by Nicole Miller
“You remember you’re a girl, right?” Weston laughed as he lounged lazily against the wall. His arms were crossed over his chest in a casual stance with one leg crossed under the other.
“Last time I checked.” Olivine panted as she lifted both hands to her face, rubbing the sweat out of her eyes. They had been at the gym for an hour already and she wasn’t ready to call it quits even if her muscles were demanding that she stop before they imploded. “Why? Scared you’ll be outperformed by a little ol’ girl?”
Weston gave a snort that was made up of half a laugh and half an annoyed bark. “Have you seen my guns? Do you really think you could win against these bad boys?”
Olivine gave a snort that matched Weston’s before saying, “you mean the guns in the safe back at your house or half-deflated blow-up ones you call arms? Both are not intimidating.”
With a little effort, Olivine stood from her spot on the workout mat and stretched out her arms above her head. Even standing, Weston had to look down at Olivine because her head barely reached his collarbone.
“They are not deflated.” While Weston’s eyes narrowed in mock annoyance, he did make sure to flex a little to show off his muscles.
Olivine ignored her friend’s show and moved to pluck the twenty-pound weights from the floor where she had set them earlier. It took effort to continue her workout, but she began to curl the weights toward her body, making her arms burn more.
“And you are going to hurt yourself if you try to keep up with my routine. Just because the weights are less doesn’t mean shit.” Again, Olivine ignored Weston’s words and instead focused on what number curl she had reached.
Six. Seven. Eight.
“Olive, you listening?” Weston asked.
Don’t push yourself Olive. You can’t do that many Olive. Stop trying to be like me Olive.
She had heard all this before, and it wouldn’t be the last time she heard it. “If you remind me, I’m a girl one more time, I will use these to bash your fucking head in.” Olivine’s eyes snapped to the male as she curled both weights toward her body for the twelfth time.
Weston lifted his hands up in surrender, knowing better than to push his friend further than he had already. The playful teasing amongst friends could only go so far before Olivine would do something she might regret like go after Weston with the weights. She never backed down from a fight even if it was clear she would lose. Some said she had a Napoleon complex. She said she was just a girl tired of hearing “you can’t” from others.
“Fine. How about I remind you that if you push yourself now you won’t be able to lift your arms at the dance tomorrow? Speaking of, are you seriously going to wear a tux?” Weston asked as he finally moved from his spot holding up the wall to grab onto a pair of weights for himself. He curled them at the same time Olivine did, not seeming to be bothered by the fact his weights weighed twice the amount of the ones Olivine was struggling with.
Olivine grunted again in response and continued until she hit her desired number of reps. She hadn’t been able to reach forty like she had today with this weight before and she probably shouldn’t have today. Her arms already screamed like pissed off howler monkeys from yesterday’s workout, but she couldn’t have made herself stop at thirty if the world had suddenly caught fire around her. She had work to do on her body.
“Dude. Don’t ignore me,” Weston demanded.
“I’m not going. Tux doesn’t fit,” Olivine finally answered as she dropped the weights onto the bench to give her arms a break.
Weston just continued his own routine, shifting to watch himself in the wall-length mirrors that Olivine had been facing away from. Between his reps Weston asked, “So, get a dress. Isn’t that what girls usually wear? Something that sparkles and shows off cleavage?”
A few more reps and a few exaggerated grunts later and Weston finished, setting his own weights down so he could fall back on the bench next to Olivine. Olivine shot him a glare as he sat. “If I wanted to wear a dress, I would’ve bought one.”
“Then are you seriously missing out on prom because of clothes? If that isn’t a girl problem, I don’t know what is.”
The glare Olivine was giving intensified. If he had been paying attention Weston probably would have died of stab wounds from the daggers shooting out of his friend’s eyes. Instead, his gaze was captured by a few girls who were waving at him. Weston never could pass up seeing girls in sports bras and tight yoga pants.
Olivine probably could have let him sink into that distraction, but she couldn’t stop herself from asking, “Would you wear a dress to prom?”
Weston seemed to think about that. In fact, he made a show of it by stroking his jaw and looking at the closest mirror. “I mean, as good as I would look in a beautiful silky dress, I’m going to say no.”
“So why the hell would I wear something stupid when you wouldn’t?” Olivine draped her arms over her thighs so her hands could clasp between her knees. Moments later and Weston did the same.
“You’re a girl. You can get away with wearing a dress. I can’t. I would be the butt of every damn joke if I did.”
Even though her arms felt like they were made of stone, Olivine launched herself at Weston who moved out of the way as quickly as he could. His long legs got him out of the danger zone in a few strides, putting an exercise machine between them before her hands could hit him or strangle him. It wasn’t clear what Olivine planned. She just wanted him to run away from her.
“Seriously, mad at me for telling the truth?” Weston laughed breathlessly to himself, making Olivine’s teeth clench.
At this point, Olivine was done with the teasing and decided she was going to head home instead of finishing the routine Weston kept saying she couldn’t keep up with. This time she had to listen to the “you can’t” since she was about to strangle the only person she was close with. He might be stupid, but he was still her best friend from fifth grade and he had been by her even when she broke her arm in seventh grade and when she cut her hair off in ninth grade much to her parent’s dismay.
