Never Quite the Woman That She Wanted to Be
Brick stared at his reflection in the water. His propane lantern sat next to the lakeside, barely illuminating the dark night. Through the trees, the cabin lights hung in the air like fireflies. He hoped he was far enough away. He needed to be alone for this. It was his secret. The part of him that he could not show the others. His reflection stared back at him. The ugly red lipstick and eye shadow marred his sad face.
The lipstick was smudged. He had no idea how to apply it properly. No one had ever taught him. He was too afraid to ask. It was a bright red. He stole it off Anne Maria earlier in the week. She left out her purse one night during dinner. Mike was acting like Vito with his slicked back hair. Her focus was on him. Brick could see the lipstick clearly. It rested on top of everything else. An opportunity he may not have again. So, he pocketed it. He hoped it would make his lips look natural and defined. Instead they looked plumped up and exaggerated. A trashy sort of joke staring back at him.
The eye shadow was smeared. He tried hard to keep it consistent. But, it looked off from the first moment. All of his work to fix it made it worse. The effect was close to raccoon eyes. All wrong.
He wanted to look pretty. He wanted to feel right. Not this fucked up kind of feminine. What did he expect? He knew it was never going to work. He knew it was a hopeless dream. There were pictures in his mind. Pictures of strong beautiful women in control of their world. He wanted that. He wanted it so badly. He wanted to be able to try. He wanted the chance. But, there was nothing he could do. It was better to conform. Become the man he was. Not the woman he wanted to be.
Standing at the bank of the lake, he wiped away tears.
Behind him, he heard the sound of twigs snapping. In a moment of panic, he covered his face with his hands.
"Brick?" Jo said. "What are you doing out here soldier?" She wore her regular track suit. Her messy hair was parted to one side.
Brick did not respond. He could not let her seem him like this. He tried to rub it off his face desperately. The tears made the eye shadow begin to run. His breath became short, like wheezes. In an act of trepidation, he ran forward into lake.
"Hey! Brick!" Jo shouted out. She ran to the spot his was standing on the shore. "Are you alright?"
"Everything's fine Jo. It's fine!" Brick yelled back. The sound of his voice betrayed his meaning. Panic was evident in his tone. An uncomfortable hysteria was caught in the back of this throat as he tried to lie. He ran close to twelve feet into the water, up to his waist.
"What are you doing out here?" Jo asked.
"Nothing," Brick said firmly. "I wanted to stare at the moon."
Jo crossed her arms. "I doubt that," she said. She let out a chuckle. "I bet you were doing something you're not suppose to. Although it's hard to imagine Brick breaking the rules." She snapped her finger. "I know! It's almost cute in a naughty little boy kind of a way. Did the other boys not appreciate you jacking off in their cabin?"
"No!" Brick insisted. "It wasn't like that!"
"Come on Brick. No reason to be so ashamed. All boys do it, right? Was it really necessary to run into the lake? Couldn't put your dick away in time?" She asked.
Brick said nothing.
"What's this?" Jo commented. He knelt down next to the propane lantern. The lipstick and the eye shadow were placed next to each other on the grass. "Is this lipstick? And eye shadow?" She twisted the lipstick so that the bright red stick poked out. "Do you have some kind of makeup fetish? You're stranger than I thought." She let out a laugh. "Wait. Are these Anne Maria's? Yeah. I think they are. Brick you naughty boy. You stole her makeup? Were you imagining her as you touched yourself? That's kind of perverted. I never took her to be your type."
"That's not true!" Brick turned towards her. The details of his face were hidden by the dark. However, his puffy eyes and smeared remnants of the makeup was clear to see. "Please Jo. You don't understand. Please leave. Please." His voice was fragile. He pleaded sincerely.
Even in the shadow of the night, Jo could roughly see his face. "Wait. Are you wearing some of it?" She asked. Brick quickly covered his face, turning away from her. Jo began to laugh. "Holy shit Brick. That's really fucked up. That's some real stalker shit there. God. I can't wait to tell the others about this. The look on Anne Maria's face..." Her voice trailed on. In her fingers, she twisted the lipstick.
"No..." Brick let out like a body letting go of its soul. His life at the camp was over. He fucked it up again. Every time he went somewhere new, he ruined it. At school, after he wet his pants, they never let it go. He could never be among them again. Now, here, at camp, it was going to happen again. They would laugh. They would say words, cutting into his skin, causing a canyon along his bones. It was over.
