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Photo courtesy of Nathan Dumlao

Creative Nonfiction

Smirk

By Jai Dulani

It is the first day of class. The room of college freshmen are sizing up my five-foot-one stature. My furrowed brow and locked jaw are typing at the podium.

 

I wear button ups and pants most days I teach. Sometimes a tie. In the winter, a zip-up cardigan

over the collared shirt. Wing-tipped or round leather shoes.

 

At the top of the hour, I welcome the class.

 

A young man sitting in the front row smirks.

 

He looks like a young blonde Bill Clinton.

 

Three girls sitting in the back left of the room whisper to each other, with their hands in front of

their mouths, eyes on me.

 

My voice, layered upon my clothes and my beard, stops time.

 

My voice has an 80’s synthesizer quality. It’s Muppet meets Frog croak.

 

My voice is queer.

 

 

Blonde Bill’s smirk dismisses my body, then my being.

 

 

It is the daily double-take with strangers; my every utterance, a wager.

 

It is the moment my father cried on the phone; my transition caught in his throat.

 

The moment my mother warned, “No one will love you.”

 

 

How often do you risk dignity being raided? How often do you relive the raid?

 

 

 

I told a friend about that first day, how it wrecked me.

 

 

She said, the key is holding your own center.

“It’s all about practice.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the first day of class. The room of college freshmen are sizing up my five-foot-one stature. My furrowed brow and locked jaw are typing at the podium.

 

I wear button ups and pants most days I teach. Sometimes a tie.

 

Victorious

I am 27 and I am showing Mosey how to use Final Cut Pro.

 

Mosey is tired, still wearing her Hale & Hearty shirt. She hates that job, the heat of the soup always too close.

 

It is optional to be here, though. A commitment, or perhaps, a need.

 

I am co-facilitator of a political filmmaking group for queer youth, under 24. Mosey is trying to edit the film we produced that she starred in.

 

We are in the office, a second-floor walk-up in a building easy to miss, shoved between and across more brick and concrete, around the corner from the “I <3 NY” tourist shops on 5th Ave.

 

We are at the row of mac computers, the giant monitor and tiny keyboard in front of us. Mosey is

looking at the screen thwarted. A heavy sigh. She doesn’t remember the shortcuts. Or at least I think that’s what it was.

 

I don’t really remember.

 

They always say to remember someone’s life more than their death.

 

I remember how happy she was when she got the hang of editing. When she knew she could do it

and was doing it.

 

I was happy too.

 

Family rejection, shuffling through NYC’s perilous shelter system, Mosey’s hustle was every system failing her.

 

But that day, I remember her being victorious. She did what she didn’t think she could. Over and over actually.

 

Over and over.

Jai Dulani is a poet, writer and multimedia artist. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Waxwing, Foglifter, Open City, Teachers & Writers magazine and elsewhere.

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