East of Eaton

‘Time doesn’t matter. This could’ve happened a zillion years ago.’

            He was telling me about the shadow government again.

‘These are all ways older than man. This was so before the dinosaurs, and the day man showed up on the world map he already had these worries. Things don’t develop that affect all of mankind, my boy,’ always calling me a boy, sigh, ‘there’s things that always were… and we just stumble across them every once in a bad moon.’

            I closed my eyes in frustration, my way of diving to the quiet and calm at the bottom of a courtly pool. The sun would permeate the waters, the sun is pervasive like that; unfathomable  radiation warming the area surrounding my body (the aura, natures womb) and my skin would begin to glow and reflect the diamonds growing deep within my pores; a flaming, queer mirror ball sinking to the peace of a biblical flood. On my eyelids began the slideshow, a child once again watching the old family movies. Mom sings to me, and though muffled through submersion the notes reach some part of my skull and vibrate in ways that send ghosts of a melody soft and gentle as a newborn’s cheek. She reaches to the camera with her long, nimble fingers, able to knit anything known to mankind, and pretends to rub around my face with whatever it is that they call a mother’s love. Her face contorts, pulchritudinous nonetheless, followed by a burst of laughter I cannot hear as well as her song… I miss her laugh and accompanying smile. They could make me feel alive. Floating perfectly still I could finally relax, and many favored memories could come to me without the area of space and time. In my stasis I recalled all things from the reaches of history, and all things to come came swimming up my nose and would wedge their ways into the complexities of my knowledge. Mom gave me a knowing look that read so many things, who could tell which thing except that I had the burden of all time on my shoulders, holding me deep in the hot, stagnating water, my body a boiling fish. I knew what she meant, or I thought I did. She was passing all of woman’s knowledge to me, waves and waves of messages and truths that would take me an eternity to unravel, for they’d taken an eternity to come to being… a zillion years ago… these are all ways older than the series of social constructions we know as womankind

‘Shadows are coming out through the dems, that’s how they’re gonna come out. Through the “give-it-all-to-everybody” dems.’ He paused to take deep draws from a cigarette with little thoughts in between, all his focus on the cherry, stoking it with intention and the fire of a premodern man. ‘See, they tell you it’s a free-for-all. That the queers can run rampant, marry and carry on like they’re normal in any way they “identify” with (his emphasis). That the blacks and Mexicans can take this over like a sanctuary city and run it into the ground and “Hey! We support it!” Well they don’t!’ He was yelling out of nowhere and as my mind reawaked, I began to wonder how long he had been talking. Time doesn’t matter at the bottom of a pool, in a womb, travelling back to childhood without a need for a physical time machine. ‘They’re all just liars, though. They just want your vote. And when they get you all organized around your radical, feminist Trump-hate, then they got you where they want you. The shadows are coming, boy. Mark my words.’

            Oddly enough he always erased the part of the story where my grandmother was half black, my mother a quarter, and I a very pale and mostly red eighth, all the same while that he celebrated his one/fourth Native heritage, me catching another eighth of that lineage. Did that make me three quarters white? The sun had gone away, replaced with ominous black and purple clouds, an ominous symphony in Durang-ian tradition. I opened my eyes. My skin was suddenly hairy and dull and had lost the glint of fine jewels via age and exposure to a decade and a half of cold, inhuman winds, or the acidic rain of industrialized farmlands carved in deep lines across the once fruitful soil of Eaton, Ohio, 45320. Childhood was over in an instant. Fifteen years gone in the bat of an eyelid. It was my birthday, the year of our lord, 1993.

