Cat saw the shooting star and decided it was a sign. She buzzed her hair and moved to the City by the Bay. She bought a 49ers baseball cap and got a job at Borders. She lived out of her car for two months before she found a room for the rent the size of her bedroom closet back home.
Not home anymore.
Not since she told her mother (her father was AWOL) that she thought she was supposed to be a boy. “God doesn’t make mistakes,” her mother said as she burped Cat’s younger sister’s baby boy. Ray-ray (also known as the Little Pooper) looked up at her and grinned a toothy grin while drool dripped onto his bib. Cat knew she’d miss some things about home.
Sissy cried, but Cat left anyway at five am, just as the crisp night air was dissipating. She thought, This is the first day of the rest of my life.
It was such a cliché that Cat started laughing. She cranked up Metallica and hit the road in her Dodge pick-up.
Cat experienced much on Route 66, from St. Louis to California: the Promised Land. She met real Indians, ate buffalo jerky, talked to stringy-haired waitresses, and ran into a music group traveling from Chicago. She considered sleeping with the emo boy because he looked so cute, but didn’t. She wasn’t on good terms with her vagina and she wasn’t okay with sharing it with anyone.
Cat didn’t know if she was on good terms with God either. Was God okay with her leaving her family so she could start over as the real her? Even so, Cat still said her bedtime prayers before drifting off to sleep.
Cat was straight edge and that bothered Rusty, her roommate. Rusty was a full-blown lesbian and she was obsessed with Monty Python. She was also in love with Cat. Rusty was in love with her smooth coffee skin and mysterious eyes and those black freckles that danced across her nose. But Rusty couldn’t figure out how to tell her without both of them getting stupid on Two Buck Chuck and chocolate cigarettes.
Cat refused to drink. Her father had been a drunk until he left them six months after Sissy was born. Cat wouldn’t touch the stuff. She wouldn’t even take Nyquil when she was sick.
She only spoke to her mother on holidays and birthdays. Sissy wrote her long letters covered in scratch’n sniff stickers. The envelopes were stuffed with Polaroids of the Little Pooper. In succeeding photo, the Little Pooper’s afro was bigger. Cat’s heart was heavy as she reread those letters over and over again.
Cat went to the free clinic about a year after moving. She told the health workers that she had thought she was a boy all her life. She taught herself to pee standing up. She didn’t like wearing shirts in the hot summer sun. She loved playing sports and hated dolls. She hated her time of the month, hated the blood and the secrecy, and doubly hated the idea of being pregnant. She wanted to have a hard shaft instead, something to be proud of and something that could not be hidden.
Cat was tired of hiding.
She started hormones and it made her angry. She started boxing and running to release endorphins. Her breasts shrunk and she grew little spouts of chest hair. Cat didn’t like chest hair. She didn’t like feeling angry all the time. She did like hitting people in the boxing ring.
“Cat, I love you,” Rusty said as they sat in lawn chairs on the roof of the apartment building, looking up at the stars and eating special brownies that their roommate had baked just that morning. Cat looked over at Rusty, at her rainbow hair and thick waist and thought maybe, just maybe, she might be happy being a girl.