He sits at his desk. The brightness of his laptop screen lights up his room, turning his once pale face into an electric blue. His desk is messy, full of scraps of sticky notes, crumpled up paper, inkless pens, and dog-eared books. His books are stacked atop of one another, like an inverted pyramid that is a mere breeze away from total collapse. His literary interests are quite broad. The names of Jane Austen, Sally Rooney, Lauren Weisberger and Stephanie Meyer cry for appreciation from the spines of the pyramid. However, he does not give them the attention they yearn for. Instead, he hides these interests beneath a tower of ‘masculine’ interests. The tower of lies is growing and so is his disappointment in himself. One more false addition to his interests may force his pyramid to give way.
The sound of his violent typing fills the room. His walls become illuminated by a rainbow of colours as he switches from webpage to webpage. He swivels in his chair to investigate his surroundings shortly after. In his brother’s room, there is a wall filled with trophies. First Place; Winner; Champion are written on all of them. He pauses for a moment. He wonders why he does not have a similar wall of victory. Indeed, he has awards, just no awards worth advertising, in his opinion. His honours are neither gold, silver, nor bronze. They do not have a gold football or football boot in their centre. Rather, his medals are for less desirable competitions. He was a prodigy at knitting and sewing, but nobody seemed to care. Just because his talents did not conform to his gender, a stigma engulfed them like a horrid, thick fog.
He turns back to his laptop. He removes all the open tabs on his screen. The rainbow in his room disappears. Now, he is staring into a blank search engine, as if one final exploration will solve every problem he has ever faced. He starts to type once again. Am I masc or fem quiz, is entered into the search engine with bleeding hands. He opens the first link that he finds and answers every question.
“What are you doing, darling?” His mother’s voice frightens him. She is standing at his door, peering in. She cranes her neck to catch a glimpse at his laptop screen.
“Nothing,” he says, folding the screen down. He deepens his voice and becomes a stranger to himself. He still does not know if he is masc or fem but as he looks to his mother, the answer does not seem to matter. He immediately regrets his previous decision to alter his manner.
“It’s just a test,” he replies in his usual, chipper tone. He lets out an inaudible sigh of relief as he returns to his normal self. His mask of masculinity is lifted.
His mother smiles. It’s more than likely that she’d seen everything on his screen, the giant bold letters reading: MASC OR FEM?
“Well?” she inquires. “Are you masc or fem?”
He shoots a glance at his closed laptop, unsure as to whether he will open it to reveal his future. With trepidation creeping up his chest, he replies: “It doesn’t matter.”
“Never be ashamed of who you are. I will always be proud of you.”
R. N. Cogley is an Irish writer. He is the author of The Elemental Witches series and has short stories published in the Wexford Bohemian.