What makes you think I can't see?

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story that begins with someone's popsicle melting.... view prompt

34 comments

General

The heat always reminded me of her. It matched her personality: harsh, forceful, and itchy under the skin, like the dresses I wore when she treated me like a girl. Even in my childhood memories, her hair was always curled; stylized in a doll-like perfection. I wondered what it would take to make her snap.

The ice-pop in my hand melted, despite the AC being on full blast. I was answering my own questions with that unnaturally blue liquid dripping on my hand. Adora would hate that. She would hate anything out of order, including me. Or, rather, in her words: what I choose to become.

The sweat on the nape of my neck was irritating. I wanted to shower, to move, to escape. I only ever felt like this when Adora curled my hair and forced me to wear nail polish - I probably should’ve got out of the car earlier, but I wanted to just stare outside that house – the spotless white walls and neatly tucked curtains all disguising the prison cell existence within.

I shouldn’t have come back.

The lawn was mowed to perfection. Nothing less, for Adora.

I don’t know what prompted me to turn the AC off and make my way inside, but I was standing on the porch, having rung the bell, immediately regretting my decision. How can small, prim and proper Adora ever let her trans child back in the house they ruined? How can she let that monster - the one that broke her ice thin façade of perfection - ever dare to show their face again?

This time, with a light stubble.

She opened the door – in her evening dress, accompanied by a smile that didn’t reach her eyes – her hair was curled and pretty. The sunlight was harsh and I convinced myself that was the reason for her not meeting my gaze, and not the previously mentioned facial hair.

“Jessica! What a lovely surprise,” She didn’t move forward to hug me, and I didn’t initiate a further greeting. Was it too hot? Was it her unease at my sudden, taller appearance?

“Adora. Hi,” I said, and the fake smile was gone. Her eyes questioned me as she stepped aside to let me in. She looked smaller and shorter. Or was it the hormones that made me tall? It was so hot my shirt was practically plastered to my back. (The shoulder growth was very much welcomed.)

I stopped calling her mama the day she refused to call me Jess instead of Jessica.

I gave birth to a girl!

The house seemed smaller than I remembered. The wooden furniture was perfectly dusted and varnished. Nothing was out of place or missing – every picture frame the same. The air was stiff with tension and humidity, making it hard to breathe.

Or was that just me?

“How long are you in town for?”

She was clenching the edge of her dress extremely tightly. I shrugged, unsure of what, exactly, I was back here for. I could let her wipe that sweat from her palm on her dress, but I doubt she is capable of doing that without smoothing the dress out.

An apology, perhaps? Acceptance of the sneakers instead of heels?

I couldn’t find any substitute for the love a mother gave their child out in the city… and it was only when her pleading eyes looked at me did I realize I never found it here, either.

“Just a night or two,” My voice was raspy.

Her dress ruffled and her shoulders relaxed. She smoothed the creases.

One, two, three times.

“Drinks?” She asked, already moving into the kitchen. She didn’t look at me as she started pouring the water in a jug. There were beads of sweat on her forehead. She was going to wipe them down with a tea towel, three times, the same way she would make me remove and wear necklaces laced with pearls, despite my protests. She would always serve lemonade in the summer and tea in the winter.

I stood, unsure of what to do with myself. Conversation was out of the question, despite being away for so long. Should I have gone upstairs and check out my old bedroom? Would it still be as messy as I left it, or will that too, be sorted and folded neatly, ready to be tucked somewhere deep so that we don’t need to worry about it? The t-shirts and the torn up dresses…

The walls were still white, still spotless, and had no personality. I felt like a stranger in the house I grew up in, staring at the blank canvas of a wall I would daydream on throughout my early life. In a weird way, it was familiar.

Feeling like a stranger in your own house - in your own dress, heels. In the pearls so white they seemed fake, so much so I convinced myself I was as blank as those walls. That feeling of not feeling like yourself in your own skin.

Not feeling like you're home in you're own home.

Adora cracked the ice cube tray and some fell into the jug.

When she poured the drink, there were exactly six in the jug, two landing in my glass and two in hers.

It always had to be even.

The pearls situated on each side of my neck had to be even, the length of my socks, the number of dresses I own. The ribbons on each side.

“So. Jessica. Tell me about the city,” Her bangles clanked with the glass as she spoke.

She had a set of jewelry she brought with her from Africa. Earrings, necklace, bangles – all ivory. She loves wearing it as often as she can. The sound of them always reminded me of the sharp pain I’d feel from her metal rings as she’d smack my head for ruining the carpet. She has a weekly subscription to a charity fund for providing water to villages in Africa.

Same country, wrong charity.

Stop it! The tassels were arranged nicely!

Same child, wrong gender.

It would be nothing compared to her pulling my hair, though.

“Cold,” I said, wishing it was over here. Adora didn’t bother turning the fan on, and I didn’t ask. She seemed displeased with my answer. She was staring at my hair – it was growing out, now, after I shaved it… before the hormones.

But you had such pretty hair!

Her nails were sharp and even. Unnaturally so.

