The Baratie had long since closed for the night and the resulting silence rang deaf in my open ears. For once we had found ourselves docked on land for the purpose of restocking.
The lot of us were only supposed to stay for a few hours at most but the cooks had complained about passing up a night on the town. Though Zeff threatened to leave behind anyone who wasn’t on board in time, he ended up tying the ship down for the night. The old man was a damned softy deep down.
Because of this all of the cooks were ashore, surely off slamming either drinks or heads at whatever washed up bar they could find. Zeff and I were the only ones who stayed aboard for the night.
We were the only ones who preferred to sleep at sea after all.
No idea where the shitty old geezer went, but I had other shit to do. Shit that I really didn’t want him to be around for. My prize was kept hidden just in case he did show up though, it stayed in the bags that we used for produce to avoid the cooks’ curiosity.
Damned bastards have no concept of personal space. Made it hard for secrets like these.
And a secret I plan to keep this, no one can ever find out about what I was planning to do. Which made tonight the perfect, and perhaps only, chance for this.
I’m not even sure when the idea first sprung on me. Maybe it was when I found myself sparing as much attention to the dresses women wore as I did to the women themselves. How it hugged them just right to show off their hourglass figures.
Wide and thin all at once while still seeming natural.
Whenever I found myself near these goddesses all I could do was think about my own unfitting frame. I’m unnaturally skinny, starvation tended to do that, but I was also just too tall.
Awkward angles hidden only by ill-fitting clothing that paired well with a pre-teen’s first bout of acne. I couldn’t stop growing long enough to get a properly tailored suit.
Just standing next to the ladies made my lungs shrink and my palms sweat. Even the girls my own age, they were all just so pretty. It was easy to see how they’d grow into their own bodies, something I wasn’t privy to.
Whenever I looked at them I was filled with desire.
But a desire for what? I’m not sure.
Whenever I compared myself, split ends and uneven sprouts of facial hair, to them... It felt as if a colony of ants had made a home for themselves underneath my skin. Nothing I did with my appearance ever felt right.
I don’t know if I wanted them or if I wanted what they had. Did I just admire beauty or did I actually want to be beautiful?
That couldn’t be it, right? Men aren’t like that. They’re built heavy with sharp jaws and pronounced muscles. That’s what was considered attractive for guys. And that’s what I would grow up into, no matter what the sickly feeling in my stomach said otherwise.
But just this once I wanted to forget about how I was supposed to look and instead just trust what my instincts were telling me. For months I had saved my paychecks right just in case the chance ever came up. And it finally did.
A night practically alone on the ship with no one else around to see me at my most vulnerable. So with that knowledge keeping me from backing out, I had bought mysel- I bought a dress.
I can’t call it mine since men don’t own dresses.
Either way, with it hidden amongst the groceries it had passed by unnoticed. And now it was time to actually wear it.
Emotions have always come naturally to me, with them being at the forefront of my thoughts and actions near 24/7. It was this overabundance of softness that made my bastard of a father hate me. It would be an understatement to say that I was well acquainted with the concept of feeling.
As a child I had always made it a big deal to name everything I felt, just to prove that it was real. Dictionaries that managed to define something as raw as an emotion were the only proof of their existence to me.
The knowledge that I wasn’t the only one in the world that felt like this had comforted me after my mother passed away.
After all, it was hard to feel like you weren’t a freak when living in a house completely devoid of sentiment. I could recite each and every description from that book with ease after so many years of memorization.
So it’s quite a statement that someone like me could be befuddled by their own emotions.
But whatever festered inside me at this moment couldn’t be pinned down with just words. It was light and heavy all at once, a living enigma that had seated itself in my gut. Making a nest out of my body where it rested peacefully as if naive to its effect on me.
My skin was too tight and my heart felt too still. I couldn’t breathe right because something in my chest was eating away at the rest of me. This dress was supposed to fix me, not make me look even worse.
A scream bubbled in my throat and before I could stop it tears followed suit. Everything just felt gross and wrong.
“Go-d DAMN IT!” My voice cracked just to further taunt me.
A deep blue vintage dress with a pleated bottom and a high collar. Designed to stop just at the knees. The very definition of ‘business casual’.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw it on sale earlier today. Before I could even think I realized that I had already bought it.
The clerk was a cute older woman who assumed I was buying it for a girlfriend and went as far to pinch my cheeks while laughing at my blushed face. The dress looked so perfect on the mannequin.
Tight around the chest with a flowing waistline that would add curves to anyone, even someone like me.
Now it looked disgusting as if my own damned body tainted its perfection.
The straps kept slipping off my shoulders while the rest of it crumbled and deflated around my form. And even through the sagging fabric, I could still see how off my body looked.
My lack of curves wasn’t like the other (other??) girls of my age, with sharp but broad shoulders that made me look topheavy. The look only completed by my toothpick thin waist. I was a mismatch of parts that didn’t click together properly.
To make shit even worse, despite being blonde all my body hair was colored black and thick. Which only stood out more against my frightfully pale skin tone. Completely ruining any chance of me looking right.
Hot bubbles of anger bit at the back of my throat and for a moment I felt relief. Anger and I are old pals, we’re used to each others company. Anything would be better than this unknown sense of confliction.
Letting the heat spread outward through my veins I raised my leg and shattered the mirror in front of me. Only afterward did I remember my lack of shoes.
Shards of glass had found themselves buried in my heel. This only added fuel to the flames burning inside of me.
“Eggplant?” And just like that my anger, along with my breath, died out.
Everything felt numb as I turned to confront my father figure. In my panicked race to try on my prize, I had forgotten to lock the door. Pain buzzed throughout my body and a well of shame had replaced my heart but I couldn’t focus on any of it.
Because Zeff had seen me wearing a dress, was still seeing me in one. I should be afraid, and for a moment when I turned and saw my ‘actual father’ in the dark rather than him the fear was real.
But I just couldn’t care anymore, for once I was completely and utterly defenseless. My wet cheeks only adding to the messed up scene the two of us were trapped in.
Without sparing him a word I limped my way over to the doorway he stood in. We locked eyes for a moment before I slammed the door to my room shut, leaving me alone.
Sliding down to a seat against the frame, I rested my head in my hands and cried out the mixed mess of feelings that had haunted me ever since I saw that dress.
The following morning I had thrown it away and returned to life as usual. Zeff never mentioned what he saw that night and I never had the balls to bring it up. After that night, I had kept those fantasies locked away.
Women were staples of beauty, a balancing act of both the natural and the divine. They were the closest living things to perfection so it made sense someone as messed up as I could never be one.
I was a man, I was a gentleman even. That’s all there is to it and that’s all there ever will be.