Nobody thinks I’m pretty. My hair is short and brown. I wear dresses, but that’s the only way I can be identified as a girl.
Waiting at the bus stop in a neighbor’s driveway. I’m shivering from the cold because my legs are bare. The neighbor opens his garage door as he’s leaving for work. Before he gets into his car, he looks at me and says, “Ah, if only I were a young man again.”
Still, nobody thinks I’m pretty. My hair is still short and brown. The older boy in the seat across from mine rubs my shoulder. “Is that your bra strap?” he asks.
I remain motionless and look straight ahead, pretending he isn’t there. Ignore it, I think. Don’t cry.
I won’t sit near him. He’ll tickle me if I get within grabbing distance. Sometimes I can’t escape. He tickles and I don’t laugh; instead, I try not to cry. No one notices that this isn’t fun for me.
I try not to cry.
“They call you Westerbitch, you know.”
Spoken by my boss: ”You’ll probably take me to Social Actions, but…”
Don’t cry. You’ve already cried in front of him once.
Spoken by my boss in front of other officers: ”You’ll probably take me to Social Actions, but…”
DO. NOT. CRY.
Looking at a picture of a fellow officer’s new baby: “You and Kyle can make one of those too, you know.”
Spoken in front of a whole group of my friends, looking at pictures from my wedding: “You’ll probably take me to Social Actions, but whoa — where’d you get the cleavage?”
Spoken in a conference room, while I stand trembling with fear and rage: “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m sorry if I offended you.”
“You’re married?” A field grade officer looks down at my left hand.
“That won’t last.”
I laugh. What does he know?
Atlantic City, dinner. Kyle’s jacket hangs over the back of his chair. He’s in the bathroom. I sit, sipping a beer.
A guy reaches into Kyle’s jacket pockets, first one and then the other. I see it in slow motion.
What are you doing?! Get your hands off his coat.
“What’s your problem, bitch?”
Ha! I bark out a laugh. Get the fuck away from here, you thief.
Office build out at Broadway and 57th. Scuffle between contractors. The Local 3 supervisor holds a knife up to CAT-5 cables.
I look him in the eyes and smile. Don’t even fucking think about it.
He lowers the knife.
Spoken by a co-worker: “Julie’s got bigger balls than most guys.”
Yes. Yes, I do. Even if I cry.
But mostly, I laugh.
For Alice, who had the courage to write it first.