“Thank you, young man.” I can still hear the sound of the elderly lady’s voice as I held the door open for her at my auntie’s apartment building. I spent countless weekends with my great aunties. I was raised to be seen and not heard, to hold open doors for my elders, and answer with “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.”
I believe that I was around 9 years old at the moment that I heard “Thank you, young man.” It was a sunny day. The double-door entryway gave way to a hall with metal mailboxes lining the wall and the dreaded “alligator.” (That’s what I called the elevator.) I was genuinely terrified of it and would cry at times when having to use it.
I was dressed in corduroy pants and a basic nondescript short-sleeve shirt. My naturally curly hair was cut short up to my ears, adding to the appearance of what that sweet lady thought was a little boy. If she only knew that I thought that too. I was obviously born wrong. A half-girl, half-boy “freak of nature”. I felt shame at all times and struggled to hide my clunky self that had no grace, no real girly features.
My belief was backed up by what I believed was evidence. I had toys at each relative’s house to go with whatever couch I was sleeping on that weekend. One great auntie’s house had toy cars. I can remember the Hot Wheels, and blue containers with plastic slots for each car to fit into. I had a cousin at that house who rarely came out of the basement. I dared go down the stairs just once. The smoke-filled room seemed outer worldly. He had tattoos and seemed to enjoy terrorizing me when he could. His pet tarantula horrified me. I thought it could jump to my face and just bite me. He would yell at me to get out and threaten to put the spider on me. I ran up the stairs as fast