SPENCER WAKES UP. THEIR BATTERY IS AT 75%. THEY MAKE BREAKFAST.
Outside of their studio apartment, campus awaits. The south side is quiet, mostly residential, with perfectlytrimmed hedges quieting the roar of the train line beyond.
Spencer is early. They walk to class with an easy amble. They check their phone for a text from Alex but there is nothing. It only takes seven minutes to get from the door of the apartment complex to the door of the lecture hall. In that time, they are stared at three times, and one person murmurs an aside to her friend with a laugh.
Spencer starts class. Their battery is at 60%. They take out their notebook.
Anthropology is one of their favorite subjects. Anthropology is all about defamiliarizing the familiar. In this class, Spencer is not weird, is not impossible to understand. In this class, making a phone call or doing your taxes is just as weird as knowing every single Magic: The Gathering card by heart or having a stutter that comes out only late at night.
Their teacher likes them. They are called on a few times, and share their thoughts on the inherent bias of biographical work. It is well-received.
Spencer meets their friends at the dining hall. Their battery is at 65%. They order pizza.
Spencer met their friends in their dorm hall freshman year. Then, they had all lived on the same floor, and had similar schedules. Becoming friends was easy. Now, they are all fragmented, split across classes and majors and life paths, but lunch is still a thing.
Spencer sits sandwiched between Ruby and Preethi, with Tinashe across from them.
Preethi rambles about a class she’s taking, how she hopes it will help her score a prestigious internship. Her grades are getting better, and her mom is finally off her ass.
Spencer wiggles animatedly in their seat. “You got this!” they exclaim. “You are gonna score that internship so hard.”
Preethi beams. She talks about the new T.V. show she loves. Tinashe and Ruby have seen it, but aren’t caught up. They beg Preethi not to spoil them while Preethi shouts out facts about various characters. Tinashe and Ruby cover their ears.
Spencer smiles and laughs, looking between their friends. They haven’t seen it. To change the subject, Spencer lets out a groan. Everyone looks their way. “They had nuggets today? Noooo! I didn’t even notice!”
“It’s not like it’s right at the top of the menu,” Ruby says.
“Typical Spence,” Preethi says, waving a hand around in a vague, fluttery gesture, and Tinashe and Ruby laugh.
Spencer forces a smile. “Guess what, guys? I got the-”
Tinashe’s timbre is loud and overpowers Spencer like a bulldozer over a clover. “You guys wanna hear something cringey?”
-[||||||| ||| ]+
Tinashe talks about a biology class she’s taking. That morning, her lab partner had struggled to understand something that Tinashe understood easily, and Tinashe laughs when she recounts the incident. When Tinashe explains it, she mixes up the definitions of prokaryotic and eukaryotic.
Spencer smiles and nods, but they don’t laugh. They wonder how the lab partner would feel about this story, but Tinashe seems happy, so they stay quiet. Spencer wonders what Alex is doing right now, if practice for the big show has started yet.
When lunch is over, Tinashe, Ruby, and Preethi discuss the movie night the three of them are going to have tonight.
Spencer understands without needing to ask that they are not invited.
not stupid,” they say, keeping it quiet, knowing the walls here are thin. “Those internships are always super competitive. They often only take one or two people out of hundreds. It probably came down to something subjective.”
“I needed that internship,” Preethi continues the moment Spencer goes quiet. “I’ve already applied to so many. All of my psych major friends have already had paid internships, and I’m a junior and I haven’t even had an unpaid one. Do you think it’s because I dropped out of Glasgow? I didn’t put it on my resume. I’ve already had, like, three panic attacks this week… my mom texted me about my weight again. She just doesn’t understand what I’m going through.”
Spencer walks home. Their battery is at 45%. They have some homework to do.
It is around 6 P.M. when they finish writing their essay. It is not due for two weeks, but they are experimenting with a new type of prewriting and drafting process. It works well, and the essay, while rough, has an edge to it that they know their professor will appreciate.
Their imagination has been wacky lately, colorful, like they’re a kid again. Each object in the books they read is a symbol, and that symbol stands for their own smile, their very identity. The queer takes they argue are well-received in class, and they are even brainstorming ideas for a poetry collection. Their advisor is subtly emailing them links to magazines and competitions.
Their phone rings. They aren’t expecting a call. It’s Preethi.
They pick up. “Hello?”
“I didn’t get the internship,” Preethi croaks out in that post-cry waver. “I am so stupid. My mom’s gonna kill me.”
They close their computer and sit on the floor. “You’re
They hum a kind noise. They’ve known Preethi for a long time, and Preethi’s mother has always had a magic way of wanting to help Preethi in the most damaging way possible. “That really sucks, I’m sorry,” they offer, imagining Preethi sitting alone on the other end of the line. “It won’t be the last internship, and you aren’t defined by your mom. Keep trying, dude.”
