BUTCH-FEMME • by Cristina Sandoval

I guess the main reason why I can’t be a lesbian is because I’m not very logical. (I’m failing math, for one.) I see the butch girls doing things like helping others move with pickup trucks and with sensible shoes, and I just can’t relate. I guess there are lipstick lesbians, but I don’t know if I’m that either. I like being feminine, but most of the time I don’t even brush my hair.

But there are some things only a queer girl can appreciate. The shape of her eyes when a beautiful girl smiles, or how her left cheek dimples just so when she talks. I went on a date with this adorable girl. She had mousy brown hair and big brown eyes. I didn’t kiss her. She was begging for it with that look in her eyes, and her puffed lips. But I couldn’t do it.

I snuck out that night, making sure it was late, somewhere where no one would recognize me. We should have had fun, but I was too busy looking over my shoulder every five seconds. You see what I mean now? No logic. The logical thing to do was enjoy this time with a pretty girl, who obviously liked me. I just wish I could have let myself like her back.

The other reason why I can’t be a lesbian is because I’m not sure I’m attracted to girls. I space out in school and think about having babies, being taken care of by a big strong man with big hands and plenty of hair on his arms. But then there are those girls that set me on fire. That goes away. My life goes on and I haven’t been on another date with a girl.

I think too much. At work at the theater downtown, walking down the street, at home, in the shower. I ask myself things all day like, who am I? Why does this have to be so hard? My boss catches me sometimes. It’s usually when I’m at the register, handing over bags of chemical buttered popcorn. He hasn’t yelled at me yet. I think he thinks I’m brain damaged. My teachers probably think the same.

Riding home on my bike, I think, maybe I’m just a normal teenager. Maybe all girls go through this. Maybe we all have our phases. But I see a girl in a short skirt and I’m sure my bicycle seat just got warmer. It makes me want to give up. Life can be such bullshit.

My parents are strict Pentecostal. I have to sit through everything they say in church, and sometimes my face gets so red it’s like they’ve already started burning me at the stake. I don’t tell anyone anything, not even my best friend, Sarah. So I tell my journal, and after I pour my heart out, I toss it. I don’t want this to be permanent.

But lately I’ve been feeling like I might explode. My journal just isn’t enough. I was staring at a blank page when I decided I have to tell Sarah.

She answers her phone like, “Hello, beautiful.”

I say, “We have to talk.” I guess she can tell by the tone of my voice that it’s important. She says she’ll be right over. I tell her no, no, not here, somewhere quiet, far away from my house. I think she’s freaked out at this point, like maybe I’m pregnant or dying from some horrific cancer caused by the chemicals in all the butter at work.

We meet in her car in an abandoned parking lot downtown.  It’s sundown on a hot Friday night. We’re quiet for a long time, the only sound being the squeak of her torn leather seats and the shuffling of my feet in the garbage on the floor. I can’t even look her in the eye I’m so freaking embarrassed. I begin to say it, but I can’t. So I’m just sitting there with this look on my face like I’m constipated, and I can see myself in the mirror looking completely ridiculous, and I can’t get anything out.

“Are you okay?”

My heart starts racing, and I feel like I might combust. I turn away.

“It’s just…” I say. “I’m worried.”

“About what?”

“Like… everything.” I turn to face her.

I think, just say it. I’m gay! I like girls! I find the company of women really enjoyable! Sometimes I wonder what Mrs. Foreman from History looks like under her bra!

Suddenly I burst into laughter. Sarah stares at me like I’m crazy, but she bursts into laughter too. We laugh so hard the tension brings tears. Our laughter dwindles. I start crying.

I start thinking. Sarah will hate me. She’ll tell Mom and Dad. They’ll kick me out. Wherever I go, people will throw rocks at me. I’ll become a recluse to avoid all the ridicule.  I’ll end up with so many cats in my house to counteract the loneliness that I’ll turn into the town’s crazy lesbian cat lady. All this thinking makes me cry harder.

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to look like a freaking emotional weirdo,” I say.

She grabs my hands. “It’s okay.”

I’m still for a while and I take a deep breath. “I’m gay.”

She squeezes my hands. “I know.”

“But… how?”

“I’ve known you since we were like, five years old. Come on! You should know that I know you by now. I’ve seen the way you stare at Mrs. Foreman’s chest and how you smile at Kiki in 3rd period.”

I feel like someone lifted a boulder off my chest. I stop thinking about everything for a while.

The next day at work I think about Sarah. How proud she looked. Her smile. Her perfume. How soft her hands were and how they perfectly cupped mine. My boss gives me the eye. I think he still thinks I’m brain damaged, but at least this time I’m smiling.

Cristina Sandoval is a student at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, CA. Writing is her passion.

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