The Man in Me

In the hot kitchen summer I eat lunch and Lesbian Jen turns on the radio. It is post-high school pre-everything with flies buzzing around the pastries. I am sitting at the counter as Rosa washes dishes and Manuel counts change when I hear “Landslide” (“this is for you Daddy”), and the chorus breaks like some rogue and uncooked egg.

You of all people, Jen, would know that I feel raw and downright stupid in this getup. You of all people would know that I want to be the one who cooks and isn’t cooked for, that wanting someone and wanting to be someone are pretty much the same thing sometimes. Like the way you are a Shane and I am a Jenny, but all either of us really wants to be is not alone. I guess you could say we share a cell. I guess you could say we’ve got to have archetypes, and if that’s true, then you are mine for the morning.

As I’m thinking this the dumpster outside is filling and the flower shop ladies are fanning themselves with menus they stole from the front counter, talking about the weather. I can hear them through the open corridor. Stevie is playing and I almost start crying, because I’ve got a Dad too, and he’s accepting, but what is acceptance when there is understanding to be had, and curiosity. I start thinking of the song he loves, the one that plays at the beginning of The Big Lebowski, and I wonder if you’ve seen it, Jen. If I were brave enough to lip sync late at night I’d do a number to that song, and I’d put on some high-waisted pants and make all the girls swoon. Even you.

“It takes a woman like your kind! To find the man in me…”

It was you who first showed me how to refill the receipt paper, the day we put snowman stickers on the windows and the cash register wouldn’t open. Sometimes I even tricked myself into thinking you were nervous with me around, that you didn’t quite know what to say when I was near. I asked you if you’d always known how to cook with three burners going at once. 

I’m in the car with Dad on the way home from work. Daddy, I love you, I say, and he looks surprised. How can I tell him that when he dies I’ll hear this song and think of him and the passenger seat, and the bridge I once thought would cave beneath our tires? So I say nothing, just let it explain itself. And I believe Bruce when he tells me maybe “everything that dies someday comes back,” but only a little.

The next morning it is omelette time again. You place tomatoes on focaccia bread and I dream useless dreams, of crowds applauding and full page spreads of me in a men’s shirt: my own husband, my own engine, my own knife. For a brief second I wonder if you have these thoughts at all, and you become just as untouchable as the others. I hear the flower ladies watering their plants. I finish my eggs and bring the plate to Rosa, who will give it to you so you can make it someone else’s. I sing a little song to myself on the way out of the kitchen, a song that only I know. Someday I’ll sing it to you, when I’m old enough and have found the right time, the right recipe, the right pants. Until then it is mine and mine only, a raw egg special for the summer.

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