If I Were a Boy

a short story by Karen Zheng

I’m her biggest, most dangerous secret. We’ve been together for three months now. People saw this period is the time in which couples start to notice flaws in each other and usually break up. This has nothing to do being together for three months. I’ve noticed this early on. 

She never holds my hand in public. In fact, she never shows any affection past closed doors. We’re both Chinese, and I know the stigma, hate, and dissociation that comes with our relationship being “found out,” but it still gnaws at my heart. 

Our relationship is a secret. I understood that we couldn’t even walk close together in public for fear of seeing friends or relatives. I can’t even pull out her chair for her at dinner because there might be people we know lurking around. I can’t feed her ice cream. I can’t look at her for too long. I can’t touch her. I can’t love her. In public. At first, I thought it was an issue of fearing that people might find out about us, so we took a roadtrip to a different state. The result was the same. We walked as friends as couples old, young, gay, straight walked past us holding hands. I’m not sure why I’m so stubborn on holding her hand. Perhaps, I just want the world to know she’s mine, but I forget, some parts of the world can’t reciprocate. 

She’s been testing the waters with her close friends. When they ask her about marriage and blind dates, she replies with “I’m probably not getting married. I’ll find a girlfriend, haha.” Most have taken it as a joke. Others have actually mentioned me (I’ve been featured on her stories a lot lately). Some warn her that that is a dangerous thought and should be shunned and immediately find her potential blind date partners: guys that have a few houses under their belt and financial stability and social capital and…it’s the right thing to do. 

Ever since I was young, I’ve always wondered what it’d be like if I were a boy. So many girls would’ve fallen for me already. Multiple past relationships where I tried to get girls have ended with “I’m sorry. I like you, but you’re a girl, so I can’t like you.” What is that supposed to mean? With my current relationship, it’d be so much easier if I were a boy. She could introduce me to her family, friends, and relatives as her boyfriend instead of “friend.” I could hold her hand in public. But then again, perhaps she wouldn’t have liked me if I were boy…

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