When I was 9, I dragged home a large rabbit cage and took to sitting in it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Freudian kind of girl in any respect, but you have to admit that kind of thing is eerily apt. Really, who does that kind of thing? Unfortunately to my shame and the great chagrin of my parents, it was hardly the only example.
I found the cage at a garage sale for a quarter and it didn’t take me long to choose it over the well scorched ash trays and old bowling trophies (those I garbage picked after the sale was over). After I brought it home, I quickly found a good use for it. Always with a snack and good book, I’d sit in the thing for hours at a time reading and enjoying the outdoors. For dramatic effect I added a padlock to the front since I found it much easier to enter and exit from the top anyway. I can’t say why it was so comfortable, but it was.
On one occasion I got it into my head to bring it out to the front on the small porch leading up to the door. Looking back, it’s a minor miracle armed CPS agents didn’t immediately descend from the trees on zip lines, crashing boots first through the bay window to tase and drag away my excellent but unsuspecting parents. Who did show was my mom’s friend and her daughter Melissa who was in my class. I did say hi, but they just looked at me strange as they walked on back to the side door. (I live in Buffalo where use of the front door is a huge taboo for some reason) Moments later the front door was flung open, and my view of the neighborhood from my favorite seat was expressly forbidden. It was OK, at least I had the backyard. I’m not going to say that withdrawing into a cage was symbolic of my transgender existence, but you have to admit, it’s pretty weird.
When not in self imposed solitary confinement, I dabbled just a smidge in alchemy. For the unfamiliar, alchemy was the medieval pursuit to find a chemical or method of transmuting one substance into a far more desirable one. All they managed to accomplish was the foundation of modern chemistry while acquiring acute toxic poisoning. I can’t say why exactly, but I found the notion of being able to change one thing into another pretty appealing. I wasn’t trying to make gold or anything that would tip the world economy (I’m more of a sterling silver kind of gal anyway); I just wanted to see if I could do it. I can’t imagine what my motivation could have been!
As an aside, I will say that I was convinced once that I actually did it. You can’t imagine how excited I was. I fished the penny out of the electrified mucky solution of random chemicals and was astonished to see it had turned bright and gleaming silver. I think I actually ‘whooped’, which is something you usually only read about and seldom do. I ran up the stairs to show my father. He was pretty surprised, first thinking I somehow stripped the copper cladding of one of the new zinc ones, until he noticed the date was like 1958.
My dad had a real knack for figuring things out and turned it over in his hand. “Mike… have you been playing with the mercury?” Crap. Of course I had! For reasons as yet unknown he brought a plastic bottle full of the stuff home from work, showed me how cool and wonderful it was, strongly cautioned me from ever touching it, and stored it away in an easily reachable location. What did he expect? He wasn’t really mad, but I was devastated. I didn’t give up, and consoled myself with the fact that I managed to at least make the dull old penny look beautiful.
It’s decades later, and I’m back at it, trying to change one thing into another, what it should have been in the first place, all without the benefit of a cage. This time though, I’m winning.