birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Rosie

She was scary. And I'm not just saying that because she'd just got out of prison. She was about a foot shorter than I was, even with her being in her late thirties and me being 15.

She had tattoo sleeves on both arms and across her neck. Her eyebrows were tattooed, too. She wore dark cat-eye eyeliner and had a dermal piercing on her left cheekbone. She wore her reddish brown hair slicked back into a small bun on the top of her head. Her hair had grown in prison. In the pictures I'd seen of her, before she became estranged from the family and we left California, back when she'd bought me a pink convertible kid car, she'd sported a pixie cut. She was kind of a pixie herself. A pixie with a switchblade.

My first time meeting my "long lost" Tia Rosie (mom's words) was awe-inspiring. I'd read about strong women in school, seen the Rosie the Riveter posters from the long time ago war, but here was a real life hard ass, and she was in my family. This little lady didn't take no shit, and if you heard her before you saw her, you'd better watch out. I was glad she was on my side. Or I wanted her to be on my side. She braided my hair, too tight, but I didn't complain and surreptitiously wiped my tears so she'd know I was strong, too.

Later that weekend she taught me salsa and merengue, and her compliments and evident pride--"she's better than my other nieces"--boosted my confidence more than anything.

I'm still terrified of her, though.

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Me Mansplainin' Gender