O’, my fantasies. Those imagined realities, premonitions of a self-defined discourse. I wanted a horizon comprised of soft, scrubby boys and anime he-she’s far as the eye could see. I wanted a world without form and prescription; one where the unity of the five biological sexes aligned in rags of necessity; like the dead do. And on that day, there would be no pressure to be a boy in the Boy’s Rooms, and no condemnation or accusations of malintent from using the Girl’s Rooms. O’, to walk into one! The inside a bouquet of fancy lotions and sugar dipped roses, the pebbles strewn about the tile of a romantic line of fountains framing a long mirror (like God’s eye assessing the fruits of his ancient labor as the most magnificent arrangement of bodies align to primp and perfect), and then there are the giggles and shared cigarettes out a back window as they talk about all the boys they let finger them. But no boys wanted to finger me… where? The ear? I read some queer theorist say that sex would not be sex except that we label it as such. I wanted a world where sex was what the members of the party chose to call it, and that prescriptions of vulvas didn’t come stapled to little pink dresses and a bow. I looked good in pink bows, though I was born with a wretched penis, the vilest protrusion the universe thought would be oh! so, damn funny. I gave a final, seething glare at my classmates as they chawed their lunch, a bunch of oblivious cows before a noonday slaughter, and thought to myself ‘scrubby boys and he-she’s, all of them.’

I knew my life would stand completely still upon that frozen moment, lost in thought behind the pitcher’s mound where lunch had always been, day after day. ‘A future of the same only equals a now that never changed,’ I thought, and stood to toss the brown-bag trash far away from the others, and to use a secluded Boy’s Room in the basement as I’d done every other day since starting here, since starting school, since birth and the earliest hints of socialization.

I fell asleep in an awkward place at an awkward time and had a terrible dream of indeterminable length. I was trapped on a urine-soaked mattress atop ten more in the highest tower where a bell once announced the meaningless passing of hours for the town folk.

Urine had soaked through to the floor, a ten-story bathroom foaming at the head with vile and jaundiced perfume. I could feel it funnel through the stacks as if I lay on each individual mattress top all at once, my sensitivities on high alert, able to sense that the sheet had come undone from the bottom-left corner of the very first frame. Someone entered the room but all I could see were the shadows shift across the ceiling, inches above my nose. In an instant I knew it was a woman, for she cleared her wicked throat and revealed her malice with a slight chuckle so cold the urine began to steam, and the stench began to rise; trapped on the top of a burning skyscraper, the wash of smoke and gases a wave you ride to the clouds where a god awaits or worse. In that moment I knew I would never be good enough for the Prince (what was that about a Prince, again?), and I wept deep, mustard tears that stained my wig and pooled beneath my neck (wait, I’m wearing a wig now?).

She awakens alone, or perhaps it was I, the moon in a different place than the sun had been hours (days?) before and stares into the mirror. She’s repulsed by what I see. I’ve always looked into mirrors and felt like someone else was really just on the other side of a windowpane mocking my movements and putting on a happy face. A mime in a clown suit that’s supposed to be you but you kind of know better. The clown honks his nose at me, knowing he’s been exposed, and she (or wait, me?) can see him crush back into the seat defeated for now. With no further glances she closed her eyes and allowed her fingers to run over the roundness of her cheeks and lips. Tears escaped as she chuckled to herself, damn girl… you need to shave and love yourself a little… And then she knew. There was at last a consensus among the members of the party. Her past was not a loss. Her past contained a hero who had given up his rotten life and much of his privilege so a simple girl may live unhindered. He would remain in herstory, just like mom taught her, a piece of the construction, further evidence that all the world was nothing but a lie.

No more Boy’s Rooms, no more classmates, no more shame, no more dates, no more comfort, no more hiding, no more misery, no more peace. She’d murdered the goddamn clown at last and suddenly the laughing had stopped. She opened her eyes and low and behold there was a real mirror, no more glass. Just a beautiful though terrified young woman stared back at her.

In transition time gets disturbed. One day you’re a 39-year-old man with wrinkles and sun burned skin and a bald head and the next you’re a 15-year-old girl, your face aging in reverse, your body in the throes of puberty and suddenly you’re making bad choices. Transition takes decades of your life and plays it like a bad movie in reverse from that fracture onward. Only somehow, the movie doesn’t have the same scenes. As the human in transition travels through time in a backwards fashion the events though reversed are not fixed, and the scenes you might expect to see play again from end to start have become new scenes, often with new players and surprising outcomes. The human in transition travels to the lost secrets of youth once more but yet has amassed an entirely new movie, nonetheless. They collectively break the concepts of space and time.

