It’s been so long since I’ve had to be anywhere I didn’t want to be, that I forgot how public space feels against my skin.
“You in the service?” an older man with a worn expression inquires. I look him over, reading the loose threads of his cut-offs, the wrinkles in his over sized shell of an sweat suit draping down from his carefully trimmed neck line to mean he was.
I’d not been asked this question when I grew up in my navy town. In the moment of hesitation, an image of myself registered in my mind, short curly hair above a tall body clad in board shorts and a sports bra. I forgot how reference points shift with cultural territory, how a sense of place mediates the meaning that etches itself into our bodies. What, in Northampton, is decidedly dyke boarding on queer wedges itself into the military discount arena once I set foot within 10 miles of a base.
“Naw, but my mother was an aviation mechanic. She did twenty years on fighter jets at Oceana.”
He nods approvingly in an effort to mask his surprise, “I didn’t know women did that. Ya know…back then” I want to tell him that fuck yeah some women did that, and some still do. Instead, I shrug it off refusing to indulge the novelty of his statement. After all, it’s always been normal to me.