There is a pause on the other end of the line. “Don’t you have anything else to say?”
The smile twitches on their face. They search their mental repository of social scripts for the right answer to that one. Does Preethi want new ideas? Should Spencer rag on Preethi’s mom? They take too long.
“Never mind,” Preethi sighs, long and sad, like there should be violins accompanying her words. “See you tomorrow.”
“Bye,” they say, but Preethi has already hung up.
Spencer’s battery is at 15%, but sleep is coming.
They are just getting into bed when their phone beeps. It’s the group chat. They have been directly messaged by Preethi. She’s asking if they want to come to the movie night.
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 12
THERE IS A PAUSE ON THE OTHER END OF THE LINE. “DON’T YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE TO SAY?”
All of their previous concerns and fears wash away. They shouldn’t have assumed they weren’t invited or that they couldn’t help Preethi earlier. They accept, climbing out of bed and stepping out of their pajamas.
Spencer makes it to Preethi, Ruby, and Tinashe’s apartment about half an hour later. The twinkly lights are on and Ruby’s laptop is plugged into the TV, displaying the web browser. Ruby points to the TV. “We need your Amazon login for the movie,” she says.
They crouch in front of the laptop, typing in their information.
“Press ‘save password,’” Ruby pipes up.
They do. They find the movie and hit play.
It isn’t their usual preference--a rom-com--but they end up enjoying it. They make a joke about the hot man lead actor, but no one reacts. They glance over and see Preethi is on her phone. Past her, in a row, Ruby and Tinashe are, too.
When the movie ends, Preethi puts her phone away. “Wasn’t that so good?” she asks.
They nod vigorously. “Yeah, I r-really liked it. We should all w-watch the sequel together!”
Preethi nods. “Yeah. Can you Venmo me for the popcorn?”
Spencer leaves the apartment alone. Their battery is at 7%.
The temperature has tanked considerably. It’s late, and this street is not the safest. They walk briskly, clutching their phone in their hand. They’re passed by several groups of drunken students, hanging off each other and laughing in loud barks. One girl pukes on the curb.
One of the boys from one such group looks over at them.
“Do you think it’s a he or a she?” the boy asks loudly. The others look up and giggle with red, watery eyes.
Someone holds up a phone and Spencer cannot tell if its black, beady eye is aimed at them or not.
They walk faster, opening their phone to look busy. Ruby has just posted a picture of her and Tinashe and Preethi. “Movie night squad,” the caption reads.
Spencer turns the shower on, cranking the temperature all the way to boiling.
They sit naked under the spray, folding their knees in and hugging them close to their chest.
They think about the giggling students from that morning and the boy from the alley. They think about every pair of eyes that lands on them, makes an evaluation, dismisses them, and moves away.
They wonder what it is about them that makes them an easy target. They wonder what about them proclaims “stupid” in blinking neon lights. They hold their head high, they love who they are, but somehow, it doesn’t seem to translate.
It shouldn’t bother them this much. It shouldn’t matter.
But it does.
They stare at their hands. Their ears ring. The water pelts their back. The bathroom fills with steam.
Their thoughts rush together, as loud as the susurrus of the water. Something is catching in their chest. Why. That is their only question. Why. Their heart beats faster. why
They stand up, head going leaden, vision grey, knees weak, and scramble to shut off the shower. They grip the shower door, clinging for life while their hearing goes, the sound of bloodrush filling their world.
They wrap themself in a towel and sit on the toilet. The numbness and fuzziness gives way to cold heaviness. It is only with a burst of sudden strength, like the hero getting up one last time to finish the boss fight, that they manage to get dressed and ready for bed.
They collapse under the sheets. Their thoughts are too quiet now, the previous mania replaced with an empty sadness. They plug their phone in, and see they missed a text when the screen swirls to life.
It’s from Alex. How’d your internship go?
-We start next week. I already met my boss, though, and she’s really nice!!
Alex responds immediately. Cool! What about the scholarship?
-I got it :) I’ll get the money next semester.
Alex’s next text is in all caps. Confetti covers the text conversation.
When it fades, they ask Alex about jazz band and cat fostering. Alex sends them a picture of their most recent batch of kittens, who all look like milkyeyed cows. They’re so cute.
Their lids get heavy, so they tell Alex they’re heading to bed. Alex sends an emoji of someone sleeping in a bed. See you this weekend. Have fun at the library tomorrow! Love you!
-Love you, too.
Spencer wakes up. Their battery is at 75%. They make breakfast.