One June I moved close to the east of Eaton, to a water city near the convergence of many rivers, the kind of place that life can terraform, and new beings can be made as easily as the elder ones. In Dayton, dichotomies don’t exist. Examples: there is birth, then misery, then death; there are straight people, gay people, lesbians, and queers of all colors of the rainbow; there are a lot of white folk but there are also Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians (from India), Native Indigenous people (Indians), and a large settlement of people of color on one side of the city, various members of their race intermingled within most other common spaces nonetheless. Except for the rich with their Trump stickers on their bumpers and M.A.G.A. hats on their heads; they were commonly seen with other rich whites with similar flair. But there weren’t just Republicans and Democrats and mostly just Republicans like in my hometown, the garden of Eaton, butthole of Ohio. No, in Dayton there were independents, anarchists, radical leftists who prescribed to Marx and complicated the majority vote. And in the magical land of Dayton there were even several different types of lesbians; some that considered certain men as women, and some other lesbians that didn’t, and a larger number that did not care. They called those boys trans women, and now I had an identity, as well as a burden. I learned that there aren’t just girls and boys in Dayton, Ohio, the dark city. There are men and women as usual, but mixed among their masses were a beautiful wash of gender blur… boys in dresses and facial hair screaming at clerks that they’re a woman, women with facial hair who pass as men, queers with no gender at all who I learned go by pronouns like they and them, and even people who told me they were all the genders and wore them like vintage store Versace.

Scrubby boys and he-she’s, all of them.

In fact, it wasn’t even a town comprised of people who love trans people and those who hate trans people. There were myriad justifications available from the open mouths of any given person at the bars. Trans is beautiful, trans is gross, trans is cool with me as long as it isn’t my kid, trans is an identity, identities don’t matter. Then there were the local university snobs who told me that all genders are just socially constructed and that I need to read someone named Judith Butler for the answers that unlock universes. The mouths worked at such a constant rate that the minutes turned to hours quickly in the city, and I ended up late for my part time job at the expense of the lips of many, random, friendly faces. I was told it was 2017, that Trump has called for a transgender ban in the military, and I began to feel like I had either missed a lot or had come from a different time than these strange (queer) people.

I absorbed all I could from the people at the annual Dayton, Ohio Pride parade; a living, breathing being of light that never seemed to end. It was perpetual and circular. It had always been. Except that I was told that it did have a birth, however, when some folks tried to set fire to the cops and partied in the streets for days after. An ominous voice from a burning bush. I was told that you could look into the streets at any time during Pride, even this far away from the Stonewall Inn, and still see the same world through the same eyes as those original queers. They called it timeless. But I still failed to see the burning cops.

            That’s the day I met Diamond. She was twenty years old if she was a day, and she was tall and sleek, towering atop the adorable gay boys in the front row carrying a large, multicolored flag of white and pink and blue with a defiant, magnificent look on her face. She seemed to see me immediately, soon as I stepped into her view. Our eyes locked and her defiant flair quickly twisted into a sort of wink through the artificial eyelashes and I knew I had made the only friend I had ever needed.

            The parade came to a halt at town square. She stood with her flag high, higher than the rest. She made other people uncomfortable, and in this I fell in love with her except that I like men in bed… I think.

            Her eyes turned to me once more.

‘Are you in or out.’

            It was a dim June day, the year of our lord, 2017.

            I’ve always felt the same insecurities.

            Along the continuum we attended parties and night clubs; all the same bodies with often shifting faces, dancing and writhing and aromatic. Every club smelled like the theatre, a gaggle of flowing bodies soaked with sweat and the stale waft of six-day old unitards masked in various parfums.

            My body is uncorrupted. I remain untouched in the crowds, an invisible woman, a pure, fine griffin hiding in the thorn bushes.

