Fiction: I’ve Hated This Body
Skye sits in Kyle’s 1988 Civic in the parking lot outside Dallas Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. Skye watches Kyle turn off the ignition, raise his pelvis and wedge the key into his jeans pocket, looking away when his eyes meet hers. We could be in my bedroom consuming each others’ virginity instead of doing this. If only …
“Spring break!” Kyle says in a high-pitched voice. “Hilarious that our folks think we’re down in South Padre.”
Say it, Skye thinks. “I don’t know about this.”
“What are you talking about? This is going to be life changing.”
I like our lives. Skye reaches over to put her hand on his. The touch of Kyle’s skin gives her a shiver.
Kyle looks down at her hand, meets her gaze, then looks back at her hand on his. It’s the first time they’ve touched in such a familiar way, though they’ve been friends since they met in eighth grade four years ago. Skye squeezes Kyle’s hand then pulls away and looks out the passenger window at a cluster of crows in a big old pecan tree.
You really have no idea, do you? Skye thinks. I’d do just about anything for you and I love you just the way you are.
Shoulders forward and his backpack straps against his chest, Kyle walked through the hallway crowded with his new junior high school classmates. My pits are already sweaty, he thought and adjusted his t-shirt under his button down shirt with two thick chest pockets, one of a dozen shirts he owned just like it.
As he reached his locker he unstrapped his backpack, hunched further forward, and pulled his shirt away from his chest.
Locker open, he dropped his sack lunch in the otherwise empty space that would soon serve to stash textbooks he’d receive in each of his classes today. He stuck a magnetic mirror on the back wall of the locker and checked his look. So forgettable, I wish I was, he sings in his head to the tune of Nat King Cole’s classic. He took a deep breath, slammed the locker shut, and headed off to find his first period English class.
At lunchtime Kyle walked to the cafeteria having made zero connections. He looked amidst the hubbub of raucous kids for an empty table then spotted an overweight black kid sitting alone. I saw that kid in PE. His locker is near mine. Could be a chance to make a friend, he thought and walked across the sticky tile floor through the smell of greasy food coming from the café.
The kid read The Return of the King, wore gold frame glasses, and donned a Star Wars shirt. My kind of person, Kyle thought.
“Mind if I sit with you?” Kyle held both straps of his backpack against his chest.
The kid looked Kyle over and cocked his head. “What’s your name?”
“Kyle Contreras. Just moved down from North Dallas.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Jamal.” He pointed at the orange plastic chair across from him. Just then, a girl with braided hair pulled into a thick ponytail arrived, dropped her backpack on the white tabletop, then plopped down, bumping shoulders with Jamal.
“Hey bro. Who’s the Latino?” She smiled.
She’s very pretty, Kyle thought. And she’s looking at me. He hunched his shoulders.
“Kyle, this is my twin sister, Skye. Kyle just moved here from North Dallas.”
“Welcome to the ghetto,” Skye looked at Jamal, then they both laughed, dimples appearing on Skye’s cheeks.
Oh wow. That laugh is like music, Kyle thinks as he watched her face brighten.
“What do you think of Oak Cliff?” Skye asked.
“Better than the hillbilly trailer park we left in Richardson.”
“What are you into?” Jamal asked.
“Music and movies,” Kyle said.
“What kind of movies?” Skye asked.
Kyle shrugged, lifted his button-down shirt off his chest, leaned forward, then let it fall while Skye eyed him. “Old horror movies are my favorite. Bela Lugosi. Stuff like that. But I like artsy stuff, and Spike Lee movies too.”
Skye’s eyebrows popped. “OMG! I love Spike Lee so much. What’s your fav?”
“Do the Right Thing. But I loved Bamboozled too. And BlacKkKlansman was dope.”
“Holy shit.” Skye elbowed Jamal. “Finally someone else who gets Bamboozled. Dude has good taste.”