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 14
Love you. -[||||||| ]+
THEY THINK ABOUT EVERY PAIR OF EYES THAT LANDS ON THEM, MAKES AN EVALUATION, DIS
MISSES THEM, AND MOVES AWAY.
UNTITLED Olivia Korensky
we were born a comet, pieces of space dust, powdered sugar ashes mixing with star fragments creating this body we share from the ground up fossils in the tar joining bones, fur, skin on the surface we came from everything which swallows salt in the deepest trenches, which graces their raptor wings against the surface of the sun your rules don’t apply to my celestial body luna controls your tides & poppy finds home in your veins try to define the indefinable, & you have found yourself in our body
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 16
When did I take the flag down?
When did prioritizing safety become playing it safe, telling no one about my dirty secret? Since when is it a secret? Since when is it dirty?
I used to wear it with pride, and if that was a problem, fuck you, no matter who you are. Now my only sign of pride is a sticker I refuse to remove in remembrance of who I was, the proud trans woman I killed. The sticker I hope no one notices.
I made it dirty. I smeared it with mud to blend in. The last bit of the me I once loved but now shove in the dirt, nose to the mud, "You deserve this. Do try to fit in."
The word pride is ash in my mouth. I broke its trust. It isn't my word anymore. So this nameless flag sits at the back of my closet, crumpled and ashamed.
AN OPEN LETTER
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 18
PUTAZO Paz Regueiro putazo;
as in splendid bruise; as in tremendous fag; qué putazo walking around with all kinda putazos peeking out his collar, i wonder what kind of putazo he ran into put ‘em there is no more saving me del putazo putazo i come being what i have become, a rupture, a redblooded vessel torn open for a splendor in pleasure for what are we for what can we claim if not the place where putazo en putazo bloom ferociously over the gorge of your throat and stop only— putazo only when blood daggers its tender threat out in past skin but not before boiling to rile you like a redseeing bull te toreo y sendo putazo que te voy a meter but only if you swing first like you mean it putazo like it means some thing past beheld
DO YOU TOP? Catherine Sullivan
trigger warning: allusion to rape, coercion
Do you top? I shouldn't ask But I want you in me So fucking bad. I'd gag on it. Swallow for you. You want that, right? Of course you do.
What's in your pants? Could it be? Well if it is Put it in me. No I don't care How you feel. I want your body, So what's your deal?
Get the condom, I wanna fuck Cuz I'm a girl And you have a cock. That's not what I meant. Well that's a lie. I'm mostly straight, But you're mostly a guy.
I know you want it. Forget what you said. You're a guy to me So let's get you to bed. It doesn't matter If you don't want to The way you were born Already spoke for you.
I'm sorry I'm so fucking hot But you don't own what I've got. I know now truly I'm a woman Because every goddamn person who wants to fuck me Feels entitled to my body And no Not just the men.
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 20
SOG ME WITH YOUR ROTTING JUICE
Sarah’s coming over. Sarah’s coming overrrr. SARAH’S COMING OVER.
My brain voices overlap in an excited cacophony as I patiently wait by the window like her obedient little pet (meow). I can feel my heart dripping, sopping wet. I’m so wet.
The doorbell. GET THE DOOR.
I stumble over a pile of plates from the antique shop and listen to their antique breaking with wonder. Oh well, oh well, that’s just how it goes. The shards of glass point at me accusingly, and I feel a bloody laugh bubbling in my throat.
The door, get the door.
Sarah spills through my door with sleepy downturned eyes, plum eyebags dripping down her face. I fight the urge to tuck her into bed and read her a bedtime story.
You’re staring at her again. She doesn’t like that.
She makes her way through my nest of moldy, broken treasures, gliding effortlessly in a way that makes my stomach churn in delight. I follow her in a trance, bare feet crunching on the angry glass.
Why doesn’t this hurt? Now my feet are wet too. I’m sooo wet.
My limbs wrap around her limbs, our bodies glomming as my mind drifts away. Nooo, come back! You have to be here to enjoy this! She pinches my nipple hard and the immediate dysphoria knocks me out of my dissociative state. Oh, our lips are touching now. Oh, tongue, WOW!
Your eyes have been closed this whole time.
I slowly sink my teeth into her bottom lip, pulling, devouring. I hear her moan in my mouth and I bite harder until I feel the wetness pooling in my mouth.
I feel the squirming of her tongue(s) filling my mouth, gagging me, filling me, choking me. The squirming goes down my throat.
Open your eyes.
I don’t want to.
Do it NOW.
I open my eyes and feel a weight in my hand. A rotten, soggy, dripping plum with a large bite missing. I’m alone.
Where did it go?
