BARGAIN SHOPPING

Saturday mornings were for Marshalls. For holding tightly to Dad’s hand, and watching the Black women drag children who looked like me – all fuzzy edges and plastic barrettes and knotted curls. I would look at their mothers, in faded Jordan’s and tight jeans that stretched over their hips like liquid and wonder how they did that. What that was I didn’t know. Dad – the only man in the store – would say, “These are nice things.” When I wanted the light-up sneakers, Dad found me a pair of blue Adidas sneakers with Velcro straps, which were still pretty cool. I listened to the beep of the checkout lane and watched a small but sturdy ball of dust cling to the wobbly wheel of our cart as Dad pushed it determinedly through an endless candle aisle. On the best Saturdays, we ended up at the bookstore, even though Mom would be mad. Mom only ever took me to CVS, and usually, with clippings from the newspaper or mile-long receipts of Extrabucks. Sometimes, at the register, she would argue about an expired coupon. I’d blush and pretend to be interested in a magazine or something in the home goods aisle. When Dad took me out, sometimes, we’d stop at a bookstore. I would hand him a hardcover book, its spine uncracked, the pages coated in paper dust, and he would carefully tuck the pricey book under his arm so he could take my hand again.
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I still go to Marshalls on Saturday. Now, little girls with fuzzy edges sometimes bounce into me, grab my calf, realize I’m not Mom, and retreat behind a rack of clothes. My jeans fit like liquid now. I miss Dad when I go to Marshalls. Now, I go to Marshalls with a rewards card, like Mom would do, only I go to browse in the Men’s section. I’m a size seven in Men’s shoes, but I haven’t figured out shirts yet. In order to stuff my breasts in there I wear a small, not extra-small top, even though that means it is too long for me. When I first came out I ended up dressing like a white gay because I had no idea what I was doing. When I say when I first came out, I mean still, because I can’t do anything about it because I’m broke, so I don’t have any do-overs. I wish Dad were here with me to help me shop. What he might pick for me if he knew about the boy in me. It makes me almost want to tell him. Almost. I get nervous when I spend more than a few minutes in the Men’s section. The men gaze at me with narrow eyes and tight lips. How they can tell I go shopping for myself, and not a boyfriend, I’ll never know. Except maybe it’s that I dress like a white gay. To protect myself from the men I’ll pick up the laciest, most grotesquely pink thing I can find – that’s usually a bra – just so I can walk by invisible. Women’s clothes are my camouflage. If I’m still thinking of Dad, on the way home, I’ll stop in a bookstore. When I pick something out, I text him a picture of the cover, but I won’t mention that I went shopping.

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Brittany Lee Frederick is a poet and short fiction writer from Boston. She studied English at Stonehill College. Her work has appeared online in the “Harpoon Review,” “Glass Poetry,” “Tinderbox,” and “Drunk Monkeys” literary journals. When she’s not writing she’s eating rotti or tweeting badly @Britt_LF. Contact her at brittanyleefrederickpoetry@gmail.com