Body

Published on December 21st, 2020 | by Ezra Stone

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Advent 2020

ONE: A wave of grief for everything that came before 

Today, the clouds are like ribs, like my ribs close to the surface after the surgeon sucked the flesh out, and now I can see my heart beating, so near I dream of it. 

I’ve never seen the clouds like this but my boy says he has, and he says he knows the name of them, from science, but can’t remember what they are, so we just look at them while I drive, listening to the audiobook about the girl who becomes a magic librarian. The punchline is that she stays a librarian, even after the nanny drags her home. There in the library is her future self, wearing a nametag that says Lenora, Librarian. My heart catches in my throat, in spite of myself. 

The sky is full of white bones and today I think God is the sun filtering through my eyelids, bright and dark at the same time. It’s Advent. I light candles and try to think about God. 

Parenting is full of loss. Yesterday I was short-tempered and full of endless lectures, until we both cried at his bedtime. That day is now no more; he is one day closer to being grown, another drop in the bucket of bad days, gone and unrecoverable. The summer is gone and I didn’t have nearly enough fun. 

This year, in quarantine, my boy became big and unfamiliar before my eyes, wide feet and hands; long, heavy limbs. The rest of his face is growing to match the big teeth he’s had for years. 

I want my future, with a soft beard and low voice, I want my future where nobody calls me ‘miss’ or ‘ma’am’; I want my future, and I want my boy’s future, my boy who may become a cheerleader or an auto mechanic or a long haul trucker or something else entirely. I want our futures and I want his littleness to do over again, those first, hard years. My transition is another way of marking his childhood gone, our distance from all those old mistakes. 

(I want the future with a vaccine, our faces bright as we gather. The New York Times says, maybe next spring; my heart opens to weeping as I read that in my lonely office.)

TWO: Resurrection

My old best friend who stopped talking to me after I had top surgery was religious. I assume she still is; when she stopped talking to me she was discerning a call to ministry— we used to talk about resurrection. Resurrection as a daily practice, something ongoing.

There is daily resurrection, and there is also harm reduction. They are not a binary. I started volunteering for a peer support hotline and something loosened in me, a thing that was held tight. In the first webinar the trainer talked about harm reduction: what can you do to not make anything worse? How can you reduce the harm transphobia is causing? 

When I told M I was starting HRT she ‘went home and ugly cried in the bathtub.’ Her exact words. 

The day I had top surgery she picked our boy up from school for us. I never saw her again. 

THREE: too alive for all this

My new face, my new body, is too alive for all this, too tall for my old clothes. At the park, in our white circle on the grass, I watch a group of boys— I started to write, watch a group of bodies,—- they do not stay in the bounds of a single circle, and there are many of them. I feel a pulsing sadness through my whole guts. They are not being safe. 

All our bodies change in quarantine. My arms become thin and veiny, scratched with dark hairs. The muscles on my legs stand out. My hands are suddenly beautiful, functional things— the hands I was meant to have. My new body is wasted on this isolation, and I long to sing, or run, or dance among other bodies. 

Today at work, in a family session held over the phone, a patient’s mother got angry with me. Ma’am. She said. You don’t know my daughter. I wanted to float up out of my body, and all my organs started thrumming like drums, not just my heart or my breathing, but the pieces of meat packed tightly in my ribcage. 

FOUR: Love is brutal 

I soften to the noises of the beasts who love me. 

Two nights in a row my boy gets hiccups at bedtime, and I try everything to stop them. I make him smell vinegar; I pinch his tongue and his pressure points. I startle him. It makes me mad, this intrusion on my autonomy— I’m supposed to have an hour and a half to myself, while my partner is ‘at’ book club. 

It is far too easy to feel that everything is an intrusion on my autonomy— the sounds, the money, the responsibility, the animals touching me, the light. The noise. The needs. 

Then he looks at me and says, thank you for trying to help me, in his little voice, and I feel taken down by all the mean thoughts I’ve thought, all the times I’ve yelled or been impatient.

Everyone I love will die, and everything I love will break and decay— my house, the deck that’s wrapped in soft white lights, myself and my family and my accomplishments. The house could even fall down before we finish paying for it, a horrible capitalist thought, completely possible.

And the dogs with their soft ears and weeping eyes. They only want to be loved. 

Decorating the tree with my mother— the only guest we’ve had in our house all year— I tell my boy to be careful with the blown eggs that were my grandmother’s.

But I am the one who drops one and it smashes open on the floor. The dried yolk inside— a yellow smear.

The rupture hurts. 

(Cover photo by Pascal Müller on Unsplash; all others from the author’s collection)

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About the Author

Ezra Stone is a writer and social worker living in Gainesville, Florida. They are the author of THAT WHICH GIRLS CONJURE WILL HELP THEM SURVIVE (Guillotine, 2018), Domestication Handbook (Rogue Factorial, 2012) and self/help/work/book//The Story of Ruth and Eliza (Birds of Lace, 2014).



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