TG Techie: Chapter 8: School


My mom let me take some time to compose myself before she started the car. Again, she didn’t ask anything. I don’t know what she thought happened in there, but I don’t think it was as bad as what actually happened.

When the sniffles had stopped I asked her, “Where are we going next?” Trying to pretend that nothing had happened.

“Well I had a couple appointments scheduled, unless you want to just go home.”

I did just want to go home, but I also wanted to pretend that everything was normal. As normal as getting donkey-punched into the wrong gender could be. “Where are the appointments?”

“A couple of schools, I thought we could take some tours.”

“I’m never going back to school.” I was being petulant, I knew it.

“Well I don’t believe in home schooling, and if I did I wouldn’t think myself qualified. You need someone with a degree in what they teach, and you find them in schools.” She gave me a hard look, as she stopped to wait for traffic out of the parking lot, “So you’re going to school until you’re 18. After that I don’t have any control over what you do.”

“I’ll run away,” I said it earnestly, but there was a smile on my face. Mom was being a mom, and caring for me. They say children need rules to let them know you care. If you had told me that, I would tell you I didn’t believe it. But after today I would know I was lying.

“I’ll have to chipped, like we did with the cat. You know the government can use them to track you from satellites.”

“I that true?” That didn’t sound true. That sounded like something grammpa would post on facebook.

“Sure it’s true. Are you telling me you don’t read your grammpa’s facebook posts?”

“I muted him after he posted the eight hundredth thing about how lazy young people are.”

Mom pulled onto the highway and started for the center of the city. “I used to get those posts during family dinners, and I couldn’t mute them. Who says technology limits society?

We listened to the radio for awhile. Mom liked NPR but had no illusions about how much I loved the news, “You can hook up your phone if you want.” I had to connect my phone to the stereo’s blutooth, and when I’d got that done I got ready to blast some Die Antwoord, when mom said, “No Die Antwoord.”

“They’re good.”

“They’re not.”

“Major Lazer?”

“Who are they?”

“They’re good, you’ll like them,” I said, knowing that she wouldn’t.

Mom took her exit off, “You only say that when you know I won’t.”

“Okay,” I settled, “how ‘bout Jonathan Coulton?”

“Who’s he?”

“Like Weird Al, but he writes all his own songs.”

“Let me hear.”

I started with ‘Re: Your Brains’ because it’s the best way to break someone into Coulton, and by the time mom pulled into the parking lot she was singing along with the refrain, and occasionally flubbing a lyric.

((̲̅ ̲̅(̲̅C̲̅r̲̅a̲̅y̲̅o̲̅l̲̲̅̅a̲̅( ̲̅((>

“This is no where near our house, mom,” I said, as we entered the… main hall I guess. The big open part in front of the doors, anyway.

“No, but they have one of the best academic programs in the city, and the light rail comes within walking distance.”

“You want me to ride the train with the junkies?”

“You’ll find it’s nearly painless. Heroin much less so. Try to abstain.”

I pouted, realized that I was pouting like a girl instead of coming up with a witty rejoinder. That girls could come up with witty rejoinders wouldn’t occur to me until I was exposed to Jane Austin, and teenaged friends. “Well I smoked pot once, so I guess I’m ready for the hard stuff.” That got a look of shock from her. “You flinched. You owe me lunch.”

“Lunch has passed dearheart. We barely made it before the school closed as it is. Besides, I’m not enabling your munchies.” She said this as she walked to the counter where a very fat receptionist was working. “Aileen McKinnon, here for a school tour.”

We both had to sign in, and put on name tags, and get our pictures taken, then put on new name tags because the fat guy had screwed it up. The new name tags had our pictures on them, and both our names screwed up.

Stupid Gaelic.

I’m sorry Gaelic. You’re beautiful. Please don’t let one of your little people read this and curse me.

Then he brought out a senior, who looked like he got blasted in the face with an acne gun, wearing a letter jacket and told him we need a tour.

The senior’s name was John and he gave mom and I a cool once over. I shrank deeper into myself, and hated that I couldn’t meet his eyes. But that was it. No lingering gazes, no request for my number. Instead he shook my mom’s hand, and away we went.

He showed us the bigger gym as he told us about the footballer teams that blah blah blah the blah’s in blah, blah, and last year. He showed us the smaller gym as he told us about the cheer squad, I blanked out everything he said after, ‘our cheer squad.’ He showed us the library as he told us about the golf team. What in fuck? This school has a golf team?

I nudged my mother’s elbow, and whispered, “Is this what you came to show me? The golf champions of Denver?”

She interrupted John in the middle of whatever he was talking about, “Why don’t you show us the art labs now?”

He had clearly been leading us back to the front office, but he shrugged, and said, “Sure.”

We walked by the art rooms, where I could see that there were 12 or 14 wheels, and desks that swung up, and— “Are those cintiques?

“Me-huh-oh,” said idiot John. “I don’t come down here much.”

“Thank you John, you’ve been very helpful,” mom told him. Anyone else would think she was giving him a compliment. To me her voice was whithering sarcasm. He turned to lead us away while my mom pulled out her school pamphlet and read through it, not about to move away. I was transfixed. There must have been 10 of them in there, only 8 students, all preoccupied with drawing on the state of the art computer monitors. “They have animation classes,” my mom used the carrot, “two-dee and three-dee.”

That cinched it, “I’m sold.”

