40 degrees caresses my cheek as my mouth opens; its hand disappears as it runs down my torso and I force my teeth out of the way; slide my lips down. Winter, no— this guy— he takes my hair, gripping onto it like a newborn might grab an adult thumb. There’s a retro hospital bed in a room behind us, that room that now is not a room because it lost a wall. But maybe it’s still a room— with one last wall of window-less window holes and a door frame encasing nothing. But it still holds the bed; its laminate sides are untouched, not even chipping or peeling like my elementary school desk would; metal bars seem to have given into time like the rest of the property; an icicle over half my size, perfectly coned, touches the winter floor. I think this room is still a room.
My teeth try to close: pull your head away, take a breath, move the teeth, and go again—his hand in your hair.
This bed sits in the room, seemingly untouched, except by the cold. Although it’s lost a wall, convenient, because this guy could take a refined picture of it. If that room is a room, am I still a room too? I am a human, so I am not an actual room, but am I like this room? Am I too missing a wall, but still functional— still me?
My head moves closer to the concrete, following the skin, careful as a brain surgeon not to close my teeth. I open my eyes, meeting his. His hand takes my hair again; I pull my head up for a breath; I eye the bed back there—
Maybe I am like that room; maybe I’ve had part of me removed; maybe I’ve been through life and have managed to keep myself together enough to continue.
Down I go, silent as I methodically move my mouth and tongue.
My mother sat in the corner of that endocrinologist’s office, watching in silence. The doctor explained what would happen as I would soon needle hormones into my body every week, my mom sat, maybe crossing her arms in disapproval, I really can’t remember. But the disapproval was there. My window gone, my wall spray painted by edgy teens.
Watch the teeth, up and down, slowly. Carefully.
As I laid in the wheeled hospital bed, sides up and ready to be whisked away, along with my
breasts, I had to ask her for a hug, and we did just that. On the car ride home, the first thing she told me was that I couldn’t be shirtless around the house. A week before, my dad told me that if I had this surgery, that I was mutilating myself; technically, the surgeon was, not me. A couple more windows gone, my wall begins to crumble.
Watch. The. Teeth.
I visit home from grad school; within thirty minutes of being home, I hear it— that name that I used for seventeen years of my life. The syllables ring in one ear and bury themselves deep into my gray matter. I retreat to the basement, tears rolling down my cheeks, as I sit in silence, watching videos on YouTube. The tears eventually cease, and I return to Minnesota for the next semester; I can be shirtless in my own apartment; I can be content with my body again.
His grip on me tightens, my head bobs quicker, small grunts emerging from between his lips—
As I sit in that basement, I think I might be like this room; I’m still here, after being spray
painted, bashed with sledgehammers, and left for the elements. That room was mutilated, but it continues to protect the bed as best it can; I might have mutilated myself, but I still—
Someone is coming; he releases the hair, I take my head back, my neck sighs to relax, my teeth return to being teeth.
It is cold again.
AarronSholar is a transgender writer who has had pieces published in Sierra Nevada Review, 45th Parallel Literary Magazine, Hobart, Polaris Magazine, and Scarab Magazine. He holds a BA from Salisbury University and is an MFA candidate in CNF at MNSU, Mankato, where he is Head CNF Editor of Blue Earth Review.