"Self-Made Boys" by Anna-Marie McLemore, Letters–Chapter 6

October 28, 2022
Based on the classic novel The Great Gatsby, this work follows the story of Nicolás Caraveo, a seventeen-year-old transgender boy who moves to New York and meets his mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby, another transgender boy with an extravagant and decadent lifestyle.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Letters–Chapter 6, Chapters 7–14, Chapters 15–22, Chapters 23–28, Chapters 29–40
By my lights, this letter finds you in a quagmire of a decision.
I know all about what a genius he is (he hates when I use the word, but we all know it's true). He's so painfully modest, I had to pry from him that the school had run out of math classes for him by the time he was fourteen.
I may have only a year on Nicky, but it's enough for me to play the big sister. And I hope you won't fault your favorite sobrina the slightest presumption, because I already found the sweetest little cottage for him.
But I could recognize the shape by touch, the contours of the felt coin at the bottom, the pillar base, the notches of the horse’s head.
The West Egg station had a plain, unadorned look not so different from where I’d started.
She stopped in front of an open-topped roadster in a color I’d never seen on a car, like the sheen of a blue-gray pearl.
“The first man tried to sell me a color called florid red, can you imagine? He said it was perfect for women with the Latin kind of coloring.”
Garish, isn’t it? I don’t know who he is, but they say his money is fresh as lettuce and just as soft.”
Daisy Fabrega-Caraveo made things beautiful, starting with herself, her efforts then billowing ever outward.
When it came to Daisy, such an introduction could preface anything, from What do you think of the Temperance Union? No, I mean it, what do you really think of it? to Tom says I look like Marion Davies, don’t you think I look a little like Marion Davies?
“I wear it right under a fitted chemise. All the girls with chests like mine wear them. And I see no reason a boy like you can’t use one for your purposes. It’s a world safer than what you’re doing. And I found plain ones special for you. You can wear them right beneath your undershirt. They’re terribly comfortable, you wouldn’t believe.”
Her letters spoke of bold East Egg men wearing orange or fairway green.
Our cousins said a lot of things about Daisy. That she was vapid, shallow, lovely as an angel but stupid as a basket.
She regarded a white wrought-iron table and its candlesticks with mournful disdain.
She’s just a paragon of virtue—the face of an actress, the self-discipline of a nun. At least if there’s not a party she can’t miss.
“Where did you get that stuff?” It was a tactless way to ask where she’d bought illegal alcohol, but the question had tumbled out.
The vacant registering in Tom Buchanan’s face made me sure it was my brownness, but even that was fleeting. He seemed to forget me as fast as he’d seen me.
“Thank you,” I said, in as deferential a way as I could to Tom.
“That’s who bought that carnival palace,” Tom said. “The eyesore. You’ve seen it. You can’t miss the thing unless you look straight up.”
“What does he do?” I asked, and knew instantly that it was a crude question in rich company. It was the sort of fact you waited for someone to offer rather than asking.
So a debut was a debutante ball. I’d heard about those fluffy white affairs put on in the London court and imitated in New York and Chicago. I’d just never heard of it called a debut.
“Do you think she’ll like it?” Tom asked, with such earnest 
hope that I paused my deliberations about whether I could swim to West Egg when I was this drunk.
“Do you think she’ll like it?” Tom asked, with such earnest 
hope that I paused my deliberations about whether I could swim to West Egg when I was this drunk.
The pistol was smaller than a butter dish, the body polished wood, the handle iridescent like the inner curve of an abalone.
Then he put it away, and his face was so wistful I knew he meant Daisy. That look was always about Daisy. She’d left it on men who met her once and never forgot her.
Nothing as prim as a mint sprig. Maybe bay leaves, or overgrown rosemary.
I’m having a little party tonight, so if you should find yourself without diversion this evening, please do stop by.
Men piled up crates of oranges and grapefruits and lemons with smoother rinds than I’d ever seen, as though they’d been buffed.
I could prop the collar taut with stays, and if I didn’t move too much, no one would notice the tiny hole I’d darned up just under the arm.
Women flashed fingernails painted with question marks or renderings of their own faces.
Two men with skin a darker brown than mine were talking about some telegraph magnate.
The brown of my eyes held wet earth and worn barn wood. Hers held the richness of fountain pen ink and nail lacquer.
Her skin was light, but not the flour-pale of the blond woman now flouncing away.
And it was in this way that I learned my cousin had come by her status partly through beauty, partly through her impending engagement to a Buchanan, and partly by an accident on a yacht.
I only found my neighbor by how he turned, and stilled, in the roiling crowd.
Strands of tinsel had landed in his hair and stayed, like veins of ore in rock.
The space was gray satin wallpaper and autumn-leaf wood, gray bedding and gilt edging, a mix of masculine and glittering I had never seen.
He opened a set of double doors, revealing a closet of deep wood shelves. A full column held shirts in pristine squares.
If I hadn’t known what it was ahead of time, I would have missed it. If I hadn’t been wearing one myself, if I wasn’t familiar with the subtle outline, I wouldn’t have noticed.
I had erred in some way that made it obvious. A lapse in how low I held my voice, or a nervous laugh pitched the wrong way, or a gesture that was perhaps familiar to him because he’d had to train himself out of it.

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