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Suspense Transgender LGBTQ+

I woke up this morning with a weird feeling, but not necessarily a bad one. Maybe it’s best described as that feeling when you’ve slept in a new position and you don’t quite fit in your body. Then you stretch, and you feel more comfortable than ever. That’s how I feel right now. I woke up feeling good. 

I looked in the mirror and saw my reflection staring back at me. I looked just the way I thought I should. I can’t say that looking in the mirror was a pleasant experience. After all, I could still see imperfections and insecurities reflected in my image. But there was something in the silent contentment of the act that comforted me.

 I was shocked out of my reverie by the obnoxious sound of a custom ringtone. I recognized that song. It’s the one that goes “I’m gonna find you, I’m gonna get you get you get you.” I don’t know what it’s called. I’m not good with song titles. I don’t think I ever have been. Besides, that song always gives me stalker vibes. The name on the screen flashes in front of me as I bend over to check the phone. Katie. I don’t remember any Katie but her name is saved in my phone with a cute little star emoji. So I do the expected thing and pick it up. 

“Hey, Quinn! What are you doing? Sleeping in? That is so unlike you!!”

“It is?”  Why would it be? Sleeping in is comfortable, and healthy. Furthermore, I get sleep. I don’t see any downsides. 

“Ha! You’re hilarious! Anyways, you’re late, and I expect you to be here in like, five minutes, or I’m gonna call your sister.” 

Okay, this is just unsettling. I don’t remember making plans. I don’t remember this person. She is talking to me as if she knows everything about me and won’t hesitate to tell me who I am. I shiver, and get the feeling that she’s about to give me some sort of spoiler. For what, I don’t know. But I trust my gut now. I hang up the phone. 

Now what do I do? I’m starting to feel extremely wrong. Or maybe the opposite, like I’m right and the rest of the world is wrong. I don’t remember Katie, or a sister, or any parents, for that matter. I can’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t look into this. I shouldn’t investigate. I’m playing a game of Minesweeper and I could come close to wiping out all my progress at any moment. I’m trying to get the information I need from a google search without coming upon any unwanted information about the new season of my favorite show. 

I have to no longer do the expected thing. I scroll through the texts on my phone to find the meeting place. Central Park. That should be easy enough to avoid. I block Katie’s number. I block the numbers listed in my emergency contacts. Jess. My sister, perhaps? Mom, Dad. Easy enough. I block another name listed with lots of heart emojis. Must be a girlfriend. Wait, boyfriend? I’m not sure. The name simply reads “Babe.” I don’t look at our conversations before deleting them all. 

I check my call logs. It has been four minutes since Katie called. I need to get out of here. I don’t know Katie, but I can tell from our brief conversation that she’s the type of person to follow through, 100 percent. In this case, that could mean my sister would be here any minute. That would be a wall, stopping me from escaping. I can’t risk that, not for any family in the world. Time to pack. I am about to walk to the closet, when my new don’t-go-there senses fire up. It’s like an alert in my head: spoilers ahead. The feeling you might get as the victim in a serial killer movie. The feeling the victim would laugh off, before getting brutally murdered in the next scene. Okay, these tee-shirt and leggings I wore to bed will have to do then. I can buy more clothes later. 

There’s a wallet on the nightstand. I’m going to need money, but as I reach toward it, I get the feeling again. This time, it feels more like a ripping in my gut, tearing some 5th dimensional muscle in the universe’s effort to stop my movements. I get the message clearly enough: I shouldn’t look in there. I obey this sensation, which is now apparently the only thing guiding me. I shut my eyes tightly and blindly make a grab for the cash. There’s 66 bucks. Maybe enough to pay for a cab and one night in a cheap hotel room, but certainly not enough to buy a bra or new clothes as well. But, this is what I’m going for. Even though I’ve done nothing yet to officially commit to this insane new reality I’m forging, I know sure as stone there’s no going back. With phone, charger, and cash in hand, I go to leave the apartment. I leave the keys on the table. Commitment. There will be no coming back here. I grab a coat on the way out, but it can’t be mine. It’s boyish and way too big and I despise the style of it. But I need the warmth and to cover up so I don’t become an easy target. Maybe it belonged to ‘Babe’. My... boyfriend? 

I walk into the brisk New York air and hail a cab. I ask the cabbie to please take me to the cheapest motel I could find: 25 dollars a night. The ride is long, since the motel’s location obviously isn’t prime. I pass the center of the city, and slide into my seat as we drive past central park. If he notices something odd about my behavior, he studiously puts on the appearance of complete apathy. I wish I had enough money to give him a proper tip. By the time the cab slows to a roll outside my new living quarters, the meter reads $11.46. I give the cab driver an even 12 dollars and dart out of the cab. If his previously inscrutable face looks disappointed, I couldn’t bear to see it. 

