Half Pipe

Now that strangers have seen me naked, I can move on to worrying about getting into college or my inevitable death.

Zoe Whittall's third literary novel, The Best Kind of People, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and selected as Indigo's Best Book of the year. It...

Friday night, Chevron station bathroom. Boots flat against the poured concrete wall, ass in the sink. I rub a thumb up and down the sweating neck of a bottle of fifty. Asher hid two in the ice freezer out back for us. He let us feel around in the candy bins first, eat until our lips stung in sour pouts.

Hair up or down, I ask. A first drink question.

Sandy says up. She’s still peeing. Strong stream, no hesitation. Twist it. No, not like that. She pulls her miniskirt down, kicks the flusher. Sandy knows how to be a girl. She grabs my hair, turning it around in her fingers, elastic in her front teeth as she tames it into a top bun. It pinches. I wince, take another long sip.

There, she says. That’s perfect.

She pulls a half-empty Diet Coke bottle from her bag and nudges my knees apart. I squeeze it between my thighs. She tips a mickey of Stoli against the open spout. Lip to lip, a smooth pour, not one drop wasted. The sound of the vodka trickle makes me have to pee.

I can’t piss in front of you, I say. Go outside.

You’re too shy. You’ll get eaten alive if you don’t cut that shit out. She lights a smoke, leaning against the door with her arms crossed. Just pee.

I’m not going to win this stand-off. I pull down my jeans. One hand on the wall to steady a low crouch. It won’t come.

Stop looking.

I’m not looking. God.

Okay, then sing a fucking song to distract me.

She sings the national anthem. By true north strong and free! a trickle comes, but it runs down my leg, soaking my sock. I try to stop it by sitting down.

Sandy laughs. You’re a mess, girl.

I prop an elbow on my right knee and stare at her as I finish peeing. My legs in an open V. Two can play this game. I can feel a soft rush of warm air from the heating vent against my exposed skin. I pretend not to care. She blows a smoke ring up and ignores me, like she didn’t look away first.

I can’t believe you sat on that filthy toilet seat.

What, it’s just other people’s pee on my butt.

Once strangers have seen you naked, it kind of breaks you open, frees something up. Everyone else is having nightmares about walking into class with no clothes. That’s already happened to me. I can move on to worrying about getting in to college or my inevitable death.

Whenever a girl gives me side-eye, I think about saying, you have a pussy. I have one. Get over it.

No one says anything about Tyler’s cock, his slits for eyes, his exuberant grin, or his high-five with Sketch.


TYLER WITH THE COOL HAIR sends seventeen texts, all mostly invitations to come out. I’m at the half-pipe and I’m so sad here without you.

Finally I write, I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to see you.

But I love you, he writes, I have to see you.

I don’t answer while Uncle Marty and I make our way through several episodes, wordless again, finishing every pickle in the fridge. My tongue is cold and hurts by the time I fall asleep in front of the TV.

I wake with a start to a vibration from my phone.

I’m outside your window. Come out.

Go home, Tyler, I text. I begin to snuggle back under the flannel couch throw when the motion lights flicker outside, and I note the sliding patio door askew, the absence of a deep snore from Uncle Marty on the adjacent couch.

I’m up, running, trying to stop what I know could happen, and it sounds like a crack of lightning in the sky when it does.

Zoe Whittall's third literary novel, The Best Kind of People, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and selected as Indigo's Best Book of the year. It has been optioned for feature film by Sarah Polley. Her second novel, Holding Still for as Long as Possible, won a Lambda literary award for trans fiction. She lives in Toronto where she occasionally writes for The Baroness Von Sketch Show and other TV shows.