Sasha has been looking at the world around him to see the meaning of beauty in society.
And so life began again...
Sasha sat on a little metal chair that was much too small for him on a rainy day in Dunkin Donuts. Listening to the gentle drops on the pavement outside, and unconsciously ripping up a brown napkin, he watched and waited for Gusty, who was standing in line for coffee like everyone else. He wanted his drink quickly, and tried to swallow the salty dryness in his throat away. “You look tired.“ Gusty purred, shoving a cardboard ring around his cup so Sasha wouldn’t burn his hands. He smiled at his androgynous friend, and tried desperately to read the menus above with a sigh. He couldn’t read English just yet. “You look very tired.“ Ze smiled, tapping hir fingers on the plastic magenta table with a weary smile. Rain makes everyone a bit tired. Dopey Sasha scratched his large nose and groomed his thick and black brows with one finger, shifting his gaze to a flat screen above, and back to Gusty. Ze noticed he looked a bit drunk as well. “What this say?“ Asked Sasha pointing to a word on his cup, although Gusty could barely understand him through his accent. But ze took the cup anyway and read the word to him. “It says ’Donuts’,“ ze said. With a blink and a grunt, Sasha smiled, feeling he had learned something useful. Fixing his brown Cossack hat, he sipped on his coffee while watching an ad on the flat screen on the wall. He watched many “perfect“ women of different races smiling and running on a treadmill, healthy and Photoshoped, their hair tied back and flipping up and down as they ran. “Be fit.“ Said a woman’s voice before the scene changes to a clean faced, able bodied man with Gusty’s blue eyes and white smile. He wore a clean suit from Joseph A. Bank as it looked like, and shook an older man’s hand. “Be confident.“ The voice said. Many scenes of perfect human beings flashed, doing perfect things with perfect smiles, and finally said “Be beautiful“ before finally telling what in the world it was advertising in the first place. Sasha looked down at his hands slowly after, he knew what beautiful meant, and he knew it didn’t mean him. He felt his face with his hand, ashamed of his stubble, and sighed looking at Gusty’s perfect face. Everybody’s beautiful but me... Sasha thought, looking around the room and slightly hiding his face with his sleeve. He whimpered out of shame at a well dressed woman in a diva’s glasses, chewing gum with her mouth open, and her blond hair tied in a pony tail. She ignored her little son, wearing Crocs and a Banana Republic shirt, tugging on her Juicy shorts screaming to be picked up. Sasha sighed at a high school boy with a clean face and neat hair, standing firm in red and white shoes that were almost as big as his head. With a scan around the room also, Gusty tapped his hand gently, and when Sasha drifted off again, ze firmly told him to look at hir. “That ad was bullshit, really, and I know my bullshit.“ Ze tried to reassure him. “You know George Carlin? He even said, ’It’s all bullshit folks, and it’s bad for ya.’“ Sasha didn’t catch some of the words, and Gusty would have gotten hir point across if he knew who in the world George Carlin was.
They finished up their coffee in a few minutes, not really feeling like talking for the first time in their lives, until Gusty threw hir cup into the trash bucket under the straws and sugar packs. “We gotta go to my parent’s place pretty soon, why don’t you head over to the drug store and get us some Altoids,“ Ze pointed to the Walgreens across the street. “You know, to keep our mouths fresh.“ Ze finished, taking another brown napkin. Sasha thought ze didn’t need mints at all. Gusty took a pen from hir pocket and wrote “Altoids“ on it, and gave it to Sasha while helping the massive man from his seat. “The letters look like this.“ Ze said, sitting down again and saying ze would wait for him.
