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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Like Day and Night Divided

DOUGLASS: Hey! Hey, you! Yeah, you! Girl, where you goin’ so fast?

LAURA: I… nowhere?

DOUGLASS: Shit, girl don’t even know how to lie right.

LAURA: I’m going home, all right? I’m going home.

DOUGLASS: Hold on, was that a hesitation? Shit, you really think I’m gonna try something, don’t you?

LAURA: I don’t know–

DOUGLASS: Man, I been sitting here twenty minutes, waiting on this damn bus to get here, and every white girl, and every white boy that’s passed me by, look at this, this is what they do, they come up here, and they see me sitting here in the bus stop and they walk–look at this!–they walk outside, off the sidewalk, out into the street ‘cause of the damn black man sitting in the bus stop. ‘Cause everybody knows, if there’s a black man sitting in a bus stop, you best watch the fuck out.

LAURA: OK, can I say something?

DOUGLASS: Girl, you want something said, say it to the newspaper–they’ll listen to you!

LAURA: What do you want from me? Huh? You want me to smile? Why? Because that’s how we do it here in the South? Trinity’s Field is not that small of a town, I’m sorry, I don’t know you, I don’t have to smile, so I don’t, and you know why?

DOUGLASS: Oh, I know why.

LAURA: Oh, you do?

DOUGLASS: Yeah, I know why.

LAURA: I don’t think you do. Is it because you’re black?

DOUGLASS: Yeah, it’s ‘cause I’m black!

LAURA: It’s not because you’re black.

DOUGLASS: Oh, it’s not?

LAURA: It’s because you’re male.

DOUGLASS: … Nuh-uhn.

LAURA: Oh, it’s not?

DOUGLASS: Nuh-uhn, I know you white girls–

LAURA: Oh, you do?

DOUGLASS: Yes, I do! Yes, I do, Miss America, conquered the damn world!

LAURA: Oh, I conquered the world?

DOUGLASS: If I was white, if I was a white dude, man, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

LAURA: I love how you know me better than I know myself, that’s, really, that’s so rare to find in a person.

DOUGLASS: If I was white, you’d already be on me, girl. Why can’t you just admit it?

LAURA: See, that right there. That right there is why I didn’t make eye contact. That, right there, is why I wanted to make it perfectly clear to you that I did not want to strike up any kind of conversation, but I guess it’s both our lucky days, because guess what? I’m on my period and I am not taking this bullshit from any man today, black, white or motherfucking purple.

DOUGLASS: See, why you gotta bring the period thing into it?

LAURA: Because apparently, that’s the only way to get across to you men that I don’t want to have sex with you! That sex is not something that I’m always thinking about. Be honest here. Are you always thinking about sex? I see you hesitating, because you think it’s a trick question, but it’s really not. Are you thinking about sex when you’re taking a dump?

DOUGLASS: Ew! What? That’s nasty!

LAURA: I bet you’re not thinking about blowjobs when you’re eating a banana, either!

DOUGLASS: Ooh! Damn, you went there!

LAURA: Oh, I’m gonna fucking go there. Shove your dick in my face one more time, I will bite it clean off. Even if I choke on it!

DOUGLASS: Dayum!

LAURA: That’s right.

DOUGLASS: Still a fucking racist, though.

LAURA: Jesus fuck!

DOUGLASS: No, you ain’t gonna tell me that shit’s not some micro-aggression crap. You see me, a big black man, and what is the first thing you assume? You assume I’m gonna shove my motherfucking dick in your face–you said it!

LAURA: You were the one who brought up sex!

DOUGLASS: Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah–

LAURA: You were the one who said that if you were white, I would fuck you. And that is not true. That is fucking misogynist slander.

DOUGLASS: For real?

LAURA: Just because I’m a woman, doesn’t mean that I want to fuck you. It doesn’t even mean that I want to fuck! That’s why I didn’t look at you!

DOUGLASS: Oh, you didn’t look at me, because you thought I might rape you?

LAURA: That, sadly enough, is always a possibility.