He could never explain it to them. They would not understand. There was no point in saying it. They'd only laugh at the suggestion further. How could he explain it? The feeling that festered inside his stomach, threatening to tear it apart. The desire to change into something different. The need to turn into something other than himself: the strong girl he dreamed. It was stupid. It was never going to happen. He should never have tried. He should never have done it. What did he expect? He ruined everything with his touch. It was stupid. He was stupid. So fucking stupid. Wrong.
His head turning like a whirlpool with those destructive doubtful half thoughts, with partial breaths caught in his throat, choking, he panicked. He was not going to go back. He was not going to experience it again. It was over. He was over. He turned to the lake, and in the dark, he began to swim.
"Brick!" Jo called over. "Don't be like that, I'm only teasing you." She chuckled to herself. But, Brick did not stop. He continued to barrel forward into the night. "Hey! Brick!" Her demeanor began to change. She anxiously twisted the lipstick. "Brick! It's not safe out there!" She called out. His silhouette was becoming smaller in the night. She turned towards the camp, then back towards the lake. "Shit, shit, shit," she said to herself. With a deep breath, she ran forward into the water after him, tossing the lipstick to the side.
While Brick might have been a faster runner than Jo, she was a stronger swimmer. Plus, Brick was swimming wildly, without focus, like a scared dog. Jo swam like a bullet; trying to catch up to him.
When Jo finally caught up with him, they were a couple hundred feet from shore. Jo grabbed his back foot. Brick panicked at the touch, unaware that Jo was following him. He sank slightly at the pull. Jo put her hand on his stomach, trying to keep him from going down. Brick splashed wildly at the contact.
"Jo!" He yelled out in surprise. "Get off me. Let me go!" He squirmed like a caught fish.
"No," Jo insisted, trying not to get any water in her mouth. "You have to come back."
"Why? It's better to keep going. There's no going back."
"Brick. What the fuck are you talking about? If you keep swimming, you might die. Lets go back to shore. Please." She struggled to stay above water without letting go of him.
"I don't care about that. I'm done. I'm done with ruining everything." Brick tried to explain.
"Look. I'm sorry. Okay? I'm sorry I said those things back at shore. It was a mean thing to do. You didn't ruin anything. Now, lets go back."
"Brick. I'm not going back without you. You want to kill me too?"
Brick turned to face Jo. Her face was strained, like it was pulled down with a great weight. Regret and confusion and desperation and fear painted it. Her gaze was longing, trying to make some semblance of sense of the situation.
"Fine," Brick conceded.
Jo kept her grip on the front of his shirt. They began to swim back towards camp. At this distance, the lights of the cabins peered through the trees like stars.
Once they finally arrived back at shore, they were both exhausted and wet. Their clothes were soaked, clinging to their bodies. Brick was quick to pull off his shirt. He sat back on the ground, near the lantern, panting.
Jo rubbed her arms. Her grey tracksuit was soaked through. She shivered in the night air. "Can you please explain to me what the fuck that was about?" She sounded tired, strained to the point of mania. Her wide eyes begged him for an explanation.
Brick looked at the ground, ashamed of himself. "I'm sorry. I overreacted." He said with a reserved voice. "It's just, I didn't want anyone to see me like this. I was scared you would tell everyone. I wasn't jacking off or anything. I was just trying to wear it. I wanted to see how I would look."
"That's it?" Jo sat down on the ground. She unzipped the front of her track suit. "Jesus Brick. You scared the shit out of me." She took a deep breath. "I'm not usually like that. I don't try to start rumors. I know how awful they can be better than anyone. This show has me all screwed up. I'm sorry about that."
"I wouldn't hold it against you. I always judged myself. Why should I expect others to not see me like a freak too?" Brick spoke candidly.
"A freak? Brick look at me: my short hair, the track suit. I've been acting like a boy my whole life." She rubbed her hands. "How could I judge you for being curious about putting on makeup? It's nothing special. It's just stuff you put on your face."
"You think so?"
"Here." Jo stood up from the ground. She picked up the lipstick from where she threw it earlier, and walked slowly up to Brick. She placed her thumb onto his lips, and tried to rub away the remaining red from before. Carefully, she pressed the lipstick to his lips. Her breaths were slow, applying with an even hand. Brick watched her focused eyes, the rise of her chest, and the line of skin down her unzipped track suit. Once she was finished, she took a step back.
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