            The way they touched each other beguiled me. My sex life became watching them writhe. In the corner, quite by herself, danced another shadow in a soft, pink dress and a blue and white shawl. It was good to learn that invisible people can see each other. Her name turned out to be Desiree, and she asked me mine. I almost answered with a birth name that no longer felt correct in the back of my throat, the place where vomit forms and gurgles for release. I must have looked cliché, like I had seen a ghost, for she told me to not waste time searching for a dead name. Her eyes were kind, like a mother’s but she was younger than I. Age has no meaning in Dayton, Ohio. Maturation is measured in lived experience here, earned in an hour or a lifetime depending. She said I looked like a real Princess, so now I had a name, too. I may have left the safety and flourish of the garden far behind, but to the east there was new life dawning from the rise of a morning sun, and I knew in that moment I had found my home.

            Desiree leaned into my shoulder and purred, quite literally and seductively as one might imagine from the proposed gesture, then told me that she was, ‘…Capital T trans, my kitten… and that’s what you’re gonna live.’

            I told Diamond about Desiree at the hotel she decided to share with me, I just had to avoid the front entrance and exit and stay quiet in the closet if the maid knocked for bed service. It smelled like dead animals and smoke, like urine and that dirt smell of paper money. She got me started on pot and cheap canned beer, food of the gods, our diet was birth control pills and cigarettes. She rolled her own with loose tobacco from a plastic bag, I tried to buy mine at first but turns out cigarettes are a luxury fit for royalty. The Marxists all rolled their own.

‘Is she transgender with a little t or a big T?’

‘She literally said Capital T… what does that mean?’

‘Like Deaf culture, baby bird. You can be deaf and not a part of Deaf culture. That’s Deaf with a Capital D, right? I am plainly deaf, but I don’t live capital D deaf… I have these puppies…’ and she pulled up her wig enough for me to see cochlear implants.

            I shrugged bravely not having any idea what she meant. It worked, she continued as she struck a pose in the mirror and worked her new hair onto the bald cap. I don’t look into mirrors anymore, I use a compact; just enough room for one person’s face, my own.

‘If Desiree said she was Capital T that means she’s community, family my dear.’ I had to let that sink in.

‘So, she’s not just transgender… she’s Transgender?’

‘Like us, little bird. Family. You met her at the club though. Does she have a house?’

‘She said that the House of Desiree was on Third behind the firehouse.’

            Diamond spritzed some wig shine around her entire head area, careful to not soak the implants in her skull, combed through the wadded mess of poly fibers and her face contorted to a snide grin at herself. She was ready for work. Zero clowns mock Diamond. She said that Desiree must be a controversy. That Queens and Trans don’t usually ‘play well together,’ but after something called a roux pall, T-Girls were starting to make their way in the drag scene, which she cockily added belonged to us as much as gay boys anyway. She said we are all gender variants and should take up arms together instead of perpetuating the decades long war that was apparently not very bloody but rather full of first-class shade and limitless character assassinations. She told me that if we’re to trust any house, it must be ruled by Trans Royalty or our safety would be compromised. I sank down on our bed, something terribly hard and knotted about the shitty hotel mattress jamming against my back side as I did so. I let out an uncomfortable guffaw and put my head in my hands.

‘What is it, sensitive one?’

            I was not yet aware of the physical threat of violence that keeps trans folks in their closets, and Trans folks like us out on the target range. I learned about Trans Day of Remembrance, and how this November we too would be lighting candles and remaining silent while they read the names of our fashionably dead. I learned that we peed in women’s room as social defiance not as a born right, and more importantly I learned that some people wanted to take that defiance away.

‘Especially if you’re of color, baby doll.’

‘But I’m not very black.’

‘They won’t care what shade of black your face is, dear. Long as it’s not white, you’re in constant danger… didn’t anyone tell you this before you came out?’

            That’s when Diamond knew she had to teach me all. It would take a lifetime she sputtered in exasperation.

‘Good thing we young, girl!’

            I tried to smoke but it tasted like bad breath and anchovies.

