ONE FLASH – John T. Biggs

Posted: November 6, 2012 in Fiction, Flash
Tags: , , , , ,

Birthday Boy

Mom counts the candles on my cake one last time.

“Thirteen,” she says. “Little Robbie is growing up.”

My friends pretend they don’t notice the clear lacquer on my perfectly trimmed nails. Nobody wants to see my Da freak out. He’s tough as a polyester leisure suit, but sensitive. Doesn’t like it when I call him Da because, “It sounds too queer, Robbie.”

And I already sound too queer for Da.

Eddie Sanchez says, “Blow out the candles dude.”

He’s is one of my Mexican friends. There are lots of those at the party, because we live in a transitional neighborhood. A little bit of everything: Da’s kind of black. Mom is Mexican and LBJ. That’s a little bit Jewish.

Eddie calls me‘Swish’ when Mom and Da can’t hear him. They think he is my best friend, and I guess he is—even though he hates me.

“Yes, blow them out, Robbie.” Mom takes my hand and leads me to the ‘seat of honor’ where the birthday boy sits once a year and celebrates a day his father wishes never happened.

Later on I’ll open presents. Sports equipment I don’t want, butch clothing that makes me look even more girlie-gay.

“Take a big breath, Robby.” Mom holds her hands together like a little girl who doesn’t know whether to clap or pray. Sometimes I do that too.

“Don’t tell anyone your wish,” Mom says.

I take the deepest breath.

I blow out all thirteen flames.

I wish I was a girl.

***

I figured that out this morning when I was all alone.

When I tried on one of Mom’s dresses for the first time ever. We’re exactly the same size. Exactly the same coloring too; I used her make up; I put on one of her wigs. I swished around the living room in her three-inch heels, pretending I had hips, pretending I had all the girl things, including lots of boys. I sang I Was Born This Way, and I knew for sure what Da suspected for a long, long time.

I didn’t hide when the doorbell rang. Da was at work, and Mom was shopping, so I walked into the living room like a runway model and looked through the peephole to see if it was anyone who mattered.

A Jehovah’s Witness boy missionary stood on my front porch waiting to tell me the good news. Maybe eighteen years old. Dimples and good posture.

I swung the door open, looked left and right really fast.

“Don’t you guys usually travel in pairs?” I gestured like the blond girl does on Wheel of Fortune, only instead of pointing at letters, I pointed at my living room.

“Come in.”

He started a speech he knew he’d never get to finish.

“We . . . uh, I . . . are visiting families on your block and we . . .”

“Yeah, you guys usually travel in pairs.” Another sweeping gesture, this time with a tiny high heel bobble.

He stepped inside, bobbling as much as me. Nervous.

It’s so much fun to be a girl—for the first ten minutes anyway.

“What’s your name?”I gave him a gentle shove toward the sofa, where we could sit together and he could tell me about Jesus while I drove him crazy.

“Jonathan.”

“Mine’s Rebecca.”Made up on the spot.

I let my hand rest on his leg. Close to the knee, nothing scandalous, except that he was a religious boy falling for another boy in a dress. He stopped breathing for a while and then made up for it so fast he almost fainted.

“Have you ever wondered if the world could be free of sin?” He talked fast; I was so cute he couldn’t stop himself.

I scooted, close enough to make him tremble. Breathed warm, toothpaste flavored air into his ear. Kissed him on the cheek.

“Well . . . There’s a Bible verse I’m supposed to read, but I can’t remember it.”

He looked like an asthma attack getting ready to happen. One noisy breath, then two, then:“Gottogorightnow!”

He speed-walked to the front door. No time for a parting prayer. Stopped after it was open. Stared at me. Frozen on the spot.

I gave him a finger wave. “Come back any time.”

He gave me a goofy grin. Then walked away backwards.

***

I force myself to smile at the soccer ball Da gave me while my so-called friends eat cake.

They sing Happy Birthday, ready to get this party finished; they all know something’s coming and they don’t want to be the first to notice.

Even I don’t know what’s coming, until the doorbell rings.

“I’ll get it.”Because everyone feels happier when I’m not in the room.

I open the door without looking through the peephole, protected by my boy disguise.

Jonathan says,“Hello.” Calm now, because he sees the unreal me.

“Is Rebecca here? I met her earlier today, and I really want to see her again.”

“Oh.” Now I’m the boy who can’t remember how to talk.

“She isn’t here right now, but she’ll be back.” I consult Rebecca silently.

“Tomorrow, I say.“Around four p.m.” After school. Before Mom and Da get home from work.

I hear Mom walking my way. Sounds made by the shoes I wore earlier today.

“Robbie, invite your friend in for cake.”

“Sorry mam.”Jonathan gives his watch a thoughtful look. “Got to go right now.”

“He just dropped by to say happy birthday,” I tell Mom, and Jonathan can’t object because he’s already gone.

“He seems nice,”Mom says.

“Very nice,” I tell her. A girl couldn’t ask for a nicer birthday wish.

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Comments
  1. Way to make me cry. :’)

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