We found Topher, but only by the most circuitous of routes. We rode the bus to the library were I'd met Bobbi. I had no idea what we'd find there, but I had no other leads.
Nobody there knew who she was, but I found a flyer for the Alateen meeting on the bulletin board. It had a phone number.
We couldn't reach her so we went and got a couple of sodas and a pack of Pall Malls.
"Damn," I said in the alleyway we'd ducked into to smoke our ciggies. "I forgot the matches. I'll have to run back and get some."
"I gots a lighter," Tammy said and flicked her Bic.
I tried to light it but failed. She took it from me, lit it and handed it back, then took another from the pack.
Instead of using the lighter, she took the cigarette back from me and used it to light hers.
"That's called a 'turkey fuck'," she explained, like it was rocket science.
"Thanks." I took mine back and took a small puff and blew it out.
"That wasn't so bad," I observed.
"You gotta inhale, girl."
"Notta girl," I reminded her.
"Then what should I call you?"
"Don't know. Still working on it...but if you are talking about me, I have some words for you."
"Yeah," she said, dropping her cigarette and crushing it under her heel. "I gots some words for you too, bitch!"
"No." I was laughing as hard as she was.
I was giddy; I don't ever recall feeling like that before.
"I mean I have words. Listen, we say he and she all the time, like him and her and all that. But if something doesn't fit, if it's not a male or female, or both, we don't invent another word, we just call it like we see it, or like we want it to be.
"Well I made up some new words, to use when the person you talk to is neither a boy nor a girl."
"How often does that come up?"
"That depends," I said, puffing a little harder, "on how many Rarebits you know."
"And how many," she asked. She took the cigarette and drew deeply on it. She French inhaled, blowing smoke out of her mouth and re-inhaling it through her nose.
"Thath's how it ith," she giggled and handed it back. I took another drag.
All the newfound coolness abandoned my body at that instant. You can't possibly look cool coughing up your spleen.
I was down on all fours before I knew it, wondering if I was going to puke. Tammy was smacking me hard on the back and laughing.
"You okay Dani? That was a bit too deep, hon. We don't wanna lose you."
"Yeah, you're right. Let's go see if we can find Bobbi."
"A transgendered lesbian I met at a meeting."
"Really? A lesbian?"
"Yeah, I think so. Maybe she's bi."
"Girl, you gotta start introducing me to your other friends."
"Are you interested in lesbians?"
"No," she thought about it for a second. "But shit happens around people like that."
"That's for sure," I replied, thinking of the BLT. "Anyways, I'm not looking for heom, I'm looking for Topher, but she might know where hit is."
"Topher? How many new friends have you got?"
"Enough. Topher is a...person I met last night. Hit is a Rarebit, like me.
"Girl, that didn't even make sense."
"I know, but it will. 'Hit' is the word I came up with for referring to a person without using gender."
"What's wrong with 'it'?"
"Would you like it if your Mother asked you 'what does it want for dinner?'"
"No, I suppose not."
"Of course you wouldn't; it's offensive. But 'hit' doesn't have that connotation. It just means 'person without a gender.'
"Where did you learn that word?"
"I made it up."
"You can't just make up words."
"Sure you can. People do it all the time.
"And in any case, I didn't make that one up, only the others. 'Hit' means 'it' in Old English."
"Ooh, look at William Shakespeare here."
"Shakespeare is Modern English. You couldn't read Old English."
"I cain't even read Middle English," she admitted. "Chaucer gave me a headache."
"You read Chaucer? I'm impressed."
"No, it was a literature assignment. I don't read no 'Knight's Tale' just for fun. That's something you'd do."
She was right.
"I have an idea, Let's go find a phonebook."
"Oh? You gonna look Mr. Rabbit up?"
"No, it wouldn't work. His last name is Grant. There must be a million of them. But Bobbi is an Alateen counselor. That means AA will have her number on file. Maybe we could find her that way."
Ten minutes later, we were back to square one. Nobody at AA would give us the time of day.
In the end, we rode the bus to Snoopy's.
"So you must be pretty taken by this 'Topher'," Tammy observed. The bus was mostly empty at this time of day; we were sitting in the back, with a whole row to ourselves, but she still talked like we were making a drug deal.
She looked the part too, with her cap pulled down over her ears and her dark sunglasses on.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because I've never seen you this jazzed about another person before."
"Hit is interesting, that's all."
"If you say so."
"Yes, I say so."
"I think maybe 'taken' is the too weak a word; you're smitten with him."
"Hir," I corrected her on my newly-minted terms. I was proud of myself for being so clever. "And I'm not smitten, I just finally have someone to talk to."
"See these ears," she asked, pointing at her head.
"Well, they ain't painted on."
She looked hurt.
"I mean, of course I can talk to you, but it's not the same. Hit's the same sex that I am."
"This is confusing, girl. Admit it, you're sweet of hit."
"Won't," I answered and crossed my arms in front of my chest. "Cause I ain't."
"Don't you mean 'hain't'?"
"Don't tease, it's not nice. Hit, hits, and hir are for genderless people. Heo, hira, and heom are for transgendered people. It, its, and itself are for things. Hain't is a horrible montrosity and beyond the pale.
"Don't use it again in my presence lest I let slip the Condescending Semantic Lectures of War."
"Yeah, okay. I won't do it again. But why you gotta be like that?"
"Like what, Tammy?"
"You bein' all, like 'you ain't like me', 'you ain't my same sex'; ain't I your bestest friend in the world?"
"You're my onliest friend in the world lately."
"Then why you gotta dis me?"
"I'm not dissing you; I just don't think you can understand everything I've been through. Do you know what it's like to be the only girl in the senior class with no boobs? I have to take showers with those catty little bitches. I hear what they say behind my back."
"Do you know what it's like to be the only girl with tits in the sixth grade locker room? I've seen you in the shower, hon; trust me, it's worse for me. They didn't say anything behind my back.
"They filled my locker with tampons once."
The bus pulled up to the Forsythe Street stop, and we got off.
"Hey, it's Topher's motorcycle," I pointed to it, parked in front of Snoopy's.
"He got a motorcycle? Girl, how old is he?"
"Damn, girl. You swimmin' in the deep water. You didn't tell me he have a motorcycle."
"He gave me a ride home on it last night."
"Who are you and what did you do with Dani Heywood?"