Saturday, June 25, 2011
Excerpt from Nice Rodriguez' "When You're Six"
It’s midnight and you’re alone in bed. You think you see your dead neighbor peering in your bedroom window. Your neighbor has grown large black wings and you get terrified by her sharp fangs. You’re shaking in bed. You see her body divide at the hips and her torso flies toward you. Do you scream? No! You’re six years old and already, you know you’re a butch, because you always wait for the banana fritter girl. You close your eyes and if the creature is still there when you open them, you stare back at her until you frighten her away. You can’t be scared. You’re a butch! You have to be brave. Someday, the banana fritter girl will entrust you with her life and you can’t be a coward. You know that even when you’re only six.
Sometimes you play rough and hurt yourself. Do you head home howling because you have big booboos on your knees? No! Six-year old butches are already tough. When your wounds ripen and your Mama presses out the pus, do you cry for her to stop? Never! You close your eyes and blow on your wound. When a fly lands on it, you smack it dead. When your tooth starts aching and your Mama tells you the pain will go away by itself, do you hold it against her? Certainly not! The other girls will writhe in pain and cry “Wa-wa-wa” the whole day. You go to your room and make yourself well. You drop perfume into the cavity, lie down in bed and stare at the ceiling watching the hanging lizard who, like you, sees the world upside down. Your gums and cheek will swell and your breath will be putrid. Your Mama will say she doesn’t have money for the dentist but that won’t matter. You know that pain will always be your twin because you’re different. Being a butch is a pain in the ass. Even at six, you know that.
Your Mama says you can be Julie Andrews, but not Elvis Presley. Do you believe her? No! You wear your brother’s jacket and turn the collar up. You put your father’s big-buckled belt around your waist and don his black socks which look like Elvis’s boots. And you sing “Love me Tender” for the banana fritter girl. When people stare at you because you’re Elvis gone wrong, does it bother you? No! What people think doesn’t matter to butches. Even at six, you don’t care.
Since no one plays with you, you bother and tease a stray cat. You call the kitty, “Pss, psss. Meemeeng Cat. Psss, psss.” She turns out to be a butch and bites you. Do you tell Mama you’re dying of rabies? No! You’re not even supposed to be out. Nice girls ought to be taking naps. And you know you’re going to get rabies, and the doctor has to inject your back with rabies shot, nine times. And you take care of yourself, like always. You put crushed garlic on your wound and keep your mouth shut because butches keep secrets. And they are not afraid of anything, even death. At six you tell yourself, “Wish I were dead. Wish I were dead.” And you wake up another day and you don’t get rabies. And you wake up still a butch. At first you think you just caught the butch fever because you ate too many banana fritters; that you will be well like the other girls. But you wake up still a butch. And you wake up another day and you’re still a butch. You take aspirin and break it into two just like how Mama does it when you have a flu. And you pulverize half of the tablet with a spoon till it gets powdery, then you add sugar and take it with water. And you wait till you get well from the butch fever. And you wait and wait. And you wake up still a butch. And you wake up another day, and you’re still a butch. And you wait for the banana fritter girl. And you wake up still a butch. And you turn seven, and you’re still a butch.
You can find the complete version of "When You're Six" and other wonderful, engaging, queer-erotic, Philippina-Canadian tales in Rodriguez' collection of stories, Throw it to the River (Women's Press).
About the author: Nice Rodriguez is a CPA-turned-research-writer. Her fist writings were trade and stock market reports published in Manila's top business newspapers. When labour unrest hit these papers, she tried feature writing in entertainment and lifestyle magazines. After oppositionist Benigno Aquino was shot dead, she created and drew Marcial, a daily anti-Marcos comic strip that was published in Mayala (Freedom). She became a photojournalist at the outset of the People Power Revolution in the Phillipines that toppled the twenty-five Marcos dictatorship. She studied painting at the University of the Philippines. Before migrating to Canada in 1988, she was an assistant section editor of the Philippine Daily Globe. She now works as production artist at Toronto's Now Magazine. Her stories have appeared in Pieces of My Heart and Afterglow: More Stories of Lesbian Desire.