“Love, no one else can name you,” J says, a flick of her wrist shooing away my foolish pleas. “Only you can pick your name.”
I frown at my shoes. I don’t want name myself. It’s easier to have someone else to do it for me.
Out on the dance floor, a hundred or so drunk queers bounce to a vague techno beat. The scene is a blur of plaid and sweaty beards- some real, some glued. I look down at my own clothes- a red plaid button-up and a wool grey tie. What would I name myself? I don’t know.
J puts her face up to my ear. “You’re a beautiful person,” she belts. The words, shouted close-range over heavy dance beats, sting my ear-drums.
I nod dazedly, forgetting to thank her for the reassurance. I’m perched on a bar stool, trying to look cooler than I am despite the punching pain in my stomach. It’s that time of the month, a confession my body makes every 28 days about its horrifying capabilities. I fantasize about tearing out my uterus and throwing it onto the bar floor. It looks comically like that scene in Indiana Jones when the evil guy rips out someone’s heart in a bloody mess, only my fantasy ends with me getting up off the bar stool to shake it to Lady GaGa.
“You look miserable.” S is standing over me, her hands on hips in usual all-knowing femme fashion. “What’s wrong?”
I frown. “Do you have painkillers?”
She checks her bag to confirm that she doesn’t.
“I have my man period!” I yell. “I need to find a drug store.”
She nods. She knows of a place around the corner. She can show me the way. I follow her out of the bar, past the clumps of smoking twenty-somethings and into an empty blinking crosswalk. It’s so cold I want to yelp, like jumping from a hot shower onto bare concrete floor. She marches authoritatively through the drunken praises and insults of straight boys from other bars and right into the convenient store.
The yellow store light and aisles of color in kick at my drunken eyes. I realize now that I should have maybe braved this trip alone. After all, boys don’t buy tampons. I weave around the aisles while she stands guard patiently at the counter. She stares out the window as I throw a box of Tampax Supers and two Tylenol sleeves onto the counter. I keep waiting for her to say something. I’m waiting for her to acknowledge that it’s awkward or that I’m awkward or that it’s not fun to be called boy names all night only to end up buying tampons in the convenient store next to the dude bar. But she doesn’t say anything. In fact, she might be some place else entirely.
I think about her ex, a thick-skinned seemingly sensitive type who probably changed his name when they were together. She’s been surrounded by trans boys for years now, and she probably knows our issues better than I do. If anyone can deal with my tampon purchase, it’s her.
I pay the man, and we talk back to the bar in silence. I puff my shoulders past the groups of clicking dudes, trying to pass as a guy to shield her from their catcalls. The crosswalk lights still winks a hollow orange onto salt-crusted pavement. I don’t want to go back to the bar, but it’s too early to turn in.
I thank her for coming with me. She shrugs. Maybe she doesn’t get it, or maybe she gets it all too well. I decide it doesn’t matter either way. She hugs me at the door, and spins on her heals towards home.
Inside the bar, the smell of beer and sweat is heavy enough to taste. It sucks me in immediately. A crowd waits with a fresh arsenal of names for me: Earnest… Skip… Kyle… Kid… Dylan… Max. I shrug awkwardly. None of them fit. In my coat pocket, I feel the box of tampons concealed. I think of S strutting back home in arid winter, ignoring the chants of heterosexual testosterone. I think of her defiance, quieter than her femme bravado. I think of the angle her eyebrows take against stalking masculinity. Yeah, I decide. I’ll have to name myself.