I falter in my uniform, sure i am not one of the cheerleaders but for a moment the world shifts and I could be. Somewhere, she’s a girl in a uniform among an angel’s madness and we touch hands for a moment. She asks him, Clyde, who’s Evelyn?
Jimi, who’s Rosie?
Am I her? Was I always going to be her, somewhere, underneath everything? Were we always made the same or is that just something little girls believe?
You’re my best friend.
And why am I wearing her clothes?
As a dragon, I am not capable of devotion to anything but a greater incarnation of myself. The preservation of a family of those who may also never know faithfulness. Dragons know they will never live in the world they hope to create, and will always abdicate. But here I am, in a uniform. I can fall in love because Gabriel showed me how.
I don’t remember what happened.
You jumped off the fucking roof, Evie.
Yeah. Yeah, dragons do that sometimes.
I thumb the wool material of my jacket and toss back my hair. I’m a boy with a girl’s name. Angels are all just boys with girls’ names. Charlotte. Amelia. Sera. Sera is a boy with blonde hair that hangs fluffy in his eyes. He wears glasses and under his navy jacket is the bleeding yellow letters of assurance issued on black cotton of the Warlocks, that say clothes don’t make the man.
I’m only angel enough to be close to them. To cross the street to the side without sun and know their sense of silent isolation. To squeeze into the place where I can stand in the vacuum and look out at the world and see it for all it’s beauty before looking to the side and seeing the angels.
The space behind the looking glass is exactly 4 feet by 4 feet, and it is lit with makeup mirror lights around the edges. My skin glows gold in it, flawless-looking and serene. My hair is pale and waved softly, and my wings shimmer with a vaseline-lens effect. They are not feathered, but look white and softly webbed and veined like the surface of a leaf. My uniform is tucked close to my ribs and cuffed neatly at my elbows. My shirt is white this time, but still wrong. My eyes are Brad’s blue. I can see myself as something beautiful. On a shelf in front of me are tubes of makeup with labels on them that are not in any language I would ever hope to know.
I look out at the world and someone comes to me. They get close enough my reflection vanishes and theirs appears. Crying, hands folded, so patiently alone. Eyes wide, reflecting the pure white dots in their pupils that lend a look of vacancy. Shining, they might pull a fake grin at what they’ve found. I put the makeup on, shaky, uncertain, smoothing over ridges and plains I’ve never touched.
Rosie says it’s dressing up a pig, when she doesn’t mean it. When she does, we both know it’s something else. We both know that people’s uglinesses aren’t pigs any more than they’re beauty queens or roses. We both know that it has nothing to do with covering it up, and everything to do with showing someone how it could be different.
Shades of red forgiveness. Blue daring. Flesh tones in a rainbow of forgetting and letting go. Does this help? Does this? Can you see it now? I look left, and I look right. Angels are watching, wondering what I’m doing and why I’m doing it so badly.
You’re going to tell everyone about us. You shouldn’t be here.
Me, or them, or the reflections cast by glass and light? Who’s talking again?
What are you doing here?
I heard you say...that I shouldn’t be.
I wouldn’t say that.
To be told one thing and hear another. That’s what it means to be a dragon. I might not have ever known that until I stood behind the mirror and felt it for myself.
You’re beautiful (You’re not very remarkable).
You’re perfect (You have flaws and you can’t fix them, so we have to accept them).
You always do that (You will always do that to me).
You can’t think anything good about yourself (You are useless and nothing is real).
I love you, why are you hurting yourself? (You do not deserve my love and I think you’re disgusting and self-pitying).
No, I wouldn’t say that. I know what you’re doing. I know about you, but I’m not saying that.
The angels crowd the mirror.
What are you doing?
No, see. No, listen. See…
I laugh, and Rosie laughs, and we drive fast.
“NEVER throw a surprise party for the justified.”
“No? Why not?”
“Because. We have what we’re SUPPOSED to say, and what we WANT to say, and what would think would be GOOD to say. And we have to work all that out and it takes too long before we can get to the right thing and everyone will feel like shit.”
“Like the justified will be surprised but PRETEND they’re not, so then they’ll make everyone feel bad like they didn’t do it right, and then want to have a party anyway because that’s the true thing but no one can know we were surprised.”
The ashes from her cigarettes make gray rosettes in the ashtray between us and we laugh mercenary, no one safe from us, even ourselves.
“God, you’re fucking terrible.”
“Yeah, dragons suck pretty bad.”
“It’s like talking to a machine that plays back everything you just said, but the worst possible interpretations. And then.”
“And then you kill yourself.”
And we laugh.
“No. No, totally.”
Jimi, who’s Rosie?