As I book a room at the front desk, I regret not bringing a credit card. What kind of idiot runs away with only 66 dollars, because of an uncomfortable feeling? I wonder how much money I have in my bank account, anyway. I realize I might have an app for that, and pull out my phone. While I’m checking, I realize that there’s another benefit to cash that I hadn’t realized. It’s untrackable. This motel is exactly the kind of place you pay with cash, and they know it. 

Wait. If credit cards are trackable, bank account apps might be too. Phones. I’m such an idiot. My phone has been on, with location services a-firing, just broadcasting my signal to anyone from my past who might be trying to look for me. Frantically I close out of the bank account app, saying a wistful goodbye to all the money that awaited me there. Money I could have bought dresses with. A bra. Or snacks. Food. Essentials. I shut off location services, and, for good measure, power down my phone. I’m well and truly alone now, as I head to my room with a new key in hand. 

The room is completely standard,I flick on the dingy, small tv and channel surf, settling on the Food Network. It’s comforting, and the right amount of drama to keep me engaged while helping to ease my nerves. 

An hour later, my stomach rumbling, I begin to regret the choice. I do nothing to change it. I try to sit as still as possible on the bed, not letting myself get too comfortable or sink into the mattress too much. After all, falling asleep is not what I want to do right now. 

As Gordon Ramsey yells at a participant on screen, I consider my options. Honestly, I have none. I can’t go back. But this method of living is completely unsustainable. 

I remember a book I read as a kid where these kids run away, live in a museum, and make money from the coins thrown into fountains. I need something on par with that level of creativity, but maybe a tad more realistic. 

While I brainstorm, the show switches. It’s now a dumb cupcake baking competition. Fun, but not enough to hold my attention for long. As I start running out of ideas, I can feel the mattress pulling me in. I’m not strong enough to resist. Sleep overtakes me as I dream of dollar bills flying at me from fountains. 

I wake to a loud knocking on my motel door. They’ve found me. No, it’s probably someone’s drunk ex who has the wrong door. I get off the bed carefully, trying not to make a sound. The door is locked, but I sit with my back against it. This way I’m helping the door keep me safe. But each knock now reverberates through my entire body, and I can hear the heavy, impatient breathing of the person on the other side. 

I’ll count to 60. I’ll count to 60 and then they’ll go away. Nobody knocks for longer than a minute without at least stopping to think. I get to 61. 121. They’re still knocking. A drunk person would have given up by now. But somebody looking for me would have called my name, right? The knocking stops. I hear a few footsteps. Not enough for them to have walked away. The door gives one final shudder as the person on the other side seems to throw their weight against it. The pressure evens out, indicative of someone taking a pose like mine. They didn’t throw their weight against it. They sunk into the door. And now we’re sitting back to back, with only an inch of hollow wood between us. 

“Quinn?” The voice is soft, feminine, and quiet. The sort of way I hope I sound to other people. Not Katie’s voice. 

Time to face what I’ve been running away from. I say goodbye to my freedom, to my blissful ignorance. I open the door, and the woman on the other side falls headfirst into the dingy motel room. She has some of the same features I saw in the mirror earlier, but a little softer around the edges. She grins up at me, infectiously. 

“Quinn! It really is you! You’re finally her! I mean you! I mean, you’re beautiful! Katie called me and said that you were acting strange and that you blew her off and so I went to your apartment and you weren’t there and you left your keys so I tried to call you but it wasn’t working so I tracked your phone and then I followed you here and I asked the lady at the front desk which room you were in and I told her it was an emergency and she just kinda rolled her eyes and.. Wow! Does this mean you’re finally out? Can we post pictures on Instagram now?” The words just tumble out of her all at once. My brain takes a second to hear what she said, and then another few to process it.

Out? Who is her? Who, for that matter, is me? Or, who am I, as any studious grammarian would be quick to correct me on that one. 

Then it hits me. Out. The clothes, the wallet, the things my guiding force steered me away from. The same time that I realize, the memories come flooding back. I remember Jess, my lovable little sister, who is still grinning up at me like she just found the candy jar on the top shelf. 

But with this positive rush of memories comes the reason I was willing to give all this up. Why I didn’t want to remember. I wanted a fresh start. A complete erasure of my past, of what it took me to get here. The painful reminder that though I was born this way, I was not, in fact, born like this. But, then again, I am who I am, and a one-night stay in a crappy motel sure as hell isn’t going to change that. 

A smile cuts across my cheek as I extend a hand to help Jess up. 

“Let’s take those pictures.” I’m not going back, but I can’t go forward alone. 

January 09, 2021 03:49

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1 comment

Zorana Lorden
03:51 Jan 09, 2021

I'm not sure how I feel about this story, but I wanted to give it a shot at life. Any feedback would be much appreciated.

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