yaoiabbr. "yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi"; "no climax, no point, no meaning."
Ohmygod this is it! We just came around the side of the hill and there's a shallow valley and long oval lake ahead of us. Angel's friends have set up a tent city on the lake's shore; it looks like a mini refugee camp, like in those Social Studies DVDs they make us watch. Angel calls it Rackwen. People in the city call it New Lesbos for some reason but they don't know anything. They're all morons.
The dome over Prize has been down since I was eleven; I'm sixteen now and this is still the first time I've been outside the city. Before we rounded the hill all I'd seen here for the past five hours was grass and dust. My aunt's crappy old bike clacks when I bring the pedal around; I'm clacking along next to my Angel whose skinny arms and legs are like extensions of his bike's frame, but less rusty. Behind him rolls a trailer, buggy, thing like a holey canvas tent on wheels. The canned foods and fruit that bump around inside come from Greenidge Market, where I used to work until I met my love, my Angel. He and that short, piggy guy Loki come to the city every couple weeks or so to shop and, well – okay, so I once saw Loki passing baggies of pot to some kids outside the Market.
Anyway, I met my love at the Market. We fell in love over a stand of apples. In his dark clothes he was a silhouette against the dairy section's fluorescent lights; he stood like he wanted everyone to meet his pelvis before the rest of him (not that I'd be totally opposed to the idea). His beetle-black hair flapped out behind him when the door to a nearby storage room whooshed open; my own close ash-brown curls wouldn't move that way in a hurricane (or a five-year storm). Everyone said give it up, Roxy, that one doesn't go for the girls. Bullshit, I said – well, no, I said they were probably right, since he did always flirt with the stockboys at Greenidge.
It's crazy what I did to catch my Angel. It's stupid because when we get to Rackwen this shirt's going to come off and he's going to see all the rags and duct tape around my chest. I don't think he'll get as far as the pants, or even the rolls of chub around my tummy and hips. I was lucky he even fell for it in the first place, that we'd only ever met face-to-face that one time over the apple stand, so he didn't recognize the Roxy in my "Fox."
We clack and roll into the tent town, down the "main street" (a sign post calls it Privet Drive) pressed into the grass like an unravelled crop circle. We pass tents labelled "Hogwarts," "27th Precinct," and some with squiggly nonsense symbols. Loki moves up front and leads us to a tent at the end of the path with the words "Headmaster's Office" painted above its entrance flap. We ditch our bikes, and Loki holds up the tent flap as Angel and I duck inside.
In the Headmaster's Office the late afternoon light struggles through the canvas and stains everything orange. Near the back there's a tree stump that's been fashioned into a clumsy throne and platform. On the chair sits a man with long, wavy blonde hair, dressed in what looked like a toga; on the platform a thin, flat-faced girl sits and hugs the throne's arm. Angel and Loki kneel.
"Sephu-sama," they both say in attempted tandem, Angel's pattering awkwardly after Loki's.
I should probably kneel too, but I'm too busy gawking at this Sephusama and what looks like her slave (I'm thinking Princess Leia in Jabba's palace, only without the collar and chain). It's just that when the toga-man leans forward out of the tent pole's shadow the line of his jaw looks softer; the hand that raises to brush blonde hair out of his face look less huge and square than it had. And when the girl beside him pushes away from the throne's arm to get a better look at me, I notice her chest is as flat as my Angel's.
"What brings you here, child?" Sephusama's voice is husky, a breathy clarinet note that doesn't sound quite male or female.
I stutter something about Prize's oppression, escaping the system; I figure anyone who has gone so far as to choose a tent town over the city would buy that kind of thing.
Angel interrupts me. "Fox came for me, Sephu-sama."
My whole body locks up, starting-line tight. Is it just me, or did my Angel just rat me out? If I didn't love him so much I might actually be pissed.
But Sephusama just gives us a slow nod, and a face like my mom used to make when I came home with slapped-red cheeks and no book bag. I half expect him to offer me hot tea and a hug. "Beautiful. You forsake the city in pursuit of love. Very well; welcome to our Paradise, Fox."
He makes a little come-here finger wiggle at Angel, and when my love gets up and goes to him Sephusama murmurs something in his ear. Angel saunters back to me with that cocky verge-of-a-smile face of his, takes my hand and leads me out of the Headmaster's Office. I keep looking back at Sephusama and Princess Leia until the tent flap falls between us, and every time I swear their sexes switch.
Angel leads me to a tent three down from Sephusama's, this one with the word "Hellmouth" painted above its entrance. My love's tent is the same make as the Office, about as big as my bedroom in our old townhouse and shaped like the box-and-triangle houses everyone drew in kindergarten. Square mats made of hemp and dried grass form a bed big enough for two in the middle of the floor, and a long tarp-covered lump lines the back wall. Angel waves his hand toward the bed and the scrunched-up wool blanket beside it, and says to get some rest.
Once he's gone I lie back on the mats and I'm thinking: this rocks. I get to share a bed with him! With my love! These people understand our love; no "give it up, Roxy," no "there's more important things in a time like this." There's this song on one of mom's old Tori Amos CDs called "Cornflake Girl" that goes, "Never was a cornflake girl; I thought it was a good solution, hanging with the raisin girls."
I think I found my raisins.
It's dark when Loki pokes his head through the tent flap and tells me to follow him. I've been drifting in and out of sleep and Angel daydreams, and when I stand it feels like my head's been replaced by one of those grass-stuffed cushions.
Loki's hulk is a black blob against the grey ground and tents. I follow him across the main path, through the patch of bike racks and out into the space between the tent town and the lake. Down near the water a squarer blob like castle ramparts – low in the middle, pointy things jutting up on either side – interrupts the moonlight bouncing up off the lake's wind-licked ripples.
By the time we reach the castle-blob I'm wishing I'd brought that blanket with me. My body clacks as bad as my bicycle, and the muscles in my back and chest flex painfully against the rags taped across them. Shit, I hope we're not night swimming or anything. I'd freeze to death, and my Angel would be too grossed out to hold me as I go.
The castle's pointy bits are actually huge standing slabs of rock – four of them, each stuck at a corner of a five-by-five metre square. Three of the square's sides are made of people in white shapeless dresses and these creepy masks: blank white egg-halves with a single vertical eye-slot on their right hand sides. Angel stands in the centre of the square. When I step in through the open side, the people start to hum a single, drawn-out note under their masks.
Angel takes my hand and pulls it up over his shoulder, bends down and (ohmygod!) kisses my lips. "Shh. It's okay."
And it is! It so is. You slot-eyes can wail all you want; I have me an Angel.
The humming breaks off into two harmonious pitches. Two of the mask-things step forward from the lake-side line and stand in front of my Angel and me. These ones have black swirl-patterns printed around the rims of their egg-halves, and the same sort of squiggle writing I saw on the tent-town signs. Wavy blonde hair sprouts out of the taller one's mask; straight brown out of the shorter's. They both hold pear-shaped plastic jugs.
"Children." Sephusama's voice from the tall one, only now it's more an oboe than a clarinet. Gotta be a woman. "You'd enter Rakeunfor love of each other?"
"Yes," says Angel. I echo, but with a question mark. What the hell is this?
She and the shorter one hold out the jugs. "Drink."
Lovers say "yes": take a shot. The stuff in the jug tastes like the rubbing alcohol I once licked off my finger by accident.
The short slot-eye goes on, "You'd accept all imperfections, past lives and necessary lies?"
Just as I pull the jug from my lips, the chorus shifts its pitch to a discord. Great: now my mouth tastes like ass and the slot-eyes' moaning grates at my brain. That and I'm starting to feel spinny.
The short one glides around behind me while Sephusama steps up and puts her hands on my shoulders. Something thin and cold presses to my neck and I have a second to think that shit, these people are crazy, they're gonna cut me, then cloth tears behind me and Sephusama rips off my t-shirt from the front. I kind of chirp; my throat closes too fast for me to scream. Some of the duct tape tries to follow the shirt off, and finally snaps back to hang like grimy grey tinsel. And the tears queue up.
"You'd accept this?" Sephusama asks my Angel. This poser? This stupid little girl? Oh God this isn't really happening!
But my Angel says, "Yes."
I gape up at him as he takes a huge pull from the jug. Angel says yes: finish the bottle. Some of the ass-tasting stuff drips down his chin. Then he hands the jug back, crosses his arms, grips the hem of his shirt and pulls it up over his head. Ms. Tori Amos is saying this is not, this is not really happening.
My Angel's chest is wrapped in wide beige bandages, stapled under his… her arm with three bone-shaped pieces of metal.
"You'd accept this?"
Shit, well would I? Think, Roxy. You wanted him to love you even if you were a girl. You wanted him no matter what. Your love is stronger than this. And anyway, you're not going to go and screw this up right at the finish line.
I chug it like Angel had. Or is it Angela now? Ha-ha. Oh God. The short mask steps around in front of me and snips off my tape and rags, the back of her scissors' blade dragging between my breasts. "Then let us accept you."
The line of slot-eyes shifts forward and brings its discord down to a monotone murmur, the pre-show babble in an auditorium. They form a U and then a circle around the four of us in the middle. They open up their robes at the back like hospital gowns and slid them off; their skin glows, then fades in a slow-strobelight pulse, but so does the wrinkled lake behind them, and the hills and grey sky behind that. Angel's lost her bandages. Her breasts are squashed from their captivity; all of their breasts are – badly drawn breasts by boys who don't know enough naked girls. No: badly drawn boys by girls who are – what are they doing out here? Well, right now they're pulling off my pants. Angel palms my hip, holds the back of my head and drives her lips into mine and when she backs off I just goggle at the flock of low-floating moons and stars, glowy balls and sparkles hanging behind her head. Fingers like dead goldfish poke me, trickle down my sides, all wiggly white cilia on white-blob bodies with eggy eyeslot masks on top that burble their freakspeak ("you're right Angel" giggle "he is cute") and the world's still slow-strobelighting, Ms. Amos isn't saying this is not, this is not really happening, no, now she says you bet your life it is. I scream.
The masks actually pause. I shove Angel off of me and barrel through the crowd, and thankyougod they let me go. Out of the square, out past their tent town toward the hill between here and Prize. Wet grass threads through my toes and around my ankles and yanks up out of the ground as I stumble along. I'm naked crawling away from Paradise because I wasn't a cornflake or a raisin girl and maybe this just isn't a world for a girl like that.
Ms. Amos says you bet your life it is.