“That’s good dear.” She turned to idiot John, “You may take us back to the front office now.”

John did that, eager to get rid of us and text his friends about how boring his office job was, a hobby he would enjoy for the next 50 years.

We met next with the counselor and figured out my school schedule. The schedule went 1st–8th on Monday. Then on Wednesday and Friday it went 1, 3, 5, 7 and Tuesday and Thursday it went 2, 4, 6, 8. On the big class days there was a half hour for lunch if you didn’t have that period off, and you got an hour and a half lunch on two days of the week. This meant that optimal scheduling was to have both 5th and 6th off and have an hour and a half for lunch every day of the week.

Unfortunately the counselor wanted me to sign up for seven classes, and I couldn’t make the case that I needed something off with my mom right there. And I had to choose from a bunch of pre-reqs in any case. Might as well get them all out of the way. Needed a year of English before I could take another language. “They have Latin,” my mother said.

“Why would I want to learn Latin?”

“Don’t you want to read all of the graffiti in Pompeii?”

“Do you think that will be on the test?”

“I’m sure you can write an essay on the meaning of cacatur cave malum.”

She has that smile, where she’s said something really funny, and she knows no one got the joke. Fortunately I had a phone.

The counselor suggested design, so I could take real art, and I agreed. Anything to get that idiot class over with. There was also algebra that I wasn’t interested in, until he said it was a prerequisite to code, which I was. Then he started in on the social— “Shitter beware? Really mom?”

“See? Latin is useful.”

My counselor smiled like he got the joke, and we both knew he hadn’t. I signed up for drama, instead of speech, and got a 5th period lunch.

“Okay, well then we’ll see you Monday,” the counselor said. “We’ll have a badge and a student ID when you drop by here in the morning.”

Mom looked at me, “Can you handle Monday?”

“Would it matter if I couldn’t.”

She turned to the counselor, “Aisling has just been released from the hospital. She’s fine, but she needs the doctor to clear her before she can begin school. Can we do the week after next?”

Mr. Counselor nodded, “Sure, I’ll just put everything back a week in our system.”

“Yes, it would matter,” my mother said, turning back to me.

To embarrassed to thank her, I just bit my lip and nodded, and hoped she got the message.

((̲̅ ̲̅(̲̅C̲̅r̲̅a̲̅y̲̅o̲̅l̲̲̅̅a̲̅( ̲̅((>

It wasn’t until we were outside and I had thrown my name tag in the trash that I managed to say, “Thank you. I’m gonna need this week.” It was still difficult to get used to my voice. I was constantly clearing my throat when I talked.

“I know,” mom said. She unlocked the car and we sat inside. “Aisling,” she didn’t start the car, “you know how much I believe in therapy.”

Yes, mom.”

“I have an appointment set up for you. Doctor Malmon. He’s worked with more than a few adolescent cases of gender dysphoria. I think it would be a good idea for you to go.”

“Can I think about it, mom?”

“Of course dearheart.”

She turned the engine over and I thought about it. It would be very nice to talk to someone. I hadn’t seen a therapist during my time with my father. He believed that talking to someone you had to pay was some sort of weakness. And my mom was being great, and super understanding. But there was so much I was scared to tell her. About my body. About how I was feeling. About the way I felt about my body. About everything at all.

“Okay,” I said, as we took our exit off the freeway, “I’ve thought about it. When is my appointment?”

“Tomorrow afternoon.”

“Oh good, I can sleep in—regular.”

“Regular for you dearheart.”

I got out of the car, and went up to my room, where I found a copy of Slaughterhouse 5 sitting on my bed. This time the dedication read, “Aisling,” I got that now, “Vonnegut wasn’t right, but he wasn’t wrong either.” It was another first edition, hardcover, first printing. Worth about (google search), $3,500.

Well when you have all of time and space at your disposal, what else would you give someone.

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Over the next several days, I read, and I got to know Dr. Malmon. He had time for me every day for the next week, which was a big relief because I had a lot to cover.

Slaughterhouse 5 is the story of Kurt Vonnegut ending up in Dresden during the firebombing. He was captured and the prisoners stored in a slaughterhouse (slaughterhouse 5), which is why he survived the devastation of the city. Only it’s also not about that. In the middle of writing the book, he takes off on a science fiction story about Billy Pilgrim who has come “unstuck in time.” Billy’s consciousness moves through his life non-linearly, skipping around through the events. Halfway in I found, during the part where Billy Pilgrim is kept in an alien zoo, the passage Mr. Glome was talking about:

There were five sexes on Tralfamadore, each of them performing a step necessary in the creation of a new individual. They looked identical to Billy–because their sex differences were all in the fourth dimension.

One of the biggest moral bombshells handed to Billy by the Tralfamadorians, incidentally had to do with sex on Earth. They said their flying-saucer crews had identified no fewer than seven sexes on Earth, each essential to reproduction. Again: Billy couldn’t possibly imagine what five of those seven sexes had to do with the making of a baby, since they were sexually active only in the fourth dimension.

The Tralfamadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him that there could be no Earthing babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn’t be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty-five. There couldn’t be babies without other babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on. It was gibberish to Billy.

—Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five: Or The Children’s Crusade, A Duty Dance With Death pp. 145–146. 1969.

I put the book down to think after I read that, and didn’t pick it up for a day while I meditated on it. Not right, but not wrong indeed, Mr. Glome.

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