In the bathroom mirror I realized that I could see all my teeth.  No mysteries to my molars, I could count the cavities–and suddenly my tongue was much less mysterious, even though it still says stupid things. (Like I’m sorry.)

I never got braces to set the crooked straight, but Dad dragged me to church, made me crooked straight. Mama taught me to be thin, bleached my teeth, bleached my skin, marinated my bone-yellow melanin. (Is my smile crooked, now? Is my smile crooked, how?)

I never had an ear for music, but I dance to the rattle of my front teeth loosened, clinking tooth against tooth like a jailhouse blues. They’re ready to be let out. Mama, can I follow? She says the fairy will not come, no salvaged teeth in the wild. She says the fairy has gone home, so embrace this tilted smile.

I’m ready to be let out. Mama, will you follow? She says the fairy will not come, no salvaged teeth in the wild. She says the fairy has gone home, so I embrace my tilted smile.

When Jules was five, they asked, when it was time to get dressed, what would you like to wear today? Who would you like to be?
Then Jules, standing naked, would study the small collection of dresses and pants and shirts and skirts and bowties displayed on the bed each morning. I want to be that, Jules would announce finally, pointing a baby finger at a dress sometimes, pants or coveralls at other times, a dress and pants and a bowtie from time to time. Ruby and Ramses accepted this daily ritual as a sign of Jules’s imagination,
an attraction to colors, patterns, and shapes; since they never ever said this is a dress and only girls wear dresses or only boys wear bowties and pants.

They had no idea if what they were doing, how they were raising Jules, was good for Jules. But, and although they did not attend the Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or Pentecostal church in Shadow, Ruby, more than Ramses, believed in God, in a synthesis of what she had grown up believing God to be-a permanent imprint in the human mind,
for which there was no need of proof of existence, even to a child.
Just as Jules expressed imagination, so did God through Jules.
Whenever Jules asked, am I a girl or boy, Ruby said, both and that’s normal for you; figuring that the simplest answer was the best, and being consistent was loving.

But both was only half true, for the child was also neither of the two acceptable sexes; and as time went on, first Ruby and then Ramses slowly began to refer to Jules with a new pronoun: bothneither,
which, whenever Jules was around they shortened to bn.
To the child’s ears, the southern accent of the parents made the new pronoun sound like “be in.”

—  Alexis Deveaux, Yaba