It was a fifth grade elementary school “dance” party, celebrating our graduation from elementary school to middle school the next year, when Derek O. called me mercurial.

I was fucking shocked. I mean, Derek and I had our differences in the past. He didn’t feel like I should’ve been put on Patrol guard (the solemn duty not unlike taking the black where you make sure other gradeschoolers aren’t sprinting to class.) It was available only to the Gifted and Talented students and based on grades. He felt my grades weren’t sufficient. But whatever, bitch. I risked the lice-infested helmet of orange and wore the sash. I stopped some third graders fucking COLD.

Anyway. Mercurial.

Derek O. moved into a house that capped the street I lived on. It was one of the handful of two-stories in the neighborhood and had stood uninhabited so long there were ghost stories. When he moved in, everyone was fucking terrified. Well. Everyone. I talked to him because I’ve never believed in ghosts in a meaningful way. And, you know, he was pokeable.

We played all sorts of games, most popular for two third graders was apparently lip synching to popular music on the radio. When a song that we didn’t like came on, we’d vamp like photographers were taking our pictures.

Sometimes his younger brother would join us in our games. Sometimes, we’d play with Chris C. up the street, a young man that everyone called a FAG. That word wasn’t part of my vocabulary, so I had no idea what it was implying, but whatever. He had the best Star Wars toys and when we were of a mood, we’d all play Star Wars.

Here’s where it gets funny and sad in retrospect. Look, I wasn’t the kind of girl who didn’t have girlfriends. I did. I had boyfriends, too. I was a game playing omnivore. But one thing I resented was ALWAYS HAVING TO BE MOTHERFUCKING PRINCESS LEIA.

I argued that Han Solo was simply a hero archetype in which I better fit, as a chaotic rogue, although being in the third grade, I didn’t articulate it quite that well.

But no. I was Leia, because other girls didn’t want to play with a FAG. And I didn’t know what a FAG was, but if I had, I would’ve argued part of the downside of being Leia was that Chris C. would try to pin me down and kiss me. He was always Luke, so later, this was all fucked up on about ten thousand levels. But whatever.

Derek O. had to move away. He went to Japan for a couple of years. His mother died of cancer. When he returned, it was to a much better neighborhood than mine and we never talked. Until this party.

I was doing my thing. Look, a lot of people hated me for myriad and sundry reasons. I stabbed a kid. I was super mouthy. But I was still gifted and talented, so when he called me mercurial, I knew what it meant and I felt incredibly betrayed.

Like what? Why? I’m not the one moving to Japan and returning to not talk to my BFF like AT ALL.

I was the bitch sitting on the bus, passing Chris C. in one of the last weeks he lived on our block, huddled on the curb, sobbing and feeling the stab of guilt and pain that I’d just… you know, by omission let that kid get bullied.

And you know, maybe I never explained some of that shit. I’d never articulated that it wasn’t actually FUN for me to play the girl in their Star Wars fantasies, where they fought over who got to kiss me. That it wasn’t flattering, and that I just wanted to make saucy jokes at Chewbacca.

I wasn’t so much mercurial as uncommunicative until I’d HAD. IT. OFFICIALLY.

I wish I could say that I’ve grown out of this. But no. It’s like, everything’s fine until HULK FUCKING SMASH. I guess that makes me seem mercurial. But to me, I’m the same as I ever was, I just may have seen more shit than others paid attention to.

Chris C? His parents fought a lot. I think he was abused. He was a sweet kid. Sometimes, in the dark of night, I cry for how I treated him, even if he was kind of rapey about kisses.

Mercurial? I can see it.

6 thoughts on “I shot first

  1. I just noticed your ‘post comment’ words are ‘whisper in my ear’ and now I’m worried that I’m going to seem inappropriate with my praise. Like I’m some mouthbreather all in your space.

    But being genderqueer and that manifesting early on like that is a tough thing to cope with. Wanting to just -be- and not feeling the typical girly desire to be the princess probably blew the minds of the other kids. Wanting to be the one acting and not acted upon…

    I feel for Chris C. And I feel for you. Kids are cruel and difficult without realizing or meaning it. They’re callous with lack of perspective, solipsistic and detached.

    My mom called me mercurial when I was in 6th grade. My grandparents raised me, and they were dying. I was going through puberty. My identity had been completely rocked by the realization I was definitely a girl and how weird was that? And so I acted out, like you acted out. I think sometimes “mercurial” is code for “trying desperately not to be invisible.” Sometimes mercurial is code for “fighting the system” and “trying to articulate things other people don’t have the capacity to grasp” and “wounded on a soul-deep level by hurts most of the world will never know.”

    Brian is so mercurial, Clancy.

    1. What didn’t make the piece was that I was the center of attention at the party. I made up line dances that everyone was doing and I was having a great time. Then Derek O., BFF of old, shows up to shoot me down.

      I contextualize it, but like, my memories of Spring, TX are almost all that kind of ex BFF betrayal when they moved to a better part of town. I always felt intriguingly different, but utterly backstabbable.

      1. That’s the frustrating reality of life in a small(ish) town in Texas… There’s this rampant classism that children internalize. I had a friend named Heather who lived in a fancy house in a nicer neighborhood who was close with me from both of us being in GT, but I felt utterly expendable in that friendship because she had the privilege of lessons and attentive parents and activities and a lot more socializing and friendship potential.

        So much backstabbing. So much casual betrayal.

        When I later watched Heathers, I was like “Oh. So that’s a thing.”

        1. The Heathers was so gratifying on so many levels. I did have good friends that didn’t hurt me on purpose and people I did hurt, but it’s… you know… The funny thing to me is how popular my RL name is on facebook. I wonder how many people saw me as I was, that performing chicken on the electric wire, and feel bad. Or maybe they were just entertained.

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