"Mom, for the last time, I want the pink shirt."
I cross my arms and glare down at her. She's looking at me with both exasperation and disgust on her face.
"Boys don't wear pink," she says for what must be the millionth time, placing her hands on her hips. I know what that movement means. Whenever she puts her hands on her hips, she's not backing down without a fight.
Great. So it's going to be a damn war then.
"Who says?" I shrug, trying to go for nonchalant, but instead just coming off as hostile. I can tell by the way she frowns at me, and the slightly shaky, sharp tone of my voice. "A lot of boys wear pink. Are you a boy, mom?"
She rolls her eyes. "Sometimes I want to ask you the same question," she hisses at me, and instantly tears threaten to make their way up to the surface. I feel myself shift my weight; the insecurities are bubbling up inside of me.
I shake my head and instantly all of it fades into anger. "Real mature, old lady," I mutter, grabbing the pink shirt and nearly shoving it in her face. "It's just a pink shirt, mom. It wouldn't be in the men's section if it wasn't for a guy to wear."
"Someone misplaced it," she says in a casual tone that tells me, Hi, I'm Mom, I'm delusional and think I know how the world works! Nothing new though. She's glaring at the shirt as if willing it to fly away to the women's section. I mean, looking at her face I can tell she really believes it's just been misplaced.
"A pink shirt won't kill anyone," I insist, "and it's literally 5 bucks. That bougie-ass blue sweater costs 50. And it's ugly."
She gasps like it's the worst thing I could've ever said. And no, she's probably not mad because I insulted her taste in clothing, she's insulted because I said "ass". She confirms my suspicions by reprimanding me, "what has gotten into you, Dean?"
"Dick," I respond, deadpan. It's the truth, but of course Mom can't handle it. She'd have a heart attack--which is precisely why I said it.
By this point in life I've lost all sympathy for her. Her and my father both. At first I thought they were just worried for me, you know, spiritually, like my sister was. But no, it's clear they actually hate me now. Which is pathetic--I'm their son.
While she's busy clutching her pearls, I head over to the cashier. I give her the shirt and the five bucks, and the shirt is mine. But just as I turn around, my mom is there, red-faced and absolutely furious.
"You are not going to buy that shirt," she says, threats laced everywhere in her voice. I ignore the threats and face her head-on. For some reason, with this pink shirt in my hand, I feel different. I feel like I finally have power. Even just a little bit of it.
"Sorry, Karen, I just did," I smirk, as the Millennial cashier gasps behind me.
Apparently, she has no comeback for me and instead whirls on the cashier, putting all the blame on her instead. The poor, poor cashier.
"Why would you let him buy that shirt?" she demands, hands placed firmly on her hips. I swear, her hips probably have indents on them by now.
The cashier blinks...s l o w l y...then smiles innocently. "He gave me the money?" She shoots me a much-less innocent grin. She's having fun with this, I can tell.
I grin back at her, but it only lasts a split second before my mom literally yanks me by the collar and tries to drag me off. But it's no use. I'm stronger than her by now.
"Mom, do you think I'm five years old?" I glare at her, thoroughly unimpressed by her try-hard angry mom face. "I mean, it's a shirt. Men don't wear pink? Really? I find it depressing that I can't even say that's the dumbest thing you've said before, because we both know that's not true."
Should I respect my parents more? Hell yes. I mean, who actually likes fighting with their parents? Only psychopaths, or people whose parents themselves are the psychopaths. I would fall under the second category if I actually liked fighting them, but I don't. It's just that when I'm not at home, it's my one chance to be more than their little punching bag.
The things she and my dad have done to me transcend the limits of parental discipline. Whether it's been physical or verbal, I still have bruises remaining from it all. Faded, but still there.
As the bruises come to mind, I glance down at my arm. The most recent bruise, much less severe than the past ones. I've grown older and stronger, and soon enough, there won't even be any new bruises to add onto my collection.
The cashier's eyes follow my gaze to the bruise. I watch as her eyebrows immediately shoot up. Mom does too.
"We have to go," Mom's urgent voice cuts through my thoughts. I stare down at the shirt I bought. Suddenly I feel a lot less powerful.
The cashier's eyes are still glued onto me. And I'm glued to the floor. I'm frozen in this moment, what do I do? I can't follow her into the car. Because that car leads me back to the house. Where Dad is. And Dad's a lot stronger and stricter than Mom. And he's always drunk. And Bibles are heavy weapons. And I really really really really really can't go back there. Not after I just had my first taste of freedom.
And so I don't move. I'm a deer in the headlights, standing still as a statue as Mom begins to yell at me to follow. I try to take a step, but something in me is freezing all my joints. I grip the pink shirt tighter, it's all I have left to hold onto.
I feel the panic building inside. All my usual bravado is gone. Mom's loud, angry voice becomes a distant haze as I turn around and my eyes meet the cashier's. She's not looking at me, she's on her phone. I glance at her nametag. Amy.
"Amy." I repeat the word to myself in my head, I try to sound it out, then I say it out loud. It's mostly covered up by Mom's voice, but miraculously, she hears it.
Amy glances up at me, then she raises her phone to her ear. "What's your name, hun?" she asks me.
"Dean. D-Dean Watson. 555-8220. That's my number." She didn't even ask for my number, but it's all spilling out. "She hates me 'cause I'm gay. So does my dad. They...they hit me. A lot."
Mom has finally given up on yelling and is now marching up towards me. Amy and I make eye contact one last time.
"Help," I whisper.
Amy doesn't say anything but doesn't drop her gaze as Mom drags me towards the exit, whispering threats under her breath.
Beneath all of the cruel words Mom is spewing at me right now, I hear a snippet of Amy's phone conversation.
"Mm-hm. I saw a bruise on his arm, he begged me to help him."
I pull back as Mom pulls me out the door. Who is Amy calling? I have to know if she'll save me. The fire in Mom's eyes radiates Hell. I know in my heart being gay doesn't mean a one-way ticket to Hell. Mom on the other hand, I think she's already there.
"Dean Watson. He said number's 555-8220, so I'm assuming his area code is 314."
Mom drags me out the door and into the parking lot.
A little while later, I get a text.
This is Amy. I called, they need your address.
I type it in.