Incognita 5: The Fitting Room

Incognita 1 * Incognita 2 * Incognita 3 * Incognita 4

Change is a peculiar thing. When it’s for the worst, it can happen overnight and typically comes in threes, and people learn the folly of security when they watch everything they built so carefully fall apart so easily. When change is for the better, it arrives at a tortoise’s pace. Positive change isn’t measured in leaps and bounds, it’s measured in centimeters, and that’s how it was for Incognita.

Nita was able to fake her way through therapy and she did this after watching a documentary about a Christian camp that tried to use the fear of The Almighty to expunge the gay out of youthful sinners. She was sure that if she were sent to one of these camps that they couldn’t break her, but why go through all that hassle? Besides, what she had wasn’t a same-sex attraction, it was a vibe attraction.

Certain people had a vibe that she was drawn to and she wanted to absorb as much of it as she could and share a bit of herself in the process and she couldn’t give a good goddamn whether they were boys or girls, but how do you explain that to the so-called people in charge who were locked in their binary ways of thinking?

So, Nita just nodded and played along and either she was really good at pulling off her ruse of realizing her mistake and choosing to be normal, or the therapist just didn’t give a fuck and signed off on her. Either way, no more therapy past the apocalypse that was 4th Grade.

The rest of grade school was more of the same but Nita was developing a thick armor coating and let most of the nonsense slide off her back. Junior high, however, was when things began to turn around. In those three years, Nita honed her skill at fighting back. She lost as many battles as she won, but now the bullies understood there was a fifty-fifty chance of them getting away with a cheap shot or cruel prank, or having Nita explode in their face like a preteen M18 Claymore mine.

High school was when it changed for good, as a result of two physical altercations.

The first happened in the cafeteria when a girl accidentally-on-purpose tripped and tried to spill a milk, corn and applesauce concoction all over Nita’s brand-new jacket. The girl hadn’t counted on Nita’s reflexes being quick enough to grab the tray, tilt it away from her and bring the hard-plastic tray up into the girl’s aquiline nose. The girl fell back and her nose sprayed blood in every direction.

“Oh my god, are you okay?” Nita said, her tone dripping with fake concern. “I think you slipped. Come on, sit up straight. No, no, don’t tilt your head back, that’ll only cause the blood to run down the back of your throat, and you may swallow it. Lean forward slightly.”

Sure, it was a ham-handed performance but it was enough to fool the teachers into thinking it was merely an unfortunate accident. What the teachers hadn’t realized was that Nita recognized the bloody girl as one of the Barbie clones from grade school who probably thought she could carry that Mean Girl shit over to high school.

When the Barbie clone returned to school wearing a nasal cast and sporting two black eyes, Nita leaned in while passing and whispered “Who’s the raccoon now?”

The second incident involved some lunkhead whose name Nita couldn’t remember if someone held a gun to her head, he was that unimportant. He was a grade above her and wanted to show all the fresh meat who was in charge, so he went down the line shoving and intimidating newbies. When he got around to Nita, the idiot actually tried to grab her boobs, but she put a stop to that quick fast in a hurry with a rabbit punch to his solar plexus. Knocked the wind right out of the dumb bastard and he crumpled like a paper bag. Nita could have told him to sit in a crouched position, calm down and take slow, deep breaths, but instead she stood over him and laughed like a loon before eventually walking away.

No. One. Messed. With. Her. After. That. Day.

Word quickly went around that sure, you could take a swing at the chubby girl if you wanted to, but the chubby girl was out of her fucking mind and she always hit back.

Kids being the little assholes they are, still talked about and made fun of her but they did it behind her back when Nita was well out of earshot. Ever since that day, Nita noticed a peculiar thing begin to happen. Girls began following her around, inching their way closer and closer, and eventually worked up the courage to sit at her table during lunch period.

She hated to call these girls mousy, but they were the timid and shy girls who got picked on the most by bullies who went after easy targets. None of the girls ever asked for her help, but Nita assumed they hung close to her figuring they were safe within her sphere of protection. She never guaranteed them anything but she didn’t chase them away, either. And they became an unofficial clique because sometimes things just worked out the way they worked out.

She actually became chummy with one of the girls, Charlotte, and one lusciously breezy day, when Nita had a few extra bucks burning a hole in the pocket of her Target jeans, they went to the mall together. Nita passed Express and The Limited with no interest because Lane Bryant was having a Spring sale.

“Let’s go inside,” Nita said.

“Oh, come on now,” Charlotte started, all doe-eyed and rosy-cheeked. “You don’t need to shop there! You’re not that big!”

