Eat Like a Boy
***TRIGGER WARNING: Eating Disorders***
After a very confused night, I wasn’t sure Autumn would be at my door, and took my time getting breakfast. Then I heard Bruce honk outside, and had to grab my bag, figured I’d charge my phone somewhere, sometime, and rushed out the door.
I piled in the SUV and Autumn took off for the highway again. “It’s your turn to choose the music,” she said, hanging her cigarette hand out the window. “Something I’ve never heard before.”
“My phone needs to charge.”
She pointed to the cable coming out of the cigarette lighter, and then to the one coming out of the stereo, “Aux line.”
I plugged my phone in and opened Spotify. “Beats Antique?”
“Bad-ass show. Really incredible. I don’t know what that chick does, but she is some fine-ass trim.
So that didn’t fit the criteria. “Nine Inch Nails?”
“Are you asking if I’ve ever heard of Nine Inch Nails?”
“Ye—no. How to Destroy Angels?”
“Love ‘Big Black Boots’. Guess again.”
We were fast running out of highway. This early the traffic jam on the junction of 25 and 225 was more of a slight slowdown. “Zella Day?”
Right. I put on “Sweet Ophelia” which has a killer drum thing, and great lyrics, despite the fact that they make absolutely no sense.
About nine bars in Autumn said, “I do not like this.”
“Don’t be such a little bitch,” I told her, “she has the voice of a broken angel.”
“Fine.” Autumn threw her cigarette out of the window. “Your hair looks nice today.”
I touched it and cringed inside at the reflex, “Really? I didn’t do anything different with it.”
“I should say, ‘your hair always looks nice’. I love the waves, do you curl it.”
“No, it just sort of does that.” Say something a girl would say. “I like your hair up. It shows the highlights really well.”
“Thanks, I brought a hair tie for you, if you forgot again.”
“Nope!” I dug in my backpack and showed her the package of ties, in different colors.
“Hmmmmm. You should do the green, it’ll look great in your hair.”
“Really?” Stop saying that, Ash. I had planned on only using the three black ones at the bottom of the package.
Then we talked hair, and I learned hair, the rest of the way to school, playlist forgotten.
‘Health’ dragged on and on, as Mr. Provolt talked about the circulatory system. Occasionally I would jot a note, when he said something I had forgotten I already knew. This time I glanced around at Michelle and had a characiture drawn full portrait of her in my notebook by the time class ended and I could go on to real art.
Design let me sketch in colored pencil for a glorious hour and a half. I had been worried about using them, never having gotten a good result with them before. Then I watched my classmates grinding their pencils into the paper like they had a grudge. I tried going like that, and ended up with a technique that worked well, but was incredibly time consuming.
Then I went for lunch with butterflies in my stomach, ready for whatever that held.
Lunch held Bree, and Autumn, and Wee David, and Rachel, and Regular Dave, and no loft. There was a class in the pottery studio, and the music room, so getting above the stage was out.
Only the upperclassman had an open campus, so Autumn, Rachel, and Regular Dave could leave if they wanted. They opted to hang out until everyone got bored of not leaving campus and decided to ditch the place. Bree hung around until she had to leave, and then we were pilling into Rachel’s car and heading off to Chipotle to get some lunch.
Mom had given me the credit card from the bank with these instructions:
“This debit card gets two hundred dollars at the start of the month. You don’t get any more than that, so make it last.” She softened her tone a bit, “There’s a line of credit attached, in case of emergencies. If you run in to a problem you call me before you use it.
We headed for Rachel’s car which was named ‘Rachel’s car’. Autumn called shotgun before we even stood up from the tables. As a 4’5” girl, maybe 105 carrying a goat under either arm, I was told it was my place to sit in the middle. I mentioned that I didn’t have a ‘place,’ you sexist pigs.
That’s not what happened. What happened was Wee David said, as we were leaving, “Bitch!”
And Regular Dave said, “Like hell, Aisling’s the girl, she rides bitch.”
And I said, “Fuck you, you sexist pig.”
And Rachel, as owner of the car—and as such, independent arbiter—asked me to please sit in the middle, because Wee David was nearing six foot and 200, and Regular Dave was smaller and shorter, but not by comfortable margins.
