I scooted past Ms. Ann and Clark/Celeste talking in the classroom doorway.
“This is really quite beautiful lace, Celeste. Where did you find your gown?” Ms. Ann asked.
“Downtown threads,” Clark/Celeste answered, pushing their hair back with black-painted fingers. Clark had decided to try out a feminine persona sometime around Thanksgiving. He made a striking girl.
Everyone was in the process of finding their seats, rummaging through their bags, and generally making a noisy transition from lunch. I stuffed my bag under my seat, and paused to listen when Ms. Ann began talking.
“We are artists people!” She said in a loud voice, tapping on the blackboard and interrupting everyone. “We take pride in our work and in our persons.” She gestured to me. “How can you be an artist when you come into this room dressed like that?”
Immediately I wanted to shrink into the size of an insect and let the floor swallow me up!
“She looks good,” Gavin said from the back of the room. As all eyes swung to Gavin, he gestured to me with a sweep of his arm. “She looks normal,” he said.
“Normal!?” Ms. Ann looked at me. “Is that the best you can say for yourself, Gene?”
Too embarrassed to speak, I didn’t say anything.
“I wear make-up,” Isabel chimed in, pointing to the winged eyeliner she had painted on her eyes. “We don’t all dress boring.”
I sank into my chair, smarting from the public humiliation.
“Lace is my signature look,” Clark/Celeste said, running his fingers up his lace-covered arm.
“Tattoos are mine,” Winston said, wiggling his fingers to show off his tattoos.
“What are you trying to say with your tattoos?” Ms. Ann asked, not satisfied with his artistic expression.
“I can’t say, Ms. Ann,” Winston said. “Tats are private.”
“They are private,” Ms. Ann agreed, coming to stand over him as he sat at his desk. “I hope you have a good reason for them. It’s dumb to follow the crowd.”