Status: Updates weekly-ish.

S/he Screams in Silence


Emily traipsed up the stairs to his room, forefinger hooked loosely through the carabiner attached to his car keys. Sometimes he felt like he was similarly strung along next to a bunch of other keys that opened the same door, all of them working jobs that didn’t give them enough hours to pay for school to prepare for a future where they would just wind up working somewhere else. Afternoons at the college bookstore did that to him, made him a skeptic of higher education and drained him completely of the will to transfer his own textbooks from the backseat of his car to the desk in his room. Forget homework.

The keys skidded over the surface of his nightstand, and he collapsed onto his unmade bed. Tonight was a night to catch his breath, and maybe convince himself to give a fuck again.

He sighed. Or maybe not, too. Without lifting his head from his pillow, he glanced diagonally at the calendar tacked to the wall just as crookedly as his line of sight. Aesthetics weren’t really Emily’s thing unless you were referring to a clean block of code. Tomorrow was Thursday, and he had his Python programming class in the morning—his favorite, although sociology wasn’t too bad either.

His brain had been dancing around the subject all day, courtesy of a call he’d received from Lucia in the middle of last night. She had told him to grab his sociology book and turn to chapter eight, which he had done, albeit begrudgingly. He was reluctant enough to study as it was, never mind pore over a thick tome of explanatory social science at 2 a.m. But read he did, flashlight aimed at print he swore wasn’t that tiny in daylight, nearly oblivious to Lucia shouting in his ear as he did so.

“Do you see that? Gender isn’t even legitimate. It’s socially constructed. All the traits attached to gender are culturally dependent. Did you see the page where it talks about a third gender in American Samoa? And the Navajo had five different genders? And did you see where it says that gender doesn’t even correlate with biology? Like totally female people can have XY chromosomes and male people with testosterone and body hair and perfect penises can have XX chromosomes? And how gender testing at the Olympics is totally bullshit because what about the people who have like XXY chromosomes and shit? Are you reading this?”

Emily nodded, although Lucia couldn’t see him. When he realized, he cleared his throat. “Uh, yeah.” He had succeeded in skimming over pretty much everything, and made a mental note to check, once it was light out, whether this chapter was on the syllabus. If it was, he’d just completed some homework in advance. Score.

“I kind of meant, like, do you see how important this is? I know you’re reading it; you have too much integrity to just pretend, idiot. Like that time in 9th grade when you told everyone you’d actually forgotten your homework for once, but I saw you slip it to Mr. Fredericks when the bell rang. And you don’t even have anyone to impress this time.”

Emily could almost see her smirk on the other end of the line. Grinning, though slightly embarrassed, he was glad he had a friend to remember stupid things like that. “Yeah, yeah…”

“Well?” Lucia chirped. The phone added an extra octave to her voice, and Emily winced slightly at the pitch.


“What do you think about the chapter, stupid?”

“Oh…” Emily paused, unable to formulate an appropriate response now that he’d turned his flashlight off and the darkness slithered back out to steal him away from consciousness. He yawned. “Well I dunno, what does it mean, really? Look…I’m kinda…checking out here,” he mumbled into the mouthpiece of the phone.

Lucia laughed knowingly. “Yeah, alright. I expect a ten-page answer when I see you. Get some sleep, you dope.”

Maybe he was a dope, he thought, mind back on the present. He knew that he should be as excited about what Lucia had found as she was, but for the moment all he could do was accept it as certainly intriguing and that was that. Partly it unsettled him, because if gender was unattached to bodies why did he feel so uncomfortable in his own skin?

And with that thought, he was time traveling again.

It was sixth grade, and scoliosis screening season. Her teacher’s rundown of the process the week before had left Emily breathless. She wished the space in her lungs where air was supposed to be would take in her orphan breasts instead of leaving them for the wolves. What was she supposed to do with them?

Without her shirt, and her back exposed, it was either bra or no bra. If she wore one, the nurse would figure out her worst-kept secret—that she needed it. Her mom had already told her that other girls would be jealous, and never had a darker sound left Emily’s lips than when she laughed at such an incomprehensible notion. A year later she’d be in front of the mirror pleading softly, “Stop growing.

But now it was the morning of, and she had made the wrong decision because the nurse had told her to come back dressed properly. It felt like the summer night her mom had declared she couldn’t walk around shirtless anymore; she was changing. And it was the kind of change that was really more like being swallowed up by a wolf who then donned your glasses and nightcap for herself. And its eyes were too big, and its hands too menacing (although it tried to keep its claws modest), and its teeth only tore up other bodies.

From then on he wore bras, and he wore them tight. After a while he convinced himself that it was the wolf who was constricted, and he’d almost forgotten that he made his home inside her. That was when Lucia had pried open the wolf’s grisly jaws and waved hello.

