I am going to be a boy for Halloween. I have been fifteen for seven days. Old enough for Anne Hathaway to plausibly represent me in a biopic, I think. Fifteen does not feel like I thought it would. I do not feel like Anne Hathaway. Over the summer I lost my long, copper hair, removing any possibility of secretly being a princess. My scalp sprouted dirty straw, refusing to form the easy pixie cut I asked for at the salon under the influence of rosemary mint shampoo and the cool, sure fingers of my impossibly hot tattooed stylist, Amelia. She put my hair in a ponytail, armed me with shears, and let me amputate the growth. She bagged the mass for my mom to donate to cancer patients, but I saw it in the trash along with old Chinese takeout later that week after a precarious residency on our kitchen table. In my bathroom’s yellow light, I dip my index finger into the pomade Amelia said would help my hair look “rad” and begin mimicking her artistry from memory, a motion similar to frantically picking lint off of a sweater before an interview. Tragically, my hair never comes to life under my own fingers, and tonight is no exception. My friends at school call me pancake head for the way layers fall and stick together. I am not a princess or a pixie. Anne or Amelia. I am pancake head.
With my hair stacked and sticky, I pad into my parents’ bedroom to dig through my mother’s makeup bag. I’m not allowed to wear makeup as a daughter of lifelong Nazarenes, but I need some kind of brown pigment for my beard and mustache. The room mouths me like a puppy testing its bite; the air breathes warm peony, alcohol, and sleep sweat. The carpet under my bare feet licks my salty fear. Mom has another headache. A cold compress is over her eyes and she snores softly, earplugs bolted in place. She creates a pillow fortress the way I do now at twenty-five, needing to feel swaddled like a newborn. In the half light from the hallway, she is a bit of peach pulp caught in a molar. I kneel on the floor near the nightstand amidst my dad’s shoe polish and balled socks. When I plunge my hand blindly into the bag, loose powder dusts my knuckles as I finger compacts, tubes, and shapes unnamed by shape namers. I grab four pencils, praying for brown. I tiptoe from the room, expertly avoiding places where the floorboards might squeal. A wiser, nimbler Orpheus, I follow the hallway light out of the Underworld.
Bent over the bathroom sink again, I use an eyebrow pencil to create facial hair. Now, I realize that “brown” was more of a reddish orange, so my carefully sculpted mustache and beard looked like an extremely bad outbreak of perioral dermatitis. I finish the look with jeans, a black t-shirt, and my favorite grey leather jacket. As I head out the front door, my dad recites his usual warning despite being half asleep on the couch: “Be safe. I trust you, but I don’t trust the world with you.” Breezing past the cloud of moths drunk on porch light, I press into the October night, waving and muttering some affirmative response. I don’t remember what I did or who I was with. Most of my memories are impressionist paintings moving from darkness to light, plotted in chaotic color thanks to my brain’s attempt at damage control. Guess at the shape of a woman. A man. A child. A house. But I remember Halloween. The ritual. The costumes. The performance. Testing gender and sexuality in bathroom mirrors year after year. Leaving glitter, feathers, and sequins in dorms, theatres, and bars. Stuffing wigs into closets and corsets under beds. My head is shaved, I found the right shade of brown for my hair, and I mind no floorboards.
I have been twenty-five for seven days. I am going to be a boy for Halloween.
Aundrea Davis is currently pursuing her master’s degree in literature at the University of Kansas. She teaches writing, haunts coffee shops, makes art, and never shuts up. You can follow the Midwestern scholar-punk at Instagram.com/aundreadd. She asks you to donate to or share the next trans person’s crowdfunding effort you see. She humbly suggests contributing to her brother’s top surgery fund at Help Brooks Get Top Surgery.