Flash Fiction: The Weight of Words


“Mom, I want to tell you something,” I said to the back of her neck.  She was sitting at the kitchen table busying herself with something in her hands.  I don’t remember what it was, sewing perhaps.  She did not turn her head when I spoke to her, but continued to look down absorbed in her busyness, removed from the weight of my words.
I sat down at the table with her and took a deep breath.

“I think the love that Susan has for her girlfriend is natural,” I said as I let out my breath. 
She took her glasses off and placed them on the table.  Her face screwed up with disgust and her lips were pulled tight over her teeth.  Her eyes narrowed as she looked at me.

“It is not natural.  It’s disgusting!”  She spit out and waited for the words to sink in and detonate searching my face for signs of wreckage, but the damage was internal. My face remained stoic.
“It’s not disgusting,” I said, my voice wavering. It sounded too defensive and high pitched to me. This enraged her, but instead of arguing the point she altered her strategy.

“Do you have those feelings?” She asked accusingly, raising her eyebrows.
“I don’t know, maybe.  I mean, I can understand how she feels,” I replied, the sound of my heart thumping in my ears drowning out the drone of the refrigerator.

“I knew it the minute you walked in the door.  Susan and her girlfriend dressed you up in those clothes,” she said looking down at my shirt and then continued in a high pitched mocking tone imitating my cousin Susan, but sounding nothing like her, “It’s OK, just go ahead and be gay!”
I felt shame, shame for how I dressed and for how my voice sounded and for having those feelings.  Mother had never accused me of being gay, preferring to use another scare word, effeminate.

Don’t put your hands on your hips like that, it looks effeminate.
Those flip-flops make you look effeminate.

Which friend are you talking about, the overweight effeminate one?
I did believe that my cousin’s feelings were natural, but I was not defending them, I was testing the waters and now I was drowning.  Mother could sense it as she circled with wide dark eyes, baring her teeth.

She opened her mouth to take another bite out of me. “I suppose you want to be a woman now.”
I watched my body sink as my soul drifted away. The feeding frenzy had begun and would not end until there was nothing left of me.

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