Hockey Teen on a Ferry

This is a work of fiction based on real conversations with my friend, who reported a recent experience on a ferry, and others.

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“That would be so gay.” Look up. Your eyes, previously focused on a crossword puzzle, scanning the room. Who said that? Those boys —they’re only thirteen to fifteen—wearing the same hockey jersey.

Did Tom really say that? What would my uncle say? Tom’s looking at me. “Yah, so gay.” Sorry, Uncle.

Crossword puzzle forgotten, your hands reach for your purse—to find your knitting. You hesitate. Best not to draw attention.

That man is looking at us. He heard me.

You look around. If that’s a team, shouldn’t there be an adult nearby?

Is he going to tell Coach? Tom’s dad would laugh at him. “It’s a free world,” he would say. “I could call you ugly all day, but I say ‘gay’ and you want to call the f-ing police.”

What’s Ryan talking about? Why is he saying that Jasmine just keeps demanding more and more sex? He’s never had sex. Has he? Mom would want me to walk away. No, no, no, don’t look at me! “Just give her a dildo.” Sorry, Mom.

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We have come far enough to find it jarring when teens jest with homophobic or misogynist taunts. We have a distance yet to go.