“The Carriage House”

The boys wanted a race to see who could transform from male to female first. Each contestant got an assistant, so naturally I was my friend Brad’s. One minute and forty-seven seconds after Miko blew the whistle, Gary called, “Woman!”

Miko shouted, “Freeze!” and tapped her iPhone. She was the only full-on trans person at the party, and it was her carriage house, so she declared herself the judge. We all awaited her official decision.

“Name?” she asked.

“Desi,” Gary said in his deepest voice. “Desiree.”

That got a big laugh, but Miko inspected Desiree’s feet and declared Gary’s Air Jordans too masculine. Miko blew her whistle again and tapped her phone to restart the race. Her glittery green fingernails flashed with little red spider decals. As she popped a pot sticker into her mouth, Jasmine and Daniel debated the ethics of pronoun preference in the context of a gender swap race.

“Hurry,” I told Brian.

“What’s the rush?” he said, and he braced himself on my arm as he squeezed a foot into one of Miko’s cherry red stilettos.

At two minutes and thirty-one seconds, Andrew became Lynnea and called, “Woman!” Miko dabbed a streak of lipstick from Lynnea’s chin, tucked a few stray hairs behind her ear, and disqualified her for unwomanly sloppiness. When Lynnaea appealed on the grounds that sloppiness hadn’t been declared a disqualifier prior to the race, Miko kissed Andrew’s cheek and said he could tap that shit later if she’d shut up. That shut her up. Or him, I guess. The Prosecco made me light-headed.

With Lynnea/Andrew out, that left only Gary—who tried desperately to cram his big feet into Miko’s thigh-high boots—and Brad—who didn’t seem in any kind of hurry at all.

“Winner gets the last half glass of chardonnay,” Miko said.

Brad turned away. “Zip me,” he said.

So I zipped up his little black dress. A mole between his shoulder blades had a couple of tiny brown hairs poking out. I tried to tweezer them with my thumb and middle fingernails, but they wouldn’t come loose. Gary pulled off his bandana, shook out his hair, and said, “Lipstick, please.”

I handed him the lipstick. Gary had one boot on, but Brad didn’t rush. He spun the cylinder, inhaled moisture from his lips, and applied the burgundy lipstick. Just as Gary got the second boot past his calf, Brad blinked, and his whole face changed. She looked at me and pursed her lips.

“Woman,” I said. “Call it, Brad!”

But she didn’t move, didn’t flinch, even when Gary called it and Miko declared a win for Desiree, after all.

“What’s your name?” I asked the woman who had been Brad.

She smiled, took my hand, and walked me downstairs, out to the back yard, and over to the gazebo. The moon wobbled in the trees, fat and orange, and the yellow street lamps made the woman who had been Brad look eerily pale. She put her wrists on my shoulders and leaned toward me. I had to stop her, but I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to hear Brad’s voice from this woman’s lips. She kissed me, and I pulled away. Her hands fell to her sides. She took half a step back.

“Your name,” I said. “Is that too much to ask?”

“It’s me,” she whispered.

“What are you?” I said.

“I’m not a man,” she whispered and gently set her wrists back on my shoulders.

I went down on my knees.

“Okay?” I said. “But please, your name?”

She pressed a hand on top of my head and reached for the hem of her skirt.

Then the garage door roared to life and cranked open. Miko backed the Alpha Romeo out into the chalky gravel drive. Desiree strutted through the carriage house door, singing Katy Perry in Gary’s gorgeous baritone. When they saw us, everyone went quiet. They stood at the edge of the lawn, and waited for me and the woman who had been Brad to do something. Unable or unwilling to submit to the expectation of the moment, I got up off my knees.

The person who had been Brad shrugged. “They want me more than you do,” she said.

I couldn’t speak. I felt lost. This pause stretched on until Miko honked her horn. Brad or whoever got into the Mercedes with Gary/Desiree and his/her crew, and I wound up wedged between Lynnaea and Robbie with my legs folded so tightly behind Miko’s ass that my feet fell asleep as we drove to town with the top down and the haze off the lake misting our eyes and chilling our earlobes.

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About Eric Bosse

Eric Bosse is the author of Magnificent Mistakes, a story collection published by Ravenna Press. His work has appeared in The Sun, Zoetrope, Wigleaf, The Collagist, Frigg, Fiddleblack, Night Train, Matter Press, and World Literature Today. He teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma.