My drag king name is Prag Titmouse, which nobody asks for anyway. The mustache doesn't itch anymore because it's just as sweaty as the rest of me. Richard and I are dancing right in the thick of it, with all these girls packed into the dance floor. I've had two doubles already, and I'm getting over that nervous feeling I get around lesbians. I love the music, the angry dyke punk rock. I'm jumping up and down with my hands in fists.
A blonde girl with long hair and those thick rimmed glass that men are always wearing in diamond commercials pushes between us, taking Richard by the tie and pulling him close. She kisses him and he kisses her back, watching me out of the corner of his eye. His face is bright red, and I start laughing and pull her off of him. We used to play see how many lesbians you can French kiss before one of them figures out you're a boy.
I pull him off the blonde and kiss him myself. I love the feeling in the pit of my stomach, with the dyke punk shaking my head and Richard's hand on the front of my pants, squeezing me while the girl watches. These are my people, queer and out of control. That feeling lasts for a minute while Richard and I feel each other up, but I notice the girl still standing there. She's sneering, uninterested in gender play. She can't understand why a drag king would be into another king, and not some femme bimbo. She has no idea.
The feeling's gone, and I remember how closed minded most of the faggots I know are. Richard wants to go to the bathroom and fuck, but I'm ready to leave already. The music is stopped for a bit, and there's a girl up on stage, reading her poetry for the lesbian ball talent show. I want to get up on stage too, and make an ass of myself in front of a pulsing crowd of lesbians who won't be happy to suddenly find a man in their club. I'm not even drunk yet. I want to pull a magic trick, walk on stage as a girl in boy's clothing, nothing up my sleeve, and pull a cock out of my pants. Voila!
The girl who introduces the talent show competitors is named Michelle, and she's standing against the bar and talking with the bartender. She's got her head shaved, and lines carved into her eyebrows like she still thought it was ninety three. I walk over, leaving Richard with the blonde who won't give up, and I introduce myself. Firm handshake, eye contact. I play up being a man, so she thinks I'm not.
"Prag," I tell her, and she laughs out loud. She's got an explosive, ugly, fucked up laugh. She spits ice cubes that she's been chewing.
"Your name or your designation?" she asks, and I grin.
"It depends on what kind of mood I'm in," I tell her. "You the girl that can get me up on stage to read some poetry?" and she nods.
"What you got?" she asks, and I tap the side of my head. "Come on," she says, "let's hear it."
"I only really feel comfortable up on stage," I say. "I feel like my poems are meant to connect with a wide spectrum of feminine energy, and I tend to get embarrassed when I read them one on one." I try to look embarrassed, but Michelle is nodding. Did she roll her eyes? I hope so.
"No, totally," she says. "I'll get you up after the next girl."
Richard appears beside me, and takes my hand. His fingers are sweaty against my knuckles.
"Can we go soon?" he asks, and I nod.
"We'll be leaving very shortly," I say into his ear. "Trust me."
Soon Michelle is up on stage and pointing at me. I make my way through the crowd and climb up beside her, in front of the microphone. There are a couple of catcalls, and I smile. Michelle gives me a kiss on the cheek, and she steps down into the crowd again.
I'm under the lights, and sweating already. This is childish and stupid, I know. How long have I been pulling shit like this? What will this even prove? But I see Richard grinning in the audience, his lips wet and his eyes inviting, and I know that he'll think it's great. I know that when we get out of here he'll tell me how awesome he thought it was, and we'll fuck in the back of his car.
So I pull my shirt open, and tear the mustache free. Without the mustache on my lip, my face is still masculine, and it becomes apparent that it wasn't that little bit of hair constructing me. I haven't changed, but I have. I'm not wearing an undershirt and I don't have breasts. Girls are already yelling "boo" at the stage, and I can see a big security guard headed my way through the crowd.
"My name's Prag Titmouse," I say, "and my poem is called 'what the hell is wrong with lesbians, because cock is awesome.' I hope you like it." I pause, and clear my throat. Michelle is there at the edge of the stage, the only face that's laughing. I smile at her. "What the hell is wrong with lesbians?" I say. "Because cock is awesome. The end."
I jump off the stage and grab Richard's hand. Michelle is right there, and says something that I can't hear. I grab her hand too. Richard's eyes are wide, but he's smiling as he runs beside me. We all take a path that lands us some kicks and punches from the girls we pass, but which takes us to the door and avoids the bouncers. In the street outside I'm shaking with laughter. Michelle is still saying something, but I'm near deaf. We run for a couple of blocks, until we're sure that nobody is following us.
I've got that feeling back, like I'm a part of something queer and strong and worthwhile. When I read about "the movement" in the paper, or see queers interviewed on TV, I don't feel like a part of that, I don't feel like I'm represented by that toned down image they've created to help straight people "tolerate" us. I'm a part of something more honest.
I'm a part of that smile of recognition I get from the store clerk when he realizes I'm gay too, I'm a part of that smile on his face as he looks the other way and I slide a book into my jacket. Richard and Michelle are too. I feel so close to them right now, I want to fuck the air.
"God damn it," Richard says, leaning against a car. He's laughing, out of breath. "God damn it." He says again. Michelle is shaking, and I stick my hand out to shake. Another firm handshake, this time as myself and not a girl faking it, and Richard gives her his, too. He's still in costume.
"We're going to crash a high school party," I tell her, and Richard gives me a strange look. I know he wants to fuck in the car, but I shrug at him in return and smile. Plenty of time for that later. He shrugs too, but looks a little disappointed. He'll get over it. I want to have some fun tonight. "Are you down?" I ask Michelle. We're walking again.
"Sure," she says. She looks over her shoulder, the way we came. "I can't go back there tonight anyway. They're going to think I was in on it." She smiles. "I wish I was. What are we doing at this party?" We're at Richard's car, and he pulls his keys out.
"Breaking hearts," Richard says, pulling open his car door. "Maybe making friends." We climb in, and Michelle gives us her back story. She only works part time at the dyke bar, just a way to meet girls. She moved here from up north because she was tired of the cold. She was tired of living in a town with fifteen lesbians who all had each other on speed dial.
"And it's hard to look good when you're wearing a parka half the time," she says. Richard nods. He's from up north too, though further north than her I'll bet. "I've just been kicking around since I got here." Michelle lights a cigarette. "Sleeping around a bit, and trying to avoid the drama. I work part time to pay the rent and buy my groceries, and spend the rest of my time doing what I want." She laughs and corrects herself. "Doing who I want," she says.
Richard's friend Alex meets us in the parking lot of her high school. A dance is just letting out, and severe looking men and women, her teachers I'm guessing, stand at the door and watch the kids all head out. Alex looks sharp, wearing a suit like ours, and her facial tattoos are impressive in their sheer size. She's got thick black rectangles crossing her cheekbones.
"So here's the plan," Alex says, as soon as she's in the car. "I pick a boy, and start flirting with him," She's talking to Richard now. "I pretend I'm drunk, and easily taken advantage of, and he gets all blood-drained-from-his-head and takes me upstairs." Richard is driving, watching the road, but Michelle and I are leaning forward. "He lets me blindfold him..."
"And then Richard fucks him." I say, and I'm grinning like an idiot. "Or sucks him off. He does it instead of you, but the boy doesn't know." Alex is looking at me now, for the first time. "He's blindfolded, and getting the blow job of his life, and until he opens his eyes, nothing is wrong. Everything is perfect because in his head it's perfect."
Alex turns back to Richard. "Imagine the look on his face," she says, "when he finds out it was a guy instead of a girl sucking him off. Imagine how angry he'll be." Richard is still watching the road.
"I don't think that's a good idea," he says. "There's not really any consent involved there, is there? When he opens his eyes and sees the two of us there, he's going to feel taken advantage of, used. Won't he?" I snort and lean forward again.
"It's like gender play," I say. "You're a girl, sucking him off. You're Alex for that ten minutes on your knees, because all Alex is to him is a mouth. And Richard, if an ass is an ass, then a mouth is a mouth." Richard blushes and glances sideways at Alex. I realize that those were her words and not his, that he was just repeating them. "You're not a boy until he opens his eyes, and then what does he do? He's just had an amazing orgasm in your mouth. He's been moaning about how fucking awesome you are, and now that's all recontextualized. He has to go back and reinterpret everything that just happened, with a faggot sucking him off while he bucks and moans. It's perfect."
Michelle hasn't said anything, and I give her a sidelong look. She's watching me quietly, on her second cigarette. Alex is turned around in her seat now, facing me.
"If Richard won't do it," she says, "will you?" and I nod.
"I'm better at it than he is anyway." I grin, and Richard shakes his head.
"Fuck off. I'll do it," he says. "Now tell me what exit we're taking."
At the party Richard goes off with Alex to deflower a high school boy, and Michelle and I find a spot near the keg and sit down. "Spongebob is totally a fag," a boy next to us says, and the whole group of drunk kids are laughing. "He's always hanging out with that fucking pink thing. He's a bum boy." He says "bum boy" with a fake lisp and Michelle rolls her eyes, but I turn around to face them.
"Who else is gay?" I say. "Tinky Winky's gay, right? That purple teletubby?"
"Yeah," the boy nods. "and Batman and Robin have got to be gay. Come on."
"That Hannah Barbara cat thing," says a girl. She pauses to think of the name. "Snagglepuss. He's a total queer." Michelle turns to look at the girl. It looks like she wants to say something, but before she does, someone cuts in.
"Bert and Ernie," he says. It's a boy with a t-shirt that says something in binary code on it. He's got his glasses taped at the corners, even though they're obviously brand new. "Probably Oscar the Grouch, too. He was like a bitter old faggot. Kermit the frog's little nephew." He adjusts his glasses with a practiced move. "They should form a team, and fight crime." I almost laugh out loud. Brilliant. Before I can say anything to Michelle, she's standing up.
"Let's go see how Richard's doing," she says. She takes my hand and helps me up from the couch. My mind is flooded with images of cartoon characters and muppets, gay terrorist comic book heroes. Halfway up the stairs we can hear a boy yelling "what the fuck?" over and over again. "what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck." Michelle starts running up the stairs and I follow.
Two boys have got Richard on the ground, and they're kicking him. They're not doing a very good job of it, because they're so drunk, but they're trying really hard. Another boy is holding Alex back, but she is giving him a hell of a struggle. Michelle is on top of them before I'm even at the top stair, and she is all elbows and knees. Alex breaks free and all of a sudden the tides have turned. I'm not into the violence, I'm too busy thinking.
I help Richard up, and he doesn't have any bruises on his face or anything. He's holding his side and I say "You alright?" and he nods. "Anything broken?" I say, and he shakes his head. "Good, because I have an idea."
"What?" Richard looks around at the fight that surrounds us. "Is your idea to get the fuck out of here?"
"Nope. You've heard that stupid controversy that Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street are gay? What if we got ourselves some masks, and became Bert and Ernie? What if we took the ridiculous idea that characters on a children's show are gay, that they are a threat to "traditional family values", and we made it come true?"
"You mean, like, put on the Bert and Ernie mask and fuck somewhere in public?" he says and I shake my head.
"No, I mean put on our Bert and Ernie masks and videotape ourselves breaking into people's homes and leaving pro-gay children's books in their kid's bookshelves. You and me and Alex and Michelle, assuming the identities of gay cartoon characters and going out every night to threaten "traditional family values" as best we can. Breaking into a television station and changing the Saturday morning cartoon programming? Pirate TV without all the expensive equipment."
Michelle has stopped punching the guy nearest me, and she looks up. The guy looks unconscious. I've never seen someone beaten unconscious before. That's lesbians for you.
"What good will that do?" she says. "We're just giving weight to their arguments, aren't we? I mean, there are people on the television all the time accusing us of doing just that, corrupting children."
Alex is in the background somewhere, yelling "And he fucking liked it. Ask him."
"So why don't we do it for real?" I say, and I help Richard to his feet. "We aren't gonna talk these people into liking us. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. They're bigots through and through."
Richard is grinning now.
"But we can brainwash their kids," he says, finishing my thought. "Why aren't we trying to recruit people? We get accused of it all the time anyway. I'm in. Dibbs on Ernie." I look at Michelle, and she still looks wary.
"Well," she says. "I don't know. Who would I be? What lesbian cartoon characters are there?" Alex comes up behind her and slides her arm around Michelle's shoulders. "She-Ra? Was She-Ra gay?" Michelle says. "Is that even a recognizable mask? They'll think it's Bert and Ernie and a couple of random girls in masks." Alex shakes her head.
"There are tons of dyke characters," she says. "I'll be Wonder Woman and you can be Velma from Scooby Doo. And just so people can tell what the masks are, we'll wear those five dollar plastic kid costumes too. People will figure it out."
We make our way downstairs and through a house full of sullen, staring teenagers. I notice that Richard stops holding his side until we're outside. In the doorway Alex stops and turns to face them all.
"Thanks for everything, guys." She says. "See you in class!" She runs down the driveway and climbs into the car. "Where can we get masks at this hour?" she says. "Can we start tonight?"