“You know you don’t have to do this, right?”
You’re standing in the tiny, white-tiled, yellow-bulb-lit bathroom of the apartment you share with your wife and two roommates you never see, wedged between the tiny sink and the tiny tub with a hank of thigh flesh in your hand and a needle in the other.
You’ve measured out the amount of testosterone cypionate that the carapcacian doctor had scribbled onto the brown paper bag. The bag sits on the ground next to the tub.
Roxy’s sneaker-clad foot nervously taps the bathtub’s side, long legs bent to fit in the space you can barely stretch your legs across. The grout between the tile her shoes tap is only slightly darker than the once-white rubber along their soles.
The day she and you walked into that department store when you were new in town flutters to mind. You both picked out your matching Keds, blue and pink. The colors you should have been given, was what you thought in your head at the time. For her, it was already true, but for you? It would be a few more years to bring you to the present.
Your shoes are parallel to each other, resting just to either side of the grout. Grey next to grey. You think about scrubbing the rubber on your shoes clean with an old toothbrush one night in an effort to make sure they weren’t dirty enough to warrant removal from her wardrobe. They passed inspection, and you dutifully wiped your shoes down every day when you came home from after that.
It’s been a hard habit to break, honestly.
You let go of the spot on your thigh. “Roxy, you know better than anyone else that I absolutely have to do this.”
“Yeah, but your JOB, Jayjay. You KNOW they’re gonna be shitty about it, babe!” Roxy’s not looking at you, twisting the ends of her sweatshirt ties and frowning.
You sigh. You don’t exactly know how your job is going to take it. You’ve been holding down a government job processing documents while Roxy works on getting a job with her new paperwork, but you know your situation will be different than hers. She doesn’t need to work in an office because of her streams and her tutoring sessions, but you can’t ask her to support you both on her income if you have to leave this position. It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself, after all. That’s still something you think is true.
“I don’t really have to tell them immediately, though. I already stopped wearing any of those dreadfully restrictive pencil skirts, you keep telling me that my, um, butt… Well, that I look great in my new slacks, and no-one seemed to notice when I went from regular bras to sports bras to those tighter tops your sister-in-law made. A lot of what will happen will set in over a long enough period of time I can shop around for another job.”
“What happens when they ask for a reference?”
You snort, and lay the needle down on the side of the sink. You don’t want to flip that thing around willy-nilly while you talk with your hands and hurt someone. “We have plenty of friends who could give me a reference, and a lot of my coworkers are nice to me. Some of them even let me explain some terms to them! It’ll be fine.”
Roxy sighs, echoing you. You pick up the bottle of testosterone, spinning it around in your fingers. You drop the tiny box for the tiny bottle in the trash.
The box has your deadname on it, a plain name owned by a corporation. Leaving, getting disowned, whatever order you wanted to put it in and whatever way you tried to paint it depending on if you agreed with your mother or your own guts, meant you hadn’t really had the time or funds to get that taken care of, yet. Maybe you’d get that done, apply for new jobs under the new name, and never inform your old job your name changed. Could you still get your paychecks that way?
Your thinking is interrupted by Roxy sitting up and straightening her shoulders.
“Babe, it’s really fucking important for YOU, and YOUR BRAIN to do this. I know that. I get it. You gotta. But you also gotta understand that people aren’t gonna like you once they find this out. Most people aren’t as nice as our friends.”
“Oh, hogwash. Roxy, we both know it’s going to be hard. I’m not going to wait any longer for this. Again, I feel like you should get that!”
Playing with the oversized ends of her sleeve cuffs now, Roxy continues softly. “It’s not that I don’t want you to, I just.... You’re going to get hurt, and you’re going to lose that spitfire Jamie spirit I love about you, a little bit. I really, really don’t want that to happen to you.”
It’s not like you don’t know what she means. Roxy had come home from class crying more often than not on the days she had to be in the same room as so many people who hated her. Nothing you said really seemed to help. The two of you just sat on the floor of the hallway of your shoebox apartment and she cried into your shoulder until you both were stiff from not moving and you mustered up the energy to pull her to her feet for some Trash Mac.
(You had resolved that you would take care of Roxy no matter what when she fended off your elementary school bully on the playground all those years ago, and it killed you to be powerless against something she couldn’t choose, against all the people who outright hated her. Even if you didn’t need to do this, you’d take the option just to feel strong enough to help her for once.)
(Is it the wanting to be strong that brought you here, looking at the clear, slightly-yellow fluid in the bottom of this one-milliliter bottle with a sharps container at your feet? Is it every last bit of you that hates the kind of woman you were “supposed” to be? Is it just teenage rebellion, too many years overstayed?)
“Hey, stop doomin, asshole.” Roxy’s tone is teasing, and you look up to meet her eyes. Her bright pink contacts with what you think she called “sharingans” scribbled over the pink are in today, ready for streaming later that evening.
You stick your tongue out at her. “I’m not ‘dooming,’ I’m just thinking. Should I do this at all?”
Roxy gets up, pushing her legs out of the basin, and sits on the edge of the tub. “James Ronald Lalonde. I have known you since you were a kiddo, and you’re the handsomest, curiousest, kick-ass-bakingest dude I’ve ever known. You don’t need boy juice to know it, but I know it’ll help your fuckin’ brain. What I mean is I’m scared for you, but I’m not goin’ anywhere. I love you, and I’ll help you with whatever you need, alright? You just gotta ask me for it.” She puts her hand on yours. Her hand is warm, and the nail polish you carefully put on her a few days ago is chipped. She’s adorable.
"Thanks, Roxy… I don’t really know what to say, but. I trust your judgement. And I love you too.” You smile at her, and she gives you a smooch on the back of your hand.
“Doooooo you need some help with the needle, honey-bunny?” She smiles up at you from where she’s still holding onto you.
“I’ve got it!” You exclaim, gently batting her hand from your leg.
It only takes a moment to re-disinfect your leg, then re-grip your thigh muscle and find the injection site. After the initial sting, you feel the odd sensation of fluid moving into your muscle, then it’s over and you can slap a bandaid on. You suddenly feel your chest clenched with a breath you didn’t know you were holding, and let it go as a screech. Roxy starts laughing, then so do you.
“How do you feel, big boy?”
You pat the injection site, rubbing the sore muscle a little. You’ve heard warming it with your hands can help, but you don’t know. Everything is word of mouth.
“I feel…… exactly the same, honestly?”
Roxy snorts. “Yeah IDK exactly what I thought was gonna happen. We don’t get to magical-girl-style transform, y’know?”
“It’s not like we didn’t try to find something to do that for you, dear.” You use the tip of your finger to ‘boop’ her nose, and she giggles. The hair poof sticking out from under her hoodie bobbles, and you poke that as well, then her cheeks, and her arms, and her sides. She giggles some more, and you pull her into your lap. The toilet seat creaks dangerously beneath you, but you smooch her cheek and nuzzle her shoulder.
Beginnings don’t always happen very loudly or ceremoniously. Sometimes, they’re a small, quiet moment, laid down to reap later, a stolen golden pause from a more grey and silver world. You hold these seconds, the slightly painful pressure of a gorgeous woman on your recently punctured thigh, with your face in her clothing and her arms around you. It is a gentle moment you should not lose.