The other day, I frightened a child half to death. I was doing what I usually do, lurking among the clothing racks at Kohl's, trying my hardest not to be seen. But there she was. A cute little thing with a polka dot dress and yellow pigtails. I didn't think children wore either anymore. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw me, her eyes wide with that confused panic I knew so well. The look of a human mind trying desperately and failing to make sense of what it's seeing. And, for a moment, we both just stood there, staring each other down, neither of us knowing what to do.
I suddenly and desperately wanted the girl to like me. This, I thought, was an opportunity to normalize myself in her eyes. I smiled. Her expression remained the same. "Hello, little girl," I said. She started slightly at the sound of my voice, no doubt much deeper and darker than she'd expected. I should have stopped and walked away, but my need for approval won out. "That's a lovely dress you're wearing," I said.
That was a mistake. The girl began to cry. A wail calculated by nature to alert her guardian to a threat. She backed away, keeping her flooded eyes locked on mine. Before I could even apologize, a woman swooped in and scooped the girl up. The woman regarded my form with the same look her daughter had given me and quickly ushered the child away, seemingly unable to move fast enough. I was left alone, as I always am. There goes another one, I thought.
This is life when you're a monster. Children scream and adults run scared. It's a wonder I don't just hide under beds and wait for the cover of darkness. At least then, I'd probably feel like I belonged. But that's what it means to be a monster, I suppose. To be a monster, there must be an overwhelming sense that you simply should not be as you are. That you are an aberration. That you are wrong. Somehow against the natural order of the universe. That is so often what I feel, and that is what people see.
I didn't ask to be made this way. It just happened. Could I hide it? To a point, perhaps. But I did that. For decades, I did that. Was it worse? Perhaps not. Perhaps it was only a different kind of miserable.
I watch life go by from my place among the clothing racks, and I envy all of the people who participate in it. I have a sense of what "normal" is, even though I have never been that. It is something I strive for, something I have always longed for, but something that remains ever elusive. No matter how close I think I am, there is always someone like that child there to stare at me with those wide eyes and remind me of the gap I still have yet to bridge.
I have tried putting the blame on them. It's not me, I say to myself. Their minds are simply too small to appreciate one so... unique. But the numbers, I'm always reminded, are on their side, and these affirmations can be so very tiring.
At the store, there is a man that interests me. He works the cash register, greeting each customer with a smile, no matter who or what they are. There is only one to whom this courtesy is not extended. I'm sure you can guess. He's terrified of me. Not once has he even dared to approach me, or remain in the same space with me. Does he know that I long for him? That I wonder every day what he tastes and smells like? Perhaps he does---I've never been accused of being subtle---and perhaps that's what frightens him the most.
And so, at the end of each day, when I've had my fill of the clothing racks and the "normal" people and the screaming children, I go home. That's the time of day I dread the most, because it's then that I'm left with only myself and the horrible truth of what I really am. I sit in front of my mirror. I remove the wig that hides my receding hairline. I clean the makeup off my face with a towel soaked in foul abrasives. And there I am. Not the woman I see when I imagine myself. A man. Me.
And then I weep, and wonder if they'll ever see me as anything other than a freakish monster.
Written by Jdeschene