Fiction · 11/20/2019

Beyond

I.

Chris draws back the curtain of the shower and uses a washcloth to scrub the condensation from the full-length mirror on the back of the door. They stand, naked, and stare at themself. They’ve thinned a bit since high school, they’re trying to go mostly vegan, and yet. And yet, their thighs are round, their breasts full, and underneath the paunch of their belly dark hairs sprout and curl. They raise a hand and touch their hair — two and a half feet of water-flattened black coils.

“I love myself,” they say. It sounds fake. They try again. “I love myself enough to let myself be who I know I am.” Their eyes fill with tears. “It is not my fault that I am scared.”

They desperately want it to be true.

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II.

The haircut helps. They feel like a reverse kind of Samson, sitting in a hair salon in the Bronx where no one knows them. They feel like they have been all their life a miserable Rapunzel, and now, as boulders of hair fall onto the floor, they feel that all that has tethered them to the earth is being chopped away.

They pour themselves down the pavement, walking home; it is the only way that they can keep themself from flying away.

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III.

It takes a while after they come out to start painting their nails. They always thought that it would be some far-off day, when they were off living somewhere far away from New York (Iceland, maybe, or Norway), that they would start painting their nails. They’d always assumed they’d go with crazy David Bowie colors, that they’d be a rockin’ glam a new color every week. But somehow, after all the years of buffing and waiting, all they can manage is a neutral beige.

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IV.

The anxiety waxes and wanes and waxes again. Some nights they lie in their bed in the dark, back straight, arms folded neatly onto the flab of their belly. Everything in their life has been leading up to the truth that they are living now. And though most of the days it feels right, some days they are only horribly afraid. Some days the mirror feels too small, and they want to go back to being her, the girl that everyone could fit neatly into the right kind of box. They knew how to be her, they knew what people wanted from her. And they know, they so deeply know, that living outside of barriers is their truth, know that there is no reality where they are a woman, but some days instead of being freeing, it feels like they’re living in limbo, just waiting. Some days someone will look too long, and the anxiety will fall like a fishnet, and Chris will struggle and flail until they feel like they are almost nothing at all. They have been squeezed into so many boxes and chopped up into so many pieces that they don’t understand how anything can be left.

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V.

“Anything is possible,” Charlie says. He has a crisp, queer smile, and it flutters Chris’s stomach when he smiles it at them.

“Yeah?” Chris says.

“Yeah,” says Charlie. Smiles.

Chris leans back in their chair and feels the music playing in the street flow into their fingers and up through their arms. Anything is possible, they think.

They smile back.

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Elle Rosenberg is an aspiring author. She works in the nonprofit world for a day job.