            Diamond went to sit on the toilet and pee like a lady. ‘After work we visit the House of Desiree it appears. Paint me fascinated. I haven’t been in a real house since I was just a little baby kitten first coming out.’

‘What’s coming out mean, exactly?’

‘Well… What the fuck does it sound like, sugar?’

            Diamond was my mother. 20 years younger on the calendar, and yet decades beyond my wisdom in maturation. She took me in when no one else could even see me. She saw me. In her mind I was a genuine person, a woman, with my own unique situation and what was explained to me as a particular social location. She also taught me what it means to be a woman, how to shave so the least stubble shows through, how to use color corrector and concealer before the foundation, then more concealer. She showed me how to blend the contour colors, how to set my cheekbones On Fire, what the hell highlighter is and all the zones of the face I apply it to that help me create the perfect heart shape around my eye makeup. She taught me how to bake my face. Before too long I was beginning to see the ways that I had interpreted woman wrong. A woman was not a painted figure in the mirror that subverts the man on the surface. The paint is war paint, and woman simply knows how to dress to kill on a battlefield.

            Like Diamond, I had once been a balding man, but she wasn’t having that. Capital T folks are supposed to explicate what others should be doing. It was more than a fashion show, we were signaling the youth how to do their genders. We were the ultimate trend setters; she would tell me at great length that other girls will look up to us.

‘Other bitches gonna look up to you, bebe. Might as well own that. You’re my daughter. And you ain’t black enough, so you gonna have to be extra enough.’

            Diamond also got me an iPhone from the trunk of a car on the west side. It was purple and had a translucent sparkle case that set it on fire the same as my heated cheeks, set rather deep like a fine bruise to suit my eye look that Diamond dubbed Grape Ape. We ate some mushrooms and began the process of a what she called a proper reboot. That’s when I knew that Diamond was my real mother, and that someday we would generously rule the royal court in our own luxurious house, the glory and magnificence of a House of Diamonds.

            We made it to the House of Desiree together, almost. We made the block. The shit kicked in and we were both starting to feel the jaw bones tighten and the lights around us begin to flicker and follow us as we strolled the darkening avenue behind the old fire house.

            Diamond had started telling me about her first customer of the day and how he had been so rough she tried to make him stop. He kept trying to pull his limp prick on her, purple and menacing but only in intent, though she was smaller and more agile and escaped. She called him a fat fuck and scurried off, leaving her shoes behind as she tore across the busted pavement and protruding bricks that once laid beneath. He’d called her a nasty faggot and screamed that he was gonna kill her dead at the top of his lungs as she turned the corner then she got far enough away that his voice was lost in the wash of the cochlear implants and the wind and her heartbeat.

‘Something tells me… that one meant it.’

            Then I felt some unexpected pain. It was odd, both sharp and all consumingly dull, in a flash but it took a moment to catch on, like a slick, designer drug for date rape. My ears were registering a scream. It was Diamond. My mind was not registering words. The world started to fade away into pixels like a failing digital stream, the static of a dying box television from the relics of childhood.

            Time stood still… at the top of a courtly pool, Diamond and I the royals afloat, on high above the deep end. I knew that something was not right, or somehow slowly it was coming to me that a way that things should have been was most certainly interrupted by a prying hand, someone disturbing the waters and it was getting more tedious to maintain my posture.

