no honor among thieves

I sit in my room.  It’s a nice room but a bit dusty, and I’m allergic to dust.  So I’ve been struggling to breathe since I moved here.

 

My trans friend sleeps across the room, on the small mattress we found on the street.  She’s been transitioning for 10 years, though she’s much younger than I am.  She used to update her video blog.  She’s always telling me to get some real problems.  Every day we wake up head-to-toe in that tiny bed.  Would we have it any other way?

 

She insists she isn’t my girlfriend.  She doesn’t like to be touched.  I remember what that was like.

We share food, share our lives.  Thick as thieves, I wear the ring her boyfriend gave her.

 

And something interesting has happened.  She walked the path I started upon, took it to the extreme.  Gave herself nothing and no one to lose, but it ends nowhere.  So I found something to care about.  It’s obvious.  It’s inevitable.  As sure as I would die without her, I need to complete my science work.  It’s not a question of discrimination or profit, I need to be what I’ve become.

 

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ex-narratio

It’s 8:40 pm.  It might as well be 8:40 pm forever, and this is all I do.  Write, write, write, walk around.

Some guy spit on the sidewalk walking past me and I swear I could feel it on my eyelashes.  I should feel something more.  Life is filled with these subtle, obscene social gestures from total strangers.

Walking, and walking home around midnight, some guy started following me and shouting; asking me where I was going.  And I pulled a shank out of my hair.  There’s nothing subtle about that.

 

Every morning I open my eyes and marvel at how painful it can be to lie still for seven or eight hours.  A series of information enters my mind, generally reminding me that it’s going to be a struggle to prepare to leave and a struggle to get enough done when I’m out there.  This morning, and most mornings I try to come to terms with myself; to some level of acceptance and self-love, but not so much so that I panic at how thoroughly screwed I am.

I shake off memories of dreams that are only pleasant when I’m having them, and disturbing in the light of day; getting lost on the highways, ex-friends coming out to me, being recognized for my work.

 

Sometime an eternity or two months or so ago, I spoke to my ex-friend who said she used to have a narrative for her life but now she doesn’t.  I refused to relate at the time, but now not so much.

Because all I know is the present, and it’s 9:06 pm.

 

grad school

I sit in a coffee shop staring at my notes.  They’re written out in gel pen; and I’m in grad school.  I’ve been in grad school for a long time.  I think I’m about to not be in grad school one way or another.  Feeling ambivalent.

I want to text my friend about this for the hundredth time, but I’m trying to not come across as so desperate, so I join a game of Subterfuge.

 

I don’t think of my past much; I look in the mirror and the idea crosses my mind that I was once male.

“No.  No way.

Apparently it’s difficult to be thankful for something when the alternative is unthinkable.  And I really should be more thankful, this is miraculous.

So many close calls and desperate plays…  my surgery was something like 45 days from the expiry of my health insurance.  And I went into this whole thing with no income and about $5,000 in savings.  Changed religions twice.  Fell out with and reunited with multiple people, multiple times.  Lost my health insurance, twice.  Went through six generations of clothing and four iterations of employment.  Two apartments.  It’s only been two years.

 

I want to say that I’m feeling better.  Today I’m trying to have more faith in my friendships.  This seems key.

 

meaning

…And so it’s a struggle to find meaning.  Transitioning used to be meaningful and now it’s over.  I’m telling people that the cosmetic procedures I’m considering aren’t going to change who I am, which is good, transitioning sucked.  But it provided some hope; it was like, ‘Oh, there’s this endpoint where I’ll be okay.’  And I am okay.  Just okay, and tired.  Very, very tired.

I’m trying to be social and people like me, I’m able to form new relationships.  Someone even asked me out half-assed.  It’s just that I know, know in my soul that none of it is permanent.  That no relationship can be counted upon.  It’s all bullshit and lies; exchanging business cards when it isn’t really necessary.  And I can’t undo this knowledge.  It’s a steep and surprising price to pay in order to be in my right body and my right mind; knowing what my erased life feels like.  Like the ending to It’s a Wonderful Life, except there’s no one to wave a magic wand and turn it all back again.

 

I find that the last shred of meaning is writing about my new life.

Someone shakes up the spacetime continuum every few weeks, changing everything.  Leaving me in the same location with the same genome and social security number, and a collage of memory like a broken mirror;

Lost in a daydream, I think of the person I love.  She touches my hair, touches my neck in a certain place, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I sit in bed, head to my knees, eyes squeezed shut, overwhelmed with the knowledge that I will never, not ever understand my body.

 

Tonight I’m a capable, charismatic, healthy human being who can do anything she desires, and I just want to go home.

 

thirty-something

It’s something I harp on, but it’s difficult to be completely alone in this world.  Indeed, I’m not completely alone, I have two core relationships left to speak of, but it feels like I am; and that I need to learn to deal with it, because how can two people possibly provide for all of my needs?  I am truly afraid to ask, because what if I lose them too?

Is it even possible to go it alone?  Everyone says it isn’t but I hope they’re wrong.

 

As far as the transition goes, it’s just wildly successful.  I hardly have to think of myself as anything other than female anymore.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but apparently I wasn’t expecting my transition to work.  Now I’m a thirty-something year old woman who is just horribly afraid of dying or getting old, because I just got here.  It’s kind of irrational, but in the absence of a past or any substantial present, it’s the clearest set of emotions that I experience.