Maggots tumble over themselves, squirming out of the fruit. I feel the squirming in my mouth, down my throat, in my stomach.
I vomit violently: plum maggot blood rot.
I feel one last maggot squirm from my lips as I give into my orgasm.
trigger warning: body horror, insects, gender dysphoria, grotesque imagery, blood, vomit
FEEDING ROCKS Anonymous
trigger warning: death of parent, dysphoria, self-harm
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 22
"SOMETIMES I WANT TO PUT MY PENIS THROUGH A MEAT GRINDER."
Sometimes I want to put my penis through a meat grinder. I would feed the pieces to the ducks at the neighborhood pond or whatever. I’m always looking for new things to feed to the ducks at the pond. Henry tells me that I am fucking with the natural ecosystem with all the random shit I feed to the ducks. I think that Henry somehow got closer to the earth after his husband (Dad) died. I mean, if you put your dick into something pretty regularly and then it ended up in the dirt with all the worms and bean sprouts wouldn’t you feel, like, more intimate with nature? Like you had fucked the earth or some shit?
Henry also tells me that I’m experiencing dysphoria whenever I talk about doing violent things to my dick. I always tell him that I just want to feed shit to ducks and he’s getting in the way of my artistic vision. Because feeding ducks is quite the art. Anyone can feed a duck wonder bread but have you seen someone feed a duck a Taco Bell crunchwrap supreme? Didn’t think so.
Later that night I searched the word dysphoria up and it turns out that its this crazy anxiety and unease you get because your biological sex and gender identity don’t match and everything is out of wack and it leads to feelings and thoughts that may make adolescenets say that they want to chop their dicks off.
Yeah…Henry might have a point with that one. I hate it when he’s right.
Sweat is dripping down the side of Henry’s face. Droplets fall into the dirt beneath him, dark splotches of fading ink. I’m kneeling on the sofa watching through the window as Henry works in the vegetable garden. The sweat follows a pattern, one, two, three steady drops as Henry digs around a weed and then a violent jerk of the head as two drops go flying and the weed is yanked out.
Henry is wearing a pair of baggy red overalls stained with dirt with holes at the knees (masculine) with one shoulder strap slipped off, hanging under his armpit (feminine). His short but messy hair is covered with a bandana (feminine) though his sideburns peek out (masculine).
Since Dad died, I can’t remember the last time Henry actually planted something. I’ve only ever seen him weed.
I met Varsha because I have a bad habit of staring at people who wear pantsuits. I just can’t help myself, something about the combination of suit jacket, ankle length pants, and “I just dumped 1,000 tons of lead into your water supply :)” energy just draws me in. It was lunch period and I was staring at Varsha out of the corner of my eye. She was drinking an iced green tea and working furiously on a laptop; it looked like English homework. She was wearing a black pantsuit and her black hair was tied back in a messy bun, shot through with streaks of blonde. Something about the professionalism crashing into “haven’t gotten off the couch in three days” depression hairstyle gave me a surge of gender envy and I was overcome with the strong urge to chop my dick off right there and then.
Then the unthinkable happened. One moment I was staring at her, tracing the outline of the suit collar, watching the wisps of hair bob wildly as she typed, and then suddenly I was looking into her eyes.
An involuntary “Fuuuuuck” came out of my mouth. Getting caught while people watching is one of my top three fears, right behind spiders and accidently missing the toilet and peeing on the floor in a public restroom while someone is in the stall next to you.
Trapped in her glare I decided to try and make the best of the situation and walked over to her.
“Umm, I’m Kira?” I meant it to be a statement but it came out as more of a question. By this point Varsha had turned back to her computer and was typing quite violently.
“What do you want?” Varsha threw a quick glance over her shoulder, briefly acknowledging my presence before turning back to the laptop. A wisp of hair fell across her face.
What I would have said if I answered Varsha truthfully
“I want to become you and be a woman like you and look like you and smell like you and maybe crawl into your skin and drive you around like some weird human zombie robot for a day, but like not in a sexual way more like a I respect and admire you so much that I want to squeeze myself through your liver and kidney and crawl into your brain and just experience life. Also I really really want to get rid of my penis but also not really because sometimes I want it but just not at this moment.”
What I said instead, pathetically, because the truth was waaay too creepy and should never be said aloud
“If I give you my extra Bosco stick can I sit down with you?”
Varsha eyed me suspiciously and puffed out forcefully aiming at the strand of hair on her face. The wisp of hair floated up for a moment before resolutely landing back in its initial position.
“I can also give you a hairband if you would like.” I reached into my pocket with my free arm and pulled out a black tie which I added to my right hand which was outstretched with the Bosco stick (and now hair tie). A greater peace offering had never been made before. All the US ambassadors had a collective aneurysm knowing that they could never match my diplomatic skills.
