"Come Out of the Darkness"
On the third morning after
Kenzie's rescue, Ida decided
that he needed some fresh air.
She found him leaning against
the wall of the roundhouse where
he was admiring the altar niches
that covered the back of the kitchen
facing the master bedroom.
"Follow me outside," Ida said,
placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I think that it's time for you
to come out of the darkness.
It is not good to sit indoors for
too long; it makes people gloomy."
"I'm supposed to stay out of
the sun," Kenzie said, mindful of
the healer's warning to be careful
about his recently injured skin.
"We have a porch," Ida said.
"You can sit in the shade there
and keep me company while I work."
"Okay," Kenzie said, letting her
lead him to the comfortable bench.
Ida had a tub of wet rawhide
that she was cutting into parfleches.
As she finished shaping each one, she
placed it into a different tub layered
with sweetgrass to help the hides
dry slowly and evenly.
"After these finish drying,
I will paint them," she said.
"What will you paint?" Kenzie said.
He had enjoyed the art classes
he snuck into at college.
"I don't know yet," Ida said.
"They'll tell me when it's time."
Kenzie wondered what that
would be like. It sounded exciting.
Anything would be better than
dealing with the mess in his head,
so he welcomed the distraction.
His foxes thought he was two-spirit,
and he knew they were wiser than he was.
Blair thought he was two-spirit, and she
had a lot more experience than he did.
Sometimes Kenzie felt like his body
was wrong, and other times like
his personality was wrong, and
most of the time he just felt
confused and miserable.
He knew that transgender folks
were supposed to have a coming out
sort of like gay folks did, but he was
pretty sure that getting thrown
out of a truck wasn't it.
"Now there's a long face,"
Ida said. "Want to tell me
what's bothering you?"
"It's kind of ... complicated,"
Kenzie hedged, looking away.
"The world is complicated, child,"
Ida said. "Remember that I got Blair
through her challenges all right."
Blair was about as okay as it was
possible to get, Kenzie realized, and
and if Ida had helped her get there,
maybe that was worth exploring.
"Are you sure you have time to listen
to my problems?" Kenzie said.
"I'm not going anywhere," Ida said,
patting the side of her tub. "Look at
all this rawhide I have to process if we
want parfleches for our traditional trips!"
Kenzie longed for the comfort of
someone who had heard it all before.
"It's so hard trying to figure out
who I am," he admitted. "I want
to be myself, but I don't know how.
Everyone expects me to know
already, and it's so much work
explaining to them that I don't."
It felt like when he reached for
something over his head and
then the motion pulled against
his new scars, a stretchy hurt.
"That sounds familiar," Ida said.
"How can you explain something
to others before you've finished
learning it yourself? Just tell them
to wait! They won't die of impatience."
Kenzie chuckled. "You make it
sound so easy," he said.
"It's easier than working
your tail off trying to answer
all their questions before you
know yourself," Ida said.
"Good point," Kenzie admitted.
"Have you ever seen a crawdad
shed its skin?" Ida said. Her hands
worked briskly, scoring the wet hide
where it was supposed to fold.
"I don't think so," Kenzie said.
"I've only seen a few of them."
"Well, they have a hard shell
to protect them. In order to grow,
they have to cast it off," Ida said.
"Then they're all soft and white and
vulnerable until it hardens again,
so they hide under a rock."
"I get that," Kenzie said.
He'd love to crawl under a rock
and stay there until his life
started to make sense.
"Let this be your rock,"
Ida said, rapping her knuckles
against the wall of the house.
"We'll protect you until you feel
ready to face the world again."
Kenzie swallowed hard.
He wanted desperately
to crawl into Ida's soft lap
and let her protect him.
"It's tempting, but ..." he said.
What stopped him was
the memory of his own mother
scolding him for being so clingy
and admonishing him to act his age.
The last thing he needed was to make
a nuisance of himself to his hostess.
"I may not have my daughter's sharp tongue,
but I can't say I think much of your relatives
if they've left you so shy of seeking comfort
when you need it," Ida said. "You can lean
on me, Kenzie, I won't think less of you."
With that encouragement, he dared
to scoot a little closer, so that he
could feel her like a warm wall.
Kenzie sighed and let himself rest
against Ida, his thoughts stilling.
"There now, that's the lot,"
she said presently.
Kenzie looked up to see
that Ida had finished cutting
all the rawhide into parfleches.
He sighed, expecting to be
shooed back into the house and
handed off to someone else.
"Look at this, your hair's gone
all frizzy," Ida said, running her hand
along his coppery braids. "I've got
a cousin with hair like yours, and
it just won't stay put for long."
"Really? She has hair like mine?"
Kenzie said. "That's hard to believe."
"She has red hair and green eyes
just like you, and her twin sister has
blond hair and blue eyes," Ida said.
"Trader blood, you know, but their skin
is red so they don't burn in the sun."
They sounded beautiful. Kenzie
wondered if he'd get to meet them.
