Shift 8: Signs

I like the signs on the bathroom doors. Girl and Boy, Boy and Girl. It’s not an either-or-world. It’s both|and. And more. Both|and is more than two. It creates something new.


I’ve been reading a lot on the Internet about non-binary computing. I found this:

Now, in this “quadnary” computing, the most practical application is in Artificial Intelligence Research. Development of AI’s that can think and reason more like humans, because their logic is not constrained to only two states like binary logic.

I like it. I feel like by my being non-binary, I’m setting down new pathways for other people like me to follow. I’m “not constrained by only two states.”

I hope it helps others when they see me. When they look at me and wonder, “Is that a boy or a girl?” I hope they stop for a moment and say, “Why does it have to be one or the other?” Leave it undefined.

When I was telling Deon and his chess opponent about non-binary computing, Deon said that binary works just fine for some things, like solving chess, which he says computers will do within ten years. But for questions of real intelligence, binary doesn’t stand a chance.


“Real intelligence isn’t binary,” he said. See? That’s what I read, too. While we were talking, he got check-mated. He laughed really hard at that.

“For chess, binary is better! You see that? I try talking to you while I’m playing, and I get mated. Save the ternary for the gray areas! Chess is in black and white!”


His friend left, and Deon invited me to a game. I didn’t feel like playing chess. We got to talking instead. Pretty soon, I was complaining. I don’t know what it is about Deon. When I’m with him, before I know it, I’m spilling all my gripes.


Deon could tell something was bugging me. He kept asking every way he could, like he does. First he beats around the bush, then he asks direct, then he starts hunting and fishing. I wasn’t able to evade him. I had to break and tell.

Spring is coming on, just around the corner. Track season. I want to run.


I didn’t even realize I was so upset about it until we started talking. Deon asked if I’d been looking forward to it.

Only since fifth grade. That’s when I started winning all the races. In fifth grade, the middle school coach recruited me. Then last year, the high school coach recruited me. I was gonna run varsity. He’d promised me a spot. Then, college scouts would notice, and I’d be racking up more records, and I’d have a full-ride scholarship.

“It’s track season, and I’m not running,” I told him. I guess with everything going on, this thing could seem petty. But to me, it’s not. It’s a dead dream.


Deon said I should come live with him. Then I could go to school. It’s an idea. But no. It’s not gonna happen. I live with him and other people start asking questions, and the school starts asking for paperwork, and it all leads back to my uncle. Nope. Not for me.

I told him I appreciated it, though.


He said he thought I could find a way to go to school anyway.

I said no way. I don’t have my birth certificate. I can’t prove my residence. There’s no mom and dad to fill out the forms. School’s just not in the picture for someone like me.

He said he thought he knew a way, and it wouldn’t blow my cover, and nobody would discover me, and I wouldn’t have to move in with him.


He told me he worried about me sometimes. He told me a long story about when he was in my situation. Back then, he had somebody that looked after him. It was an old Vet who drank and had PTSD, but who was a really good guy with a “steadfast heart.” They camped together sometimes down by the ocean. Sometimes, the old guy would have a bad day, and then, Deon looked after him. And sometimes, Deon would have it tough, and the old guy would help. And sometimes, they’d both be doing OK, and then they’d both chip in. It was easier with two.

I thanked Deon for all he’d been doing for me. I know he’s done a lot. I told him I just didn’t feel it would be the thing to do, to move in with him. I didn’t feel safe leaving traces like that.

He asked me to promise him one thing: If I ever have a really bad time or if I get sick, I’ll stay with him, no questions asked. Otherwise, we could go on like we had been.

I told him it was a deal. Heck, I’m not planning on getting sick.


The next morning, Deon asked me if I could straighten up the lounge a bit. The books needed shelving. He’d never asked me to help out, so I thought that was kinda strange. But it was cool, too. I like to be able to help and not always be the recipient.

I glanced at the bulletin board when I was putting a book away.


There was a new flier that hadn’t been there yesterday.


I read every word. Twice. Three times. Four.


The kids in the flier were smiling, and you couldn’t tell which one of them was homeless. Maybe they all were. Maybe there were other kids like me, and they all went to school.

One line really stood out to me: “Receive educational services comparable to those provided to other students…” Did that mean?

Maybe I would be able to run track this season, after all!

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