The doctor called my mum today and told her I'm White. She broke down crying, her shoulders shook and the tears fell thick and fast down her cheeks. I didn't need to ask to know what the problem was. I see the problem every time I look at my reflection in the mirror. My body is normal but I don't feel normal.
Mum told me she still loved me. She even used that word, 'still'. It was a horrendous reminder of what I was and what I wasn't. She didn't tell me nothing had changed because everything had. That was the reason we were to pick up the pills.
Being White isn't the same as being Black. When you're Black people can see it. It's this massive blotch on your face that you carry round with you. Whites are harder to spot. Sometimes they're the ones running down the street naked, blabbering about the polar bear in their bathroom and other times they're the ones sitting in the corner, rocking whilst they watch everything and see nothing.
We saw a lot of Blacks on the way to the store. We even saw a few Greys too.
The pharmacist handed me my supposed 'life-savers' and we went on our merry way. As soon as we exited the shop I walked into a Black. Her blotch was the wheelchair she was bound too, skeletal fingers ghosting over some sort of gear stick. I could hear every breath she made.
"Sorry." Despite looking like Death in wheelchair her voice sounded fine, if apologetic.
"It's fine," I replied. Her eyes found their way to the bottle of pills in my hand. I clenched my fist, trying to hide the evidence of my abnormalcy. I didn't think it worked though. The emptiness in my eyes was probably as blotchy as her wheelchair.
And then, for no reason at all, she introduced herself. "I'm Lauren," she said and offered a weak smile. "My body doesn't work the way it's supposed to. I've been certified Black since before I even knew what it was."
There was a beat of silence in which I was aware of Mum behind me, waiting by her car. I could almost feel her eyes boring into the back of me. Get back here. You we can hide but she stands out.
"I'm Caitlin," I found myself replying. "Just got the all-White a few days ago."
"I'd shake your hand, Caitlin, but I'm a bit of a germ freak," she said, giving me that sideways smile again. I found myself smiling too, unable to believe it.
"Caitlin." Mum's voice was harsh and cold. I turned to find her looking pointedly at me, her hand white-knuckling the car door handle.
"I have to go," I told Lauren even though Mum had made that pretty obvious right in front of her.
"No problem." She attempted a shrug. "It was nice meeting you."
I left her outside the pharmacy and climbed into the back of Mum's car with my fully workable legs. She even managed a wave as we drove past.
"Make sure you take your pills," Mum instructed as we drove home. She even dropped her voice down low as though somebody might be eavesdropping. "You're lucky you're a White and not a Black. As long as you act normal you'll be fine."
I didn't want to tell her that I felt like the glitch in my head stood out just as much as Lauren's wheelchair. I didn't want to disappoint her.
The next time I saw Lauren was at the park. Mum had told me the fresh air might do me good, that it was better than lying in bed all day. It had taken me over an hour to emerge and even then I hadn't bothered to dress properly. Every time I moved my legs I could feel my pyjama bottoms underneath my jeans, yesterday's underwear riding up my crack. My pyjama top stuck to my skin underneath my hoodie.
"Nice hair," Lauren said as she rode up to me, her wheelchair not finding the gritted path much to its liking.
Feeling self-conscious for the first time in ages, I tucked a strand of unwashed hair behind my ear.
"You want to find a bench?" Laruen asked, already moving her gear stick and riding past me. "I'm lucky I get to sit all day but you must be tired." She rode off down the path, heading for the bench at the bottom just under the blossom tree which was starting to bloom in the early spring.
I admired the way she assumed I would follow her, how she approached me with such confidence when she didn't really know me. With tentative steps, I headed after her.
For over an hour we sat and talked about ourselves. We started off with the usual Black and White stuff but it was Lauren who moved onto personal interests.
"I'm an avid sports fan," she said once and I looked at her, waiting for her to say she was joking. She frowned slightly at my expression as though she wasn't sure why I was looking at her like that but then she snorted. "No, seriously, I am. I might not be able to play but I love to watch. Me and my dad always go to football matches. I love the atmosphere – it's contagious."
"Your dad goes out in public with you?" I said before I could stop myself.
"Yeah, I know, but once you get passed the ugly mug there's an awesome person inside here," she said as she kept on smiling, not in the least bit offended. "So what about you? How many times have you thought about killing yourself today?"
I looked at her in surprise, my stomach doing small somersaults in panic.
"You know, if it gets so bad I could always run over you with my wheelchair," she suggested, her face the most serious it had been since I met her.
The suggestion was so random and out of the blue that I found myself smiling, and then laughing. I couldn't remember the last time I laughed and then Lauren was laughing too. The pair of us must have looked like idiots to the Normals walking passed us.
"I'm serious," Lauren persisted. "You wanna take me up on that offer, hm?" She raised her eyebrows as if she knew what I was about to say.
"No thanks," I said, casting a glance to the pink blossoms above us. Lauren looked too. "I think I'm starting to see in colour again."
"I've been seeing in colour all my life," was Lauren's reply.