Emily was still blinking from the light.

His mom’s call burst his thought bubble. “What?” he asked, appearing by the staircase railing.

His mom stood with her hands behind her back and an excited look on her face. She spoke in exactly the giddy sing-song tone that he hated most. “I got you something!”

It was selfish, he knew, but nothing good ever came from his mom except for her intentions. He eyed her rocking back and forth on her heels suspiciously. “Yeah? What is it?”

“You said you needed a new bra, right?” She didn’t give away what she was hiding, instead waiting for him to play along.

“…Yeah.” Emily couldn’t understand what the holdup was; he’d been wearing the same style of bra since his boobs had come into their own, and always in the same neutral colors. Surely she hadn’t ventured into a new style like the last time she’d bought him one—it hadn’t even fit and ultimately had to be returned to the store.

“Look, isn’t it cute? I know you usually like black or nude, but I thought a little color couldn’t hurt.” She finally revealed the bra, attached to a small hanger. She had gotten the same style, for what it was worth.

Emily walked briskly down the stairs to retrieve it before his face betrayed his opinion. “Thanks, Mom.”

“I wasn’t positive about the color, so you can exchange it if you want, honey. Just ask for the receipt. Oh, and your brother’s coming for dinner tonight. I’m making lasagna.”

With a “Cool…,” Emily walked back upstairs to his room. He set the bra down on his dresser, where he wouldn’t have to look at its feminine orange color, or the polka dots, or the tiny bow stitched to the cloth in between the two pieces of underwire.

Sitting down on his bed again, he tried to open his chest back up from where it had contracted: the point where what he could only surmise was probably the lamest reason to cry—ever—met actual tears. But it stayed closed, only letting in and out the thinnest trickle of air, and he supposed the wolf must have glued her muzzle shut tight. It was hot, and it was sticky, and God damn it, if he was crying because his mom had bought him the wrong color bra maybe he deserved to be born a girl after all; he was sure acting like one.

“Aw shit,” he mumbled, voice distorted by abruptly jammed sinuses, and reached across to grab a tissue from the box he kept on his desk. Where was this sensitivity coming from? he wondered. The boy who treasured his tolerance of physical pain—dared the doctor to prick his finger or take his blood—suddenly couldn’t handle the slightest prompt by his mother to dress more feminine. The fact that the likelihood of anyone seeing the “papaya orange” terror strapped to his chest skimmed the top of rock bottom did nothing to deter the curious anguish flooding his senses. He felt ridiculous.

Similarly, there was no relief to be had from knowing he could just exchange it. In fact, that idea seemed to mock him, as if taunting him with a small slice of freedom. After all, it wasn’t as if he could go to the store with a receipt he’d received at puberty and say, “There must have been some sort of mix up, because I never wanted these. I never wanted boobs; give them to someone who’ll use ‘em.”

Glaring at the bra as though its existence had personally wronged him—and perhaps it had—, Emily flared his nostrils behind the tissue masking his nose. He couldn’t decide which aspect of it bothered him most. If he ripped off the bow, would he be able to wear it? He scoffed at his own suggestion. No. If the polka dots walked off the fabric? No. If it was just that hideous orange?

And that’s when something snapped, and instead of feeling like he owed it to nature to try to get along with his chest, Emily wound up declaring war in a string of expletives. “Like fuck I’m gonna wear this motherfucking bra,” he muttered. “Of all the goddamn fucking bras for my douchebag fucking boobs, why in the shit did she have to pick this one? I swear to Jesus fucking Christ if I could get rid of them I’d do it in a heartbeat, and then I’d be out of this clusterfuck of a situation.”

A vein throbbed in his temple. He blew air.

“If I had a flat chest, I could pass,” he continued to think out loud. “If people saw me as a boy I’d be happier…. I just want…If I can’t be a boy I at least want these monsters gone.” He looked down at the curvature not inconspicuously filling out his t-shirt and swore again. Then, grimacing, he took his hands and pressed his breasts as flat as he could to his chest. Maybe he could figure out a way to get them to stay like that, preferably a way that freed up his hands. He rolled his eyes at himself, releasing his hold.

His mom yelled up the stairs again. “Em, your brother’s here and dinner’s ready!”

Emily shot up, the combination of seeing Bruce and wolfing down lasagna more than appealing enough to distract him from herself.
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So... I'm moving back to the magical land of Japan tomorrow, and therefore I am not entirely sure when I'll have the next chapter posted. Especially since I might not have internet for around a month. =[ But fear not, for I am not abandoning the story! Maybe I'll be able to sneak online at an internet cafe or something...