“Whatever,” Jamal said. “That movie’s not super deep. A black dude makes shitty representations of black people and then one of the black actors gets killed over it. And that’s, like, an analogy for the media. I guess that’s news for some folks.”
“Who else has done a movie about all that? And actually had it played across the country?” Skye asked.
“She’s on point, more sharp than a razor blade,” Kyle raps to the melody of the old Kriss Kross song Jump. “Might want to shut it, Jamal, before you get played.”
Skye laughed and Kyle’s heart skipped a beat. She’s radiant.
With his face beaming, Kyle hands the check to Skye. She’s slow to take it and then reads the amount. $2,500. Skye taps the check with her middle finger, then rests her elbow on the passenger door windowsill.
“Not as expensive as I thought it would be,” she says, glancing at the plastic surgery center.
“Let’s do this,” Kyle says and opens the driver’s side door. “Oh, and don’t forget, I’m your step-brother.”
Kyle and Jamal stood shoulder to shoulder at the edge of the gym and waited as the two classmates Coach Nichols chose to captain basketball teams drafted players. The captains finished and Kyle swallowed the lump in his throat, holding his breath.
“All right,” Coach Nichols said and looked at Kyle, who crossed his arms over his white t-shirt. Coach Nichols pointed at Kyle and Jamal’s team. “Shirts,” he said and then pointed to the other team. “Skins. First team to twenty wins. Then we’ll change up teams.”
Kyle closed his eyes and held his breath. Thank you, Coach Nichols. He opened his eyes and squeezed his arms against his chest. What I wouldn’t give to be rid of these fucking breasts.
“You okay?” Jamal asked.
Kyle exhaled and nodded.
Disinfectant pervades the patient room where Skye and Kyle sit looking over an anesthesia release form.
“Geez.” Skye scrolls through her phone. “There’s a risk of death.”
“A super low, almost-never-happens risk.” Kyle leans back in the plush chair. “The boy whose a coward, the boy who doesn’t risk,” he raps, “that boy gets devoured, tsk tsk tsk.”
Skye rolls her eyes. “Be serious. It’s still a risk. A totally avoidable risk.”
“But if something makes your life infinitely better, isn’t a small risk worth it?”
Better … because people are judgmental assholes … Skye thinks. God I can’t believe we’re here doing this.
Kyle sat on the wooden bench that ran amidst the rows of PE lockers. Jamal and other of his classmates changed as Kyle readied his undershirt on his lap. He took a deep breath then yanked his sweaty t-shirt off, dropped it onto the ground, and pulled the fresh undershirt over his head.
“Nice titties, fat ass!”
Classmates laughed as Kyle snatched his button down-shirt off the bench, slid a sleeve over each arm and then looked around for Blake Gomez, the sack of shit Kyle knew made the remark.
He spotted Blake standing in front of his locker with his backpack slung over his right shoulder, smirking.
“Just ignore him,” Jamal said.
Kyle clenched his fists, shaking.
Dr. Reyes looks at a clipboard as he enters the exam room, takes off his glasses, sliding them into his white lab coat. “Good afternoon, Mr. Contreras.”
Kyle smiles. “Hey doc. Good to see you again.”
“Happy birthday, by the way.” Dr. Reyes frowns at Skye’s expression then looks back at Kyle. “Got my standard spiel to run through with you, but any questions first?”
Kyle shakes his head.
“The release form says that there’s a chance of death,” Skye says. “How likely is that?”
“Rarer than dying from a lightning strike.”
Skye pulls at her index finger. “This is a totally unnecessary surgery and I’m worried about him putting himself at risk for no good reason.”
“It’s my body. Changing it is going to improve my life in ways that a pretty girl with an amazing body like you can’t understand,” Kyle says. “How many times have we been through this?”
“Are you serious right now?” Skye stands up. “You’re not talking to some skinny blond bitch? Hello?! Black girl here! I don’t know what it’s like to feel like I’ll never measure up? Get the f out.”
