Since the day I started keeping records, my primordial thoughts were about a Jeff. Jeff, et al. Jeff in all his incarnations. The first diary I ever kept began,
I like Jeff. Jeff is in my class.
And then a quick nod to my coordinates in space:
Today is Friday.
Once I even cut a life-sized boy out of a roll of paper and walked around the neighborhood with it, until the real boys who lived down the street saw what I was doing and laughed me back into the house. That’s the thing about boys. Boys weren’t weird. They were practical. They weren’t dumbed down by a love of plastic dolls, ABBA ballads, or a chronic need to tuck blankets around everything until it was nice and cozy. And they sure as shit didn’t walk the block with a paper girl.
Maybe that’s why I got crushes on the mischievous Jeffs of the world, the troublemakers who got sent to the principal’s office, the ones too poor even to be cool. They operated outside the system that had me trapped; they had a nihilist sort of courage to do wrong and the balls to pretend they didn’t give a shit. They didn’t need to be cozy. They probably didn’t even use blankets.
My penchant for Jeffs became a chronic condition in adulthood. They were the types who didn’t care about much beyond their own dicks (a fact they’d never admit). They’d say instead, baby don’t get all deep n shit. Their aggrandized masculinity contained something frightening and foreign that I wanted to own. I wanted to study their skill set and their physical style, I wanted to be on the winning side of that roughness and intimidation. I longed to absorb their mannerisms, chemically react to their smell and plug my face into their naked bodies. My instincts told me that the only way a girl like me could ever stake a permanent flag on Mt. Man, was by fucking it.
The only problem was that I am in fact, secretly, quintessentially, regrettably deep n shit. I wanted to feel whole, and a relationship based solely on sex left me in roadkill condition. So, at the inevitable break-up, the part of me that had bloomed now receded painfully into hyper sleep. It was the maleness I grieved most– even though it had ignored me and slipped the beloved D to someone else – I mourned it. I’d felt so alive! And now look at me, half dead. Forgotten. Staring down the void. Wait. I know how to fix this! Let’s find another one.
This is how I got hooked on men.
Writing Crash Bang Burn was about embracing this alleged half-dead side. Instead of crashing, banging and burning, I made my characters do it – over and over. Poor things. But it was a way of taking my demons for a walk without letting them off the leash. The goal was neither desecration nor worship – I just wanted to scratch the itch without tearing my skin off for a change. I wanted to get one teensy step removed from the rejection and grief that seemed, for me, to be the predicable and perpetual female experience. Instead of it being my cross to bear, it was now, quite literally, Braylee and Edie’s.
But when I was done writing the book, I was by no means done being the puppetmaster. I had just begun. I was compelled to step into their diametrically opposed shoes and gather witnesses for the revival. I needed cameras because hey, not everyone is a reader. Edie and Braylee would be easy to act out. After all, Edie was a caricature of who I wished I wasn’t and Braylee is kinda who I wished I was.
But Cross. Cross was a different story.
Cross wasn’t just any guy. He was every guy. He was an amalgamation of all I loved and hated about men, about the south, about sex. He was the street drug I could never get enough of, even as I bled out. How was I going to animate him? I figured I should find some supermale actor to play him. But no, that wouldn’t do. They might get it wrong. Plus I didn’t need real; I’d had enough real to last a decade. I needed control. I needed a laugh. And anyway, who better to nail Cross than the one who’d been nailed the hardest?
What would I wear, I asked myself, if I were a dude? And so began the experience called “trying on men’s clothes.”
I wiped off all my makeup and strapped on a rubber dick. I found some boxer briefs, buckled on a pair of men’s pants and took a few paces across the room.
The first thing I’d like to note is, wearing a dick is very distracting. Your sex is literally wagging around like a goddamn panhandler. It wants to proposition everything you’re looking at, even the wall or the door jamb. Dick informs your every step. Dick makes you sit and walk different. You can’t just put it out of your mind. Dick is always….right…there. It gently carjacks your senses. Or Car-jeffs.
Next I put on men’s boots, pinned on some foam superman muscles and wrapped an ace bandage around my tits. I cocked my jaw, put on a ball cap, checked the mirror – and somewhere in that series of steps, I disappeared. The same way you might disappear into a hot bath or the driver’s seat of a Ferrari. I wouldn’t call it transcendent. But it’s the kind of ahhhh that put my yearnings at ease. I felt my whole center of gravity shift. I swaggered. I swooned. Look at me, I thought. Holy shit. Finally, instead of trying to crawl under a man’s skin, I was actually in it. Behold, my fix was here before me, staring back in the mirror, awaiting orders. But this time there would be no tears upon extraction. The circuit was contained and closed. I could peel him on, skewer him, adore him, and then pack him up in the closet as needed.
I was going to need to. A lot.
The first time I walked into a crowded bar dressed as Cross, the thing that hit me hardest was how completely under the radar I had become. Nobody, male or female, sized me up. I was neither bait nor competition. I was the looker, not the lookee. I had stepped outside the whole fucking female paradigm. I was free.
But I think the really good shit hit the fan after I got a film crew to capture me acting as all three characters. I wrote the script and then I buttoned up like sweet naive Edie, waiting for Cross with baited breath. Then I melted down like hot little Braylee and told him to get the fuck outta my trailer. And finally, I glued on my facial hair, spat my dip into a bottle, looked deep into the camera, and became Cross:
When I returned home that night, with my three identities and spare dick in a bag, I went through the usual motions. I flipped on the light, hung up my keys, bent down by the the cupboard to get out a bowl, and then, unexpectedly, dropped to a knee. I stared into the back of the dark pantry and happy-cried. Hard. Happy crying, how can I explain this sensation? I know all about sad-crying but this shit was new to me. Imagine feeling so fucking complete that you literally overflow with liquid gratitude. I guess I’d stumbled upon a part of me that had been buried for like, 30 years. Oh yeah, I’m an actor. I’m a goddamn motherfucking actor, people. I forgot. I had three kids, got stranded in Georgia and I completely forgot. Then one day, I dressed up like a dude and remembered who I fucking was.
And to think, it all started with sad little Edie in a bar bathroom, trying to become someone else.
I like Jeff. I think I’m going to dress up like him and film a split-screen sequence making out with myself.
Today is Friday.
copyright © K. Dawn Goodwin 2016