the beauty in differentiation

at age ten,
a weasel-faced blonde boy calls you fat
because you consistently get
better grades than him
& insists a brown girl doesn’t belong
at a school with (superior) white kids.
you quip that you live in
a nicer neighborhood than his,
but the real reason you’re better than him
is that he’ll always be a covetous jerk.

at age twelve,
a freckled ginger boy scrubs your arms
with a pool brush after swim practice
& claims that he thought the white splotches
(of sunburn) on your dark skin was dirt.
you shove him into the pool
& watch him sputter,
coughing water in surprise.
your coach’s punishment is that
you have to swim extra (victory) laps.

at age fourteen,
a thin brunette girl snidely snickers,
“you’re not pretty. you’re cute like hello kitty.”
you weren’t allowed to wear makeup
or dress like her eighteen-year-old sister.
after braces straighten your crooked teeth
& your only growth spurt sheds baby fat,
you decline her offer to be friends —
even then, you’d rather be alone than have
catty friends you didn’t like (& vice-versa).

at age sixteen,
(until almost a decade following)
a parade of basic white guys marvel
over the fact that you’re the first Asian girl
they’ve admired who defies stereotypes —
you’ve inherited your mother’s feistiness
& your father’s no bullshit attitude.
though your temperament mellows over the years,
you loudly continue to refuse to be fetishized
& mock white guys who should check their privilege.

at age twenty-three,
your handsome ivorian friend becomes more.
you’ll never look like models in magazines,
but you’ve learned to appreciate that
your black hair is unruly
& your skin’s base tone is deep tan.
the ways that you look different
no longer (solely) define you.
he knows all of you & loves you
because of (not in spite of) it.

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clarity (after disillusionment)

the only time I will
write about you (again)
is when I need
inspiration for villains
in stories that aren’t mine.

(actual) nice guys (don’t) finish last

The doorbell chimed and woke Bea with a start. She slid from the couch to the floor, adjusting her blanket cocoon. (A blanket cape gave her more mobility.) She wiped sleep from her eyes and ambled to the front door. Not bothering to check the peep hole, she unlocked and opened it.

“Hey…?”

Bea couldn’t blame her confusion on her waning fever. A vaguely familiar gangly guy stood on her front porch. His name escaped her (or had never been committed to her memory).

“Hey Bea!” The disheveled hipster thrust a cup of melting ice cream into her hands. “I knew you were craving it, so I thought I’d stop by with some.”

Her eyes widened. “Are you psychic?”

“You tweeted about it this afternoon.”

“Do I know you?”

Ice cream dripped from the paper cup onto her hands. Her fingers stuck together as she gripped the cup tighter.

“I’m Miller. We met at The Cults show a couple weeks ago?”

Bea squinted and cocked her head.

“Your line was when you asked if I was named after the shitty beer –”

“Oh. You’re that guy. For future reference, that wasn’t a line.”

“Sure it was. You were negging me.”

That was your justification to stalk me on Twitter?”

“You wouldn’t give me your number, so you gave me your Twitter handle.”

“Being hammered makes me pity assholes like you.”

“Why am I an asshole? I brought you ice cream because you’re sick!”

“I mocked you at the bar because you were quizzing some poor girl wearing a Toro Y Moi shirt –”

“I just wanted to know if she was a real fan or –”

“–just a poser? How old are you, fourteen?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“Get out of my house. And take this with you.” Bea threw the Coldstone cup at his car and cheered when it splattered on his windshield.

“What the hell is wrong with you?! I was just trying to be nice –”

“That’s the problem with guys like you, Miller –”

“Guysplural — like me? I’m one of a kind! Women don’t appreciate men who treat them well –”

“– you say you’re nice, but are incensed when a woman won’t fuck you because of your niceness.”

“I never said I was –”

“Your creepiness says it for you.”

“So because you’re not interested that makes me a creep?”

Exactly!

The door slammed behind Bea. She locked and dead-bolted it. Disgusted, she shuffled to the kitchen and scrubbed her hands clean.

What we got left is just me and you

“I’m the worst.” Gemma sighed, her shoulders stooped in defeat.

“Should I guess what you did while you wrestle with your guilt?” Adelaide locked the door behind them and sat on her couch.

“Isn’t that what best friends are for?” The taller girl flung herself to the floor.

“Are your theatrics warranted this time?”

“Yes.”

“Last time, you just shrank that cardigan you wore every day freshman year –”

“I lost my car key. Clicker too.”

“Don’t you have a spare?”

“Lost it last year. Instead of getting another made, I swore I’d never lose the original.”

“Where did you last have them?”

“…”

“Gem.”

“Ade, I had half a bottle of tequila –”

“– and lost your car keys in Chad’s pants.”

“Chad’s apartment. Or somewhere between the street and his apartment. I’m not really sure.”

“Call him so he can find them.”

“I dunno know where my phone is.”

“Use mine.”

“Don’t have his number memorized.”

“Y’all hook up whenever either of you need drunken ex comfort sex!”

“I took your advice and started using technology more — I had his number saved to my iPhone favorites.”

“Facebook message him.”

“He’s not on Facebook.”

“Being a Luddite is yet another reason that asshole should be denied your time and pussy.”

The doorbell chimed.

“You should get it, Gem.”

“Your house, Ade. I’m your guest who’s comfortably laying on the floor.”

“You’re closer to the door.”

Fine.”

Gemma didn’t bother checking the peephole before swinging the door open.

“Chad.”

“Gemma.”

