Once upon a time, in a single family dwelling on the outskirts of a noisy metropolis, a child left their diary open upon their desk, splayed for all to see:
Last night I had another one of those fantastic dreams! I was going about town, you know, just minding my business on the way to Mrs. Karen’s, when I came across a yard sale out in the middle of nowhere.
The lady who was managing the sale called me over.“Hey kid!” she said, “Why don’t you come take a look at what we’ve got here!”
I checked my watch to make sure I wouldn’t miss the bus and figured I had some time, so I walked on over to the many items she had spread out on a hot, foldable table. She had a garage, but I guess she decided she’d rather stand out there in the sweltering sun than let people in any part of her house, which is valid. I respect people who respect privacy.
“See anything you like?” the lady asked, “We’ve got jewelry, books, clothes, toys—maybe for a younger sibling, eh?”
I glanced over the table and, I forget most of what was on it, but these tattered up sequined Converse stood out to me. They were in a box under the table, sort of cast to the side and labeled Misc. The lady—at this point the dream told me her name was Eudora—saw me eying the red shoes.
“Ah,” she said. “You may wonder why I have a pair of such crappy shoes here, but these are no ordinary kicks.” Eudora hefted the box onto the table—part of it balancing on her knee ‘cuz there really wasn’t too much room. “They once belonged to a witch, and they’ve still got a little magic. If you put them on, your heart’s desires will come true—try ‘em and see if I’m playing around!”
So I did, taking off my worn sneakers and slipping on these worn, tackily bejeweled shoes.
“Wow!” Eudora said. “A perfect fit! They won’t take to just anyone’s feet.” I guess my brain forgot I had to pay for stuff because I just walked off lol.
Anyway, the rest of the dream, everywhere I went people saw me as a girl. They called me “young lady” and “miss” and some very young, snotty-nosed kids called me “ma’am.” This was like the third I’m-a-girl dream I’ve had this week. I hope they keep coming, It’s honestly the best feeling!
P.S. – I totally forgot about this part, but I was so scared I wouldn’t be seen as a girl when I got home, even with the help of the magic shoes, that I tried to take them off. The thing is, they had melded to my feet! When I got back from Mrs. Karen’s, I was all in a tizzy, unsure of what the future held. When mom came back from work, she saw me there and went straight to the kitchen for a butcher knife—she was going to CHOP OFF my fucking feet! Fortunately, I woke up before she had the chance. Otherwise, 5-star dream.
She was clearly the villain here, which was never a great feeling. On the other hand, as a children’s book writer and illustrator herself (despite her parents’ wishes), she was quite taken by the fairytale-nature of the dream’s plot, right down to the gruesome ending. Dreams, their family believed, were an important source of self-divination and should not be taken lightly. She wondered what else was going on in her child’s head.
She didn’t know how to bring the contents of the dream up, however, as reading her child’s journal was clearly a breach of privacy… It had been open on Anderson’s desk, though… She could say she just “happened” to glance down, and—.
But how was she supposed to bring this up with Anderson? There was no way she could simply ignore the “-ie” in the way Andy spelled his nickname, or the very clear fact that Anderson at least liked the idea of being a girl.
Eyeing the stack of former journals and sketchbooks Anderson had kept from as early as second grade, Clarissa desperately wanted to flip to another page of the dream journal in hopes of discerning a pattern in her son’s desire. She really wasn’t sure if it was okay to call him “son” anymore, but she also wasn’t sure if this journal entry was enough to stop calling him what she had her whole life. He had never indicated any discomfort with his gender, as far as she could tell, so why encourage something that might be nothing more than a passing fantasy?
A few moments later, she was trembling, her palms damp with sweat. Being a girl was definitely a common theme for Andy, and he wrote about it in very fond ways, using curlicue letters and gel pen hearts. The font was not unusual, Clarissa always cherished the care with which Anderson wrote various thank you notes and holiday cards—he had a whole well-maintained “crafts drawer” from which he drew materials.
“Like mother, like child,” her husband had said to her with a kiss to the temple as they saw Andy’s creative side developing.
Child. Her husband had uttered this phrase a few times in the early days of rearing Anderson “like mother, like child”—or variations, such as “this kid’s more like you than me!”—but he hadn’t really called Andy their son until he was in late elementary.
Had he been trying to suggest something? Had he… suspected? He would have told her if he’d come across something like this, right? She was a loose believer that there were some things a father and a son would discuss that she just didn’t need to know about, but what if some of these talks had been about how much Anderson wanted to be a girl? She shook her head.
She picked up one of Andy’s sketchbooks, now admittedly in a sort of frantic sleuthing mode, eschewing all boundaries in search of the truth. Drawings of anime girls in frilly, impossible-to-function dresses predominated the illustrations. “Magical girls,” Andy had said they were called.
