My favorite window in my childhood bedroom faced the east. Its corners, where spiders caught tiny moths in their little webbed nests, were always dirty. Dust blanketed the entire window and became dense near the edges. Every spring I took the screens out, opened the window, breaking the spider's nests and with a fresh roll of paper towels, a container of Windex, I wiped them clean. The white paper towels quickly turned as black as pavement.
The smell of new mud mixed with leftover dead leaves, grass and Windex wafted through the open window and into my nostrils.
The east window faced my cousin's paved driveway where the neighborhood boys gathered, played basketball and rode their bicycles. They had muscles and flat chests. I had grown breasts and wide hips. How do I get to look like them?
When I looked through the east window, watching as they played without hesitation, throwing jump shot after jump shot into the hoop or attempting wheelies on their bikes, something inside of me stirred slowly, making its way to the top of my chest and stopping at my throat.
"Meg and the boys are here!" My uncle yelled at us from the picnic table at my family's annual Fourth of July party. There it was again, being separate from them even in the structure of a sentence.
There we were, teenagers armed with bricks of firecrackers in our brown paper bags that were normally utilized for our lunches at school. Like squirrels hoarding acorns, we made them last until sundown. My younger brother's stash was always the first to go.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!
Dust clouds and flakes of red tissue paper floated through the air after each blast.
I blocked my ears for the consecutive rounds of popping.
We were a team. Every one of us had a different defining characteristic typical of a group of teenage kids. There was the one who hit puberty first and muscles were growing faster than the rest of us, the funny one who always got in trouble, the baby of the group and then there was me, the tomboy, the girl who didn't really act like one.
As sun set and the driveway grew dark, and the boys abandoned their bikes and the basketball game, I would stand alone in my bedroom, and pull the blinds down on my windows, turning off the outside world and then walk to the door and flip the light switch off.
In the dark, standing near my canopy style bed, I said aloud to the bed post made of wood,
"Hey Katie, we should go for a bike ride tomorrow, if you want."
In my secret world, I was talking to the new neighborhood girl who picked me to talk to after everyone retreated to their houses.
Leaning in, where my hand rested on the bed post and where Katie's face should be, I closed my eyes and kissed my hand over and over until I got it right. Some nights Katie was the pillow.
Katie's name, spelled out by numbers instead of letters, was written all over my book bag and notebooks in black magic marker.
"What is this number I keep seeing on your books?" asked my mother.
"Oh, it's just a code for some video game. I don't want to forget it."
Living in code was fun at the time. Imagination kept me entertained, kept me from questioning and worrying why I hadn't grown into the muscles and flat chests the boys I surrounded myself with had sprouted.
This month mark's my five year anniversary of taking testosterone and beginning my transition from female to male.
Recently I visited my bedroom at my parent's house. It is filled with boxes of random hand-me-downs, old records, books, a treadmill and some baby toys. The blinds are pulled up, allowing the sunlight to funnel through the dusty windows. The room smelled like the inside of an old book.
I walked over to the east window, looking out toward my cousin's driveway. There is no longer a basketball hoop and the pavement is cracked like dirt on a hot August afternoon. It all looks much smaller than I remembered. My hand ran across the windowsill, picking up some dust and watching the particles float through the air. I stood there silently for a few minutes, remembering the excitement of my secret place, where I would go to do my research, copy what I saw and replay the scenes in my room so I could be just like one of the boys and part of me, a very small part, missed it.