“It’s totally normal and healthy for us to worry about loved ones.” Dr. Reyes motions with his hands for Skye to sit down. “Do you have any questions, Kyle?”
Skye sits down, crosses her legs and arms, and glares at Kyle as he shakes his head.
“This will be a quick procedure. Half an hour, tops. We’ll lipo the fat and breast tissue and then a couple stitches and drain bags you’ll wear for two days,” Dr. Reyes says. “You’ll need to empty those every few hours with clean hands, and keep the wounds covered with antibiotic cream.” He hands Kyle care instructions.
“Will the bag just screw open?” Kyle asks.
“Yeah. I’ll show you before you leave. You’ll be taking Kyle home?”
“Good. No driving for the next few days, Kyle. Just chill in bed. I’ll be giving you a spandex band to wear around your chest for the next few months. That will help the skin reabsorb and tighten.”
“When can I start running again?”
“Depending on your recovery, about four weeks. You’ll want to be sure to wear your support band when you run. You can get a couple extras at a sporting good store. Same kind of band weight-lifters wear for back support.”
“Cool,” Kyle says.
“You’ve lost a lot of weight in the past six months.”
“A hundred pounds,” Skye says.
Dr. Reyes checks his notes. “Your primary care doctor thinks the breast enlargement came from a hormone used to treat a skin disorder that cleared up, so I’m not surprised you didn’t see any reduction as you lost weight. The lipo will zap it all.”
“Still doing pushups?”
“One hundred per day.”
“Great. Keep at it after you recover. That’ll help build muscle from within and fill in the skin and replace the breast tissue and fat with muscle.” Dr. Reyes holds his right hand over his chest, pulls away and makes a semi-circle in the air. “You don’t need to become a bodybuilder, but any muscle you add to your chest will help you to have the body you envision.”
Kyles nods, still smiling.
Dr. Reyes smiles back at him. “You ready?”
“Are you kidding? I’ve been waiting for this moment for years. Oh I’m gonna be happy!” he sings to the tune of the Pharrell Williams song Happy. “Yeah I’m gonna be happy!”
Dr. Reyes laughs.
Kyle and Jamal jogged around the perimeter of the football field, sweat dripping from their temples.
“Kyle!” Blake Gomez chanted like a drill sergeant as he jogged by.
“Titties!” four of Blake’s friend called.
“Fuck you!” Jamal yelled.
Blake held up his hand and stopped running and the five boys turned around.
“Come on,” Kyle groaned.
Blake jogged in a circle around Kyle and Jamal, his friends following, and they resumed chanting, “Kyle! Titties!”
Thanks for running your mouth, Jamal. You just made it a hundred times worse.
“You assholes,” Jamal said.
Kyle pushed Jamal to the ground, where he laid, stunned, and Blake and his friends hurried away.
“What the hell, bro?” Jamal called as Kyle walked across the football field toward Coach Nichols, who stood between the field and the entrance to the locker rooms, reading a Sports Illustrated.
Still running, Blake and his friends watched Kyle.
Coach Nichols startled, looked at Kyle, then glanced at his watch. “You okay?”
“Blake and his friends have been harassing me for weeks. Calling me ‘Kyle Titties’ in the locker room. They just did it again right now.”
Coach Nichols puckered his lips and nodded.
“By the way, thanks for never making my basketball team skins before you got the jerseys for us to wear.”
Coach Nichols sighed. “You want me to talk to them?”
Kyle shrugged. “If Blake doesn’t stop, I’m going to beat the shit out of him.”
Coach Nichols studied Kyle who looked back at him then walked to the locker room to change alone.
Kyle sits on a dark green examination bed, adjusts the paper-thin gown, bouncing his legs.
“Quit looking so blue,” Kyle tells Skye. “I dreamed about this day every shift I worked at Domino’s.”
What if something goes wrong? Skye starts to cry.
