The Boys’ Bathroom

By: Arianna Dantes

The boy ditched his sneakers

For a pair of stilettos

And chucked off his jeans and shirt

For a jean skirt and blouse.

He walked towards me and leaned forward,

His unwavering gaze discomforting—

And started to draw on his face.

A stall swung open; someone swaggered out,

And, upon seeing the boy, he spat,

“This is the boys’ bathroom, Cameron.”

“It’s Cammie; and I am a boy.”

He brought a red marker to his lips—

How curious; I had never seen a boy

Bring strange powders and pencils

And red markers to use on their faces.

They bring black markers, usually,

To vandalize my face and the walls.

Today was most certainly different.

The guy scoffed, “For the record,

The ladies’ room is next door, freak.”

Cammie rolled his eyes but

Turned his head from side to side

As the door swung shut behind the rude boy.

“I’m not a freak,” Cammie told me.

“I’m not a freak,” I echoed.

I don’t think you are, is what I said.

But he couldn’t hear me.

Pink walls, pink carpet, pink cushions,

Lace curtains, and frilly sheets.

I saw the same thing every day.

Today was no different—

Or that’s what I thought, at least.

Arabella sat in front of me,

Playing with her curls and sighing,

Looking as mournful as usual.

“Arabella, darling, you look lovely,”

Her mother practically gushed,

Gliding over to straighten her cardigan

And fluff her overly-fluffed curls.

Arabella glowered at me, looking unhappy,

And in that moment, I was unhappy, too.

“Mother,” she said, exasperatedly—

I copied her actions, protesting as well—

“All the boys will simply love you!”

“Mother, please…” she tried again—

“You’re going to be the prettiest!”

Arabella looked at me once more,

Her gaze boring into my own,

And an understanding seemed to pass.

Mother, my hair has far too much product,

And this cardigan makes me itch;

These ballet flats pinch my toes

And I really don’t like boys.”

Her mother was all taut ruby lips

And unblinking eyes; then she said,

Arabella, you are a girl,

And girls like girly things and boys.

Arabella took a long look at me,

And I could only stare back at her,

Through pristinely polished eyes,

I watched her abruptly stand, and

Despite her mother’s panicked protests,

I saw her settle for frayed denim,

A faded flannel, worn socks, and Converse.

She slung her bag over her shoulder

And glanced once more at me, questioningly.

This is who you are; nothing can change that.

And Arabella finally, truly heard me.

She proceeded to run, her figure

Growing smaller and smaller in my eyes.

The grandfather clocked ominously sounded;

Next to me, ceramic teacups clattered

Upon the lacquered, mahogany wood.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Each clock chimed and chirped in perfect,

Frustratingly repetitive, synchronization.

Those were the sounds I heard every day.

I lay on my back, my only view being

The off-white ceiling, with its

Paint peeling and dusty corners.

The bell hanging above the door chimed,

And small, timid steps approached.

I was picked up and met with a face—

It was the only other thing I ever saw.

Every day, the same ceiling and same boy.

He was in his usual tattered hoodie

And worn, fingerless gloves,

With his unkempt hair and tired eyes.

He was always alone.

He would tell me the “other boys”

Called him nasty names, names

That were unfamiliar to him, but

He knew that they were unkind.

“It’s not my fault,” he’d say.

“It’s not my fault I don’t feel

The same way about girls as I do boys.”

But they’d tease and taunt him and

Hurt him, physically and emotionally.

I’d see his face, battered and bruised,

And today a black eye was added,

Along with a busted lip and cut eyebrow.

I looked and felt just as sad and hurt.

He attempted to lift the corners of his lips,

And I gave him the same watery smile.

He told me what the other boys would say:

“Jonah, this is why your parents gave you up.”

“Jonah, no one is ever going to want you.”

Jonah was just so, so tired, and so was I.

Then he left, as he usually did,

But today was different; today

He came back, and he wasn’t alone.

He picked me up, and he was smiling,

And so were the man and woman behind him.

“They know,” he told me, “They know.”

They know, I thought, and it’s okay.

And Jonah finally, truly heard me.

That day, he tossed green paper at

An old man behind a counter.

And I saw the ceiling, heard the clocks,

The clattering tea cups, and the door chime.

But then I was blinded by a bright light

And saw white swirls swimming across a blue sea.

Cammie backed away from me slowly,

Then turned and exited the bathroom,

But he halted at the door,

And in the corner of my eye I saw

Him take his strange red marker,

And, with his back to me,

He vandalized the door.

But he removed himself from where

He was blocking my line of sight,

And I realized the blue boy on the door

Now had a shimmery maroon dress.