He lifted his hands to the end of
one braid, prying at the leather thong
Ron had fastened it with. The effort
made his back twinge unpleasantly.
"I know Ron's been helping you with
your hair, but he and Ben went to catch
some fish for lunch," Ida said. "Why don't
you let me brush your hair for you this time?"
Kenzie weighed the imposition of that
against the pain of doing it himself
and said, "Yeah, if you don't mind."
"I'm happy to help, or I wouldn't
have offered," Ida assured him.
Her hands were quick and gentle
as she unraveled the long braids.
She produced a hairbrush from
somewhere and began working
from the ends upward.
Kenzie melted underneath
her touch. Maybe Ida was
treating him a bit like a baby,
but it felt so good, he didn't care.
The brush stroked over his scalp
and down through the soft strands
of his hair, smoothing the frizz away.
The wind shifted, bringing with it
the scent of a fire and something
not quite like the barbecue he knew.
Kenzie lifted his head and
sniffed, trying to identify it.
"Smell that smoke?" Ida said.
"Someone is making jerky.
They'll probably bring some by,
knowing we've got guests."
"S'nice," Kenzie mumbled.
Ida divided his hair in half,
then each half into thirds.
Her fingers moved deftly
down the length as she
replaced the two braids.
Kenzie sighed, sad that
it was over so soon.
"I can braid your hair
whenever you like," Ida said,
"although I think Ron would be
sad if you cut him off completely."
"Wouldn't do that," Kenzie said.
"That's thoughtful of you," Ida said,
then patted the least-injured part of
Kenzie's hip. "You're falling asleep.
Go back inside and nap until lunch."
"I don't know why I'm so tired,"
Kenzie said as he let Ida help him
to his feet. "I just got up."
"Check the shadows," she said.
"You have been up for hours.
The boys will be back soon
with their fish to cook."
Kenzie wondered how the day
had gotten away from him, but
he was too tired to protest.
Ida steered him tenderly back
to the bathroom, and then into
the guest bedroom -- which was
Kenzie's now, that was hard
for him to remember.
"Shouldn't be this sleepy,"
Kenzie said as she put him to bed.
"From what I've heard, you have
been roughed up and healed up.
Before that you didn't have a place
to call your own. Now your two spirits
are trying to fit with each other and
heal your body," Ida said. "And you
wonder why you're feeling tired?"
"Well, when you put it that way ..."
Kenzie said in a wry tone.
"I'm a mother, Kenzie, I've
seen it before," she said. "If you
rest when your body needs it, then
you'll recover sooner. The world will
still be waiting for you whenever you're
ready to come out of the darkness."
Kenzie wished, suddenly and fiercely,
that he'd had someone -- anyone --
like Ida Starblanket when he first felt
the stirrings of difference inside himself.
It would have been so much less painful
to come out to her instead of floundering
through his family's chilly reception
to his "questioning" phase.
"Stay with me?" he whispered,
feeling guilty for being so needy.
Soft fingers brushed his cheek,
taking away the tears that he
hadn't even realized were there.
"Good boy," Ida told him.
"Of course I'll stay with you."
"Thanks," Kenzie said.
"You're welcome," Ida said.
"It's hard work, learning to be loved
when you've had so little experience
with it -- but you're doing just fine."
She pressed a kiss to his forehead,
and it carried him down into sleep.
* * *
"[we need to] educate all educators and students. That way the people who may identify themselves as Two-spirited can comfortably come out of the darkness and learn what should be known and use the new experiences in everyday life."
-- Quote from youth participant
The Starblanket family roundhouse is made of cob with a grass roof. It has three bedrooms and a den/playroom. In this floor plan, the main entrance comes through the laundry room. In a traditional home, the place of honor was opposite the entrance, in this case roughly the great room and the master bedroom. The kitchen occupies the central area where the hearth once resided. The back side of the kitchen facing the master bedroom has altar niches. The library runs along the wall beside the back door and wraps around to the door of the master bedroom. The dining table tucks against a bench along the outer wall. The living room has a built-in couch and a woodstove. The sitting room has a built-in couch, chairs, and bookcases. The den / playroom has a fireplace, a built-in couch, and several pieces of loose furniture. There is also a niche with a desk and chair behind the fireplace. Toys are kept in baskets or shelves inset into the walls. The laundry room has a sink and cabinets in addition to the washer and dryer. The kitchen includes a refrigerator, chest freezer, stove, and sink. The back side of the kitchen facing the master bedroom has altar niches. The master bedroom has a queen-size bed. The master bathroom is decorated with tile mosaics of sea creatures. It has a wooden shelf unit attached to the wall. The guest bedroom has a full-size bed with a desk and chair behind the headboard. A huge planter lines the wall above the window, above which hangs a ceiling fan with grow lights. The planter and nearby shelves hold a variety of succulents, other houseplants, and even a banana tree. The bunkroom holds one pair of twin-size bunks along with a windowseat. The guest bathroom is decorated with turquoise tiles and small planters full of water-loving flowers. This is the porch of the Starblanket family roundhouse.
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