On Masculinity: “Her lipstick”


Content Warning: misogyny, violence

“She looks like a whore,” I say, covering my mouth with my hand in case the lady can read lips. I lean back against the wall, hiding my unlit cig behind me.

“It’s her lipstick,” says Danny. “Nobody’s wife wears that colour lipstick. It makes her mouth look like a pussy.”

Danny pulls a cig out of his pocket and lights it right there in front of the lady sitting in the car. He doesn’t care who sees him. Danny takes another cig out of his pocket and hands it to Albert, who’s sitting on the curb. Albert is my little brother. He’s in a school for kids who are slow because he doesn’t know how to read. Danny hands Albert his naked lady zippo and Albert lights up, just like Danny.

Albert holds the zippo out to me, looking at me like I’m a pussy.

The alley behind the gas station is where we always come to smoke. Danny steals cigs from the bag his dad keeps in the freezer. We come here because there’s never anyone here, but today there was the lady in the car. She’s just sitting in the passenger seat staring out the side window. I’ve never smoked in front of someone older than me before.
“She doesn’t give a shit, Thomas,” Danny says. He says it like he doesn’t want me to embarrass him. He waves at the lady but she doesn’t move; she just keeps staring, looking past us at the wall, maybe even past the wall.

“I know,” I say. I take the zippo from Albert but I leave the cig behind my back. Danny’s zippo has a hula dancer on it and when you flick the cap open her head comes off. Mine just has my grandad’s initials on it.

“She looks kinda like Ms. Glover,” Danny says. “Ms. Glover was a babe. Remember last year when she left school and Mr. Plummer got arrested?”

Everyone remembers when Ms. Glover left school. The lady in the car does look like Ms. Glover, except for the lipstick.

I take the cig out from behind my back and flick off the hula girl’s head. I run it along my jeans and it lights the first time. When I was 10 like Albert, I thought you were supposed to swallow the smoke and I’d cough every time, but I’m better at it now. I was scared of sea monsters and boogeymen; I was scared of the dark. Now that I’m 12, I’m not afraid of anything.

Albert flicks his cig out into the alley. “She’s trying not to cry,” he says.

word by Leah Mol

colour by Luis Sipion

From the author: “Youth is a time of naked tribalism, a time when language and behaviours stand as shibboleths. In this story, boys are pretending to be men in order to fit in, but they believe part of being a man is oppressing others. Thomas doesn’t want the lady to see him use the word whore, but he also doesn’t understand the weight that word carries with it. Danny brings up Ms. Glover and hints at the reason she left school, but they don’t explore the importance of that.

This story is about fear and reactions to fear. Fears of children vs. fears of adults. Fears of women vs. fears of men. Fears of imagined monsters, of not fitting in, of getting caught somewhere you shouldn’t be. And fears of the very real monsters that make people cry every day.”

sitting on Marty’s lap

I used to care what people thought of me. Like, I’d wonder what the guy at the coffee shop thought about my hair. All through high school I worried about whether or not I was popular. Then I met Marty and he told me nobody gives a shit about anyone else. Seriously, he said, nobody gives a shit. I know that’s the kind of thing people say, but Marty actually meant it. He even put his hands on my face when he said it, not letting me look away, like he really needed me to listen.

Every morning we sit outside on his porch and share one coffee and one cigarette. The first time I went over to his place I brought him his own coffee, but he told me he’d rather just share mine. He only smokes because of the coffee. Those things would piss me off if he were anybody else. I used to hate girls who would sit on people’s laps. I once went on a rant for about an hour because this girl was sitting on her boyfriend’s lap even though there were about five empty chairs right there. But now I get it. I think I’d sit on Marty’s lap if he asked me to. Yes, I would definitely sit on Marty’s lap.



It was the kind of day where everyone’s happy but nobody’s totally sure why. I think it has something to do with the weather, or maybe it’s just everyone being happy that makes everyone happy, like some kind of psychological butterfly effect.

We were sitting on Marty’s porch, but he had to go inside to get something he forgot. He was about to leave for work. Marty’s a lawyer. He says he got through law school by not caring about anybody or anything. He came back outside and just stood there. He checked his phone like he was in a hurry or something.

What if we got married? I asked.

We wouldn’t, he said.

Why not?

It’s not something we would do.

Sometimes I look at him out of the corner of my eye and I swear he’s different, like he’s only human when I’m looking him square in the face. I have dreams about him turning into an animal, becoming some terrific creature, but it always happens just out of view. The only reason I know for sure he’s changing is because it’s a dream, and you always know better in dreams.


I go into the coffee shop and I order one Americano. I sit outside the shop in one of those metal chairs that it’s impossible to get comfortable in. These kinds of places, the kind where they write your name on the coffee cup for you, never want you to stick around for long. It’s all a bunch of false comfort. I drink my coffee while I smoke my cigarette and I try to think about all the things I’m not going to miss.


words by Leah Mol

colour by EVLUK