8 minute read

Paula Sophia Schonauer, LCSW, continues a serial memoir. If you haven’t read the earlier parts of this series, follow the links at the bottom of this page.


I awoke in Ginger’s arms, her body against mine, a soft breeze billowing the curtains covering the windows of her apartment. Sunbeams filtering through wavering gaps were at a high angle, a telling sign it was late morning, and the heat, too. Sweat dribbled down the side of my back, making me squirm, then I felt that adhesive moisture bonding my skin to Ginger’s. I tried to move away, but she pulled me closer, locking her embrace.

Ginger’s sweat had an odor like whiskey and skunkweed, pungent and sweet at the same time, and my own was both familiar and foreign, something I recognized as emanating from my own body but an entirely new kind of excretion, more like hard cheese than a sprig of vanilla.

I tried to relax and breathe easy, enjoying the touch of another human being, something I had not experienced in a long time, but when a fly hovering above us landed on my cheek, I reached the limit of my endurance, breaking away from Ginger. 

She groaned, “Come one, baby. What’s wrong?”

“Baby?”

Ginger opened her eyes and smiled. “Sorry, I must’ve been dreaming.” 

Paula Sophia
Paula Sophia (provided)

She sat up, her white tank top soaked with sweat. I couldn’t help noticing the bare nipples of her breasts poking through the flimsy fabric, a gentle swell beneath them. It was a moment of envy and titillation all at the same time, and before I realized it, I was staring, mouth agape, frozen with wonder. 

Ginger laughed. “Have you never seen a pair of titties, boy?” She lifted her shirt and showed me her bare breasts, the bottoms of which were pale compared to the rest of her tanned skin, and thin, white streaks running to her shoulders, tan lines from a bikini top.

“Did your mom not breast feed you?” 

“What?”

“You’re staring at my tits like you’re hungry.” 

My cheeks felt hot, and my breath came fast. I could not have offered an explanation if I had tried. 

“You’re blushing.”

Ginger dropped her shirt over her breasts, again and stood up. She looked at my shirt, staring at it, showing concern. “What’s that?”

I looked down at my light blue t-shirt and saw the red streak of blood. It looked more brown than red like it had the day before after Dad swung a bloody fist at me. Yesterday, I thought. It had only been a day, yet it felt like a long time. So much had happened in such a short time. I had a moment of disorientation as my mind retraced the steps that had brought me to Ginger’s apartment. 

There was another life when I lived in a house, when I went to school, when I played baseball, when I had a bicycle and rode it all over town, but the bicycle had been destroyed, Dad locked up in a mental hospital, Mom… What had happened to her? She was in a hospital somewhere, I told myself. And the house? If I went back home, would the house still be there? For some reason, I felt the loss of everything, and I was sure the house was gone, obliterated in all the chaos, nobody looking for me, nowhere to go. 

“Hey there,” Ginger said. “Somebody home in there?”

I snapped out of my stupor, looked at Ginger’s face, pretty but sad, a little weathered, more from worry and stress than from age. She was younger than Mom, a lot younger, and I knew Mom had just turned 32 earlier that year. 

“I was just thinking.”

“You look so sad.”

I nodded. 

“Take your shirt off. Let me wash it.”

I did as I was told, and I smelled the fabric as it passed over my nose. It was awful. I was a mess. 

Ginger took my shirt to the sink in the kitchenette, sprinkled some soap powder on the streak of blood, wet it beneath the faucet, and rubbed the fabric together. She then got a small hand brush and scrubbed the stain. After she was satisfied with the result, she pushed the shirt beneath the hot water that had filled the tiny basin. 

“I’ll let it soak for a while.”

Ginger sat next to me on the bed, and she was staring at my chest, a quizzical look on her face. I looked down self-consciously. “What?”

“You’re blooming.”

“What?”

“You’re growing titties,” she said, grinning.

I was aware of this, but I did not know what to think. It seemed like a lot of things had been happening to my body in the past couple of months: hair under my armpits, hair on my legs – not the fuzzy blonde kind but the dark, wiry kind – and the muscles in my thighs had thickened. My upper body was still spindly, my arms long and thin, my shoulders bony, but my chest – instead of getting muscly like my thighs – it got softer, nipples protruding, rounded. It was like part of my body was becoming manly while the other part was becoming womanly, a physical manifestation of my identity conundrum. 

Embarrassed for the second time that day, my cheeks swelled with heat. “I’m not growing titties… am I?” 

The words filled me with wonder, dread, and hope all at once. I remembered praying for God to turn me into a girl years before, and I thought, maybe, it was starting to really happen. But I could not comprehend the impact this would have on my life. Questions raced through my mind: what does this mean? How was I going to explain it?
Ginger stood up. She pulled her panties down and let them drop to her ankles. My gaze drawn to her vulva and the patch of hair around it, I noticed the hair there was dark like the hair on her head, and my thoughts reflexively recalled the biker guy the night before asking Ginger if he could see her “down there.”

“So, what’s a ginger?” I asked.

Ginger laughed. “Don’t you like what you’re seeing?” 

I did like what she had revealed to me, but more from curiosity than titillation. She grabbed my right hand and pulled me close, placed my hand on her patch of hair. “See how soft it is?”

I jerked away from her, mortified and afraid all at once. “I’m only thirteen,” I said.

My mind swirling, I thought about Dad. Here I had seen two naked women, and I had no idea what to do. Maybe, I was queer. 

Ginger grabbed the front of my pants, unhooked the button on top and opened my fly. She pulled my underwear down and grinned, her hair concealing some of her face. “Well, you sure are having the right reaction down there.” 

I had not been aware what was going on below the belt. It was like a disembodied part of myself, devoid of feeling and out of my control. The room started to spin, and I felt buoyant like I did in the locker room at the YMCA all those years before, and I hovered over my seven-year-old self, terrified and ashamed, unable to breathe. I had to shake my head to come back to myself, and when I did, I collapsed onto Ginger’s murphy bed, trembling with fear, shivering in the heat of summer. 

“What’s wrong baby boy?” Ginger said, cuddling next to me and holding me until I was still. 

After the trembling stopped, Ginger got dressed and made to leave the apartment. “I’ll be back in jiff,” she said, but I barely registered her words, staring at the ceiling while she opened and closed the door, listening to the clop of her feet as she descended the stairs outside.

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Last Updated April 15, 2022, 10:13 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor