Conceived – America: The Pink Shirt (Vigil 1)

by Talia Stotts 

I can feel the shame rising in my cheeks as I sit silently on the sofa. I cannot bear to lift my eyes to see the disappointment in my parents’ faces. But even as I focus on the cream-colored carpet underneath my feet, I can feel that they aren’t even looking at me. I fold my hands in my lap, rubbing one thumb with the other, waiting for someone to say something. Upstairs, I hear my little sisters giggle as they brush their teeth and get ready for bed.

It is Friday night and I should be out with friends like a normal teenager, but instead, I am here at home with Mom and Dad, giving them some very bad news.

“Mom?” My voice is too small, as usual, and the word triggers something inside me and I’m not sure if I can keep from crying, which is the worst thing that could happen right now. The last time I cried in front of Dad was three years ago and he had made it clear it wasn’t going to happen again.

We had been busy school shopping all day, and I was excited for my first day at middle school. I was nearly 13, old enough to do my own shopping, as long as I stuck to the budget. Mom took the girls off into the depths of the mall, leaving me to pick a few outfits for myself. I was pleased with my choices and was sure I was going to make a splash at my new school. When we got back home, dad was already home from work and throwing a ball for Molly outside.

“Daddy, daddy! Come look what we got!” Sarah shouted, sliding open the glass door. “Me and Katy both got pink skirts and Alex got a pink shirt!” We all ran outside, digging into our shopping bags to pull out our prized pink possessions.

The girls held their new skirts at the waist and twirled like bubble-gum hued ballerinas. I held my shirt to my shoulders, grinning. I had spent nearly half an hour in the fitting room, trying the printed button-down on in every shade it came in. In the end, I had narrowed it down to the salmon or the dark teal. Both worked well with my summer-bronzed skin and chestnut hair. I am what the online blogs call a “warm autumn, ” so I knew that the light salmon color would be the best option.

The girls continued to spin, now lost in their own dizzying game of tag. And dad continued to look at me. He didn’t look happy, but I didn’t know why.

“What do you think, Dad?” I pulled the fabric straight, so he could get a closer look at the tiny owls embroidered all over the shirt. “Nice, right? The owls reminded me of the one we saw in the tree outside last year, remember?” I smiled, waiting anxiously for a compliment on my good fashion sense, and maybe even a bit of bonding over a shared wildlife experience.

“Well, Alex…it’s a little…pink, don’t you think?”

I didn’t expect Dad to know what a “warm autumn” is. “It’s not pink, Dad. It’s salmon. It’s not like the girls’ skirts. It’s got a warm undertone.” He frowned. I wasn’t getting anywhere. “It’s just fashion, dad.” I shrugged. Mom got it. Maybe she could explain it to Dad.

“Oh, so you’re into fashion now?” He seemed angry.

I hesitated, not knowing what to say. I didn’t know why he would get so angry over a shirt. They were just owls, and it wasn’t even really pink. It was a color that looked good on me. And I liked it.

“I –”

“You’re gonna have to return this. Here, lemme see the rest of your stuff.”

After the surprise inspection of my new school wardrobe there on the patio, two more items were added to the return pile: a plaid bowtie and a gray cardigan. Cardigans, he said, were for old ladies at church, not for young men in public.

“These all are going back. And you’re going to get something more suitable for a young man your age.”

“But, Dad, I don’t understand –”

“You don’t have to. I’m telling you. You’re going to take this stuff back to the store. Your mom will take you tomorrow.”

Tears were starting to well up. They were threatening to overflow as my lips trembled. I didn’t understand what was so wrong. It was just fashion. And it was all okay with the school dress code. I didn’t know why he was so angry.

“Don’t start crying now, kid. You’re too old for that. You’re a man, so you need to start acting like it. Christ, it’s like I’m raising three girls instead of two.”

The disdain in his voice was palpable and it struck me like a knife. He looked at me in disgust as the tears slipped unbidden down my cheeks. I tried to stifle them, to swallow the sobs erupting from my throat, but it didn’t work, and an animal-like whimper escaped my mouth.

“Now listen here,” he continued, “I won’t have any boy of mine crying like that. You’re not going to be wearing pink and you’re not going to be whining and crying. Now get upstairs and clean up, for God’s sake. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

My skinny legs carried me upstairs to my room and I threw myself on the bed, wondering what I had done that was so bad.

(…to be continued…)

2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation 

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: I Can’t Breathe – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Tyler, Texas – Crystals – Michael Dziedzic (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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