            We were never out this late, never a lady, not on the streets of Dayton, Ohio, two floating gender queers tainted to the eyeballs with mind altering chemicals. But this was the magical night that I had met a rare drag Trans Queen and we were on our way to be anointed as disciples of Baphomet, of Lilith, of the first failed he-she god ever made. On our way to greatness. I had left the safety of my home in Eaton and had found the true garden of life and knowledge just a bit to the filthy east side of Dayton, Ohio, 45403. The trees were beguiling, the fruit was sweet and sinful and nourishing. And a block away was our introduction to rebirth. The blackness of space and time opened up in tiny hints of an orange then increasingly crimson light forming in the center of my pupils. The static returned and what eyes I could see through began to register some movement, a brightness, and some clarity. I could see that I had been correct after all, Diamond and I were on the surface of a courtly and majestic pool together, our hands outreached, our faces towards one another and suddenly I felt safe. We must have been washing around in a terrible whisk of waves for our bodies were unsteady and lunging forward then backward, a couple of bobbing surfers and poor ones at that. Along our ride across the ripples of our wine-red river, the hidden children of the biblical Nile, our eyes locked for what felt like a comfortable lifetime. Her face was so perfect. The mirror, usually full of lies and goddamn clowns, had been kind to her this night. Somewhere between this morning and forever she had found the perfect cat-eye wings, the perfect highlighter for her sumptuous cheeks, and the most blushing almost red lips to compliment her chocolate complexion. Just as our fingers almost met a terrible demon appeared behind my mother but her expression did not give it away. He was gripping her shoulders and neck and for a moment I was afraid the demon might drag her below to the depths of some Grecian nightmare. I was blessed with yet a little more clarity still, and suddenly I was aware that Diamond was the body in motion and that I was quite calm, my face half in the pool, my body a reef connected to the earth with putrid waters splashing my face and soaking my chest and genitals. And the demon turned out to be just a fucking man crouched above my beloved about two feet away from a blood drenched baseball bat that exclaimed Louisville Slugger in faded print, reflected upside down in the pool of our collective blood. I had been blind-sided by perhaps her first customer of the day or any other random psychotic passerby who wants to hurt something beautiful.

            He was strangling my mother. She was always so much prettier than I. So much more graceful. Any sociopath would totally go for her before anyone perceivable as twice her age, her mother in their eyes perhaps. Young bodies are always the subjects of torture, aren’t they? Diamond was only 20 and passed so well she could not be clocked. She was a cis girl by day, and responsible Trans woman at home by nightfall. She worked the early shift so she could have the safety of daylight and numbers on the corners of Third and Jefferson. And one of these motherfuckers had followed us into the shadows of the hind side of the fire station and had their way with her purse contents after cracking me with a bat sort of hard and Diamond a lot harder. He saw me stir and for some reason stood and ran. My ears were returning and through the whining hiss of my recovering eardrums I could hear the patter of many feet at once. I was pulled out of the Nile by an angel, a new mother, and they swaddled me in a cloth to protect my swollen head from bleeding out. I had been reborn from near death, and life number three at least was moments from beginning. They dragged me a few feet away to the curb and several people, including Desiree, began some immediate efforts to save my life but they left my mother where she lay. That’s when I knew that my Diamond was dead. Her murderer was smart enough in the scurry to take his slugger with him, and not one person saw his face.

            She never heard it coming, she was little ‘d’ deaf. Twenty years gone in an instant and come November another name to remain silent for.

            Desiree told me it took me weeks to wake up and walk around. They felt many times that I would certainly die with the fever spikes and convulsions I went through. Everyone tried to joke it off about having to clean my ass and how they found a way to make a water hose work like a catheter. Everyone also had to admit to me that at the worst, when they thought I was sick, I was put in the shed out back and fed one time daily until I showed no signs of what they scientifically referred to as contagion. I was awake enough times to force some water or chicken soup in my mouth so I stayed alive even though I’m a vegetarian and would rather die than eat chicken soup. In any case I thanked them a zillion times and asked about what was done with my mother’s body. They went cold and silent.

‘They just burn her up, sweetie… they probably did their tests and made their papers all proper and then they just, burn you up after shit like this. She gone.’

            That’s when we heard on the news that the virus had hit Ohio and we were to stay in our homes until further notice. I had no home. Lock down had begun. I’ll be damned if it wasn’t my birthday again, the year of our lord, 2020.

            Desiree ‘had no choice’ but to take me in, seeing as how my original journey to her front door was upon her own request and the resulting path had led to the murder of my only family. My new room was a cubicle in the attic amongst the other storage units hastily made by landlords past out of crude chicken wire and simple wood framing. I was lofted with five other queers with literal paper as walls that divided us. The floors were urine saturated and fumy, my bed a pile of crib mattresses scavenged from the alleys I suppose, perhaps five tall from the floor.

