Summer of Love, in the same movie she almost dies with her lover’s fingers crushing her neck. Lost & Delirious teaches me rejection and how to escape it. On regular television, I witness Willow’s grief swallow us all when Tara is murdered. Loving Annabelle fetishizes that secrecy is sexy: finalizes the ruling in my mind that there are no happy endings.


“Yeah, and blondes, I tend to lean toward them. I like athletic girls too.”


“I’ve noticed” I try not to judge, judging him.


I stand to read my poem. Reading from the page the entire time, the moments are eternal. The sweet smell of Bisquick pancakes on the griddle circle us. All my organs feel pressed up against the cavity of my ribs; I want to feel Allison’s knee against my tissue. To know the pressure of her fingers crushing me. I want to know the way a love story devastates a whole cast. A whole audience.


Allison reads a love poem too like I do. My arms curve around my shins pulling them tight to my chest. I cradle her words in my slightly parted mouth. She mentions pronouns belonging to a “him”. Totally ignoring them, I still hope she’s talking about me.


“I thought my ex-wife was really pretty when I first met her,” he said.


“Let’s see” I reply rather blankly—he doesn’t seem to notice.


Later that day I stop by Mrs. Oroes’ class to help her clean and organize the books. I move the desks back to their groups. The beanbags are gone. When I finish, she is holding my scrapbook in her hands flipping through the pages. They are poorly crafted with small scribble wiggly writing that looks uncomfortably straight like it’s trying hard to be something it isn’t. I coordinated black and pink colors with different patterned paper; my intent was to keep it love-centered and what is more lovable than pink?


“Your poems are amazing. Would you be willing to let me have this project to use as an example for future students?” Her long black hair is flooding over her shoulders.


“Uh, yeah sure,” I say quite surprised, my eyebrows raised.


“What did you think of Allison’s poem?” I give her a sideways look of confusion.


“It was good.”


“Don’t you think it sounded like a love poem?”


Silence.


“Her poem sounded like yours.”

There is a thumping in my throat.


“I guess.”


“Do you think she wrote it about you?”


The question sits there between Mrs. Oroes and me. The question crosses her legs and tilts her face up toward me. She purses her lips to the side and questions me with her eyes. She never leaves the room.

***

Kevin listens to me talk about Allison for days. When we talk at night, we three-way call with Jordan, each taking turns to gossip or share about our crushes.


“Jarom is so nice to me he has to have a crush on me,” Kevin emphatically proclaims.


“He’s straight!”


“UH no, no straight guys are THAT nice to me.”


“Mey told me he’s a Mormon,” I pipe in.


“Exactly, that is why he can’t date.”


“Bullshit! That is just a good excuse to not date or a cover-up, I know it!”


Girls had been talking about the new Mormon boy all year. His gorgeous grey eyes were certainly mysterious, but his basketball shorts weren’t. Girlish giggles filled the halls as he walked by. Another Mormon girl, Sydney, even began a petition that would be passed around the cafeteria and the request? For Jarom to wear jeans because he would “look sooooo hot” in them.


The following day I had Texas History with Allison. We sat across the room from one another, and I often thought about how straight her shoulders were. The line of her collarbone caught my eye often, the way the light from the projector reflected off her skin. At the end of the period, we walk out of class together. I begin the conversation.


“I hate how everyone is talking about the new kid”


“The hot one?”


Angrily, I twist up my face in disbelief.


“Oh, come on, he’s not that hot!”


Confusion lay calmly across her face, and she says defiantly, “Yes, he is.”


Later I tell Kevin all about it. We spend an hour or more talking about the interaction. He is getting frustrated, and it’s heard in his incessant sighing, but I keep complaining anyway.


“Linda! Just tell her you like her!”


“I can’t do THAT!”


“UGH!” Click. He hung up on me.


That bitch, I spit out. But I have exhausted myself and I begin falling asleep with my thoughts. The yellow lights are blinking near my face when I realize I’m coming out of my sleep to the loud vibrations of my cell phone. I look to see “Kev” glowing off and on. Answering with my groggiest voice, I say “Hello?”


“I have to tell you something.”

“What?”


“I did something I shouldn’t have done…”


***

At 25 I write a poem about Allison. Digging up the note she wrote me out of a brown shoebox, after she found out I had a crush on her via being outed by Kevin, I write about becoming true to myself. I write that her words do not crush me anymore; don’t live in her fingers wrapped around my neck.


“It’s revolting to know you like girls.”


No. It’s becoming.