Varsha frowned before plucking both objects out of my hand. She tied her hair back into a messy ponytail and started wolfing down the Bosco Stick. I took this as a sign of success and sat down next to her.
“Ok,” Varsha said between mouthfuls “I guess we can be friends if you want.”
Varsha turned out to be in my next class period, art. The teacher, Mr. Reddy was an interesting character though I never felt too comfortable around him at any given time. He gave off the unmistakable aura of a South Asian person who knew they were in a position which people did not expect them to be in and was dealing with it through an extreme veneer of detachment and snark. He also happened to hate me.
Reasons why Mr. Reddy hates me:
• I constantly fall asleep in his class and end up with paint all over my face.
• He once overheard me telling someone he had the music tastes of a 13 year old wanna be skater boy.
• I pretend that I’m growing out a unibrow and everyday I ask him if I have a unibrow yet.
• I’m the same skin color as him.
Oh, and I only ever paint in brown. Mr. Reddy really hates that. Something about colors being essential to the study of the visual form.
Varsha: Why don’t you use any other colors?
Kira: I only ever paint in brown.
K: No look, really, you don’t need any other color (quickly sketches something out) See, what do you think this is?
K: C’mon guess
V: Worms? Worms standing in line for a grocery store.
K: No its bark.
V: I think this shows your theory is wrong.
K: It’s not wrong.
V: If it was right I would have known that was bark.
“Kira? Kira!” Varsha’s voice brought me back to reality. I looked down at the watercolor in front of me. Dark brown streaks repeatedly slashed across the page. The soft and muted landscape I had been trying to draw
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 24
in the background was unrecognizable.
“You’re ruining your painting,” Varsha stated the obvious. “Are you upset? Sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Was I upset? I didn’t know. I wasn’t feeling not upset. But then again lately I wasn’t feeling much of anything. Emotionally I was wet cereal on the sidewalk near a school bus stop being circled by pigeons. I stared at the paper, the ends now curling upwards as the watercolor dried. I wondered if I needed to say more. Varsha seemed like the type of person who was never confused about what she felt. You would never find Varsha splattered across a gutter branded with the footprints of light up skechers of a 5 year old.
“I’m not.” I replied. “I’m fine.” And you’re wrong, I thought to myself.
Here’s how I was created. Dad went into the hospital and jacked off into a test tube. Then screaming and splashing in glops of glue I flopped out of it like some unhinged zombie plant. Henry says that this is not how I was created and actually I was created through “invitrofertilization” with “donated eggs” in a “controlled lab environment” and then was implanted into a “surrogate mother” but what constitutes control when you’re working with human cum and frozen eggs? The only thing the lab technicians were worried about was not getting Dad’s semen in their eyes and as far as I can tell “mother” is not a word that has ever been applicable to anyone in my life. I think Henry sometimes lies to make things seem better than they actually are, not as insane or crazy. Most of the time he’s doing it for my sake, I think, but lately I’ve started thinking that he’s comforting himself too.
closet full of my paintings that prove this point. I like painting objects. Cars, trees, buildings. Things that don’t move. Things that work a very specific way and which everyone agrees upon what they are. People aren’t like that. So I don’t paint people.
The only painting in the closet that is of color is a family portrait, Dad, Henry, and I. We’re in the park under a tree. There’s a picnic blanket spread out which Dad and Henry are sitting on. Dad has his arm around Henry’s shoulder and is feeding Henry a bit of pani puri. There’s a brightness to their faces as they look out at me, off the edge of the blanket, stomach on the grass feeding a line of ants pieces of bread. I haven’t made something like that in a while. There’s a brightness to it. The lines are well defined. Everything looks how it is supposed to. ~
“Kira, you know you can change your name right? A lot of trans people do.” Henry looked back over his shoulder, almost shouting over the crackling sound of steam, mustard seeds, and frying garlic.
K: “Fuck Henry, I hate my name, everyone assumes I’m a girl when they hear it. Is it even Indian?”
H: “No but then again look at my name. Your name doesn’t define if you are Indian or not.”
K: “Well, was my mother Indian?”
H: “I don’t know.”
K: “Did the test tube say Made in India on the side?”
H: “You really think you’re funny don’t you.”
K: “I know it.”
The smell of salty onions and cumin wafts through the air.
I only ever paint in brown. I don’t think you need any other color. The sky can be brown, the ground can be brown. Food is brown. Trees are brown. If you get the general outline of the object right then people will be able to tell what it is regardless of the color. I have a
K: “I know the name story.”
K: “You didn’t decide this name for me.”