DOUGLASS: You got pepper-spray on you? Mace? Rape-whistle?

LAURA: Why the fuck would you ask me that?

DOUGLASS: Hey, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Hey–whoa!

LAURA: Back the fuck off. If a woman avoids you on the street, it is not okay to come after her like this.

DOUGLASS: I’m sorry, ma’am, I apologize.

LAURA: Demanding that someone smile, accosting them when they don’t want to talk to you, that is street harassment, and it. Is. Not. Okay. OK?

DOUGLASS: I just wanted someone to talk to me. Not even that, man, I just wanted someone to acknowledge that I am a person. A person. Not… not some threat, not some walking… bomb. A rabid dog.

LAURA: I’m sorry I pulled my pepper-spray on you.

DOUGLASS: I’m sorry I–

LAURA: Hold on, I’m not sorry for pulling my pepper-spray–you were being fucking creepy!

DOUGLASS: Here we go again.

LAURA: Look, I’m not saying you’re a creep. Chances are, you’re a really nice guy. But the risk, if you’re not? It’s too much. And what the FUCK were you thinking, asking me if I have pepper-spray on me?

DOUGLASS: You obviously thought I was a threat!

LAURA: You are a threat! You’re a man, and I don’t know you! And I’m not going to apologize for committing a microaggression–which, by the way, sounds like about the whitest thing either of us has said in this entire conversation–

DOUGLASS: You were the one who threatened me–

LAURA: You have been threatening me since the minute you called out to me, and the fact that you don’t know that… I’m not sorry. You can go ahead and think whatever horrible, “racist” or whatever label you want to put on me, that’s fine. That’s fine. ‘Cause I’m labeling you, too.

DOUGLASS: I’m sorry. All right? I wasn’t trying to make you uncomfortable.

LAURA: “Uncomfortable” isn’t the same thing as “threatened”. So I guess maybe I should apologize, too. I’m sorry for overreacting.

DOUGLASS: Nah, it’s cool.

LAURA: We cool?

DOUGLASS: Yeah. Yeah, we cool.

LAURA: Can I go now?

DOUGLASS: Oh, you wanna go?

LAURA: Yeah, do I–do I have your permission?

DOUGLASS: Oh, you want my permission, now? Wow! Aw, white girl think she needs my permission! Snap, y’all.

LAURA: Don’t make me mace you.

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Back to You

And then suddenly I’m standing at your door again. How did I get here? I don’t understand. One moment I was out for a walk, clearing my head in another part of the city, and now I’m back here.

Instinct tells me I should ring the bell or knock because those are the things that you do when you’re standing in front of your girlfriend’s door, on the wrong side of it, not sure if she’s even still your girlfriend. Do I want to ring the bell? Do I want to talk to you? I’m not sure why I’m even thinking about it. Hell, I don’t know how I even got here—

But then you open the door. You’re not looking, at first. You’ve got that purse I gave you slung over your shoulder like you’re going out, going out to do something. Like you’re going to a club, but you’re not dressed for the club—where are you going? Where do you happen to be going right now? I think in the split-second it takes you to see me.

And then your whole face changes—everything. For a minute, I think you think this is the part of the movie where I’ve come back and we don’t even have to talk, you’re just gonna put your hand on my lips, “Shhh,” and then kiss me.

But then I guess you remember.

“Hey,” you tell me, desperately trying to make it sound neutral.

“Hey,” I croak, desperately trying the same and failing, flailing, thinking How the hell did I even get here?

You readjust the strap of your purse so it doesn’t slide right off your shoulder. “What are you doing here?” You sound surprised, but not unpleasantly—not delighted, but not horrified.

“I don’t know,” I confess to you, and there’s something about standing here, dripping wet from the rain, saying those words, that makes me feel like the very worst thing about Hollywood movies.

“Do you…” You’re looking at me, looking at my lips, looking from my chest and shoulders to my eyes, then quickly looking away, looking back inside. “Did you want to come in?”

“No.” I don’t even want to be here, don’t know how I got here, but I don’t want to sound crazy.