“Not that big?” Nita actually liked this scrawny girl but she had the sudden urge to dropkick her into next week. “Sorry to disappoint you, Char, but I am that big and I do need to shop there. I actually enjoy shopping there. So why don’t you just slowly step away from my fat ass and go to the skinny store or something.”

Nita entered the store and it was liberating. She had been in chubby denial for the past two years or so, and to her coming out as fat was akin to coming out as gay or bi. Both of which she had to do and the former she actually found harder.

She remembered the exact moment that she came out to her mother as fat. She went to her mother’s job one day and her mother asked, “Where did you get that outfit?”

“Lane Bryant,” Nita proudly exclaimed. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so proudly, but damn it, she was just starting to get a handle on things.

“Oh, um…they have nice clothes there.”

Nita noticed the emphasis on nice. She could almost hear her mother’s insides screaming, “My God! Has it come to this? My little girl is fat!”

In Lane Bryant, while passing one of the store’s wall mirrors, Nita noticed she had a shadow. Charlotte, walking five paces behind with her head held down.

Nita spun on her heels and confronted the smaller girl. “I shop at Lane Bryant, so what? Sleeves on jackets go past my wrists for once. Shirts actually button around my chest. I don’t feel like a fucking freak here!”

“I don’t think you’re a freak,” Charlotte said. “I also don’t think of you as fat, I’m sorry, I don’t. You’re my friend and okay, I said something stupid and I hope you can forgive me. I mean, haven’t you ever said something, meaning well, that was taken the wrong way?”

Thoughts of Lorelei Kilgareth sprang to mind.

A long moment passed before Nita slowly exhaled her pent-up anger. She offered Charlotte a slight smile and said, “C’mon, help me pick out something nice. Let’s see if you’ve got any taste in big gal clothes.”

Nita was forced to admit to herself that shopping with Charlotte was actually fun. When their arms were loaded with outfit options, the girls went into the fitting room. Nita was so anxious to try on the new clothes in front of an audience that she stripped down to her underwear without even thinking about it. She realized the mistake when she saw the expression on Charlotte’s face change.

“What happened to you?” Charlotte asked, staring at the scars on Nita’s inner thighs.

“Nothing,” Nita said, snatching the nearest bit of clothing to cover herself up.

“Bullshit. That’s not nothing. Who did that to you?”

“Why do you care? Get out of here! It’s none of your goddamned business!”

“Of course, it’s my business! You’re my friend! If someone hurt you, I want to know about it!”

“I did it to myself, okay?” Nita admitted and had no idea why she did it. “Happy now?”

“But why?”

“I like scars,” Nita said, but it came out slowly, like she was struggling to get the words out. “At least that’s what I used to tell myself. The reality is that sometimes the world is just too sharp, you know, everything has edges, people, words, everything, and all those edges want is to stab at you, to cause you pain because they feed off your misery. And sometimes you want to feel you have some control over your life and if all you ever feel is pain then maybe you want to control that, too.”

Charlotte’s large and expressive eyes began welling up, proof that her soul was good and deep within she knew the true meaning of love and compassion. She hadn’t befriended Nita for protection, she actually had some sort of feelings for this tough girl who harmed herself in secret. The smaller girl knelt and moved the clothes Nita was hiding behind.

“What are you doing?”

Charlotte didn’t answer. She just lifted her hand and touched the scars. Delicate fingers traced the path of the razorblade cut marks gingerly, as if the wounds were still fresh.

Nita wanted to push Charlotte away, to beat her up for being so dammed nosy, and threaten her life if she ever told one single solitary soul about what she saw and heard in here, but she found that she was paralyzed, locked in the grip of something she didn’t quite understand.

Then Charlotte did the unexpected by pressing her pink tulip lips to the scars, the way a loving mother would try to kiss a child’s boo-boos better. And something inside Nita melted. Not because this clueless girl was kissing the insides of her thighs, but because she was showing tenderness to something that was much more private, more personal. She was kissing Nita’s secret pain, something she never shared with anyone, not even her own mother.

Then Charlotte wrapped her arms around Nita’s legs, gave them a gentle squeeze and said, “No more, okay? Promise me, no more.”

No one outside her own mother had shown Nita the slightest bit of gentleness and since she didn’t know how to accept it, her body trembled as her own eyes began to fill with tears as if all her emotions had condensed into a deluge of rain.

And the two girls remained in that fitting room for a long while, each crying for entirely different reasons.

To be continued

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Incognita 4: The Bathroom Kiss

Incognita 1 * Incognita 2 * Incognita 3

“You ever make out with a girl?” Incognita’s boyfriend, Toby, asked in the early days before they became a couple. It was a simple question born of mild curiosity, the kind a person asked when they were bored and some stupid idle thought popped into their head.

