Levi Cain- “Fast”


My sister is the first one to call me a faggot, so maybe she’s a soothsayer. So maybe she knows, after all. I write down in my diary that I know she reads that I’m not gay (just in case). I pray about it to God, who my father says doesn’t make mistakes. Every night, She comes to me, crawling across the shag carpet my sister begged our parents to buy. She wears hoop earrings and a smile as broad as a highway. She knows everything and She wants to kiss me anyways. I wake up, dry-mouthed, a hand on my chest, feeling like my heart is full of carbonation. “Feeling yourself up?” my sister says, and I roll my eyes. We jostle for position in front of the bathroom mirror, and my father jokingly asks if I have a crush. He scrubs his hand over my shoulder gently, the way he does with my boy cousins when they score a goal during soccer or whatever it is they do out on the field. He doesn’t touch my sister like this, doesn’t hug her as tight ever since she started wearing two bras to bed. He doesn’t even look her in the eye when she’s standing next to him. My mom says he’s just like that, that he doesn’t mean anything by it. “He just doesn’t want his babies to grow up.” My sister says that’s bullshit. My sister says a lot of things are bullshit, ever since our dad told us that he better not catch her walking around outside without a t-shirt over her tank tops, no matter how hot it is. He tells us he doesn’t want anyone to think we’re fast.

In my dream, God peels an orange for the both of us and says she thinks my sister is right. “About everything?” I ask her, thinking of how my sister had, two days ago, caught me balling up socks and putting them in the crotch of my underwear. She didn’t even blink, just closed the door and whispered “Okay, faggot,” sotto voce in response to everything I said to her for two days straight. God sighs, passes me my half of the orange and says, “Maybe just this one time.”


My sister is better at being a girl than I am. I know this is true, even though God once told me that there a million and one different ways to be a girl. We aren’t allowed to wear makeup, but she bought some at CVS and keeps it hidden under my mattress. The lipstick she saved up for doesn’t look right–it’s too bright, and looks pasty on her mouth. It’s not red (not even my sister would go that far) but instead a violent bubblegum. She wears it every chance she gets, up until Bobby From Bio says she looks like a golliwog. When we look up golliwogs in the library, my sister’s mouth pleats and the lipstick cracks–it comes off easily enough, though. Hand cream works fine as a makeup remover, even when we have to use the rough paper towels to get all of it off. I hand her my chapstick and tell her Bobby From Bio is so stupid, he probably didn’t even really know what it means. I tell her she doesn’t need the lipstick anyways, doesn’t need the mascara or the eyeliner or what fucking ever. “You think I don’t know that?” I don’t know if she does but we go in on a different lipstick on our walk back home. Half of my allowance goes towards one the color of Hennessey, and since our parents aren’t home yet, my sister holds me by the chin and puts it on for me. “See? So pretty!” I don’t think that’s true either but I like that she says it. Like when she thinks I might be a good girl, too.


My sister and I still have to go everywhere together, even though she turned fifteen three months ago. She told our parents she shouldn’t have to take me to her friend’s house, of all places. “Amaka doesn’t even know her!” But if I don’t go then she doesn’t go either, so I stay at the park a block away while my sister and Jayna flat iron each other’s hair and watch TV. Sometimes I read, or I think about how I’d react if either of them asked me to stay. How I’d shrug it off, then graciously accept after the third request. “Mixed signals, much?” God asks me the first night I bring this fantasy up to Her, and snorts when I turn and exit the dream. I do that, sometimes, when we disagree. God doesn’t ever leave first, just files Her nails and watches me go.

Jayna lives on top of a hill, and standing on the back pegs while my sister bikes down it is a nightmare. Every single time we speed down, I bite out a prayer to God, even though it’s not night yet–I love you/I’m sorry/I love you. There’s never a time that we don’t make it, but I think God is maybe still annoyed because right when we get home, my father is mowing the lawn out front. He stops and waves to both of us: his arm is still caught in a long arc when he sees my sister, forehead shiny with sweat, heaving herself off the bike. I don’t catch on for a second, and then the sight of her makes my stomach clench: my sister in an old tank top, the baggy shirt that she had worn out the door probably left in Jayna’s room. One of the straps is fraying, almost about to snap.

“Get your ass in the house.” When he gets like this, I don’t want to know him at all. I want to throw out every good memory. I want to comb all of his love out of my hair. My sister slinks past me, chin up, mouth so firm that I know it wants to tremble. I bite out another prayer to God–Please/Let me know what to do/Please–and God maybe picks up her nail file, maybe peels another orange. Maybe just stands and watches us both shake.