I didn't get home till one, and Mother was more than upset, to say the least. But she didn't say anything that night.
"Who was that negro boy who brought you home last night," she asked at breakfast the next morning. "He looked a lot older than you."
"His name it Topher."
"What kind of a name is 'Topher," Robbie chimed in with his two-cents.
"Never you mind," Mother told him and turned back to me. She rested her elbows on the table and settled her chin in her palms. "So who was he?"
"A person I met at the support group last night."
"Person? And how old is this 'person'?"
"He's older than me, if that's what you're asking."
"I distinctly heard the question 'and how old is this person' come from my mouth in my voice. That's the question I'm asking."
"Twenty-three? Danielle Lynn have you lost your ever-loving mind?"
"Dani's got a boyfriend," Gina asked over her breakfast, suddenly interested.
"Dani's got a boy-friend, Dani's got a boy-friend."
Mother would tolerate none of that.
"Robbie, you shut your mouth right now."
He did so, but continued to hum in the same cadence.
"I won't tell you twice. As God is my witness, I've never hit any of you children, but I swear, child-of-my-body, if you don't stop that right now, I'll slap you so hard in the mouth, you'll have to turn your chair around to eat.
"Whatever happened to respect in this household?"
Not a child dared blink, much less answer.
"Now eat your breakfast and be quiet, or I'll sell you to the gypsies."
She turned back to me.
"Twenty-three?" Her eyebrows went up.
"Girl, you know a boy his age only wants one thing."
"Mother, how many times do I have to say this? I'm not a girl. You have nothing to worry about."
"Good, 'cause I could have sworn that I saw a person who looked remarkably like you comin' home on a motorcycle with a boy seven years older than itself at one o'clock in the damned morning! Now, correct me if I'm wrong but—vagina of no vagina—that looks like a recipe for bad news. What do you think?"
"Mother," Robbie asked, suddenly looking gravely ill.
"WHAT IS IT," she thundered.
"May I be excused? This girl talk is making me queasy."
She looked at him, and transformed instantly from She-Hulk to suburban mother.
"Yes you may. And don't forget to brush your teeth."
She turned back to me, fierce-eyed again.
"Well Dani, what is your masterful analysis of that situation?"
"I should point out, in my defense, that I know something else about the situation."
"Oh? And what is that? Do share with the rest of the class."
"He's a Rarebit Mother."
"What? How do you know?
"Wait, don't answer that. The only way you could know that for sure better not have happened."
"I didn't tell him until after he told me he's a Rarebit. He knew all about it."
"So why were you so late getting home?"
"Really Mother, do you think I'd not blow off curfew for a chance to talk to another Rarebit? I've never met somebody else like me, not even at that hospital in Dallas. And I may never get another chance."
"You certainly won't, young...youngster, if you miss your curfew by three hours again. Not until you're old and gray, so you better make up you mind to start following some rules around here."
She was overreacting, I thought, but I tried to see it from her point-of-view. I suppose she's required to see the worst in any situation like this. At least she was trying to see my point.
But those terms she used. There had to be a better way.
I thought of it in Spanish IV, after a pop quiz that I was sure I aced.
Gender is easy in Spanish because it's so systematic. It's not as regular as Esperanto, that's for sure, but with a little effort, one could construct a system of gender neutrality.
But English was a different matter. It was the 'whore of Babylon' of languages. But that was not always so. Old English did have neutral pronouns. I could adapt them.
How would that work?
I wrote down the forms, masculine, neuter, feminine, and all genders and looked at them.
Masc Neut Fem All
Nominative hē hit hēo/hīe hēo/hīe
Genative his his hire hira
Dative him him hire him/heom
Accusative hine hit hēo/hīe hēo/hīe
I didn't have to worry about Dative/Accusative because they were combined into the Objective case in Modern English. That simplified things a little.
That left hit, his and him/hit. But I really couldn't use 'him' or 'his' because they were the same as the masculine. My new words would have to be unique. But I thought I'd keep 'hit'. I circled it and wrote 'hit = it" below the table.
What about possessive? I could use 'hits' based on the pronoun 'its'. I wrote that down and thought about the third word.
There was no good word for 'gender neutral third-person pronoun for the accusative and dative cases' so I turned to the other genders. 'Hire' or 'hira' would work, but they already had other meanings. I could shorten them, use 'hir'. That sort of implied a pronoun of female and all genders. I suppose that described rarebits.
I wrote 'hit/hits/hir' on the bottom of the page, underlined it twice then drew hearts around the dots.
I could adapt 'gender inclusive' easily enough: I combined hēo/hīe into just heo, kept hira unchanged, and discarded all from the Objective case except heom. That should cover all the bases.
It would do for now.
I felt I'd burst if I didn't tell somebody about my new words, and soon. Since I'd neglected to get hits phone number—I was already using my new terms—I couldn't tell Topher until the next meeting, tomorrow night at the BLT.
I could hardly wait to for class to get out, but I had no choice. Waiting is what you did.
When the bell rang, I dashed to hall 12B, where Tammy's locker was.
She saw me coming and waved.
"Hey hey hey."
"Tammy, what are you doing right now?"
"Fixin' to go to Home Economics?"
"What say we skip?"
"Come on. We never do anything like this, and it's important. I have to see a man about a pronoun."
"Are you feelin' okay Dani?"
"Never felt better, why?"
"Cause you actin' strange, girl, even for you."
"Ooh," I said, patting my pockets for a pencil. "I have to come up with one for that too."
"Pronoun," I tittered, "no, wait, 'girl' is a noun." I kissed her full on the mouth. "Thanks."
She didn't look disgusted, but she did seem a bit shocked.
"You be wacked."
"No, I don't think so, but I really do want to ditch class. We can even smoke cigarettes if that'll make you happy."
"Now I know you high."
"No," I said. "But maybe I should be. "
I felt like anything was possible.
"Can you get any?"
"Oh hell no," she said, backing away. She thrust her hand out, palms facing me. "Last time I pinched Leroy's weed, I couldn't sit for a month."
"Never mind," I told her, grabbing her by the hand and pulling her bodily toward the exit, "let's get outta here 'fore someone sees us."
"My locker is still open, I gotta lock it."
"Fuck it," I said, and pulled her out the door.