Principle and Practice

“You don’t seem too shot in the fanny over it, though.” Ellie’s painting her toenails in that godawful pearlescent pink, her body contorted acrobatically. What we do for beauty.

“I’m not going to lie and say I’m terribly bothered, no,” I’m standing in her doorway, watching her literally watch paint dry. She presses a finger experimentally down on a big toenail, and even from here I can see she’s fucked the pedicure. She swipes at it with the paintbrush, adding a new layer that’ll take twice as long to dry.

“Ugh, talk like a human Margie, I can’t stand it when you go all e-textbook.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I reply, sipping my tea. I know exactly what she means.

“Yes you fucking do, don’t start that shit with me.” She stretches her feet out away from her, flexing her toes and admiring the paint job. “Anyway, what are you going to do about it?”

“About what?” I’ve momentarily forgotten what we were talking about. I set my teacup down on the dresser just inside her door.

Ellie rolls her eyes, taking her whole head along with them, managing an exuberant sigh in the meanwhile. “Ah-bou-t Jake Sien-kow-ski, duh.”

“What should I do?” I make the international sign of supplication, palms up. I honestly don’t know what to do.

“Ugh, kick his ass is what you should do, Marge.”

“Kick his ass?”

“Yeah, unless you want me to.” She kicks one of her polished feet out, rather feebly, then grins. “I mean, he’s a dick. I’d knock out his teeth if he’d said that to me.”

“Well, but it’s not as though he’s wrong. It’s horribly rude–and nobody’s business–but not inaccurate.” My hands are still out, and this time I just shrug, dropping them down to my sides.

“Seriously? You can’t let him get away with it. He’d be ready to kill someone if they accused him of being quote-unquote queer.”

“Actually, I think he is.”

Ellie’s staring at me, her big blue eyes somehow bigger. “Like, really? How–can you tell?”

I shrug. “I can’t. But he probably is. It’s not like it’s that rare. There’s a good chance of it.”

“Ugh, I hope he isn’t, he’d be the worst. I mean, you don’t want him in the club, do you?”

“It doesn’t bother me either way. He’s not exactly my type.” I give her one of those intentionally-crooked smiles.

“Ugh, well obviously, he’s not mine either!” She’s starting out of bed now. “Hey what time is it?”

I look at my watch. I’m one of those terribly anachronistic watch-wearers. You hardly see anyone with them anymore. “Half-past seven,” I reply.

“Half-past seven?” Ellie puts on her faux-posh-British accent, reminiscent of one of those old BBC shows that our parents like to watch ‘for auld time’s sakes.’ Admittedly, I enjoy them too, but Ellie usually can’t stand them, and seeing as we’re twins, I endeavor to do what she prefers sometimes. It seems important somehow. Genetically. I’m not sure.

“Aye, m’lady,” I say, doffing an imaginary cap.

“Okay. Help me with my hair?”

“Sure.” I take up the hairbrush and begin gently running it through her straightened auburn-dyed locks. “Who’re you seeing tonight?”

“Oh, Kate Sharpton.” I look at her quizzically in the mirror. “You know, the girl in our Biology class.” Biology is one of the few classes Ellie and I have together, since I opted for the advanced track. “The one with the gorgeous golden ‘fro,” she continues, her eyes growing starry.

“Ah,” I reply. “Yeah, she’s pretty.”

“The prettiest,” Ellie continues swooning.

“What are you guys going to do?” I ask, braiding parts of her hair now.

“Um, go to a movie and not watch it?” She giggles.

“Sounds fun,” I say. I understand the principle, but not the practice. It’s hard for someone like me to find dates.

Ellie pouts into the mirror. At first I think it’s because she’s gearing up for lipstick, but then she says, “Don’t worry Margie, you’ll find yourself a nice boy one of these days.”

I snort. “A nice boy is not hard to find, Ellie. Finding one who doesn’t want another nice boy is another matter.” I pull her braids into a low-updo, pinning it with some old rhinestone clips she inherited from our grandmother. In her own way, Ellie is anachronistic. She turns her head this way and that, after I’ve finished, examining all sides in the mirror.

“Thanks, sis. Listen, I should get dressed.” She stands up and puts a hand on my shoulder. We’re nearly identical, but somehow she’s about an inch taller than me, and her eyes seem much bluer than mine. And of course, my hair is dishwater blonde, not auburn. It’s been about five years since she started her feminine transition. I’ve never known if it was to differentiate from me, or simply because it’s what most girls do. We are, of course, dissimilar enough that most can tell us apart. “Don’t worry sis,” she says, her face close to mine, “it’ll be easier to find a guy in college.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I say. I pick up my tea, which has gone cold, and back out of the room.


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