Olivine had to power through putting away the weight, but she managed before she and Weston walked silently to the parking lot. The rusty brown car Olivine owned looked like it had rolled out of a 1970s catalog as it sat between two brand new cars, but the machine still ran, and Olivine didn’t have to make payments on it. Her parents had given it to her on her sixteenth birthday and today, two years later, it still ran like a champ. Although driving it was probably not a smart idea since it had almost 300,000 miles on it. It might be a good car for the drives between the gym and the house, but at some point, it would reach the breaking point. For all Olivine knew, that breaking point could be one more mile. It might be the next meeting with Weston, or it could be on the way to the dance he kept trying to get her to go to that it would give up on her.
“But really Olive, get a dress and come to the dance. Please.” With that said, Weston jogged to the bus stop. Normally, Olivine would have offered to drive him home even with the threat of her car finally realizing its old age, but he had gotten on her nerves today. He was on his own.
Seriously mad at me for telling the truth?
Olive huffed to herself and climbed into the car. Resting her forehead on the steering wheel of her car she had practically fallen into, Olivine thought of every moment that she had heard such a sentence that reminded her of just how messed up she felt inside. No matter how hard she pushed herself, she would never grow as tall as Weston, she would never lift forty-pound weights like they were feathers, and she would never look like Captain America with his exaggerated triangle shape.
She would always look the same. She would always avoid seeing herself in one of the gym mirrors. Hell, she barely looked in the mirror at home because it was always a horrible reflection looking back at her.
The jaw of the woman in the mirror was too round and looked akin to someone rolling a ball of cream playdough on the desk until they got a rough circle. Her hair looked like someone had taken a Halloween wig and placed it on top of that ball of playdough, but without making sure the cut was flattering. Then someone had taken that playdough head and put it on a body that was far too curvy. The hips were too wide and the waist too narrow. The creator of this horrible art project had used toothpicks for arms and legs. No muscle or definition could be found on that body even after months of push-ups, pull-ups, and a few deadlifts. Well, there was a change, but not enough for the greedy Olivine. She wanted “guns” not toothpicks.
It was just all wrong.
Olivine forced her head to lift and began the drive home with arms that were growing less and less cooperative by the second. Ten minutes later and she was home, sitting in the driveway with her head back on the steering wheel like it was the only thing that could possibly hold her head up.
It took another ten minutes before she could get up and coax her arms into letting her inside the house. Both of her parents were still at work since it was only four, leaving Olivine alone in the warm home. She could have invited Weston over to see what she meant by her tux not fitting to show him why she was so devastated.
But that would have meant listening to her parents complain when they got home about Weston coming over while she was home alone again. They would tell her that no respectable young lady would invite an unmarried man into their home unsupervised. No respectable young lady should try on clothes in front of a man because it was simply a travesty.
If only they knew how little Olivine cared about being a respectable young lady. She was old enough to know that she was respectable, but she didn’t like the fact her parents would tag on the young lady part. It was like Olivine couldn’t be respectable unless she was a young lady.
Olivine made her way to her room and gave up on trying to keep her arms up. The moment she was close enough she fell back on the bed, her head hanging over the edge like a ragdoll. The angle of her head put her closet and her tux in her view. The tux was a classic, just the kind Olivine liked. It was black and white and crisp.
Too bad it would never be worn.
Olivine had been told that it wouldn’t fit when she tried it on at the store, but she had been determined to fit into it when she got it on clearance a few months back. She had been told to get the woman’s suit, but those showed off the hourglass figure that Olivine hated. She wanted something that made her taper at the hip instead of the waist and not look like someone had squeezed all the juice out of their juice box.
Annoyed with the view, Olivine started to sit only to get a reminder that it wasn’t only her arms that were sore. Her chest was sore too, but not from the exercise. She had bound her chest before her workout, per her daily habit to get rid of some of her natural figure, but the wrapping had been too tight for that long of a workout. Each time her chest expanded with a breath it felt like she was fighting with a python. Soon she wouldn’t be able to suck in air and she would be consumed by the ace bandage.
As if on cue, the bandage dug harder into her left side, the small bits of Velcro turning on her to make it feel like a million tiny needles were scraping at her ribs.
“Alright, alright,” Olivine whispered to herself as she slowly pulled off her tank. Then she had to work harder than normal to pull off the sports bra that was two times too small before she could slowly unravel herself from the bandage. The moment the bandage was in her hands, Olivine walked to the bathroom to clean herself off the best she could without straining her arms in the shower. She hated taking the bandage off even if it was the most uncomfortable thing she could ever wear. Taking off the bandage was like taking off a part of her body because it almost gave her what she needed.
“I’m a guy.” Olivine blurted out at the dinner table, her gaze on the salad she hadn’t bothered to touch for the last three minutes. She held onto her fork, but the salad didn’t have a leaf out of place. She couldn’t eat until this was out. She had been dreaming of this conversation for three years, but never had the balls to say it until right this second.