“Do you want to talk about it?” You’re doing that thing now, shifting your weight, tipping your toes, like you do when you’re nervous. One of those things I always loved about y—

“No,” I say, and turn to leave.

“Wait—“ you say. You say my name. “Please!” Take my hand.

Why did you have to take my hand? “I shouldn’t even be here,” I whisper.

You hear me and say, “Shhh,” taking the opportunity to move in closer, wrapping yourself around my arm. You say my name again, quietly, not to calm me down, but tenderly, like I’m already calm and you’re trying to savor.

But I’m not calm. So I reclaim my arm from you. I force you to look me in the eyes. I look in your right eye, the one that’s on my left, but you’re doing that thing where you’re shifting back and forth, not sure which eye you want to focus on.

You’re frightened. You’re scared of me and your fear is justified.

I ask you, “Why?” and I watch your face break into a thousand million pieces I don’t want to pick up because each broken bit is a memory and I realize too late I don’t want any answers.

But you give them to me anyway. You remind me what a jerk I was, that I never did like to take responsibility, but then just as I turn to go, to leave in disgrace, you stop me again and you tell me all the wonderful things I once knew about myself but forgot after what you did, after what happened between us, stuff only you could know, only you could remind me of, and that’s when I start to think, you know, maybe whatever brought me here tonight knew what it was doing.


The Adventures of Bigtits and Stachio

Donald Radcliffe looks at himself in the mirror and doesn’t like what he sees. It’s his face, you see, the lack of hair on it, particularly the lack of hair on his upper lip, just below his nose.

Since early childhood, Donald Radcliffe has associated male attributes—not just virility but honor—with the quality and grooming of a man’s mustache. He had imagined his adult self at the time with a thick growth of long mustache-hair, easily twirlible into strands. In his wildest imaginings, he could twirl the ends of his mustache into thick ropes that could be used for climbing, for fishing, or even, with the appropriate small clubs attached to the ends, as nunchucks during battles with schoolyard bullies.

But as it stands, Donald Radcliffe will never perform such heroics, as his is a face built to be cleanly shaved that could not grow so much as what is popularly known as a “child-molester” mustache, try though he might. And this is, he is convinced, why he does not have a girlfriend to this day.

Which is why he invented Stachio.

Karen Johnson-Jones does not have a boyfriend, either–a fact she, too, laments as she looks in the mirror. For her, it’s her breasts. When she takes off only her shirt to look at them, she has to strain her eyes to convince herself that she isn’t a boy, and sometimes even then she feels the need to rub her legs together just to be sure.

This is not the person she wanted to be. I’m a woman, she thinks, and I want the pectoral protrusions to prove it!

Why couldn’t she be more like her mother? Now there was a woman! Some of her earliest memories are of the various instruments and implements and affects her mother could produce from her cleavage, from money and keys and make-up pouches to CDs and small furry animals and sandwiches. Once—she was sure of it—Karen Johnson-Jones had seen her mother emerge from her chest of wonders with a bottle of 1979 Horace Landing Pinot Grigio. It was the stuff of legends!

And yet here was her daughter, unable to squeeze the two together well enough to hold a penny aloft. Disgraceful!

Which was why she invented her alter-ego, Bigtits.

These two, Bigtits and Stachio, represent what these two poor unfortunate souls wish they could look like. We haunt their dreams and taunt their memories with visions of what might have been. Are we right? Correct? Who cares? We are alive and we are having fun!

On this of all days, though, Donald Radcliffe and Karen Johnson-Jones both have laundry to do and, conveniently (for this, at least) neither have the facilities and so are forced both to make their separate ways to the local Laundromatic, where they are destined to meet each other for the first time.

Now, Donald Radcliffe and Karen Johnson-Jones would be perfect for each other. Their interests and opinions align, their quirks match up; you know it, I know it, the laundromat knows it, inasmuch as the laundromat knows anything. There’s just one thing standing in their way. Well, two: Bigtits and Stachio.

