Little Revolutions by Jono Naito
When I was twelve I snuck my fingers through the straps of a friend’s two-piece swimsuit as it lay drying on the lake-side pier. I made another promise to myself, my little secret. ‘It fell in,’ I told her, and she peered into the dark water. Yellow and polka-dotted in pink-laced flowers, I wore the swimsuit for an hour that night, shaking back and forth before a half-sized mirror. I stood on a chair to get the best view and tucked myself, filling the top with socks. The same friend, called Dee by all, must have heard me moving about and came in. I was in bed in time, pretending to sleep, and I heard her flip through my suitcase, and bend to peek under the bed. She turned off the lights as she left.
Dee’s mother was friends with my mother; I was supposed to call her Auntie. At dinner Dee was sour over the swimsuit. It was their summer place that we were at, and Auntie did all the talking, her mouth disguised by half-chewed peas. She asked me about my hobbies and my future, about girls. I didn’t want to talk about girls, but my mother called me a ‘real catch’, and I felt a dark terror that she had such an imagination of who I was. I ran my fingers through my hair and Dee saw, narrowing her eyes. I made another promise to myself; follicular, superficial.
Dee was adopted. She told me this as we flicked thin stones at the lake. Then she asked me if I had a secret. I didn’t think being adopted was a secret, but she insisted it was, the way her mother acted about it. She said she even threatened to go find her real parents when she fought with Auntie. Okay, I said, and told her that I didn’t like who I was. I prodded at the soggy sand of my stomach. Dee laughed and said that was a terrible secret. Then she told me that soon enough I would change, and pointed out, as her face turned red, all the places I would grow hair. I didn’t face her as she said these things; I knew the fields of grass were coming, and hoped for what a machete or two could do to trim me into smoother hills. Dee said that when she grew up she would have babies, and she clutched her stomach like Santa Claus. I filled with envy, and went into the woods to pee. I squatted because I made the promises, promises that I could change, and be more than what felt like lying. When I was back I began to cry and Dee took my hand, bringing me to the house. She told me she knew I had her swimsuit and that I could keep it, and I pushed her away, thinking she was going to tell someone, tell my mother, and I ran to the beach, perhaps to drown. I liked to run my hands over the water, but not over my chest. The ripples shattered my reflection, and it was pleasing to think I was many little pieces, many little revolutions. I made another promise; I wouldn’t destroy myself, yet; maybe I could still wish hard enough to change, before it was too late.
My mother called Dee my girlfriend when she thought I was not listening; she had seen me holding Dee’s hand. The swimsuit resurfaced, muddy. No one minded; Dee would get another. I wished I could be seen like Dee, but knew I couldn’t. Dee told me I could be a beautiful girl, and started braiding my hair as I said nothing, my legs probing the water beside the pier. I never knew what it was like to be seen before, and for a moment I didn’t think, like Dee did, of who I could become, but who I was and would be for a very long time.
Jono Naito is a fiction MFA candidate at Syracuse University and an assistant editor at Salt Hill. Her work has appeared recently in StoryQuarterly, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Maudlin House. There is more to know about her by going to jononaito.com or following her @sushinaito. She can also be found working to increase the visibility of transgender, bisexual and biracial narratives whenever possible.