I got into the back seat and did the scootching thing you do to get into the bitch seat. Then Regular Dave squeezed onto one side, and Wee David squeezed onto the other. I was stuck with no elbow room, and barely any shoulder room. I was glad I couldn’t fit anything into my pockets, because I knew whatever it might have been would be biting into my legs right now.
Both of the boys leaned away a tad, for which I was grateful, and…
And Regular Dave’s hand was on my leg.
Not really on my leg. He had draped his fingers on his lap, and his fingers had brushed my thigh, as he (apparently) forgot about them. I had no idea why, but the whole car ride, the conversation, the banter, compressed itself down beneath my consciousness. Because there was a boy’s hand on my leg.
I gave a deep swallow, and tried to deal with what I was feeling. Well first I was feeling his fingers on my thigh. They felt electric, and intimate. That was bad, because I was clearly reading way too much into this. It was a normal thing for him, and should be for me. It was a casual touch, because we were in such close quarters. He isn’t freaking out here, why are you?
Second feeling. Lust. Straight fucking lust. Not arousal, not horniness, lust. His fingers had a line to my insides. In that I wanted them inside me, despite knowing it would hurt. Maybe it’s good when someone else does it?
Third feeling. Violation. But… some kind of… good violation? That was wrong, right. That’s not a positive thing. Only it was a positive thing. He was in my personal space, not of my volition, and he was just there, and I didn’t want him there, only I badly, badly, wanted him there.
And while I was gulping, and feeling, and thinking too hard about the whole thing, until my entire world was just a couple of fingers resting on my thigh, we arrived at the Chipotle.
Then Regular Dave gave my thigh a rub with his hand and said, “We’re here, space case,” and my entire world exploded.
Okay Aisling. That’s what getting touched by a boy feels like when you’re a girl. But then I had to normal, and get out of the car, and try to imagine that the whole thing hadn’t happened.
It was surprisingly easy. And surprisingly hard. My body still did all of the things it was supposed to. It got out of the car. It stood in line. It stepped forward when the line moved. Meanwhile my brain was screaming Sombody touched me! And it was fantastic.
Then I was sitting down with a chicken burrito and a coke, and listening to Regular Dave tell everyone how I had laid out the gym yesterday, and people were asking me questions. I put it all out of my head, for fear of going mad.
We were halfway through the meal—well Regular Dave and Wee David and I were halfway through—when Rachel looked at me in disgust and said, “Aisling, you eat like a boy.”
Wow, that… hurts. Why would that hurt? I put my burrito down, and wiped my face with a napkin.
Autumn looked at me, and then at Rachel. “I have to go pee,” she said. “Rachel, you should come with me.”
They got up and left, while Wee David and Regular Dave looked around in confusion. Then they went back to talking about whatever they had been talking about. Professional wrestling maybe? Or baseball? I don’t remember.
I don’t remember because my stomach felt sick. I looked at my burrito, and suddenly it looked disgusting. A big mess of flour and meat and waste. A tortured mass, that God himself couldn’t love. I didn’t even want to pick it up in my hands. I just stared at it, and indurred the feelings us disgust tearing up my belly.
Finally I got up and threw the last half of the burrito in the trash, and came to sit down with the boys again, mortified that they would say something. They either chose not to, or hadn’t noticed at all, and I didn’t know which one I should be grateful for. Boys.
Rachel and Autumn came back, and sat down, and ate daintily, like ladies. I remained silent, and stared at the table in front of me, as the conversation moved on to Dungeons and Dragons. It was a conversation I would have loved to take part in. I had the source books, and had resolved to find a group to play with, until I realized I didn’t have any friends.
But all I could feel was the crawling in my stomach.
I was a boy, who was a girl who ate like a boy. I was disgusting. I didn’t know if it was a girl thing or a puberty thing, but I could feel the rest of my life being ruined by this one moment.
It was a relief when everyone got up to go to the park, with an hour left before class started up again.
We were at the park, and I finally realized that my life wasn’t completely ruined. I’d just have to learn to eat like a girl, never talk to Rachel again, and prevent this travesty from ever intruding on my life. Maybe mom can teach me?