You see, he sees her and he thinks “Hot damn, that’s a fine-looking woman.” But any time Donald Radcliffe thinks “Hot damn, that’s a fine-looking woman,” he knows that she’s out of his league, because he doesn’t have a mustache. So he does his best not to even look at her. He’s not there to look anyway, right? He’s there to do laundry. Meanwhile, Karen Johnson-Jones looks at this nice-looking boy and her mind starts to work at it, chipping away, until she realizes this nice-looking boy isn’t looking at her. Why isn’t he looking at her? Oh, I know. It’s because he would rather be looking at Bigtits.

Bigtits has wiles, you see, of a feminine variety, a way of bouncing her bosom to draw the eye. And Stachio? Why, he sees a fine-looking woman like that and, hot damn, he will twirl his mustache until she throws her number at him—though, admittedly, several other things would probably have to happen as well before that.

As each of them struggles with their machines, they soon realize they are struggling with us, their deepest fears keeping them from acting, from making a move, yet all the while, they find their eyes keep seeking one another out, much as they try keeping them to themselves until finally he looks up and sees her looking at him and once he’s looking at her, she smiles.

This should be the happy ending. Their time has come now, right?

But there’s still one more step left to make.

They do their folding standing next to each other and lingered long enough looking at each other and lingered long enough looking at each other’s catchy T-shirts to warrant explanations.

“Oh, yeah,” said Karen Johnson-Jones, “I got this at an Aardvark on Toast concert a couple years back. It’s actually a boys’ shirt, but that’s great ’cause, like…” She gestured at her figure.

But he seemed confused.

“No chest,” she helped, “Nothing to see here.”

“Nothing to see?”

“My breasts. They’re kinda… not a thing…”

“Oh. I really hadn’t noticed.”

It seemed an ambiguous statement that could go either way, but something about the way he said it plunged a knife deep down between Bigtits’s breasts, past the breadcrumbs, lost freshman boys and broken dreams, and cracked her ribcage, piercing her very soul.

“Oh,” said Karen Johnson-Jones, “Well, thanks, for… um… not noticing that.”

They continued folding until Karen Johnson-Jones asked “So do you have a girlfriend?”

It took Donald Radcliffe by surprise, giving him hope and provoking Stachio to use one side to lasso his attentions to his own insecurities (all the while twirling the other). “No,” he sighed.

To which, Karen Johnson-Jones: “Oh… why not?”

And even just the fact that she asked it and smiled when he turned his clean-shaved face to her, pulled both strands of Stachio’s facial armament all the way around his head and strangled Donald Radcliffe’s insecurities with his own mustache, allowing him to reply: “I don’t know. Guess I just haven’t found the right flat-chested girl.”

This made her smile and they both lived happily ever after, leaving Bigtits and Stachio’s mangled corpses on the floor of the laundromat.

 


Narcissus and the Gaze

He looks at himself in the mirror and he liked what he sees.

Is it his actual looks that grant this confidence, or merely the Power of his Gaze whispering to his eyes that the world is his for the taking?

That if he fails to take it, it is not his fault—it just wasn’t ever even worth the effort.

He walks down the street and what does he see? Objects, his to be used or ignored or discarded. Occasionally an obstacle to be vanquished. The Gaze tells him which is which and if it happens to be wrong, it wasn’t wrong—the object was deliberately disguising its intentions to try to fool him, but he got the better of it in the end!

These are the words that the Gaze puts into his head. But he is not the only one who hears its whispers.

A girl minding her own business sitting on a bench or tending to a shop’s window feels the Gaze on her, and knows not what to do. She knows a man’s Gaze can be an indicator of a great many things and that she might be in danger—but does she dare turn around and meet it? It could just be a simple gaze grazing her but finding her unimportant, inaccessible. Yet if she turns around and introduces his Gaze to her own, it might decide to see her inquisitive challenge as an invitation to violence and worse.

She has known the Gaze all her life—not his, specifically, but it speaks to all men, whether or not they choose to heed it or to act on it. It speaks to women, too, teaching them dependence by rewarding them for using it correctly and abusing them for ignoring its call.

