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Preview — Slip by Quoleena Sbrocca
The group lingers a few feet from me, and I can’t tear my eyes off him. It doesn’t help that he’s dressed as the object of my fantasy crush. My face flushes, and I can’t help it, even though I’m well aware that moments like this are why everyone at school thinks I’m gay, moments like this that punch me in the face, shouting at me to divert my eyes.
My breath steadies as I continue to gaze at my silhouette, daring myself to look into my eyes. It’s so dark, I can barely make out the whites. I don’t know why, but doing this creeps me out. The one time I did it, I felt like Alice right before she goes through the looking glass, only I was sure I’d be snatched by the Jabberwocky the moment I stepped through the mirror. It was like staring deep within myself, seeing my darkest thoughts and greatest fears manifested in the silhouette, and the tiniest hint of my eyes looking back at me. It was like staring into my soul. I could swear my ...more
He stops when he’s within arm’s reach of me, and we just stare at each other, eyes wide, both of us seeming to be equally afraid of opening our mouths to speak. Would our voices even make a sound? Then the strangest thing happens. His mouth stays firmly shut, but I clearly hear him say, with as much awe as I feel in this moment: I can hear your thoughts.
I extend a hand, willing my body to move forward, just enough to touch her, to see if she’s real. My fingers brush a lock of her hair, floating above her like she’s falling from a great height, in an otherworldly slow descent. Then my fingers trace her arm, delighting in the fact that I can feel her flesh. She extends a hand and does the same to me, then we both just stare at each other, her expression a mirror of my confusion and awe.
I walk through the automatic doors of the high school’s main building, paranoid that someone’s going to see right through me. The moment I have a single conversation with Natasha’s friends, they’ll know I’m an imposter, even if they won’t exactly know how. As I head down the hall toward the Junior class lockers, people who normally ignore me are now all full of smiles and nods of hello. I smile back, waiting for the moment someone jumps out at me and yells, “Gotcha!”
The way she stares at me, I don’t think it’s about AJ. In fact, I think I know what she’s going to ask. Xavier…Are you…gay? Her words echo in my head, and my zero-gravity gut feels like it’s floating away from me, into the void. The idea of telling Natasha the truth about me should be the easiest thing for me to do, yet it isn’t. How do I begin to tell her I’m not gay, I was born the wrong gender? I should’ve been born female. I was supposed to be. I feel it in my bones. I feel it in my skin. I feel it in the deep sound of my voice and every time I look down and see the thing between my legs ...more
When the laughter and teasing started, I was confused at first. I thought maybe I’d put them on backwards or that maybe the pajama pants flap was open and my boy parts were showing…But they weren’t boy pajamas, so there was no flap. The laughter got louder, and the mockery got crueler. It was all I could do to grab my sleeping bag and backpack before tripping up the basement stairs. I tore out of that house like a bat out of hell. I don’t even remember if I saw his parents on my way out or if they tried to stop me from leaving. I ran the two blocks home, barefoot, in my pjs, carrying my stuff ...more
I don’t remember exactly how I said it, but that was when I told her I wished I’d been born a girl. She’s been keeping my secret ever since. As for my dad, he’s never told anyone either, but that has nothing to do with protecting me. If you want to talk even shittier childhood memories, turns out my dad got home that night and had been listening the whole time. I guess my mom and I were too preoccupied to notice the garage door opening. I remember him barging in and ripping my fort apart, sending everything crashing like a tornado hit my room. I’ll never forget the look of disgust on his face ...more
My dad never tossed a ball around with me after that. Hell, he barely ever looked at me, as if making eye contact would taint him, make him like me. I always wanted to tell him—scream at him—just how impossible that was. I didn’t choose to be who I am. I didn’t ask for a gender that doesn’t match my brain. That’s what makes me who I am, because last I checked, no one literally thinks with their genitals, regardless of how long that joke’s been around. The rest of that time is a childhood blur. But a year later, my parents brought a pink, shrieking nightmare of a baby home from the hospital. I ...more
I chance a glance, and her eyes betray a wounded look. She quickly recovers and gives me a wicked eye roll before snapping her head away from me in a huff. Apparently, she just wanted to make sure her shade-throwing wasn’t lost on me. When they’re gone, I say to Janice, “Sorry about that.” “About the fact that Mike’s a dick? I already knew that.” “I mean what he said.” “That I’m trash? I don’t fucking give a shit what he thinks. He may be rich, but trashiness is a state of mind, and that dude’s head is seriously fucked up.”
The moment we climb out of the booth, the garlic-and-herby air fills with our collective gasp. My hands clench into fists, and my stomach feels like it’s about to eject my lunch all over the restaurant floor. Because sitting in the high-backed booth behind ours, with smug, sinister grins planted on their faces are Mike and Marissa. They followed us here, and now they know everything.
Mr. Forrester cuts through a row of cars, keeping his eyes on the crowd. We winds his way past the trees, and we plant ourselves behind an evergreen, hidden from view. It’s hard to separate the voices as a slew of expletives blast through the air, making the fact that I’m listening to it with the dean verging on mortifying. It’s like I’m watching a raunchy film with my parents. I feel like I’m betraying my peers by letting him eavesdrop on outside-of-school-building talk, but it has to be done, so I suck it up.
The atmosphere is thick with dread, and the sheepishness is palpable. I spot Mike and Marissa huddled together in the back, Mike looking arrogant and pleased with himself, but Marissa showing signs of worry. I can only imagine what Mr. Forrester said to them in his office. Flies are so lucky sometimes.
“So, Xav, man, you get any tail yet?” My dad’s watching us and belts out a scoff that makes my grandpa look up in question. “What’s this?” my grandpa asks, his old man neck jiggling as he looks from my dad to Harris. “I was just asking if Xavier’s popped his cherry yet, Grandpa,” Harris says loud enough for the whole table to hear. Parker snickers beside me, and my dad’s face goes red. My mom shoots Harris a warning glare, and he quickly diverts his eyes. “Cherry? What cherry? It’s not time for pie yet,” my grandpa says. Half the table bursts into a fit of laughter—the dudes—while the other ...more
I never imagined I could ever hate myself, but the universe has forced me onto a dangerous tight rope of knowing exactly what that’s like. Because I really do…or at least I’m starting to.
I keep my eyes locked on the floor as something snaps inside me—more like, breaks. All that pain and hurt dissolve into tiny pieces and float away in the stream of my tears.
The moment he says the word, I can’t help thinking the reason he’s talking to me without Janice is he suspects something. By the way he’s acting, it’s like he’s trying to steer me into admitting it, but I won’t. I can’t know for sure what his motive is, and I’m not about to say anything that might make me look like a crazy person, even if he literally wrote the book on what happened to Xavier and me.
She tilts her head in confusion, her eyes narrowed. I don’t say anything, because I can see the wheels spinning. I give her a pointed look, studying her face as it slowly shifts from confusion to suspicion, then understanding.