Well, maybe not that second. It had been a build-up from her phone call with her doctor at four-thirty after discovering her favorite ace bandage was ripping at its seams. She had spoken to the doctor about coming in for a consultation and he had seemed more than happy to talk to her about her options. Transitioning was a big deal, but the doctor had talked to her like it was a routine conversation. It had seemed normal. That is what had given Olivine the strength to shout out her proclamation partway through dinner.
However, silence met her words. Not that silence was something that Olivine hadn’t expected. Dinner was usually a silent affair and her outburst would have been met with silence regardless of what it was. She could have said she made a left turn down the road like she did every day she went to the gym and she still would have been greeted with silence. The only thing different about this soundless moment was the lack of movement. It was like Olivine had pressed pause on a remote. Had she looked up; Olivine probably wouldn’t have seen a single breath being taken by her parents.
“What did you say?” Her father asked first after several minutes. The man was looking at his plate, much like his daughter, but his fork was stabbing his steak and the knife was halfway through cutting it.
“I called a doctor about transitioning?” Olivine hadn’t intended that to come out as a question, but she couldn’t change it to give her words more power.
“What?” Olivine’s mother said as she glanced between her husband and her daughter.
“I’m not a girl. It’s not who I am. I made an appointment with the doctor next week. I just, you know, thought I would tell you before this got more serious.” Olivine paused and finally poked at a lettuce leaf with the tip of her fork. She needed a moment to make another statement because it was somehow a harder truth to spit out. “And I’m going to change my name to Oliver.”
“Fuck that!” Her father roared at her, his eyes burning holes into the side of his daughter’s face.
“You were born Olivine and you will remain Olivine until you die.”
Finally, his daughter lifted her head and met her father’s burning eyes with as much fire that she could muster. “I was born a beautiful young girl that you named Olivine. I grew up and discovered I was a man that wants to be named Oliver.” There was a small pause before she continued. She had to get this out. “You said I needed to make the most of my life. I’m doing it. I don’t like having boobs and a vagina. They are the worst parts of me. I am something different than this.”
“Enough!” Olivine’s mother placed a hand on her chest and looked past her daughter like she was searching for a puppet master. Someone had to be telling her daughter to say this. It wasn’t Olivine who had come up with this idea and mulled it over for years.
Oh, no. It couldn’t be the respectable young lady saying all this.
“Sorry,” Olivine said without really meaning it. “I know it is crazy to think I’m unhappy with my body, but I’m different. I never liked playing with Barbie dolls and I never liked wearing dresses. I never felt comfortable wearing bras or wearing heels. My clothes look like I am playing dress up for Halloween. None of its right and I am being reminded of that over and over and fucking over.” Olivine stopped to catch her breath. She hadn’t really let herself breathe through her quick rant. How could she pause for something as silly as breath? “I want my tux to fit! I want to be like Weston. I want his arms, legs, abs. I want it so damn bad. You have no idea how bad.”
Oliver’s father slowly stood, so he loomed over the table. “And? Just because you don’t like those things doesn’t mean you should be a man! You are not a man Olivine!”
For a moment, the room was silent as mother and father stared down their child, but that child was not backing down. “You’re right. Not all of them think about changing their body parts, but I do. The difference between them and me is that I hate looking at myself in the mirror. I actively avoid it and it’s all because I never see myself. I always see a messed-up art project.”
Finally, the mother spoke again. Even if it was frail and quiet, it could be heard over her husband’s heavy breathing and her child’s frantic heart. “But you are perfect now.”
Olivine had to close her eyes as she spoke again because she hated the hurt in her mother’s voice, “My body was made wrong. In my head, I hear a male’s voice, I feel a male’s thoughts and his emotions, but outside all I see is a misshapen woman. I love who I am and love that I am strong enough for this, but I want my outside to match my inside. I can’t be this anymore.” Olivine stopped and forced her eyes to open to meet her parents' gazes. “I am doing this with or without your permission. I love you more than anything and I hope you love me too, but nothing will change this. I don’t want to work my ass off and find that I will always look wrong.”
“But you’re our daughter,” Olivine’s mother pleaded again.
“Son. I will be your son. I will be Oliver.” And that is who he was. He had known it for as long as he could remember but had only thought it about in the last several years. This was a horrible, stupid conversation between child and parents. Oliver knew that and he knew it would be hard for them.
After all, there was still fire in his father’s eyes and his mother looked like she was about to faint, but Oliver couldn’t change his mind about this.
Not if his father threw things and sore like the sailor he was because he didn’t understand.
Not if her mother cried for him to stop referring to himself as a man because it was not womanly.
Not if Weston teased him about being a girl one more time because that is how he had always seen her.
Oliver was going to be Oliver and there was nothing they could do to stop him because that is who he was.
Nicole Miller is an undergraduate student at Central Washington University. She is working on finishing the Professional and Creative Writing program that will be paired with a minor in Sociology all while working at Shoreline School District where she plays the role of an Accounting Technician.