“That seems nice.” She said, placing the cup on the table. She stared at it uncomfortably, and then moved it so that the edges would align with the printed pattern on the mat.

“It is.”

I stared at her for a minute, wondering what she could have been like if she agreed to get help. Her makeup was immaculate, her lipstick lined with precision.

There was no one in this town meeting her, or any appointments she had to fulfill – but, always, just in case.

Her nails would dig into my cheeks as she forced my head to stay still - she needed to go over the mascara again. One, two, three times.

And go around taking pills all day? Like you? And lose my lovely hair?

I know very well what she thinks of me now: a flat chest and flannels, sneakers and worn out jeans. I had become the very opposite of what she had groomed and conditioned me to be.

“You used to have so much fun, running around in dresses,” She said, her fake smile returning.

I was a Barbie doll to her, always dressing up and getting ready. But she wanted a level of perfection that I could not give her. I could not do much in those dresses, god forbid the roughhousing… the shitshow of a scene it made when I came home with a white lace all muddy.

The sound of those slaps still make me flinch.

One, two, three.

I smiled. “I can still wear a dress for you, if you want,”

“That would be improper!” She said, jerking her hands up and then placing them folded on her lap.

Do you acknowledge that I am a boy, despite referring to me as a girl?

“How so?” I asked, unsure of the conversation.

She looked conflicted. “It must be very sad to be whatever it is you are,”

If I came here for an apology, I sure as hell wasn’t getting one now.

I could say the same thing for her.

She shook her head, as if tired, and I felt bad. I was past the anger – years of argumentation didn’t bring anything - It was a sudden bout of loneliness that rolled off of her that made me want to, for some odd reason, hug her. I didn’t.

Heck, she wasn’t wrong.

There is something about a blank canvass that screams isolation.

“You’re room isn’t done,” She said, getting up before I could stop her.

She made her way upstairs and I trailed behind her, asking her to sit down and rest. She never rested, I knew that much, but there was a particularly violent memory I had of her smoothing bed sheets repeatedly, not resting until she was sure she had done it the correct amount of times. She was sobbing throughout the ordeal.

It needs to be perfect.

I was sweating by the time we reached the top – she opened the door and I gasped at the sight.

Everything was just as I had left it. There were three pieces of clothing, sprawled across the floor. The desk was dusty, and the sheets were not done.

It looked as if I had only left yesterday.

Adora’s hands were trembling.

Suddenly, she rushed to the desk and arranged the pencil – I didn’t even notice that it was there – so that it was aligned with the rest of the notebooks. When she looked at me, there was no guilt or panic.

Just sadness.

“I thought we could do it together,”

A wave of guilt washed me as I took in her small frame – she was grieving the loss of a child and battling a sickness all alone. I felt stupid for wanting her to cater to my need of her accepting me.

Not a stupid need, really, but neglect has a way of reflecting in generations.

“Okay,” I said, picking up the discarded clothes.

And although that didn’t excuse her behavior, she smiled the first genuine smile I had seen on her ever since I told her about my true self.

And although she still calls me Jessica, and is confused, she sees me, and doesn’t stop me at the door.

I can’t undo the damage that she has done to me, only manage it.

I fold the clothes neatly, instead of rolling them up. I tuck them and stack them on top of each other, so that the collars are showing – the way she does it. Then I flatten my palms and pat them down, one, two three times.

The way her mind wants it done.

I look at her and she’s crying, but her eyes – oh, her eyes – they are so happy.

There is a muddled form of acceptance and understanding. And it might just help her heal.

The pronouns can wait.

August 06, 2020 08:21

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34 comments

Scout Tahoe
17:39 Aug 06, 2020

Your writing flows like a clear blue river. This is a great piece of writing, and I can't help but feel the pain of the characters through your words. I honestly can't wait to read more of your writing. Congrats on reaching 200 points! Stay safe and writing, -Scout P.S. LOVE the bio (so true)

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Verda H
17:46 Aug 06, 2020

Aw, thank you so much Scout! Looking forward to writing more as well. Writing is a productive way to make the time go by in isolation, isn't it?

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Jessie Nice
10:06 Aug 10, 2020

You really captured the tension and awkwardness between two characters who at one point fell apart to their differences, yet somehow still showed love and care in a strange way for each other. You have done a very good job with this piece of writing, so much so their interaction is sad and haunting, even. Amazing x

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Verda H
11:38 Aug 10, 2020

Thank you so much for taking the time to write down what you think, Jessie! I'm glad you resonated with this piece.

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Romneya Quennell
11:50 Aug 07, 2020

Woah. I don't know what I was expecting when I started, but it wasn't this. Amazing job, both with the plot and dialogue. There was something I saw- the phrase 'stylized in a doll like perfection'. There should be a hyphen, 'doll-like'. The other thing I caught was at first, I was confused because I thought Adora was also trans but wouldn't accept it (the bit about 'treatment'), before you explained she was sick. But besides those bits, I loved reading this and was immersed until the end! Great job!