Nita was about to answer, “Nope, sorry. No lesbian stories for your spank bank,” but the question opened the door to a memory of a person she hadn’t thought about in years. Lorelei Kilgareth.

They shared a desk back in the 4th grade and just the thought of Lorelei filled Nita’s nose with the scent of her shampoo. This girl had a knack for always smelling so clean, even when the pair got sweaty from playing at recess.

Nita always got laughed at by all the vapid, stupid clone girls because of her clothes that came from discount stores and she was picked on by idiot boys because she was considered an easy target for ridicule because of her weight, but Lorelei never fell in with the crowd, and never made Nita feel like that goofy-looking kid with the retainer that appeared in all her class pictures.

Nita wanted to tell Lorelei how she felt but she couldn’t make the words sound right in her head. Since they lived on opposite sides of town and Lorelei’s neighborhood was a damn sight better than hers, they stayed school friends, but of course, Nita wanted it to be more. In fact, she used to talk to herself when she was alone in her room and pretend she was talking to Lorelei and they had great lengthy conversations about everything that couldn’t be said in person and in those fantasy-filled discussions they discovered that they felt the same way about each other and Nita would fall asleep hugging her pillow, pretending it was Lorelei.

One day, when they were alone in the girl’s bathroom, they shared a kiss out of the blue. No rhyme, no reason and no tongues, just a simple peck on the lips because why not? And that was the first time Nita ever kissed a girl and as a result of that kiss, during lunch period she finally worked up the courage to tell Lorelei how she really felt. But the words came out all convoluted and Lorelei’s beautiful face twisted into a horrified mask of disgust and she said a word that shattered the illusion of them being together forever, shattered their friendship, and shattered Nita’s heart into a quadrillion pieces.

“Dyke!” Lorelei said loud enough for everyone to hear.

Nita could still remember that awful cafeteria smell and Tommy O’Leary, the stupid little brace-face boy who pointed at her and repeated the word and that was the ember that lit the spark for all the other kids to join in on the chant and dogpile on a girl who was in love and foolishly thought that it conquered all.

Incognita wanted the ground to swallow her whole but instead she fainted and fell face first onto the white tiled floor, deviating her septum and giving her two black eyes. After that she became known as Dykey Raccoon, a name that somehow managed to follow her all the way through junior high school. To add to her misery, Lorelei reported Nita to their teacher, which got both sets of parents involved and Nita was transferred out of the class she shared with Lorelei and was forced to see a therapist to address her unnatural same sex attraction.

School life had never been a picnic but after that, it became a living nightmare. The next time Nita saw Lorelei was on picture day. Her mother made her wear a stupid pink dress that showed the entire school that she had more cleavage than the principal she stood next to, and all the Barbie clones had a field day with that revelation, and all the boys, too immature to know how to handle a young lady going through puberty, made a game out of trying to punch her in the chest. That was when she learned to defend herself.

But the thing that stuck out in Nita’s mind was that Lorelei couldn’t stop staring at Nita’s chest. Out of disgust? Jealousy? Desire? She wasn’t able to tell and would never find out because the two never saw each other after that day.

The sad truth of the matter was if Lorelei had apologized for what she said, even after all she’d been through, Nita would have forgiven her.

To be continued

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Incognita 3: The Sacred Sisterhood of Lavender

Incognita 1 * Incognita 2

Incognita ran into an old high school friend the other day and after a bit of catch-up, when she told him she had a boyfriend, his face twisted up.

He said, “I thought you were…”

“Were what?”

“You know…”

“No, I don’t, and I won’t know until you tell me.”

“Well,” his face turned red with embarrassment. “I heard you were that way.”

Going off a high school rumor, he wasn’t thinking the word bisexual. He wanted to say lesbian and his expression told Nita that he thought of her preference like it was a sickness or affliction.

He wasn’t a bad guy back in high school and probably was still decent, so Nita let him off the hook, saying, “Yeah, I sold out and got myself a boyfriend and a little apartment uptown.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it, I mean it’s your choice and none of my business…it’s just I saw you and that weird goth girl holding hands and kissing in the mall, and I thought…”

“You thought the same thing everyone else thought, that I was a card-carrying member of the Sacred Sisterhood of Lavender. But I kissed you, too, back then, or was it so bad that you don’t remember?”

“I remember, and I was hurt and confused because I thought we had something…”

“We did, we had a moment and it was nice.”

“But I wasn’t enough.”

“I didn’t know what I was doing back then. Nobody was enough because I didn’t know what I wanted. I kissed other boys besides you and other girls, too. I like kissing, sue me. Look, if it’ll make you happy, I’ll give back the toaster oven gift I got for being a switch hitter.”