But she doesn’t want a man’s Gaze to define her, to be an object in someone else’s sentence. Which is why she turns her own Gaze to other things, to work and play and family, and away from his play on power—yet always keeps her ears open for the tell-tale whisper of a man’s lesser Gaze.


Odysseus and Aeneas

Troy is burning. Odysseus happens upon Aeneas, who is supporting his elderly father with one arm and cradling his infant son with the other. 

ODYSSEUS
My, my, if it isn’t the great Aeneas. And your father, Anchises, I presume? And who is this little chap? Oh, do not be frightened of me, good fellow. I have done my part in this war, you have nothing to fear. You know, I’ve always admired you. Your quick wit, combined with a wonderful physique–it hardly seems fair, really. Trojans I spoke to–and I have spoken to a great many here–have told me that you are like myself and Achilles combined. Yet here we are. Achilles struck through the heel by a coward’s bow and you, the smartest and strongest, fleeing, defeated. I can think of no more fitting end to this war, son of love, nor one that would make me more hopeful for the future of the human intellect. Therefore, fear me not, for I will let you go your way with your family, and return to mine own. My family, which did not transgress and, hence, is still very much intact.

Odysseus leaves.

AENEAS
Bitch.

Aeneas leaves with his father and son. 

 

Scene II

Odysseus lies drenched on the shore, panting and sunburned. Aeneas approaches, followed by many men. 

ODYSSEUS
My, my. If it isn’t the son of Aphrodite herself. How’s your father? Did he die a warrior’s death? Or a lover’s?

AENEAS
He died content.

ODYSSEUS
More fortunate he. And this must be–

AENEAS
Don’t tell him your name, son. He can use it against you.

ODYSSEUS
O wicked Hermes with your iron tongue, stainless as steel. You’re a much more sensible man than I am, friend, I’ll grant you that. Would I had kept mine own name such a secret. And now, Aeneas? It’s your turn at dice. How do you roll? What is to be the fate of the wily Odysseus?

AENEAS
I have no desire to kill you. Oh, my men do, make no mistake about that. You killed their wives, smothered their babies, burned their topless towers to the ground and salted the Earth beneath. But I do remember you left me alive.

ODYSSEUS
Yes. I would of course apologize for all that, but uh…

AENEAS
But what?

ODYSSEUS
I just wanted to get back to my family. I never wanted to go to Troy, never wanted to commit such genocide against your people, but… I just wanted… I just wanted to get home to my family.

AENEAS
By destroying ours? Odysseus, my dear, dear mortal enemy. You left your family. You may claim you did not choose, but you swore an oath to defend the honor of the most beautiful woman in the world, a woman you yourself never thought was that honorable. You could have broken that oath. You could have had the sense not to make it in the first place. But you left your home to destroy ours. I hope you reach your homeland, Odysseus, I truly do. But I can promise you this: when you do, it will never be the same. It will never be the way you left it. You will never really find home. And I have to say, I am comfortable with that. Come, Ascanius. We will do this man no harm. We haven’t any need to.

They leave Odysseus alone on the beach. He weeps. 


Satisfiction

If I were ever to open up a bookstore, I’d want to call it Satisfiction. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that feeling you get when you curl up with a good book at the end of the day, or when you get to the end of that good book and the ending was even better than you could have imagined.

But that’s all it is.

This feeling is rooted in something that isn’t actually there. How can you invest so much emotion, so much of yourself, in a world you will never be a part of?

How can you not?

We feel for the people who will never really know us, to practice feeling for each other.

But this still isn’t real. That’s why we have to remember, to remind ourselves, that there is an actual world outside, and that it isn’t something we can experience by just reading. We can prepare for it, but nothing can really prepare us for it.

You can’t really achieve true Satisfaction from a story. But maybe, just maybe, a story can help you practice for the real thing.


Gioconda the Hippo

Happy Wiggins was too fat to be a ballerina—at least that’s what all the other girls in her class told her. She didn’t want to believe them, but she left crying the first day and her mom wouldn’t let her go back there. But years later, the part she remembered most about that was the teacher telling her “It doesn’t matter how big you are, as long as you can make the moves.” She was what Happy’s mom liked to call a Skinny White Bitch, but she knew what she was talking about.

