How many times are you going to watch that show?
The question was almost rhetorical. She didn’t fit the demographic at all. A twelve year old girl with one sister and a mom living in a small, two bedroom trailer on an acre of property in upstate New York.
She stared at the frozen image; a black and white segue between scenes, it was comforting. As things morphed back to animated color, she noticed the return of a character. One of several who stood between her and the handsome man she ‘crushed’ on enough to leave her in tears when each episode concluded. A rival? Nah... Just another former cast member returning from the dead or from far away via a repeat. And they weren’t really rivals other than for the attention of the man on the screen.
She knew he wasn’t real. At least not that real. But he was handsome and brave and … she couldn’t say it…. Another rule to keep?
What about the younger man…the younger men. They were nice, of course, and certainly more handsome than anyone in her seventh grade math class. Much more appealing than the boys she knew from her gaming circle. But not like him. She smiled and blinked back tears.
Would you just stop? You know how much (fill in the blank) hates that!
She didn’t blame her mother. If she was lonely, how much more for a woman with a go-nowhere job and an ex who went somewhere and never returned. So (fill in the blank) had his way. And the girl spent more time away when he was around. That meant less time with the man on the screen, but she made up for it when (fill in the blank) cheated one more time or just left like everyone else. Or when she binged on all-day episodes
She sighed, wondering what it would feel like to be held in the strong embrace of the kind man. She looked at the girl with the dark hair and tattoos and realized that girl was exactly who and where and when she wanted to be. To be held and kissed on the cheek and valued. Maybe as the child who was born in a hospital in Rochester, New York? Or maybe the boy who was finally reborn as a girl eleven months, one week, and four days ago in her therapist’s office in Henrietta?
Either way, the crush was never a crush to begin with. She might grow up wanting to marry a man just like the man on the television. That idea that even a transgender girl has the same hopes and dreams just like other twelve-year-old girls. To have a man in her life just like him? To have friends just like his. Even to follow all of his rules; spoken, written or otherwise implied.
But for now, for her and her sister, she hoped against hope that her mother would finally kick the once and future (fill in the blank) to the curb and bring home a father for them just like Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
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