WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Harrington Park Press

 
 
 

WANTING (excerpt)

by Cheryl Schoonmaker

     It started as an itching sensation on my tongue and the roof of my mouth. My throat started to swell. I swallowed my spit a few times, taking inventory of the situation. It was getting hard to swallow. Soon, it would be hard to breathe. That meant my lunch contained a poison deadly to me: peanut oil.
     When I arrived at the emergency room, they ushered me in immediately. Five or six doctors flocked around me with needles, breathing apparatuses, and monitoring devices. They shot me full of antihistamines, adrenalin, stomach acid medications, and steroids. The doctors murmured. They were worried. My recovery was taking longer than it should have. My allergy had gotten worse. But finally the wheezing began to fade. I could breathe easily again, physically at least.
     Because of the threat of relapse, I was kept overnight for observation. I wanted my pajamas. When I was a kid, I had Wonder Woman pajamas. I wanted to be Wonder Woman with the background music and the spinning and bullets bouncing off my bracelets. I wanted to be impervious. I also, however, wanted to be Princess Leah. She was spunky but more of a victim and I couldn't decide if I wanted to be rescued or rescuer.


     The vigilant attention from the nurses, the open door, fluorescent lights, and beeping monitors led to a fitful, dream-disturbed sleep.
     I dreamed I was Snow White but no prince came to my rescue. I hung out with the dwarves, yes, but they weren't much help either. A witch was chasing me. She had a deadly syringe instead of poison fruit, and I half wanted to get caught.
     I was waiting for my mom to arrive with my pajamas. I had just done laundry at my parents' house. I found myself in their basement, feeling like some silly version of Lady MacBeth: "Out, Outů!" My hands smelled like bleach. I never knew I liked the smell of bleach-hot tar mixed with sand and ocean's fiery cousin and clean sweat on a caustic summer day in childhood. I was trying to banish an ink stain from off-white shorts. I didn't remember when the pen exploded. The purple-blue splotch seemed to have always been there.