My parents didn't squabble one bit when I told them I wasn't going back to the Alateen meetings.
I didn't exactly tell them I wasn't going back, but that I found another one I thought I'd like better. They assumed I meant substance abuse counseling, but I'm not responsible for their assumptions.
Snoopy's was a funky little place in an old brick building on Forsythe Street. I took the bus so that Daddy wouldn't know exactly were I was going, or more importantly, what I was doing.
I wasn't trying to be secretive or disingenuous, but this was mine. No one else in my family understood it or me, and I didn't want to share it with them.
Maybe I was being evasive.
The smell was heavenly, even on the street. I love the smell of coffee, and enjoy it too, but only good coffee. I hated that stuff in a can; it was only good for cleaning up oil spills.
"D-a-a-a-ni," I heard a familiar voice call from the back, and Bobbi came sauntering up. "You made it. Here, let me cop a feel."
She hugged me.
"You smell good, sweetie, what have you been eating?"
"Stink heads," I said, spouting off the most revolting thing I could think of.
"Oh," she countered playfully, "I like. Does it come in 1-ounce bottles?"
Always the joker.
"Hey, Bobbi? Can I ask you a question?"
"Only if it ends in a proposition."
"Heywood, from last night. What is his last name? It couldn't have been what he said it was."
"Davis," she scoffed. "He's an even bigger clown than I am."
"Come," she said, pulling me toward the back of the shop. "You gotta meet the other guys." She stopped and grinned evilly. "I say guys..."
"Wait. I wanna get some coffee."
This is nice, I thought to myself. Cozy. We were sitting in a C-shaped booth at the end of the long narrow back room. There was a table on each side of the aisle but the bench on the back wall was continuous. There were eleven of us, mostly older teens but a few adults.
I was sitting beside Bobbi at the right-hand table and drinking from a stout stoneware mug of Sumatra blend.
"Hey," I observed, looking around to my fellows. "None of the coffee cups are the same."
Mine was short and wine, with a thick handle and rim; it had an amazing blue and brown glaze. Bobbi's was tall and unglazed, with no rim or handle and a rounded bottom. The handsome black man across from me had a rose pink goblet with a straw sticking out of it.
"Sure." Bobbi raised her glass. "They buy them from a local kiln. I think art students make them. They buy a lot of defective pieces. Garrett, the owner, says it's because they have character, but I think it's because he's a cheap bastard."
"They break them whenever they're chipped. You can even smash it yourself out back. They have a rule here; if you argue, take it out back."
"That must be cathartic."
"I don't know if that is a religious word," Bobbi told me, "or has something to do with the heart."
"It means traumatic and healing at the same time," supplied the handsome stranger.
"No, doubt, Tophe. Healing is good, but I could do with less trauma in my life."
"I think you mean 'less drama'," he said with a smile, and took a sip from his cup.
"Same thing. My father was very hands-on."
She patted her pockets.
"You forget something," I asked her.
"Yeah," she said with a giggle, "my manners. Topher, this is Dani. Dani, this is Topher."
"Nice to meet you Topher. I'm Dani Heywood."
"Likewise. Topher Grant, but you can call me 'Rabbit'.
"Because he's so c-u-u-u-te," Bobbi answered for him.
"It's complicated," he added vaguely.
There was a hook there and I was willing to bite.
"Try me." And now there's a hook for you.
He didn't take the bait.
"No, it's because...well, I'm different."
Topher was good-looking, but in a soft, almost feminine way. He was well-built, but not bulging, with a broad oval face and short nappy hair. His eyes were brown and his facial features prominent, but not obtrusive. He had no sign of facial hair.
His voice was a tenor, almost a contralto, smooth like glass, or highly polished lacquer.
I took another sip on my coffee, not to be coy, but because I was thirsty.
"I find it's best to be upfront about it; it saves time and mitigates frustration."
Mitigates? That was an odd word to choose.
"Everybody's, except mine. I don't frustrate easily."
"Perhaps I can help with that."
Bobbi must be rubbing off on me. I was not usually so forward. But it was true that I am frustrating. People get flustered at that they don't understand.
"Okay," he said, perhaps mistaking what I'd said. "But don't expect to get it the first time I explain."
"I'm not just transgendered," he explained. "I don't have any sex at all."
"That's what she said," chimed in Bobbi and smacked the table with her fist.
She laughed and Topher gave her a cross look.
I huffed my coffee deeply and took another long pull.
"I mean," he went on in a low voice, "that I have no sex organs. I'm a physical neuter."
"What?" I exploded, and sprayed coffee across the table.
"I'm sorry," I said putting down my cup and reaching for the napkins.
"That's okay," he said tersely and grabbed them before I could. "I knew you wouldn't understand."
He wiped his face savagely and stood up.
"I need to go the...rest room."
"Don't be mad," I pleaded with him. "I didn't mean it like that..."
"And how did you mean it?"
"You're that kind of Rarebit?"
It was his turn to do a double-take. His glacial countenance thawed a little, and he sat back down.
"What do you know about it?"
"Not much," I admitted. "I only just heard about it myself."
"Well, it's pretty rare. I'm the only one in St. Louis. I know of one in California, and there are a few more...maybe a lot more. But almost nobody has ever heard of us."
"How did you learn about it?"
"I am a Rarebit."
"I understand that, but I mean, where did you learn what it's called, and where it comes from?"
"I read a book about it. It just came out less than a year ago. How do you know about it?"
"Because," I said in an even lower voice, putting my hand on top of his, "I am a Rarebit too."