            At last, all hail the princess and the pee.

            Once recovered I was informed that food was my own responsibility and if I could not work an essential job or perform sex work anymore due to the Frankenstein nature of my head wound, I would have to beg or steal to survive. Des felt obligated to me, her heart went out to me, her home was open and all its doors to me. But toilet paper and food and weed were my own endeavors. I quickly got used to bumming change for distraction items as I developed an uncanny talent for stuffing my pockets to the brim with necessities: single rolls of toilet paper and boxes of tissues, I blew my nose like a snob; entire bags of pizza rolls and 20 ounce pops; candy bars which were like debit cards at the House; and I could even take an entire loaf of bread in the stomach pocket of my largest hoodie as I purchased a 35 cent pack of gum and a pack of smokes. I became self-sufficient. I was adulting as Diamond would have once said.

            When I dreamed the nightmare would return and I would awaken in pools of sweat and piss, my sheets too hot and clinging to my skin. The hiss of this mad woman who kept me locked in a tower, away from my sweet prince, atop a pillow top, atop a pillow top, atop another, and so on. My irony was to awaken in a similar space both physically and emotionally as each morning sun caught my eyes in a way that no longer permitted a sleep more akin to exhaustive collapse. I would open my eyes to a world that required I do things in it, but ability was not a reliable partner to me. My identity as a woman had been shattered by the blunt edge of a Louisville Slugger, I was no longer on a fixed trajectory towards passing and acceptance as I had been preened to be. Capital ‘T’ trans and proud, and fuck you. I was more like a character in a horror novel these days; dark, mysterious, disfigured, and brooding and locked in the highest tower in all of East Dayton. I had become a caricature of a woman, a vain attempt at even convincing myself that there was a woman to see. I no longer owned a mirror, not even a compact. No need to fear the appearance of a clown when the monster would manipulate the space, nonetheless.  Every night of my life for unknown amounts of nights were consumed with anxiety and loneliness and the snores and farts of others amidst the smacking sounds of masturbation or hook-up sex, and me a wad of collapsed muscles and neurons refusing to function at anywhere near human levels. The nightmare took over my fantasies. I no longer dreamed of pretty boys and human contact, I dreamed of the mattresses and the hissing and the fumes and the mockery. Those were my new passions. The things I can have.

            Somewhere in time I began to steal notebooks and detail my ideas about the transgender body and of its supertemporal nature. I gathered volumes over unknown months or years about the elements of sexual health that a body may need to foster the best results from gender transition to sexual philosophy building. I can recall a chapter in which I theorized that trans women are in fact desired by men but that a complex interaction takes place resulting in disconnect. There is a ‘moment’ shared between the trans subject and the romantic subject, the largest section concerning the cisgender male. In the moment, the cismale registers a trans attraction, defined herein as the acknowledging of arousal and interest in the trans woman’s gender expression. But following this inciting incident, another random second within the finite fire of the moment, the genitals are also registered and a phase this work recognizes as genital repulsion generates what doubts there are left to initiate full disconnection from the budding romantic interaction. The moment is lost, and the cismale retreats to the normative masses where he’s once again safe from the social uncertainty of ambiguity. Another chapter was about nail paint.

            I wrote about my notion that identities are leading us in a bad direction as a culture, and how we need to fight the power relation as Diamond had instructed me. I knew that power existed for the taking, somewhere. I knew that it was not born into the hands of my oppressors, that they willed it to be with their force and their rejection of my variance. The main idea of life was to live as the meat god gave you and not to question the call to be man and protect the cultural interests. What made us feminists was our rejection of manhood in all its forms, even trans men subvert the bodies of our masters by being variant from the socially male sexual body. What made us women and men (and them’s and zem’s and zir’s…) was the same process that makes anyone a man or a woman. I wrote until it was all just Foucault citations and I ran out of ideas that were mine to keep out of the brackets.