We sat in the park, and Autumn was on her third cigarette of the lunch break. Regular Dave had lit a cheroot. Wee David had pulled out Exploding Kittens, and despite having withdrawn into a little hole inside myself, I was dealt in.
At least it isn’t daisy chain. I never wanted it to be daisy chain, because I couldn’t imagine anyone touching my wretched body again.
I won. It was hollow. Then Rachel stood up, “I have to pee.”
“I’ll come too,” Autumn said, “come on Aisling.”
Oh, right. That’s something I do now. Why? Who knows.
Wee David glanced at Regular Dave, “Women.”
Regular Dave muttered to him, “The bathrooms here are single use, man. I don’t get it.”
I followed the other girls over the hill, “Are the bathrooms even open this time of year?”
Autumn smirked at me, “No. But they don’t know that. You want to talk where the Y chromosome can’t hear you?”
Riiiiiiiiiight. So that’s why. Probably other reasons too, perhaps.
Then Rachel turns and I stop dead, and look down like a beaten dog. “I’m sorry, for what I said, Aisling.”
Wait, what? No, I mean, Yeah, bitch you should be. But what came out of my mouth was, “No, I’m sorry…” I didn’t know what to be sorry for, and I didn’t know why I said that.
“No, I really am sorry. You know Sarah had a problem in her freshman year, and she still struggles with it. We got a call from her mom, and her therapist, and stuff, and we try to be really carefull about it. It just slipped out, I’m sorry.”
Then she hugged me, and I hugged her back, more out of shock than fidelity. Rachel put her hands in mine and sighed, “Friends?”
Wait, is she a bitch, or isn’t she? It was all really confusing. “Yeah,” I said, and I made eye contact for the first time in 45 minutes, “Friends.”
“This is how you make a flat,” Bree told me. We were making flats that day, having produced all of the platforms we needed. Bree held a staple gun in one hand, yellow pneumatic cord going into the ceiling. She handed me a tube of wood glue. “Glue here.”
Bam! She stapled the pieces together.
When we had one done, she handed me the gun, and I did the next one. And it went on like that for awhile.
I thought as I got deep into the work. There were four other stable guns going, and talking was difficult. The stage had been just as incredible when I stepped out onto it this time. But there was something different now. Belonging. This was my stage. I worked here. It was whatever I wanted it to be.
“Do you feel like that?” I asked Bree. I had decided to let her into my philisophical musings.
“Everyone fucking feels like that. We’re a team. We make everything happen. This is our space.”
We laid the flat we’d finished on top of the stack, and I went to cut more lumber for the next one. When I brought the 1x back, Bree continued. “The actors have their fucking black box. They have their fucking lines. They have their ‘craft.’ But we run the stage. We’re the ones coming in here and building, and rigging, and lighting. We tell the actors where they can and can’t stand, what they can and can’t touch. You’d be amazed what those dumbasses think is okay. You want to cartwheel off the goddamn platform? Sure, we’ll be here to call the ambulance.”
We finished the frame, put the 8x4 on top and glued it into place. It was my turn to go around it and staple it on, which I had decided was my favorite part. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!
I stopped and cocked my elbow on my hip, gun in hand, and looked at the flat with a sublime sense of pride, while Bree summed it all up. “Then at the end, they go off and have a party, and congratulate themselves and what a good job they did, while we strike. This is our stage. The actors just borrow it.”
When Susan took off to do whatever she had to do, we had finished three quarters of what we needed, and everyone was still working. The door closed, and I exepected Regular Dave to come in. Instead three teams finished their flats. That’s when we stopped.
Regular Dave went over to the ladder, and we all climbed up. Sarah and Rachel both mentioned my boots, which had been saving my poor toes all day. It made me feel really good. And the steel toes made me feel like I’d taken the initiative, done something right on my own to fit in with the group. I techie. I wear black. I have serious boots.
The grid was great again. Third one off the ladder I stopped to look down on the stage. Everything up here seemed so special. The refrain from Digital Daggers “Bad Intentions” went through my head as I had climbed the ladder, and now it seemed especially appropriate.
Come with me,
You might like what I’ve found.
Everyone got off the ladder with a similar air of reverence for the grid, and then went for the Loft. I steeled myself for whatever was coming and followed last.
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