Happy’s favorite movie was Fantasia and her favorite part of Fantasia was the part with the dancing Hippos, set to the “Dance of the Hours” from La Gioconda, as she would later come to understand. She watched that scene over and over and over again, meticulously, until she had every move memorized.

“Hippos can’t dance,” her parents would tell her—anyone would tell her, if she talked about it. “Can’t nobody dance like that, girl, it’s a cartoon!”

But she could, and when she was fifteen, she got to prove it to the world. Some Skinny White Bitches from her school followed her home one day thinking they’d play a trick on her. They took a video through the window of her practising in front of the TV. They thought it was funny, right? Fat black Happy pretending she can dance?

Well, the Internet thought differently because it turns out some folks actually know what good dancing looks like. Practically overnight, Happy turned into an Internet sensation. She became iconic, a beacon of hope for girls who looked like her in any way, shape or color. She had managed “in spite” (as the media put it) of her size, to capture all the grace in poise and motion of the greatest ballet dancers of the age.

Vivian Murgatroyd, who had already spent several years distancing herself from her ex-husband in the business, soon snatched up the opportunity to be Happy’s agent-cum-manager.

“We should talk about your name, thought,” she said. “Happy Wiggins sounds like a cartoon character, a Saturday morning sideshow sidekick. We need something bolder.”

Happy wanted to be known as the Hippo.

“First of all,” said Vivian, “you’re not a superhero, but more importantly, Hippos are ridiculous and we want people to take you seriously.”

“Hippos are not ridiculous,” Happy countered. “They’re the most dangerous animals on Earth, and they’re not even predators. I think they’re an awesome symbol.”

But Vivian would not be moved.

“Fine,” said Happy, “then how about Gioconda?”

This gave Vivian pause. “I like it,” she said. “It’s classical, so it’ll play with the fans, but it also sounds black. And if we’re lucky, it’ll even bring in the Latin crowd—done!”

Little did Vivian know or care that Happy was still naming herself after a Hippo.

Happy Wiggins’s rise to fame as Gioconda was as meteoric as it was bends-inducing. Within three years, she had not only gained success and acclaim at the ballet, she had started to bring ballet back into the mainstream. She had fans all over the world, and yet she still felt like her weight was a liability.

She tried everything. She went on diets, hired personal trainers and nutritionists. Doctors all told her there was nothing physically wrong with her, she was just fat. Fat, but also fit. The real problem, though, came when people asked about her weight, specifically.

“I don’t like scales,” she revealed. “I break them.” And while this wasn’t technically accurate, it was her experience. When she’d tried to weigh herself in the past, something always went wrong. She’d take a deep breath, think about her target weight, step on the scale and she would be exactly as heavy as she wanted to be. That would make her smile the first couple of times, being right on track, but after thinking she’d lost a hundred pounds, she’d look in the mirror and say That can’t be right… Because she would always look exactly the same.

This finally came out in an interview with Antoine Lamarr Curtis of Zealot Magazine. “So you would always be exactly the weight you wanted to be?”

“That’s what the scale said.”

“So if you wanted to be 5000 lbs?”

“I have actually physically broken scales before.”

“What if you wanted to be ridiculously light? Say, eighty pounds?”

Gioconda gesticulated to emphasize the ridiculousness.

“But have you ever tried it?”

She hadn’t (yet) but she had “tried” other things. Part of being a ballerina is working with other talent and her most popular co-star, who she usually got along with, was Kurt Antonio. Kurt wasn’t just the skinny ballet dancer you would expect, he was tiny, a good four inches shorter than Happy’s 5’8”. But they did scenes together, and one of their favorite tricks was that impossible over-head lift, the attitude press. You might recognize it from the movie Dirty Dancing. This “press” is impressive enough when you see it with a six-foot guy and a girl who weighs 95 lbs soaking wet like Agnieshka Kosinski, but to see a Hippo like Gioconda held aloft by this ostrich of a man?