H: “No, I didn’t. Your father and I had been making a list but then at the hospital your father disregarded all of that and told the nurse to name you Kira. I was too tired by then to argue and figured we could change
I ONLY EVER PAINT IN BROWN. I DON’T THINK YOU NEED ANY OTHER COLOR.
it later so just went with it.”
K: “So now you want to change it now. Cuz there won’t be an argument. Cuz there’s no one to argue with now.”
Henry’s shoulders tense up. His voice comes out strained but in a measured tone.
H: “No, I just suggested you can change it if you’re frustrated about the gender assumptions.”
I am frustrated about the gender assumptions. But I’m not thinking rationally right now. I’m out for blood.
K: “You’re trying to get rid of him. This is what he gave me and you are saying I shouldn’t have it.”
Henry stops cooking. He turns around. There’s a tight frown on his face. His eyebrow twitches. Maybe this time he finally cries?
H: “I don’t know why you’re saying this right now but I know you don’t mean it. I’m going to assume you’re in a bad mood. We can talk about it if you want but we don’t have to. The food will be ready soon. I’ll be eating in my room.”
I must have annoyed the medics quite a bit as I refused to let go of his hand. They kept trying to explain to me that I had to let go so they could examine him and take him up to the ambulance. Eventually they relented and just worked around me. I held onto him and watched as he slowly came around. When his eyes finally fluttered open I was so relieved I started crying. Henry smiled gently and brushed the tears off my cheek with the back of his hand. Then he wordlessly brought my hand up to his face and pressed his lips over my knuckles. I tell you I almost fainted and I would have if not for the fact that right after he jerked my hand away, gave me a stern look, and told me that I was a fucking idiot and needed to work on my high kick.
This is how you were created.
WHEN’S THE LAST TIME HE’S PLANTED SOMETHING? ALL HE EVER DOES IS WEED.
Sometimes I just want him to yell at me. It would be better than whatever this is right now. I know I’m slowly killing him inside but this emotional detachment shit is getting old. Does he actually care, his face is always so impassive. Like a rock. When’s the last time he’s planted something? All he ever does is weed. ~
(in the voice of Kira’s dead father)
This is how you were created.
I accidentally kicked Henry in the face while at the weekly Bhangra class we both were taking at the time. We were taking turns practicing an upkick move and I kicked a little too hard and caught him straight in the chin. He was immediately knocked unconscious and they had to call an ambulance. I was so scared I thought I had killed him.
We started dating soon after that. Henry was really into astronomy and on clear nights would drive out into the surrounding country to stargaze. Because I wanted to spend time with him I convinced myself that I also cared about stargazing. I often wondered if Henry would get annoyed by my accompanying him on these trips because by the third or fourth trip it was pretty clear that I couldn’t care less about the stars and was only there because I wanted to cuddle with him under a blanket. But if he ever was annoyed he never said anything. That’s how your father always has been, always willing to inconvenience himself to make the people he cares about happy. There were a lot of times I never truly knew if he really wanted to do something or was just going along with what I suggested.
This is how you were created.
After we were married Henry’s parents stopped talking to him. They never approved of us but tolerated it while we were dating. They were still holding out hope that Henry was just “going through a phase” and would eventually consent to an arranged marriage. But when we were married that hope was shattered. “How could you do this to me?” Henry’s mother had asked me once. “How do I explain to others that my son is sleeping with another man?” She wasn’t angry, she was quite sad. All the stresses of holding up appearances for the community at the cost of her own expression was coming down at once. I watched her cry. I felt quite sympathetic
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 26
despite her homophobia. I hoped that someone would liberate what was left of her at some point before she totally disappeared.
This is how you were created.
Henry was extremely upset being cut off from his family. He didn’t talk for three days straight. I didn’t know what to do. Every night I would lay in bed next to him and brush his hair. I didn’t know if it was even helping. Even then he never cried but you already know this.
Henry is face down on the couch when I come back into the living area. The TV is on and his body looks oddly motionless. Must be sleeping. Which is fine by me. I’m not really in a talking mood and honestly we both could probably use a break from each other. I try to tiptoe into the kitchen as softly as possible to wash my dishes. I watch as the water runs down the dirty plates, carrying particles of food into little eddies and swirls before they disappear down the sink drain.
Henry lets out a little groan and I’m snapped out of my daydream. I realize I’ve just been standing and staring at the water and start scrubbing the dishes. Another groan, this one louder. I’m a little concerned because these don’t sound like “adjusting around in my sleep” anymore.
“Henry?” I put the dishes down and walk over to the couch. Something seems off. I feel the panic rising in the back of my throat. I peel the blanket off of Henry. His eyes are half open and fluttering.