“I think you’ve got this all wrong…”

“No, I understand it better than you do. You judged me back then, just like you’re judging me now, and you can’t even be decent about it and ask me how I feel, or take a moment out of your day to consider what I was going through. Do you have any idea what it’s like being too queer for the straights and not queer enough for the gays? Having both sides turn their backs on you?”

And that was when her high school friend shut down and the rest of the conversation was nothing more than him issuing a string of apologies over and over again. Incognita stood there longer than she should have and let him say sorry repeatedly because she knew this would be the last time she ever saw him.

To be continued

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Incognita 2: Gifted Kids Are Meaner

Incognita 1

Yeah, Incognita got teased. A lot. She was the smart one in the family. Most of her earliest memories (well, the good ones, anyway) were of curling up with one of her mother’s medical textbooks and encyclopedias, reading about exotic diseases and conditions, women’s lib, and mammals. But people never saw past her weight or funny clothes. Her mother tried hard, she really did, but the little blonde girls, safe in their pristine two-story houses with their mommies and daddies and all their pretty toys didn’t care for her one whit.

Early on, Nita entered the world of the gifted and she always felt that she didn’t belong. Most kids lived across the street from the upper-class genius school, but she had to commute from the lower-class area. Sure, there were a few girls she got along with, but most just pretended she wasn’t there. But as bad as the girls were, the boys were the meanest ones.

She doesn’t remember exactly what they called her, but she remembers being absent for almost half of fourth grade for fear of getting beaten up by this one boy who didn’t like her size. She wasn’t unhealthily obese or anything, just chubby…and poor.

Nita tried to make friends for two years or so, and when that didn’t work, she decided to become invisible. By age ten she became jaded and cynical, reasoning that maybe it was just stupidity that made them so happy. She watched them at an Easter fair, giggling, tossing rich, pastel confetti eggs in the air, and running from boys. Maybe ignorance made them laugh and made them whisper.

But gifted kids are meaner ’cause they know better.

She used to read Judy Blume books about slumber parties and crushes and wondered “Who are these people? Does this shit happen in real life?”, then decided probably not, and picked up “Go Ask Alice” instead. She often wondered if she closed her eyes real tight and made one of those Twilight Zone big wishes, could she have teleported herself home to where things were peaceful and safe? If she stared intensely enough at the back of someone’s head that she hated, could she make it explode? If she stopped smiling, would anyone on the planet notice? Then concluded that maybe if she just stopped asking questions and took it, it would be over sooner.

Maybe she could make it until Friday, and die before Monday.

To be continued

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Random Character Bio: Incognita

As the title suggests, I have a character who refuses to tell me her name, so I call her Incognita, or just Nita for short.

She’s a stubborn as hell 20-year old Taurus of Mexican and German descent, a genetic composition she claims makes her fit for world domination, but she lacks the drive to become a leader, whether it be in the form of a shepherd or an antichrist.

She spent most of her life alone with her mother, her beloved privacy, and repressed memories of an absentee father, until her mother remarried when Nita was thirteen. Inadvertently, she developed an affinity for Gershwin early in her adolescence.

She now lives in Houston with her boyfriend, Toby, in a shoebox apartment on the most interesting stretch of horizontal pavement in the city, and self-mutilation has become a nightly ritual because she loves scars.

She is a completely monogamous bisexual who’s endlessly intrigued by Japanese and Chinese culture, and from the moment she learned to read at age three, she fell in love with medical reference books, and they turned her into the sadistic little weirdo that she is today.

Nita really wishes she could draw but she handles a pencil as well as she does chopsticks, which is why she eats her Chinese takeout with a fork.

She despises misogyny in all of its veiled and abundant forms, and can sing and play the drums like the devil, but only when she’s alone.

Among the things she loves: her mother’s little black dog (more than anything in the world), deep burgundy lipstick on girls, scraping the frosting off birthday cakes, lined sheets of paper, and old school Nintendo games, especially River City Ransom and Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, which she considers spiffy!

She can’t stand fashion magazines and their contradictory messages: Be yourself, but dress like this! Love your body, but long to be thin! Be independent, but here’s how to get a man! Be assertive, but speak softer! They all fall into the Go Fuck Yourself category.

She’s an absolute sucker for expressive eyebrows, hates to wake up before noon or go to sleep before two in the morning, and she used to like The Daily Show, Sifl & Olly, and Trauma: Real Life in the ER, but her cable got taken away due to non-payment, so now she feels she has nothing.

She also usually hates herself, and hopes I understand.

To be continued

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys