Beauty Queens

13,062
05.03.2019

I perform with the non-hearing dance troupe Helen Keller-bration! And by “non-hearing” I mean deaf. Again, people, get over yourselves.

My dream is to have my own dance troupe and work with kids. For real.

Once, I saved my family from an earthquake because I could sense the seismic activity.

My favorite Corporation TV show is the makeover show, Pimp My Face (Ugly Stepsister). I love to watch the girls get all new faces and clothes. I love that part after all the bruising and swelling and stitches and pain when they see themselves in the mirror for the first time and they just cry and cry. It’s really sweet.

The thing that scares me most is being left out.

The thing I want most is a best friend.

21Design This!, a popular interior design show in which maligned teen contestants get to overhaul the bedroom of the person they hate most using only what they can find in the house. On hiatus after one contestant decorated her rival’s room in cat poo.

22Fluffy Soft™ Laundry Puppy: The laundry detergent mascot that became a plush toy and multimillion-dollar product line. “Your friend in the laundry room. Cuddle up to new Fluffy Soft(tm) and see just how soft life can be!”

23Feast for the Fishermen, the ultimate emo band. Said to be sold with a complimentary prescription for antidepressants and a free flatiron.

24DiscomfortWear™, shapewear designed to eliminate rolls, ripples, and muffin tops. In some cases known to eliminate circulation and breathing. If you’re not uncomfortable, it’s not DiscomfortWear™.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Sosie wasn’t afraid of the jungle. Her ears didn’t register the screeches and growls that so unnerved the others. She heard only her heartbeat, which ticked in rhythm with the swaying leaves of a tree, the tiny ripples in the stream, the flutter of feathers on the wild bird roughly ten paces ahead of her. Her pumiced spear at the ready, Sosie crouched behind the bush to watch and wait. The bird pecked at seeds on the ground. It probably cooed or gobbled or some shit like that, but she couldn’t hear it. Maybe it was complaining about the quality of the seeds: “Really? Seeds again? I thought Wednesdays were taco day!” That’s right, birdie. Life’s unfair, Sosie thought as she poised her stick to strike. Go out squawking.

When the virus stole most of Sosie’s hearing, it also stole her right to complain. She figured out early that nobody liked an angry disabled person. It messed with their sympathy, with the story in their head about people overcoming adversity to be shining lights in the world. People wanted to think you were so okay with it all so they wouldn’t have to expend any energy feeling guilty. Sosie had played her part, being the smiling, plucky, don’t-worry-about-me, lip-reading Pollyanna. If she was angry about how unfair life could be, she never let on. Not like Fawnda Toussaint. Fawnda was fat and in a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. She had not gotten the memo about how disabled people were supposed to be happy and noble all the time in order to make people without disabilities feel okay about being lucky bastards.

Sosie was in sixth grade when her teacher had wheeled Fawnda over to her at recess. “SOSIE,” she shouted with a smile. “THIS IS FAWNDA. SHE MIGHT NEED A FRIEND HERE AT BRIGHT PROMISES ELEMENTARY. I’LL LET YOU TWO GET ACQUAINTED.”

Sosie had only heard about every third word, but she understood completely that Mrs. Brewer thought she could pair disabled kids like socks. Still, she played along.

“Hi. I’m Sosie. I may be disabled but that doesn’t stop me from —”

Fawnda glared. “Stop.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said, Stop. With. The. Bullshit,” Fawnda enunciated clearly.

Sosie’s cheeks grew hot. “It’s not, um, what you said. I choose to have a positive attitude. I don’t let my hearing loss get me down. I can do anything a hearing person can do.”

Fawnda’s eyes went flinty. She grabbed a notebook from the purse dangling from her chair and scribbled with hard strokes. Then she held up the notebook for Sosie to read: Yeah? Anything? Like hear? While Sosie digested the shock of it, Fawnda flipped the notebook closed, placed it back in the purse, and stared out at the kids racing around screaming on the blacktop.

“Why are you being so mean?” Sosie asked.

Fawnda answered with a mangled shrug. “I’m not here to make anybody feel better,” she enunciated. Then she wheeled herself off.

Fawnda stuck to her guns. Her seventh grade essay was entitled “The Cerebral Palsy Wheelchair Olympics Blues.” Her eighth grade poetry unit featured the poems “Reasons I Hate You,” “Hope You Enjoy Those Legs, Cheerleader Beyotch,” and “Dear Weil-Meaning Church Groups: Please Ask Jesus to Stop Dicking Around and Get Me Out of This Chair. Sincerely, Fawnda.” Those had landed her a visit from the guidance counselor, who’d suggested that Fawnda might try an art therapy group to help heal her inner tantruming child. Fawnda suggested the guidance counselor might try something that started with “F” and ended in “Off.” After that, Fawnda was sent to a special school for the differently abled — out of sight, out of mind, as if she had never existed.