By Georgie Morvis-
CW: This story contains a homophobic slur.
The fog rolled in quickly that night, thrown over the highway like a blanket on your mother, asleep on the couch again. The television plays one of those shows where rich women yell at each other. On mute they could be having a lovers’ quarrel. You tiptoe past her and the seven dollar bottle of chardonnay. You leave the door unlocked so that the jostling won’t wake her when you return.
The ground is wet but firm, and you sink in a little with each step. Your toes are tight against your sneakers, like bloodroot and hyacinth aching to burst through the prairie. The truck is parked at the end of the driveway, headlight beams coming into focus with each step. Still sinking.
Your mother always warned you never to get into a car with a stranger, especially not an older one, but after that first night M always felt like your closest friend. On Instagram they noticed your comment on a beauty influencer’s giveaway post and sent you a message. Now you see them every day at school, riding in their truck for off-campus lunch instead of eating alone in the library. After the third lunch you realized that you never exchanged names, only knew each other’s handles and display names. Yours: V (@troubledmidnights); theirs: M de Leon (@loonababe03).
The fog has turned the road into fields of violet, each streetlight a winking will-o’-wisp leading you toward M’s house. There isn’t another car in sight so M accelerates and rolls the windows down. On the radio, the DJ warns that visibility is less than a quarter mile. How far could you see normally? You both laugh into the lavender night.
The stairs creak under your bare feet as you descend into the basement. It’s set up like a laboratory: tubes of jet black eyeliner, vials filled with glossy mauve and orchid lipstick, mascara that stiffens your already thick eyelashes into spears.
M’s mother always comes clucking down the stairs in a cloud of jasmine perfume to offer you snacks: shrimp chips and halo halo. When she asks your name M cuts her off and answers for you. She insists you call her Tita. M never flinches when she visits, does not careen frantically around hiding the gem-colored eyeshadow palettes, will not cower in the corner awaiting a cold shower of names flung at you: pansies, poofs, fairies, faggots. Before she goes back upstairs she tucks a travel-sized tube of lipgloss into your hands.
On the drive home, after one last look in the passenger seat mirror to make sure you’ve wiped off every last streak of eyeliner and glitter from your face, you finally tell M your name. You’ve known for weeks, but you turn it over in your mind a few more times before you speak it aloud. It pirouettes off your tongue, like reading the names of crayons from one of those 64 count boxes: periwinkle, burnt sepia, magenta. M repeats it back to you, again and again and again, like kisses on your forehead.
M’s truck disappears into the violet haze. You open the door slowly. Mother is snoring. The bottle of chardonnay is empty. The women on the television are still fighting. You strut past her instead of tiptoeing, clutching the lipgloss like a rosary.
Georgie Morvis is a writer based in Chicago, by way of Kalaheo, Hawai’i and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Their writing is forthcoming from Cast of Wonders and Querencia Press. They won the Judges’ Prize for their short film script Shrimp Heads at the ‘Ohina Filmmakers Lab 2022. They also were one of 10 finalists for the Dream Foundry Emerging Writers Contest 2022. When not writing, they enjoy reading, listening to Carly Rae Jepsen, and watching Greta Gerwig movies. You can follow them on Twitter at @gmorvis.