Posters of a similar theme adorned various portions of his walls, spaced evenly at eye-level, as if on exhibition. Clarissa honestly hadn’t considered this odd. Growing up, Andy had always been interested in magical creatures such as merfolk, dragons, faeries, and werewolves. After seeing a few clips of these wide-eyed Japanese cartoon characters, flipping about and smashing evil in their scantily-clad-to-overly-Victorian outfits, she was convinced anime girls were closer to creatures than people.
She sometimes worried there was something fetishistic about a young boy’s relationship to these characters, especially as his interest from monsters to magical girls had occurred round about middle school. But she figured such a conversation fell into father-son territory (she made sure her husband agreed and trusted he had dealt with it).
But she stopped short of thinking this meant his desire wasn’t real. Heck, if she had a magical button that would allow her to just live, without dealing with all the BS from white people, men—the whole damn country—she’d press it in a heartbeat, or at least she’d want to press it (except for the fact that she wasn’t really a fan of magic, but that was beside the point).
Isn’t that what everyone wanted—Clarissa wondered, making note of this train of thought for a potential parenting article she could pitch—to become their best selves, living their best lives in spite of the brokenness of the world? Yeah, she thought that was pretty good, though wording could use work. She picked up what seemed to be Andy’s most recent sketchbook and noticed he’d started incorporating dark skinned magical girls—she was glad years of scouring the commercial world for media that represented her child had paid off.
Andy was visiting Mrs. Karen Endora, an elderly member of their church community who never took Ms. as a prefix, especially proud of having found herself “a real man”. With all the transfers it took to get to the Endoras, plus the odd jobs they tended to have waiting for him, Clarissa suspected Anderson would be gone for most of the day.
“Honey, did you know about this?” Clarissa asked the footsteps, her eyes trained on a page where Andy had detailed a dream in which he and some of his friends had gone for what he described as a ‘girl’s night out’—something Clarissa had dreamed of doing if she’d had a daughter.
“Uh… yeah? ‘Cause it’s mine?” The bearer of the footsteps said. Shit. What was Andy doing back so early?
“Mom… why are you looking through my stuff?” Anderson asked, standing in the doorway. He didn’t sound angry or even scared, but when Clarissa looked up, she could see Anderson reflecting her own quivering tenseness.
The air was warm and oppressive. She could feel the former night’s sleepiness weighing down like smoke. “It was open and I just couldn’t help myself… I’m sure you’re mad at me. I should have respected your privacy.”
She hated that she sounded like a cross between some sort of automated response system and a kid caught snooping in her mother’s closet.
“I’m not… mad,” Andy said, wiping his hands on his jeans the way he did when he was nervous, “A-are you?”
“No! No, no of course not,” Clarissa answered hastily, “You’ve done nothing wrong.” She hadn’t been sure if that was true until she’d said it.
Andie let out a sigh, “Well, uh, I left my wallet so I’ma just… get that.”
They opened the top drawer and pulled out a burgundy wallet. “Got what I came for,” Andie said awkwardly, heading out of their room. “Promise you won’t go looking through my stuff when I’m gone?”
“Of course,” Clarissa answered, feeling as if she should have more to say but at a loss for words— “Andie?”
Andie stopped in the doorway, hands near their hood as they prepared to leave.
“You know how my parents weren’t really jazzed about me writing childrens’ books for a living, right?”
“Well, I just want you to know that your dad and I—we want to support you in becoming whatever compassionate, kind person you want to become,” she wanted to give her child a hug, but there wasn’t much room in the doorway, so she squeezed their shoulder instead. “You can tell us whatever you want, whenever you’re ready.”
Andie turned around, nodding, “Cool… thanks.” Anderson started walking down the hallway, when another thing came to Clarissa’s mind (this always happened).
“And just one more thing,” she continued, halting Andie once again.
“You know I’d never chop off your feet, right?”
“Well, not with a kitchen knife that is,” Andie chimed in.
Clarissa smirked, “Of course not—way too messy! I’d get you amputated at a hospital. You know I take care of my by—girl—what should I call you?”
Andie thought for a moment, “We can try ‘girl’ and using ‘she/her’ pronouns? But just in private for now? In public, maybe just ‘kid,’ ‘child,’ ‘person’? And you can just say Andie instead of using pronouns… I’d rather random people didn’t suspect anything. ”
“Okay, I’ll work on that—do you want me to let Dad know, or…?”
Andie winced, “Oh… Dad already knows.”
“Well, that makes things easier for me,” Clarissa smiled, reminding herself this wasn’t about her, and that she could freak out later if she had to. “Why don’t I drive you to the Endoras? I’m sure you’re running late by now.”
“That would be amazing,” Andie agreed.