They confessed it made both of them nervous when they first tried it out, but world-famous instructor and director Sinovia Bakunin insisted that it was only a matter of leverage and weight distribution.

“And he was right,” said Kurt, “When I do that lift with her, it’s like I’ve got this way of just channeling all of the weight almost like it’s with chi or something, you know? And it’s like I barely even feel her when she’s up there. She actually feels lighter than Agnieshka.”

“And you think that’s because Kurt is doing something with his body?” Curtis prodded at the interview.

“Well, yeah. I mean, not that there’s not technique in it for me, but for me it’s just balance. I do fine with my own weight, but what he does?”

“But you’re the one with a history of confusing scales.”

This was not a connection that Happy had ever made before. To be perfectly honest, it was not one she had ever wanted to make. There was too much that went into it and the consequences were…

“She must have superpowers!” fans insisted when the interview came out. “She must have the ability to change her own weight, to alter the effects of gravity on her physical presence.”

“But it comes with a price,” someone else added, taking a supernatural turn, “because even though she can alter her weight, no matter what she does, she can never do anything about her size.”

“This is bullshit,” she said out loud to the Internet comments. But then she started to think about it and after thinking, she started to experiment. She got on the scale and without getting off, tried to move the numbers. She brought them up as high as they would go, and then brought them back down again, down, down, down. When she’d reached fifty pounds on the scale, she started feeling something odd. It wasn’t a dizziness, it wasn’t something inside herself, it was the way the air around her moved.

“Oh, shit,” she exclaimed when she figured out what it might mean, before she thought about what her momma might have to say about that language.

She tried the experiment in her hotel room, and that turned out to be a mistake. Going down was fine. She brought herself down to a total weight of what she thought felt like less than five pounds, at which point she became lighter than the air around her. She lifted up off the ground and maneuvered around the room by touching the ceiling. She eventually realized that she could kindasorta swim in the air, although it wasn’t anywhere near as efficient as swimming in water, but if she propelled herself off the walls, she could bounce.

Eventually, she would discover that the most efficient way of getting around was to make herself lighter as she propelled herself forward and then heavier coming down, so that she could bounce and ultimately leap great distances, but she wasn’t quite there yet.

It was a lot of fun there in that hotel room, but when she brought her weight back up, she overestimated by a huge margin and ended up breaking the floor of the room.

It hurt, too, but not near as much as she’d’ve thought it would.

It made her think of every fat joke she’d ever heard, which gave her an idea.

The next day, she bought a train ticket. There was a fan who talked to her before she got on, but it didn’t matter. She got on at the caboose and found the place she figured would be most structurally stable and she Increased. When it came time for the train to leave, it groaned mercilessly for several seconds.

“Folks, we seem to be experiencing some technical difficulties here.”

Once she got off the train, her footsteps echoing through the station, those “difficulties” stopped.

It made her wonder what else she could get from listening to fat jokes.

She figured this could be another way, like what she’d done before, to make a difference for girls who looked like her.

But once she started opening up about this ability, things started to get messy.

“I believed in you,” one girl wrote on her fan site. “And believing in you, believing that a girl who looked like you could still be a ballerina, made me believe that I could do it, too. But you’re not like me. You’re a superhero, and how am I supposed to be like that? I don’t have special powers!

“You’re a freak!”

Overnight (once again) she plummeted from being a star on the rise to being a fraud. “You tricked me!” was the general outcry, and all the support from the black community having a new iconic symbol couldn’t drown it out.

“A superhero?” Vivian Murgatroyd exclaimed when Happy finally approached her about it. “I mean, sure, they’re hugely popular, but you’re talking about a major rebranding here and I’m afraid your image is already pretty tarnished. Now, if you’d come to me before going public, maybe I could’ve helped you spin this, but now…

“Besides,” she added, “it isn’t who you are. Look at yourself! You’re a ballerina! What do you know about superheroing?”

That’s when Gioconda, the Hippo, drew herself up. “What do I know? I know that when I was four years old, some skinny white bitches looked just like you told me I couldn’t be a ballerina. That’s what I know.”