Sasha tried to shake his leg awake as he stumbled outside, the sky grey and the asphalt slick with rain. The air smelled like a pond, and motor oil, until a sudden blast of air conditioning slapped him on the face when he stepped into the store. Sasha looked back once, saddened that Gusty didn’t want to go with him. He wondered around and almost fell on a few kids while looking for the little tins painted white, and got many odd stares from purely American men. Sasha lost the napkin, but felt confident that he knew what he was looking for as he tried helplessly to read the strange letters on everything on the white washed shelves. Feeling he had found what he was looking for, he snagged a roll of citrus Mentos, and smiled with pride. In line at the only register that was open, a lady in front with red hair and a wrinkled face took many glances at him, looking quite agitated. Sasha didn’t notice her, until she spat, “Are you a Bolshevik?“ Sasha craned his neck down at her, thinking her voice was rather shrill but appropriate for her age. Sasha chuckled warmly, wondering what year she thought it was. “Are you?“ he asked playfully. “I’m surely not, ya damn Commi.“ She snapped, looking rather like an angry hen. Others started to look at poor Sasha, standing helpless and taken aback by her unkind tone. “If you’z a Commi,“ she began to pay for her things at the register, and the cashier stared at Sasha with sympathy. “Then people’z gonna take you away, and I’ze seen Red’s like you get hurt bad by those fellas.“ Sasha caught everything, and swung his head around thinking everyone was going to “take him away“. They looked at magazines and at the woman with an eyebrow raised. Sasha looked back at the woman, his eyes wide and his head worried. “I taken away?“ his voice quaked. “Not if you go the hell back where ya came from.“ She growled, paying and fixing her stocking as she began to leave. Sasha stood bewildered for a moment, childishly almost wanting to cry, although he was always quite childish. But he pulled himself together to pay for the Mentos, getting a kind look from the cashier, but he paid no mind to it. A beautiful person hated him; a beautiful person wanted him to leave. He thought as he walked out of the air conditioned clean store into the smoggy grey outside, at least he could do Gusty some good.
He slammed the car door when Sasha came back, and Gusty led him to hir beige Chevrolet with brown stripes and plastic bull horns on the grill. He handed hir the roll of the wrong mints, and when Gusty saw the forlorn look on his face ze didn’t feel like telling him. “Good job,“ ze said softy, starting the truck. “They’ll taste nice.“
They listened to the radio for a while, until they entered Norwalk, because the station started to sound a bit cheesy. So Gusty shut it off while chewing a Mento; the station was getting a lot of static anyway. “There are gonna be a lot of people there, more than just my parents,“ ze explained. “It’s my cousin’s first birthday after all.“ Sasha’s head touched the ceiling of the car, and he felt nervous about meeting all those new people. All those beautiful and perfect people judging him and asking him questions he couldn’t quite understand. “They call you she or a he?“ Sasha asked, twiddling his thumbs, looking at a dark and sinister cloud up ahead. “Huh?“ Gusty was in another world for a minute. “Oh, they call me ’he’ sometimes. But the kids call me ’it’.“ Sasha turned back to hir; surprised that hir cousins would call hir what he thought was an object. He knew Gusty wasn’t an object, ze could feel, ze could laugh, and ze could be Sasha’s friend unlike any object in this world.
They pulled into a place with many yellow, maroon, and brown houses that were all built and placed on a slant exactly the same way. Gusty parked next to a Good Humor truck, with the Good Humor fella rummaging through the trunk full of ice creams and such. Gusty apologized when ze opened the door and slammed it against his car. Then ze helped Sasha out. “C’mon, you big stupid.“ Ze joked, clasping his hand out of habit and kicking the door closed with a thrust of hir leg. The Good Humor fella watched them walk across the rain drenched street, wondering of Gusty was a man or a woman, and taking his best guest like everyone who met hir. He was a bit frightened by Sasha’s height as well. “C’mon, I love kid’s parties; it’s alright for you to be a bit stupid there.“ Ze joked helping him up the stairs and pointing at the swimming pool at the top. Sasha couldn’t help but feel a bit hurt after what the hen woman said in the Walgreens, making him feel vile and stupid. He thought Gusty was right about almost everything; ze had been since the day the met, he must have really been stupid if Gusty of all people thought so. Sasha felt a lump in his throat and his heart sank as Gusty touched the golden knob of the pool house; were the party was being held. Ze took a little glance at Sasha’s face, but then turning back to look at him closely. Seeing Sasha’s face so forlorn again, his head hanging by a thread, and his mind somewhere else again made hir heart sink a little too. Ze sighed as hir arm dropped to hir side. Ze took a step to him, telling him to look at hir again. “Sasha, I’m sorry,“ ze said, touching the sleeve of Sasha’s long and scratched ashen coat. “I’m sorry, you’re not stupid, not one bit. You’re a gentle fella and not in the least stupid.“ Gusty gave him a short embrace, and Sasha silently sucked in a breath, holding in a few little tears, and placed a warm hand on his friend’s shoulder when ze returned to the door. He was glad he was wrong.
