Dragging Through Time

Girl Butterfly Flowers by Fannie Lockwood of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College
Girl Butterfly Flowers by Fannie Lockwood of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College

Chaske’s (first born son) ina (mother) knew he was different from the time he could open her tubes of lipstick and eat the vermillion colored wax. She considered him a natural as he would drape her blue fringed shawl over his little arms and flutter like a butterfly across the kitchen floor. Once, she couldn’t find Chaske at dinner time. She searched and found him inside of her closet dressed in her buckskin dress and applying lipstick.

Chaske batted his shimmery lashes at her and laughed. Her heart melted as she wiped away all the instantaneous shame she had felt. Chaske’s ina grabbed ahold of his tiny wrist and guided him to the bathroom. Her superior cleaning skills were needed if she was going to get all the make-up removed before his ate (father) returned home. “A man who spent years in the navy would never understand,” she thought.

As the years passed, Chaske’s ina reluctantly gave in and found acceptance for cinca kin’s (her son’s) eccentric ways. Even his ate discovered the secret this ina and cinksi (son) shared while he was unclogging toilets at the local IHS. He loved his son no matter what. Besides, he was a kid, and kids grow out of things. The only thing Chaske grew out happened to be his hair. He now resembled a miniature version of Irene Bedard and emulated her look down to her perfectly arched eyebrows. Chaske powdered his face until he had that Pocahontas glow all Native girls are known for. He was a boy, but he beat his face to flawlessness. Then he’d pretend to be Miss Oglala Nation and practice beauty queen waves in the mirror.

Chaske never hid in a closet in regards to his sexuality. He was bigger than life. Gone were the days of playing dress up in his ina’s dresses. He mixed and matched clothes between the junior miss and boys section of Wally World. Chaske enjoyed the ambiguity his style brought. He reveled in the obscurity his presence caused in the classroom. The teacher would mix up pronouns when calling upon her, I mean him. No matter where Chaske went, he stuck out like a butterfly amongst moths.

It wasn’t until the seventh grade that Chaske heard the word fag. He had no clue what it meant, so he asked his ina. Upon hearing the word, she gasped for air and her eyes nearly bulged. She took a deep breath and blurted that the word fag meant cigarette, and since he didn’t smoke, it didn’t matter. Chaske was confused as to why the boys in school would call him a cigarette.

Did he smell like menthol? Was he ashy in color and in need of lotion? Maybe his butt was too huge? Months later Chaske discovered the true meaning of the word. By then, he was a punching bag for the boys. They spit in his face and laughed as it oozed down the apple of his cheek. His tears would wash away the saliva, then he’d apply more make-up, to cover up the pain. Chaske spent the next five years being tormented for attempting to be himself.

After high school, Chaske packed up his belongings and moved to Denver. He had five hundred dollars as he parted ways with his former life. He puttered over the reservation line in his car and refused to look back. Chaske grabbed his rear-view mirror and turned it in his direction. He applied some lip gloss, blew himself a kiss, and said goodbye to his former self and hello to his alter ego named Lila Waste (Very Good).

Lila had charisma and talent. She stood at 5’10 inches tall, hair and heels not included. She had a beaded purse full of glitter. Upon arrival, Lila pulled into the very first winkte (gay) bar she could find. She snuck in and ordered a drink. Her face puckered with each sip. As Lila Waste forced down the stout mixture something magical occurred. The lights in the bar dimmed and a song began to play. She recognized the tune easily. It was “Dancing Queen.”

Suddenly, a glamazon in red appeared before her eyes. Her look was on point. The red headed beauty sashayed across the bar in stiletto heels as she lip-synced for her life to the ABBA smashup. There was no doubt in Lila’s mind, this was her calling. She was to become a star, and this is where she would shine brightest.

Lila Waste would be the main attraction for many years to come. Not only was she a natural at performing in wigs and heels, but she was gorgeous. People from all over the world came to watch her perform. She would lip-sync to Madonna and impersonate Gaga. One day, Lila had a flashback of a time in her life when she was nothing more than a spittoon used by insecure boys. She recalled the self-hate she once had for herself because of them. She was thankful for such a caring tiwahe (family) who stroked her flamboyant ego and supplied her with unconditional love.

Lila wondered how they would react after viewing one of her drag performances. Would they treat her differently? She giggled and thought about how far she had come from her reservation life in South Dakota. She started out as Chaske, a young effeminate boy on a continual edge of self-discovery, who was bullied and teased for being himself. None of it mattered.

The starlet was now loved by many throughout the world. She was a drag superstar and no one could ever take that title away. In her mind, she thanked those boys from Pine Ridge for pushing her to the limit. Because, if she could handle that and manage to love herself, she was truly a queen, reigning over a world that can drag you through the worst, and then seat you right back upon your royal throne. She hollered, “Lilililili (Lakota women’s trill).”

See Darin G. Janis’ other award-winning stories and poems, including: “Doing Time”; “The Falling of Leaves”; and “How the Rainbow Was Created.”

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