“I’ll be in my room avoiding this awkwardness if you need me!” Adelaide left the non-couple in the doorway.

“You forgot your keys and phone when you bolted this morning.”

“How’d you know where I was?”

“You and Adelaide always go to each other for help. Or to talk shit about us terrible dudes.

“We don’t talk shit –”

“…”

Okay, we do — only when it’s well-deserved.”

“I know I messed up before, but I meant it when I said I was sorry.”

“You apologized for hurting me. Really, you just felt bad that you got caught fucking someone else.”

“But –”

“Don’t call me –”

“What about –”

“No drunk texts, no stoned smoke signals, or no sober letters sent by carrier pigeon. It’s over.”

Five minutes later, on Facebook:

Gemma Johnson: The greatest part about losing my keys & phone was witnessing a grown man(child) sprint away from my “menacing” best friend as she threatened to punch him with brass knuckles. 

44 likes, 1 comment

Adelaide Jacinto: #badgirlsdoitwell

Three speeches I would’ve made for closure (if it existed)

(Zero)
Closure doesn’t exist. I don’t believe in it. No one really gets closure when a friendship or relationship ends. People grow up and apart. There’s no particular catalyst that sets off the dissolution. Fondness fades into apathy. Relationships in which people become ambivalent tend to disintegrate slowly over time.

People purposely hurt each other and don’t take responsibility for doing so. They become passive or blatantly aggressive. They play emotional chicken, baiting (daring) each other to break it off first. Toxic relationships tend to fall apart as they began — abruptly. I don’t believe in closure, but if I did, there are three speeches I would’ve made to obtain it.

One
I wouldn’t have survived senior year of high school without you. Neither of us belonged in Alpharetta. We had aspirations beyond suburbia. You sketched and painted. I wrote. Our goal was to get the hell out. You were the smartest girl in our class and my closest friend. Instead of going to keggers with classmates, we spent weekends watching foreign films and listening to indie music.

Though you went to college up north, we would have long phone calls a few times each semester. We hung out during Thanksgiving and winter breaks. During one phone call, you nervously told me you were queer. I didn’t think of you any differently after that. But if I had to pinpoint it, that was when you stopped returning calls or texts as much.

You posted articles about gender being a social construct and the need for LGBTQ safe spaces without heteronormative influence on Facebook. When I called you by your name, you explained that you wanted to be called a male name and be referred to with male pronouns. I did so without a second thought.

The last time we had lunch was a few summers ago. We went to one of the few decent sushi places in Alpharetta. You had just started working for as an LGBTQ advocate, focusing on teens and young adults. Your work was inspiring. I realized that I’d never be able to empathize with you about the struggle you went through in discovering your gender identity. I’d always be part of your past, when you hadn’t figured it out yet.

Thank you for being a great friend when I needed one. I wish we still hung out. I hope you’ve found happiness and fulfillment (or at least closer to it now).

Two
I’m not sure why, but even though I hadn’t spoken to you in five years, you insisted that I was your best friend. You’re the antithesis of everything a woman should look for in a man. When a woman sees you, she should immediately run in the other direction. My friends referred to men like you by your name — you became a common noun synonymous with the worst kind of douchebag.

You knew me best when we rode the same school bus to high school. I was triumphant. After you teased me throughout elementary school, you recognized I was better than you — in academics, besides math and science, and as a person because I was sympathetic to a fault, while you were oblivious to a fault. Yet, every time you would date someone new, you would talk to and hang out with me more. Your mother would harass you when I wouldn’t stop by because you would inevitably fall to the wayside without my guidance.

The last straw was when you expected me to sleep with you when we weren’t together. As if that wasn’t insulting enough, you were still dating your jailbait girlfriend. It was a disgusting plan (even for you). Cutting you off was one of the wisest decisions I ever made. Talking to you just to hear your pathetic apologies was hilarious. It was equally hilarious to discover that you haven’t changed a bit.

Thank you for being the biggest asshole I’ve ever met. I kicked you out of my life for good and everything fell into place. You were the archetype for everything I didn’t need. In being that point of reference, I found the man who is everything that I could ever want and need. I hope you never change, for entertainment’s sake.

Three
You were a two-faced redneck bitch. I knew that when Ames and I met you, but I was naïve. I didn’t trust my gut as much in my younger years. As I’ve gotten older, I discovered that my first impressions of people are usually correct (for better or worse).

You were a fun party friend we met through a mutual acquaintance (your boyfriend at the time), but we ended up hanging out aside from partying. Then we found out that you talked a lot shit — about us. You blamed us for any time you cheated on him or got blackout drunk. You lied to him and said you were on the pill, in hopes of getting pregnant. You were the trailer trash cliché of a woman trying to entrap a man by having his baby.

Thank you for reminding me to always trust my instincts. You inadvertently introduced us to one of our other friends — his ex. I hope to see you on Maury one day.

When rules of civility don’t apply

The train commute is worst
when a stranger confronts you.

What’s wrong?
You should smile.

Glare instead.

Why are you pissed?
I was trying to cheer you up.

Roll your eyes.

I don’t know you.

Scoff as he slinks away.

Hey little lady! 
I like your legs in those shorts!

Walk faster towards your car.

I’m not scary!
Why won’t you talk to me?

As though a catcaller’s car rolling slowly
beside you isn’t threatening (or obnoxious).

Don’t be a bitch,
I was paying you a compliment.

Wave your mace as you drive off.
Rules of civility don’t apply to creeps.