015: Rainbows (Chapter 3)
A working draft preview of chapter 3 of Rainbows, the novel I've been working on this year. I would really love your earnest thoughts, which you can send to email@example.com, or on instagram @ericbarrywrites, and twitter @ericbarry. -- The Covenant had a community center with a gym and pool, and every Friday night they’d hold these barbecues where all the families in town would come down and the kids would drink grape soda and play games in the pool while the adults ate ribs and talked about God or something. The food was amazing, much better than anything my parents ever made. Ribs, sausages, burgers, brisket, potato salad, ice cream, you name it. Only problem was the yellow jackets. Any time you made a plate those fuckers would swarm it. If you set it down for just one second, you were finished. Without the food, those nights were pretty crummy. I dreaded swimming. My skin was so ghostly white that putting on sunscreen was always a humiliating affair, and more often than not, my parents would miss a spot, leaving me with the sun-charred outlines of their hands on my back. Even as the sun was setting, I’d get burnt. Eventually they resigned themselves to just sending me into the water with a t-shirt on. I was marked from the beginning. My body always felt like it had strayed from whatever it was supposed to be. My skin too white. My penis too small. My stomach too padded. A few weeks after The Closet Game, my parents decided to look at houses again. “We’re going to go for a drive.” They’d do that on Sundays, driving their car from open house to open house, walking inside and imagining the life they could be living before moving onto the next. “We’ll be back by dinner. If anything comes up, listen to your sister.” Meredith was six years my senior, far enough apart to avoid sibling fistfights and Christmas morning jealousy. Also far enough apart to never feel like we were going through life together at the same time. I watched from our guest room window as my parents car pulled out of the garage and down the street. I ran into their bathroom and grabbed my mom’s hand-mirror. I couldn’t stop thinking about The Closet Game, and how different Lindsay and Greg’s bodies looked from my own. Where their skin was smooth and golden and resilient, mine was pale and and freckled and susceptible. I went into my bedroom and locked the door. My parents let me have a lock on the door, which I rarely used as nothing very exciting ever happened in my room, but today I was glad to have it. My sister’s door was always closed, and I could hear “Baby’s Got Back” playing through the walls. I took off my shirt and sweatpants, and then my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle briefs. They seemed embarrassing at the time, but slightly less so than the all-too-revealing and stain-prone plain white underwear. I held the mirror underneath my nose to see if I could see inside to my brain. I learned in a PBS documentary that the Egyptians used to take the brains of the dead out through their nose to help preserve the bodies. Every time I breathed out the mirror would fog up, but eventually I held my breath long enough to see a bunch of nose hairs and darkness, and I figured if the brain was up there, it wasn’t something I wanted to see after all. I set the mirror on the ground and stood tall, looking down at my reflection. I was a giant! My testicles and even my penis looked huge from down there. Where were Lindsay and Greg now? I squatted down over the mirror. There was a line, like a stitch, that started at the underside of my scrotum and made its way under me all the way to my ass. What the hell was this thing? I remembered an episode of Oprah, where children were born with two sets of genitals, and their parents had to decide whether to modify their kid’s genitals to be male or female. Holy God—my parents had sewn up my vagina. I was sure of it. I shuffled forward a bit. There it was: my asshole. Christ almighty. What the hell was wrong with it? Sure I’d heard the term asshole, but when you’re walking around your ass doesn’t look like a hole, it’s a crevice, a slit between two cheeks. I’d always assumed that when you shit the whole damn crevice part just opened up, like one of those fire helicopters my dad had showed me pictures of releasing water to the forrest below. My hole wasn’t even perfect. The skin twisted together, making thin folds to hide in, until they vanished in a center point. It looked a lot less like a hole and a lot more like someone had overstuffed a hamper with a bunch of sheets. A thick blue tube bulged out, askew from the other lines. I poked it with my finger. It felt like rubber. I was a seven-year-old with hemorrhoids. I was just getting started in life and I was already a wreck.