Be A Star
by Delaney Nolan
Felicia wants to play Be A Star again but my feet are tired from walking around on the shoeboxes that we cut up and taped around our feet so that we could walk with tall clompy legs like they do on TV on the runway with the lights and the long hard bones in every face. I say, no, I’m tired, can we not. I want to play Kidnapping instead. Kidnapping is a game where we sit under Felicia's shiny black grand piano in the carpeted living room with a roll of Scotch tape and we tie each other up. Felicia puts the tape around and around my wrists. She puts it around and around my ankles and my baggy socks. She puts it over my lips and mashes it flat, careful, with her finger, but it gets fogged up from my wet breath and Felicia has to smooth it down over and over, running her hand across my mouth like that. It makes me feel helpless and funny and glad and like my legs are falling asleep. We take turns. I tie her up next.
But Felicia knows which games are best and we are at her house like always and she says we have to have one more Walk-Off! Have to pick a Star! So: we turn the radio on and walk in circles in front of Felicia's mom's big big mirror and we model. We put our hands on our stomachs and stick our elbows forward. We twist our heads around and look over our shoulder and smoosh our lips. Felicia walks first and spins and looks at herself hard like she is going to beat herself up, then walks and turns and turns again, always looking at herself very serious. Then it's my turn on the runway and I go up to the mirror on my wobbly shoe-box high-heels, taking big steps, and Felicia says, NO you are doing it wrong. She says I walk like a soldier. She says I stomp like a lesbian. Like a faggot. My face gets red red red, not like a Star, but like a dummy, like a baby, like a stupid little kid. I tell her to Shut Up and she says it's her house so I have to only say nice things to her or she can throw me out.
Now, she says, now is the photo shoot part, so we have to model together. She gets down her mom's fur coat from on top of the cabinet, very careful. She puts it across both our shoulders. We turn. We look sad and smoosh our lips out again. Felicia says, like we're at the beach! and I throw my arm up to block the Invisible Sun and make my mouth a big O like I'm excited or too hot. She says, like a skating rink! and we both lean forward and stick one leg up in the air behind us, wobbling all over. She says, now like puppies! and we turn to one another and nuzzle, and I go yip-yip-yip and lick her nose, snuffle in her hair, and she goes rrrr, rrrr, whining a little, and she licks my cheek, licks my eyelid, buries her face in my neck and nuzzles there, keeps nuzzling like a sleepy puppy, stays there breathing in deep whatever smell is the smell of me and not telling me how to pose, not telling me where to put my body next, just standing there next to me like that and breathing and breathing. We stand like that a long time. A long time. And I don’t know what to do but I don’t want to make her mad again. Finally I say, Felicia? and she pulls away sudden like a bad dog that got hit; she has that twisted-up look on her, the hooked-gut face, and she’s staring at me like she can’t remember which game we were playing. Then I say, what's the next pose? And she says, oh, she says, the photos hoot is over. She takes the fur coat and pulls it away, leaves my shoulders cold, especially where my neck is still wet from the breathing. She puts the coat back up on the cabinet. Downstairs Felicia's mom calls that lunch is ready. Felicia's mom makes the best lunch. She makes Annie's Mac & Cheese and then adds the extra cheese packet from another box plus pepper and other stuff and it’s way better than my mom makes it. I say, I'm hungry. Let's go. Felicia says, wait. Just wait. They have to say who won.
So I turn back. She looks in the mirror, listening to the panel of judges that’s always there, the one that I cannot hear. She looks back and forth because she's remembering the poses, the good ones and bad ones, the puppy faces and the ski poles. She doesn’t look at me when she says: I won. I won this time. But you were close.
Good smells are coming up from the kitchen where lunch is hot and ready and there are two wooden chairs pulled up for us at the kitchen table. But we don’t go. We stand there while Felicia keeps talking, while she keeps trying to explain, keeps saying, You were really close. Maybe next time. Maybe the next time we play, then, then you can be a winner too.
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