 

On an average day, it takes five hours to get myself passable and out the door, where I embrace the vast nothing-ness that is life.  Every day I try to find a way forward, parting a fog of negative emotions.  Many, many things I don’t care to think about, which it is not necessary to think about, surprisingly.  It’s good enough to attend to my work, or the bill collectors, take out the trash, write my papers, shop for hair spray.  And I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I’m learning not to care, telling myself that I’ve got mine and it doesn’t matter, won’t matter, can’t matter.  That caring is the worst thing I’ve ever done, a mistake.  That if I don’t care the world can’t hurt me, anymore.

 

finally

I’m sitting in the light of day.  I’m sitting in my kitchen.  It’s Christmas.  I’m alone, and I’m happy.  Later on today I’ll go to work and check on some things, but right now I should continue organizing my thoughts on paper, because I haven’t been able to.

 

I feel successful, like the significant problems that I have are now manageable, that my relationships are manageable.  It wasn’t like this last week.  Last week I was in shock, I’m still in shock.  The doctor says I’ll be in shock for at least half a year.

But I feel better today.  It’s because I told someone I would marry them, and I was okay with that, and she was okay with that.  Although I’m not getting married.  At least I know what I want now, what’s important, what’s happening…  that I’ll die eventually.  In the meantime I’m complete, I’m whole, I’m female, and I have my life ahead of me.  Everyone keeps saying that, and it makes sense, finally.

 

polaroid of perfection

I finally have a proper wardrobe, an array of soft pastels.  Layers and colors, accents to communicate truths about myself in what I choose to wear.  I never understood clothing, I always dreaded buying clothes.  But today they are an extension of myself.

I’ve finally become comfortable-ish with my new voice, I thought this would never happen.  But the positive effect of having my negative self talk in a not-definitively-male voice cannot be overestimated, let alone actually having the ability to communicate with people.  I’ve spoken before, of course, but it’s just easier now.  I am in awe of the adaptability of the mind and the human voice.

 

On the downside, I feel mind-numbing pressure to be perfect.  Perfect weight, perfect clothes, perfect voice, never offending my friends, never spending frivolously, or doing anything to offend God because I’ve seen enough, for real.

I live in fear of impending doom, that everyone will stop talking to me and I’ll find myself standing in the welfare line, again.  That I’ll lose access to my medications and morph into some appalling freak.  That I’ll date someone and they’ll shatter my sense of self.

So I try every day to be perfect.  It’s exhausting, it’s desperate, and it’s so very necessary.  I just want this ordeal to be over.

 

But there is something familiar about this narrative.  It is something I’d heard from friends, just about all of which had been women, that they must be perfect.  That they don’t have as much control over their lives as they would want and so must please everyone all the time, as much as they can, so they can be loved and protected.  It’s a hell of a thing to experience all at once.

So I’m learning to look up to women as I join and identify with them.  I never had in an I-want-to-be-just-like-you sort of way, but it’s something, another thing, which is necessary – that the only thing between me and a careless world is the understanding of others.

 

more than sum

I’m spending time alone, hoping that meaning is one of those things you find when you’re not looking.

 

I’m catching up with work.  I’m thinking about reading books.  I’ve reached level 21 in my seventh-ish attempt at dead-is-dead Skyrim.

Exciting stuff.  Really.

 

In this quiet, when I’m not paying attention, I can almost hear myself railing, “you are more than the sum of your parts”

 

red dress

Leia asked me to try on her ballroom dress the other day.  I’m sure it’s expensive, it feels expensive, and I kind of dive into it.

“Don’t stretch it!”

After figuring out how to maneuver the lining and where to put my arms, I heard myself ask her to zip up the side.  And we kind of stood there in front of the mirror.  Actually, we definitely stood there.

Me:  “Interesting.”

Leia:  “That’s amazing…”

I realized then, in that moment, in a red dress, that I could totally pass.

 

Shit.

 

Days ensued, joy and panic interspersed between hours and minutes.  Fear and longing and the stark, stark realization of how much this is going to hurt.

Then I seem to have wrestled this rushing sense of inevitability to the ground.  I can’t do this.

But the dress fit perfectly.  It was beautiful, I was beautiful, and now?  Now I’m completely lost in this undefined social space.  I know I’m a woman, but what does that mean?  I ask myself, “Can I pull this off?”  And I do, I have to, it just is.

 

no return

My manicure is wrecked and it’s only Tuesday.

I don’t know what to think.  I’m becoming used to myself, my gender, and now it’s a grind.  Day after day, whoever I am.  There were some students flirting awkwardly on the quad and it all seems so normal, everything.

Leia called me ‘she’ at the dinner table with her family and nobody blinked.  Maybe I blinked.  The deli guy called me ma’am when my back was turned.  Neither of us really seemed to register this, but we looked at each other over a cheap turkey-egg-and-cheese sandwich with a sort of confused understanding.

 

It’s cold again.  My iPhone shuffles songs and some of them remind me of when all this started.  The Bird and The Bee, Spoon, the scary-beautiful winter when I told Leia that I’m a woman.  Everything changed.  I remember listening to Gimmie Fiction on vinyl, staring at the wall, not thinking everything.

I had never been so lost and I remember it so fondly.  And there’s no going back.  I’m used to being myself, in all of my incompleteness and complexity.  The contradictions, a strange understanding of other women and men, a strange separateness from them.

I realize that I’ve felt this all my life.  It’s better now that I know.