Kyle hops off the table, sits on the chair next to her, and puts his arm around her back.
Skye’s shoulders shake as she rests her head against Kyle’s collarbone. He leans his head toward her.
“Your shampoo smells nice. Like Jasmine.”
“It is.” Skye shakes her head.
“It just hurts so damn much to love someone and for that person not to love himself,” she says and sobs. “What if something happens to you?”
“Thanks for caring so much, bestie,” he says and pulls Skye toward him. “I can fly faster than an x-wing, if you’re the hyper-drive beneath my wings,” he sings to the melody of the Bette Midler tune.
Skye stands up, scowling. “Goddamn you’re dense, Kyle Contreras. Listen. I love you, and I am in love with you. Not just as a friend.”
Kyle looks at Skye with his mouth open and she looks down at him with her arms crossed.
A knock comes at the door and a nurse peaks his head in. “Everyone dressed?”
“Yeah,” Kyle says, still eyeing Skye.
The nurse enters with a wheelchair and pulls a stethoscope from his magenta scrubs. “Gotta take your blood pressure, Kyle.”
The three are silent as the nurse listens. “All systems go.”
“To be continued,” Kyle says to Skye as the nurse wheels him out.
With clothes in hand, Kyle walked around the rows of lockers where his classmates changed. He passed the showers to the bathroom and headed into the last stall. As he pulled off his sweaty white t-shirt, he heard Blake call, “Kyle! Titties! Come on everyone! Kyle! Titties!”
Then he heard the voices of his entire P.E. class chanting along with Blake as they entered the bathroom and began banging on the stalls.
Classmates climbed onto the toilet in the next stall and others jumped up, hung from the blue plastic walls, and peered into the stall where Kyle changed.
Adrenaline ballooned in Kyle’s chest, flooding to the rest of his body. His hands shook as he struggled with the buttons of his shirt.
“Kyle! Titties!” his classmates chanted, many with big smiles on their faces.
“Hey!” came Coach Nichols’s voice. “Get back to your lockers!”
Kyle opened the door to the stall and spotted Jamal standing amidst the rest of his classmates. At the sight of his friend among them, Kyle burst into tears as he dropped his dirty clothes and backpack, charged at Blake, and pushed him with adrenaline-spiked strength into the edge of the nearest wall of lockers.
Blake clanged then fell limp to the hard tile floor, rolling onto his back, fear in his eyes. Everyone went silent and Coach Nichols kneeled down next to him. “You okay?”
“I’ll be okay.” Blake’s lips tremble as he glanced at Kyle and then looked down.
Leaving his backpack and pile of gym clothes on the floor, Kyle walked out of the locker room and out of the school.
Kyle wakes from a void and as the clouds of disorientation waft away, he registers heat in his right hand.
“Hey.” Skye stands from the chair she’s placed next to the recovery bed and starts to cry again.
Kyle smiles. “Hey.”
Skye shakes her head and wipes her eyes. Is this going to change who you are? “You have the most beautiful smile.”
Kyle smiles bigger now, flashing his teeth. “Thanks for being here.”
Skye holds his hand and they sit for a while in silence.
Are you going to become one of those full-of-himself assholes now that you’re not just handsome, but also confident? “Do you feel good about this?”
“I’m so fucking happy,” Kyle says, looking down at the sheet over his chest. I know it’s not the same, not exactly, but I think I felt like a trans person probably feels. You know? Like, your body doesn’t match the person you feel like you are inside, and it’s just really shitty. I’ve hated this body. Now I don’t have to feel that way anymore.”
You’re going to move on and forget about me, aren’t you? Skye frowns, shakes her head, and looks down at Kyle’s hand in hers. You’re not being fair, Skye thinks and then forces a smile. “I’m happy that you’re happy.”
Rigo lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his family. An emerging writer, his work has appeared in Syncopation Literary Journal and THEMA.