Mia Kerick © 2018
All Rights Reserved
By ten, I’m sweaty as a deckhand from bussing tables on the beach, and I’m sorely in need of a brew or six. But seeing as I’ve got no cash to burn, I’m gonna have to leave my coworkers—who’re revving up over by the tiki bar—to their night of hard partying. I grab my leopard-print backpack from the hook on the back wall of the bar and head to the men’s room to turn into the other me.
And just as I figured, Joey’s waiting on me there. “You gonna come party with us tonight, sweet Vedie?”
“No can do, Joey, much as I want to.” Safe inside a stall, I pull off my sweaty green The Only Tiki Hut on Placida Island work T-shirt. As soon as I replace it with a dark red, stretchy lace off-the-shoulder number, I can breathe easy. Next, I strip off my khaki shorts and yank on my favorite black velvet pair. Even though I’ve gotta ride my bike home, I kick my high-tops into my backpack and slide on a pair of jeweled flip-flops. After taking a quick piss, I head out of the stall and plant my ass in front of the mirror beside Joey, who’s standing there like he’s got nothing better to do than count the drips of water leaking from the faucet.
“Lookin’ good, pretty Miss Vedie…mmmhmm…”
No matter if I’m dressed like a dude or a lady, Joey always stares at me like I’m a juicy bowl of strawberry shortcake—he licks his lips, and I know he wants to take himself a nice big bite of a flavor he can’t get at home. Then he slaps his hand hard against my thigh, and creepy-slow, it climbs my leg. It’s headed for my ass cheek, or my name ain’t Vedie Wilson.
“Hands out of the cookie jar, Joey, my man.” I don’t appreciate it when any dude gropes me without asking for permission first. But the sad truth is I’m never gonna want Joey’s hands on me. While he gawks, I pull a shimmery hairband out of my bag and wrap it around my head to hold the damp dreads off my face. “Got yourself a sweet tooth, looks like, Joey. You’d be wise to get your ass home to your sweet wife, not that you asked me for no words of wisdom.”
“Not gonna even think about goin’ home ’til I had me some fun,” Joey replies, jamming his hand in his pocket—probably to keep it from curving around my ass.
When I bend to rinse the sweat off my face, he stays quiet and doesn’t goose me. Maybe this time he heard what I told him about getting his ass home to Mrs. Joey. But more likely he’s checking out my butt.
“Baybeee…uh-huh…mmmhmm…nice ass you got there in them sweet little shorts…”
I sigh real loud, “I’ve got some shit to do here, big dawg, so if that’s all you wanted.” The only way to get this guy to take a hike is to tell him point-blank that he’s gotta head on out. “Catch ya on the flip side.”
He leans in so close his scratchy beard brushes my neck, and I shiver in the bad way. He takes a deep sniff—I guess he likes the smell of sweaty dude—and then finally bails. And right about now, I sorely wish the tiki hut restaurant had one of those one-person anything goes restrooms—for a dude, a lady, or whoever you feel like at the moment—but at least now I’m finally alone in the men’s room.
I pull out my makeup bag and quickly powder my nose so it doesn’t shine in the moonlight, and I glide a deep shade of maroon over my lips. But I take the time to be an artist with my eyeliner and mascara because I figure eyes oughta say something. When I look good enough that I’d wanna do me if I got hot for ladies, I figure I’m looking good enough for public viewing. And my new perfume smells like the freedom I’ve got down here on Placida Island—coconuts and wildflowers and the ocean and honey. I spray it on heavy all over my neck and chest.
As I saunter out of the men’s room, I don’t miss that it’s funny how I went in here looking all-dude, but coming out, you could mistake me for a lady. Ha! More like a red-hot, sexy mama—smooth and silky everywhere except for the four-day beard.
I’m a guy, though, even when I’m dressed this fine. And in my opinion—not that anybody gives two shits what I think—the combo of smooth legs and a stubbly chin says, in your face, assholes! I don’t have to choose how I show myself to the world anymore.
“Hot damn! Who be dat fine lady?” Joey knows I’m no lady, and I wish he’d shut his trap. I turn my head away and roll my eyes twice as I head past the bar. “Who’s the lucky guy who’s gonna get some of dat tonight?”
“Not gonna be you, Joey.” And sure, I say it out loud, but not loud enough for him to hear, because I don’t want to piss him off. Pissed-off dudes can be dangerous.
I’ve only been working here a week-and-a-day now, but I’m pretty sure my coworkers are cool with how I dress. At work, I have to wear my green Tiki Hut T-shirt and tan shorts, just like everybody else. But I don’t hide my ladylike side down here on Placida Island; I’m never gonna hide her again. The world thinks the way I show myself is all fucked-up, but I’ve come to understand that it is what it is, and it’s why I’m never going back to Boston. I can’t go back up there and be me—not if I want to live to see another day.
“Haven’t you people ever seen a boy dressed up nice and pretty before?” I shout it back over my shoulder, flashing a big grin, knowing my lips look good, all shiny and red.
“Vedie, have yourself a good evening!” one of the ladies calls out. I smile inside because I think some of my coworkers like the real me, and I’m not used to being liked just the way I am. Maybe the rule truly is “anything goes” on this tropical island in the middle of nowhere.
I glance around to see if Crazy Matt is lurking around the bar. Crazy Matt—that’s the name all of the waiters at The Only Tiki Hut gave to this gorgeous but pissed-off-looking customer I made a play for earlier tonight. I actually leaned down and whispered into his ear, “Take me home tonight, Mateo.” I like how Mateo sounds way better than Crazy Matt, and it’s pretty much the same damn name, at least it is in my neck of the woods.
I didn’t stop and wait for his answer because I know it doesn’t work that way with guys like him. If Mateo wants to hook up with me, he’ll make it happen. If he doesn’t, there’s nothing on God’s green earth I can do to make him change his mind. So I pointed out real clear that I was one of his options, and then I moved on.
I toss a piece of gum in my mouth and head out to the back of the restaurant so I can grab my bike. Picked up an old BMX at a pawn shop as soon as I landed down here on Placida Island, and it’s been my set of wheels ever since. It’s pretty as a picture—lime-green and white. Soon as I get some extra cash, I’m gonna pick up a hot-pink bike seat. Bonus on the bicycle situation: pumping this baby around the island keeps my ass nice and tight.
I bend over to unlock it, glad that Joey’s not around to feel up my ass, because sure as shit, it’s what he’d do. I toss the chain into my pack and swing it onto my shoulder thinking I’m looking too fine tonight to head straight home—a total waste of hotness—but, oh well, that’s the way it goes when you’re broke.
It’s funny, but with just this one-word greeting, I recognize the voice.