Chapter 11

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The next night, I'm at the cafe inside a Safeway, where it's nearby my house. Kelly is making a ruckus over God-knows-what, and Mom is reacting to Kelly's tantrum pretty badly. It's enough to send me packing up my homework and angrily drive over to the beloved Starbucks a lot of people love. It's 'eh' in my opinion. Then again, I'm not a coffee drinker. 

Right now, my new blank piece of paper for the English assignment is mocking me. "You seem to handle the other subjects pretty well," it seems to say. "But you can't write a puny little story about yourself." If it had a face, I'd be dousing the smug look with the cup of hot cocoa I ordered. 

I slump in my seat and decide to people-gaze. Maybe it'll help me think more. Besides, I already did the homework for the other classes, saving the English for last on purpose. "Save the best for last" is kind of a bullshit saying, at least when it comes to school. 

Finally giving up, I pick my stuff up and dispose my half-finished drink. There's absolutely no way I'd be able to find the magical way to start it by the end of tonight. I need a break from my life. No, I don't mean like taking a dangerous risk or anything. 

I exit the cafe and Safeway, walk past a group of girls pretending to be ducks for their selfies, and keep on walking down the street. I walk past a restaurant, a tanning place, a library, and finally, the empty lot located next to the hardware store formally known as Ace. For some financial reason, the store had to change its name. I think it's to save money, I don't know. 

Anyway, the empty lot. I parked my car to the side of it, and I notice a flyer flimsily hanging on to the metal wires that build up a fence. It's supposed to be bright pink, but with the recent rain it's now a dark and moist pink. I pluck it out of the fence and look at it closely. "Ladies' Night at the Fox Hole!" it screams, the words in yellow. "All Women Are Welcome!" Cliparts of women dancing decorates around the flyer.

Do people like me count? I think. The address is listed at the very bottom, which is a good thing for me; I've never heard of a place in Fox Hole. I fold it into quarters, go to my car and dig around on the passenger floor, where I know the GPS is. Finding it, I plug the address in it, and when it starts giving me directions I stick the device on the windshield. I then start the car and drive out of the very big parking lot. 

I keep driving towards the destination until I get a red light. I then take out my phone and send a quick text to Mom: 

Going home late. Love you.

Someone honks behind me, and I look up to see the light has changed. I apologized to the driver under my breath and drive. I kind of watch the scenery on the side of the streets as I keep my hands on the wheel. At some point, my phone buzzes, probably from Mom, but I don't answer. 

Before I know it, I see a brilliant neon sign stating the name of its place. I turn into its small parking lot and park my car by the entrance. A couple of women are walking across to the club, one looking like a drag queen. I can't be sure, though. 

I hesitantly get out of my car and slowly get to the inside. The floor is vibrating with the loud music, but the people don't seem to mind. Some women are on the dance floor while others are at the bar counter drinking their martinis. The dance floor and bar are separated by a thick red rope, which I find unusual. Maybe they're promoting kids' night a couple times a week?

"Honey, you here for the event?" I turn to see a busty white-haired woman. She's sitting on one of the stools at the bar section, and seems to be in her 30s. She's wearing a simple white dress that goes to her knees. An unlit cigarette dangles from her lips, and a hand is wrapped around a cocktail. 

Nodding slightly, I wait for her to say something else. She does, after the woman takes out the cigarette. "You trying to pretend to be a woman, honey?" she asks, a little stern. "'Cause that ain't gonna happen here."

"Um, no ma'am," I fumble over my words. "I just, um." I lower my voice so no one else can hear me. "I don't feel like a Matthew."

She raises her eyebrow. "Matthew? Is that your name, honey?" I nod again, and she smiles a little. "I understand that. I know a couple of people who identify themselves as women. Now," the woman pauses to sip her drink, "let me give you a tip. If you come to an event like this, you gotta dress up as a woman. Otherwise, they see you as a trespasser and throw you out." 

"Um, OK." I can feel some pairs of eyes staring at me. "I, uh, only have heels at home." I bow my head, avoiding eye contact. 

"It's alright, honey. I know the manager's fine with transgenders being here." 

Transgender? Is that what I am? I ask myself. Suddenly, a memory appears in my head. Me, watching Mom choose a dress to wear. Me, sneaking into her closet after she and Dad were gone for a night out to try on the other dresses. Me, crying when Dad told me boys aren't allowed make-up.

"Honey, all of you here?" I jerk out of Memory Lane and focus on the woman. "Alright, good. If any of the women here have a problem with you, then I'll have a talk to the manager." She looks at me expectantly, and it takes me a bit to realize.

"Oh. Um, thank you, ma'am," I say, sheepish. 

The woman smiles again. "You can call me Darlene. Unless you have your preferred name already, I'll be calling you Honey." Another memory in my head plays: 

4-year-old me is admiring myself in front of the mirror. I'm wearing Mom's short green dress that she rarely wears, and lipstick is smeared across my mouth. When I smile, some of the make-up is smeared on my teeth. 

I know Kelly wants to play dress-up too, but I don't let her know what I'm doing. This is MY secret, not hers. And she wouldn't understand why I'm doing what I want to do. Right now, she's outside our parents' bedroom, playing by herself. Kelly has no clue what's going on.

"I look so pretty!" I exclaim, twirling around. I then stop myself and put on a thinking face. "I need a girl name, though. Then I'll be super pretty!" I scrunch up my face until I think up of a good name to--

"Do you have a name, hon?" Darlene interrupts me. I get myself out of the trance.

I nod once again, this time confident. "I prefer to be known as Miya," I say. 


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