There were many kids and adults who looked a lot like Gusty, and many of the kids wanted to jump in the pool outside and leave the one year old guest of honor behind. Almost all of them had Jewish accents, and the kids asked Sasha if he had to bend to get through the door. They laughed when he said yes, something that they didn’t expect. Gusty’s mother shook his hand, and was amazed that her hand was totally engulfed in his. She called him “Bubola“ lovingly, and poor Sasha thought she said “Divushka“. A word that meant “Miss“ to him. “Ma remembers you from a while ago.“ Gusty gestured for him to sit down in a rather puffy Lazyboy chair, next to hir and hir elderly relatives, including hir Uncle Harry. “She remembers,“ Sasha nodded. “But she call me a woman.“
They drank wine coolers for an hour or so, listening to stories of Gusty’s heritage and such. Harry turned to Sasha when he thought the other folks had finished talking, not knowing he had interrupted and went on to a completely different subject. “When Gusty-Wind was young,“ Harry called hir that, and spaced out every word, thinking that Sasha couldn’t understand him at all. “He used to play with a spoon.“ He used different facial expressions as he spoke. “And we used to call him ’Spoony’,“ he slowly leaned to Gusty, laughing. “No you didn’t...“ ze said before Harry decided to lean back to Sasha, who had finished his wine. “It was very funny.“
Sasha sat outside when he had enough, watching the kids swim and spit water out of their mouths. He watched them rave about how warm the water was, and two tots ran around naked as baby toads. Some of the people inside wouldn’t let him eat anything for some reason, when he saw everyone else was treating themselves. He thought that food was exclusive, just for the beautiful and perfect people. Or, he thought, maybe they didn’t fancy Communists like the squawking hen woman in the Walgreens. He sighed, sitting alone on a white chair that people would sun bathe on if the sun was even out. It took a moment for Gusty to realize that Sasha was missing, and it took a moment for hir to find him. Ze didn’t hesitate to walk to his side, and hovered over him with hir hands on hir hips. Sasha thought ze was going to scold him for walking out on everybody, as his mother used to do. “Having a tough day, huh?“ Gusty sat down on the end of the chair when Sasha made room for hir. Sasha nodded, turning and sitting up. “I want be like them.“ He pointed to the pool house where he could see all the beautiful and perfect people laughing and being themselves in the window. “I want be beautiful person.“ He whimpered. Gusty looked to the pool house, then to Sasha’s face, thinking about how sensitive he was and always has been. Ze told Sasha to look at hir. “Listen, that add really was full of bullshit,“ Gusty said. “There really is no such thing a beautiful people.“ Sasha glanced again at the window, and to the sky, thinking he saw the world of beautiful, perfect, flawless people he was supposed to be like, but wasn’t. He looked back at Gusty when ze put hir arm on his back. “People think beauty means ’perfection’. No one’s perfect, Sasha,“ ze sighed. “So no one’s beautiful. It’s nice to think that some one really is beautiful, but no one is. So don’t go worrying about beautiful people.“ Sasha gazed deep into Gusty’s light blue eyes, the color of ice, and the color of the sky. He remembered Gusty was nothing but kind to him, and didn’t care what it took to be a friend to him. Ze tried hir best to teach him to read, even though he wouldn’t remember. He never knew anyone who wasn’t male nor female, but a gorgeous mix of both. He never knew anybody as amazing as hir, in reality, he never knew anyone more beautiful than hir.
“Yeah...“ Sasha sighed, feeling a pain and longing in his heart, feeling a drop of rain on his nose. “No person is beautiful.“ He lied.
And so life went on...