There’s blood running down his arms. Fuck. There’s bandages and razor blades wrapped in a cloth on the floor.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. What the fuck did you do Henry?” Am I crying? I don’t know. Am I calling the ambulance? I don’t know. This shouldn’t be happening. This is the only thing I can think about.
Henry, Varsha, and I are sitting on my favorite bench at the pond. It has an inscription on the front, Gopal and Usha ‘94. I can just imagine an elderly Indian couple
recently moved into the suburban neighborhood carving it out all those years ago. An inscription to make a foreign place feel more like home.
We’re out feeding the ducks. I tried to bring along a crunchwrap supreme so I could show Varsha how I got the ducks to eat them but Henry got suspicious when he saw the huge bulge through my coat and made me turn my pockets out.
It’s been 3 months since Henry hurt himself. I don’t remember much from that night other than sirens, ambulance noises, and the white bleach of the hospital walls. Sterility. Serenity? At some point Henry’s parents came along. I had never met them before. When his mother wrapped me tightly in an embrace I totally lost it. I think I slightly ruined her sari but I don’t think she minded. I guess I have a grandmother now.
I realized what I had been doing this whole time. That one of my fathers had died and then I acted like such a dick in my grief that I almost killed my other one. I thought Henry would no longer want me as his kid but when he opened up his eyes again I saw that things would work out. He said that we were both pretty fucked up though and should probably go to therapy.
This is what I learned in one of our latest sessions: It was easier to believe that Mr. Reddy hated me because if he didn’t it meant he cared. It was easier to believe that Henry was some weird cyborg man with no emotions. It was easier to believe Varsha was perfect and had everything figured out. If people were human then they probably cared and if they cared then there was hope. And if there was hope then things might get better. But I didn’t want things to get better, because if they did then Dad would be gone forever. As long as I didn’t feel anything he was still there but as soon as I started feeling something he would be gone—I would have to admit that I could feel something without him, that he wasn’t essential to me somehow.
I guess the whole time the truth was more complicated than that. Some parts of Dad were gone forever and they would never come back but that was ok because parts of him still remained. And, for now, maybe that was enough.
sub-queue, lure a lock of hair from your chin/chest/choke on that newandimproved bread crumb trail-line down to that telltale pitch up under the hood— go both ways? i stopped about half but my boys love to meet me in the middle
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they told me i was a ____ and i asked them what that was. they said…“someone soft. someone you could fold up and put inside your pocket.” so i sharpened my edges with a blade told them whoever tries to pick me up is getting hurt they laughed and i deflated popped by my own point what was the point? maybe i want to be soft maybe i’m tired of puffing out my chest (and tired of hiding it too) i said i don’t know what a ____ is but maybe i’m that and maybe she’s me
The name breaks on my ears with a violence. I pause for a barely-perceptible moment, shake her hand like I'm supposed to, and continue across the stage, to mixed applause. This wasn't supposed to happen. This isn't one of those backwards towns where it's that name or no name, but I'm not sure that's a comfort.
The next day came the well-meaning well-wishers. "I was pleasantly surprised at how poised you stayed." Oh fuck off, I want to say, but this is a stage too. I thank her for what she would call a compliment.
Does she know?
How badly I wanted to say something, say anything, make this moment mine again.
Does she know how deep I let them cut when I shook that hand, to betray the name I built for myself, that I couldn't even speak for hours after? Does she get it, that I'm never getting that moment back, that this slip-up is fossilized in my mind, that it didn't have to be, but really, it did?
And when another well-wisher says I should've done something, do they honestly think that was an option?
In front of the crowd, on video, it's my character that's under the microscope. Any word but thank you is a petulance I can't take back.
With the vertigo of that name still freshly ringing in my ears
I accepted the flimsy apology my counselor offered. I didn't comment on the fact the woman couldn't find it in herself give it to me personally. I even thanked her.
Bound by the decorum they're so proud to see in me, my anger isn't power. It just burns.
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 30
TRANS DAY OF REMEMBERANCE
MISSING PERSONS REPORT
JULY 24, 2021
Her feet push deeper and deeper into the woods. She has the sight for this, has had it ever since she was a child. Her eyes scan for any safe passage forward, as naturally as breathing, picking her next step with ease.
She tiptoes down deer trails, walking a balancing act down the narrow snake of hoof-worn dirt. She crawls under hawthorns, soaking the knees of her jeans, finding refuge in the blank spaces under their sharp swords.
She takes her shoes off to ford the creek, hooking the heels of her sneakers with her index finger and tossing it over her shoulder like a businessman carrying his suit jacket through the city. Mud sinks between her toes, cold water numbing her feet.