            I theorized the import of a set of annual festivals for trans folks; music festivals, art galas, crafts fairs. Places we could go to be ourselves in the company of others who get us, who see us. I theorized that we would never want to leave. Here in the cradle of life new beginning, in this garden of spring and birth though endearing, life has failed to be the Eden it promised to be. I met Diamond and romantic thoughts were swallowed like divine fruits, and like Eve the knowledge I gained had been poisoned long before my lips ever sealed the deal. In our way stands the power of the ancients, as their language, once lost on simple minds, finds new meaning in the distant present. By the time Eve even knew there was a fruit there was a sacred meaning already valued to the tree and all of its contents. These were ways all older than man. She was fucked before bite number one, her fate already decided, and the knowledge of no particular value to Eve, only in context could the sin be defined. If I had stayed in Eaton perhaps, I would end the same sagging tranny in an uncle’s barn as I would here in Dayton, Ohio, snot rag of the Mid West. There were never going to be festivals again. Art galas. And no matter how profoundly we desired and regardless of the effort we’d never be permitted to leave. How antithetical. My tower of notebooks began to shadow my tower of mattresses and I had lost track of what year it was.

            It felt a lot like my birthday, some year of our lord, somewhere down the road.

            I had fallen asleep when I meant to stay guard… the last of my roommates had been robbed and stabbed as I lay in my pile of filth and paper and piss-soaked mattresses alone in a dark corner. They didn’t even see me. Perhaps the muggers and rapists and killers avoided the smell. Days had rolled by, sun over moon by enough times to lose track. The dream was always the same. That laugh, and the urine and the fumes. Something about the dream had become reality, and I was no longer certain that the dream was happening when I was asleep. Who’s to say a nightmare isn’t real? Another piece of evidence that the world was nothing but a lie.

            The chains were wearing my skin to stripes of fashionable reds, blacks and blues like a teenage cutter would be proud of.

            I was suddenly aware of a disturbance below my pile of mattresses. My senses were alive, and my skin was tight, flushed red, the small of my back burning with tender pain so sweet. I could hear a large scuffle happening far below me, the shadows dancing violently against my ceiling view. There was death with us, and a bringer unknown as the captor and I awaited the next moment, hers growing shorter. The scent of blood reached me, and I knew she was gone or beyond repair. The mattresses shook so badly I thought we would topple into the fire below, I tensed for murder.

            It was a young man, dark skinned and wearing a mask made from curtains and vacuum filters, his hands painted with gore and threads of a floral-patterned dress I assumed to be my wicked stepmother’s or who have you. His eyes were kind and full of life. As he untied me, I could feel his warmth and care, his breasts brush against mine, a scrubby boy to my he-she; he was very delicate and cautious to avoid ripping already peeling skin from the bone as he took the knots apart and liberated my sleeping body from its bondage. A born-female sensibility with the confidence of a great hero.

            At the bottom was a new world I had never seen, full of possibilities, the prince having saved the princess after all. I reached between the bottom mattress and the floor and where my back had been positioned ten high above, there was a simple apple, polished and full of knowledge. I took a bite and nourished my mind. The world was quiet outside, a distant rain headed toward Dayton, Ohio 45403 in an ominous yet beautiful wave upon the horizon, the tears and slobber of the ancients accepting my new choice to stay with this man and make a new world. It would not be the family the world asked for, but it would be the one that changed all. I had a new dream. The world had started over, hour zero, year One prior to existence as we know it, a rebirth like the Greeks would have celebrated from the highest gay terrace on the rock hills. These are all ways older than man. This could have happened a zillion years ago or yesterday and zero difference could be quantified as significant. I was left at the doorstep of renaissance with a trans man who had freed me for reasons I did not yet know, and the future was crying out to me from the sand. I finally knew what it was to be a man or a woman without the world’s voice in my head. There was at long last a silence that I could almost float upon. The humans in transition had arrived from the pixels of time itself.

            It was our new birthday, the first year of our Lord and savior, and I smiled as I took his hand and took our first stroll into a world that we ourselves would define.


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