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Verda H
13:33 Aug 07, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm still learning and trying out new styles, so I don't think I did as well in managing character conflict here, in terms of their separate struggles. Hoping to improve, always!

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Kendall Defoe
03:33 Aug 07, 2020

That last sentence... Amazing.

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Verda H
06:31 Aug 07, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Wow, this was so amazing. I love the first paragraph, and how you showed the perfect relationship between a parent and child going through a transition like this. I feel like this a great example of how it really is. I think it's awesome as well that u used a trans character I definitely don't see that much, so it was a nice change of pace, lastly, I loved that u used a blue popsicle! A lot of people in their stories have used red, I was thinking to myself about how if I did this story id use blue. I enjoyed reading this a lot, well done! No...

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Verda H
06:33 Aug 07, 2020

Thank you so much! Yeah, why red? I feel as if Jess would have wanted blue, haha. I read your story! Was superb.

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And it worked out well, I’m glad you enjoyed that’s a million😁

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Verda H
11:12 Aug 07, 2020

:)

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. .
05:43 Sep 02, 2020

I love the descriptions!

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Verda H
10:30 Sep 02, 2020

Thanks, Sarah!

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Keerththan 😀
06:45 Aug 14, 2020

Intense story. Awesome! Loved it. The plot and dialogue were wonderful. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my story “The secret of power?”

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Verda H
03:44 Aug 15, 2020

Thank you! Sure, I'll check it out :)

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Asa Frederick
04:53 Aug 14, 2020

Loved that last line. Great story. Keep writing.

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Verda H
03:43 Aug 15, 2020

Thank you Asa!

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Vicky S
21:45 Aug 09, 2020

I loved how you started and ended your story

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Verda H
04:10 Aug 10, 2020

Thank you so much Vicky!

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A.G. Scott
19:52 Aug 09, 2020

Tough -- they are, all the way down to a neurological level, necessarily in conflict. Order vs. disorder, preservation vs. change. The story is effective because of this juxtaposition. To me it says a lot about the strength of family bonds, in that they are both willing to take on discomfort for the benefit of each other's well-being. This is something that's key to any relationship, I think, so you're onto something.

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Verda H
04:18 Aug 10, 2020

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Yes, I think it's a rather interesting area to explore. Simply how much one is willing to go through to maintain those bonds, even when they are at nature, at war with each other.

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Aditya Pillai
07:06 Aug 08, 2020

This is a great read! I love the characterization and the writing style. The emotions come through really well! The ending is fantastic. A wonderful story indeed. I would love it if you could check out mine sometime :)

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Verda H
07:53 Aug 08, 2020

Thank you so much Aditya, I'll have a look :)

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Yolanda Wu
06:40 Aug 08, 2020

Wow, you really captured the character right in that first paragraph, and the thoughts and emotions throughout were so wonderful. And of course, I will always support stories that represent the LGBTQIA+ community. Again, thank you so much for commenting on my story.

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Verda H
07:52 Aug 08, 2020

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Always, Yolanda.

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P. Jean
11:53 Aug 07, 2020

I enjoyed the way you draw us in and clearly show the emotional conflict. I read the prompt stories to see where your imagination goes, what kind of treasure you can find in the task. There are housekeeping errors which will be eliminated over time, we hope. But the excitement of the idea, the bud of the flower, is what is essential. You did well!

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Verda H
13:34 Aug 07, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read! I also hope so, practice does make perfect :)

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Rayhan Hidayat
12:43 Aug 06, 2020

Hey thanks for liking my story 🙂 I really liked this one! Love how the mother came off as a simultaneously villainous and tragic figure in the narrator’s life. The dynamic between them was on point. Only issue is that I wasn’t sure whether the story is about the OCD or the transgenderism. Besides that, good job, and keep writing! 😊

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Verda H
17:08 Aug 06, 2020

Thank you so much! Yes, I love conflicting characters. Thank you for your comments. The story is a bit about both, actually. I did some editing to make it seem more composed, rather than keeping those themes fighting each other. Hope it seems a bit seamless, now.

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Deborah Angevin
11:37 Aug 06, 2020

Despite the typos throughout the story, I still find it interesting to read. Keep on writing, Verda! Would you mind reading my recent story out, "(Pink)y Promise"? Thank you :D

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Verda H
17:03 Aug 06, 2020

Thank you so much! Fixed the typos, wrote this really late night. Yeah I'll check it out for sure!

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Charles Stucker
09:35 Aug 06, 2020

A swarm of typos caught my eye as I read. "The swat on the nape of my neck was agitating" Did you intend, "The sweat on the nape of my neck was irritating."? "The sunlight was harsh and I convinced myself that that was the reason for her not meeting my gaze." You only need one that. "Nothing was out of place or missing – every picture frames the same." either every picture frame's the same OR every picture frame the same. "She had a set of jewelry she bought with her from Africa." brought "She has a weakly subscription" week...

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Verda H
17:13 Aug 06, 2020

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story and this lengthy comment! Your constructive criticism was appreciated and noted. I made some slight changes within the story as well, but nothing too drastic. I agree with your advise of needing a stronger start. Again, thanks!

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