Brown hair, brown eyes
She knows that moss hides the sound of steps where roots and leaves don’t. She knows which clusters of cone-heavy Spruce might hold grizzly bears and which are safe to pass through. Her senses are heightened, alert, animal, making it impossible to have any other thoughts, making it difficult to doubt herself.
She doesn’t mind bowing before mighty Oaks, limbs heavy with the weight of their leaves and acorns. She slips past a patch of raspberries with her head lowered, accepting the cuts that draw blood from her ankles.
Movement is her purpose, the mantra echoing in her head. She knows where North is, but does not follow it. Her feet hurt, her skin burns. Her only destination is up. Up the spines of the mountains, up and away.
Away. 135 pounds, stocky build
She avoids places where trails or tents might lie. She switchbacks up and through the same grove of pines, over and over. She hauls herself over boulders, browning her nail beds.
She stops for a rest only when it would be risky, even stupid, to continue. She falls more than sits on a small crag jutting out from the weathered stones embedded in the mountainside. She has found herself in an unlikely glen, a perfectly circular, random openness between thatches of wild lavender as tall as her shoulders. Her breathing evens out, her lungs feeling less like meat under the tenderizer. The muddy earth here only documents rabbits and squirrels, robins and foxes. She is careful to limit her own prints.
A heavy sigh falls out of her. She leans back against the mountain, letting it dig into her shoulders. A pebble is displaced, skittering to a stop by her left hip. She picks it up and rolls it between her fingers. It’s jagged, a chalky white, glimmering slightly in the weak sunlight.
How long was this pebble a mountain? How long was it whole, staring out over the distant rivers like small gems glimmering in the valley below?
Now, it is broken. It is small, distinct from the mountain. This rock had moved through the earth, between tectonic plates, solidifying from magma. This rock had once been many things, had once been everything. Now,
SPRING-FALL 2022 : SHATTERING REFLECTIONS 32
it rests for a brief hundreds of millions of years, inert, but someday, it will be living again. Its atoms will disperse, forming the throats of hummingbirds and the stamens of lilies. She rolls it across the pad of her thumb, seeing even then small pinpricks of material scrape off and fit into the grooves of her skin.
She puts the rock down, but licks the sediment off her thumb in apology. Now it can be a part of her and live with her. The world had gone quiet in the interim, the trees stilling their limbs. The glen around her appears untouched by human influence, undeveloped, unmarred. Is she the first one to sit just here, to disturb these rocks? In the city below, people walk the same sidewalks every day, leaving this part of the mountain quiet for now. She can imagine a girl like her, native to this forest, stepping through here long ago with the understanding that she belonged to the world, not the other way around.
She has to keep moving. Calves protesting, she stands, feeling her back crack like stinging nettles down from her neck to her waist. She continues upward, progress scratched out in small victories as her world becomes increasingly vertical.
Last seen in Danbury on August 5
It is almost night-time when she reaches the summit, and her body is at its limit. This is one of her favorite times of day. It is just after twilight, and people have closed their doors and drawn their curtains. The outside world belongs to the fireflies now, and to the moon.
She finds another place to sit and looks out over the furry backs of the mountains, the messy tip-tops of the pines and deciduous trees. For hundreds of square miles, it is just land, but the valley is flat and bright, glowing with sodium orange light in dotted grids.
She is seventeen, and she has run away from home. She left this morning, and is miles out. She did not measure her progress or memorize any landmarks. Her internal sense of place is impeccable, but looking down at the city, she does not know how she will get home.
She is not running from a heartache. She is not running from a raised fist.
No, her heart is only tired. Tired in a way that only her true mother can soothe. Sitting here, she does not think about missed notifications or rejected applications. She only thinks about the skin she has now, how it is grown and replaced by the food she gives it. How the groceries her mother brings home are wrapped in plastic. Like the pebble she’d created, the plastic that meets her hands clings in small portions, and goes into her. Down to her very core, little pieces of plastic fit and move alongside the meat, the muscle, the bone and fluid. This is the world that tires more each day, struggling to breathe in the air of its own creation.
She is comforted by the idea that she still has enough meat to feed a host of animals. She still has enough blood to soak the roots of the trees. She is not all plastic and stone. No matter what happens when she walks back down the mountain, she will return to this earth as she came from it. And from her will be new existences, new ways of living, climbing up this mountain with chlorophyll and paws and riverbeds.
There are no trails here, no phone signals. Naked under the sky, she lays down in the grasses, swiping away ticks and mosquitoes. She sleeps, wishing it came easily to her.
Her skin grows cold, first red, then white, but she drifts, and does not notice.
If found, please call ( ) ___ - _____ .