matt says: people tryin tah crop me

Q&A

My mother has a lot of questions.

No, I'm not gay. No, I don't want to be a woman. No, I am not interested in transitioning. Yes, my wife knows. Yes, we're working through it. Yes, you can still expect grandchildren in the future. Please still call me Matthew, son, he & him. I'm just a man who occasionally wears women's clothes. Which, I add, I have always been though I never mentioned it to you before.

My mother's face strains as her mind grapples with a syntactical error. Man ≠ dress. I understand, I went through the same thing and it took me a few decades to resolve the terms. I appreciate that she's trying.

My father has one question.

"So, what if I'm talking to someone, and they say something negative about you, about this? That's going to make me really angry. Is it alright if I punch them?"

I hug him as hard as I possibly can. "Just follow your heart, dad."
matt says: people tryin tah crop me

fitting

Wow, is my first thought, it's so light.

The next is, there's no way this is going to fit.

The weirdest thing about what's happening is that it's happening. It's actually happening. The sudden reality of it, the physicality, is almost too much for me to handle. The dressing room is larger than I'd imagined, and more brightly-lit. My face is flushed from adrenaline and embarrassment. I take a deep breath.

It's just clothing, I tell myself as I put it over my head. For clothing, though, it's too light. Impossibly light and soft.

And tighter than I expected. I'm trying to squeeze in but it's catching in weird places. It's so light, I'm terrified I might tear it. There's no way it's going to fit. No way. Why would it fit. It wasn't designed to fit you. This isn't for you. You aren't supposed to—

And then it slips into place, and I'm a completely different person.

Wow, is my first thought, it fits.

The next is, wow, it really fits.

So, this is the first dress I've ever worn. It's an A-line skater dress, black and pink floral print chiffon. It hugs my torso and flows around my waist. The skirt falls just above my knee. It looks so good. All I can do is gawk at the mirror until my eyes start to fill with tears.
matt says: people tryin tah crop me

leaves

Temping feels right. Not good right, but appropriate. Like: it is right for a leaf to be attached to the branch of a tree, fluttering in the breeze and soaking in sunlight. But it is also right for a leaf to be stuck in a storm drain.

Matthew has two part-time temp jobs, neither of which could be mistaken for rewarding work. The money he makes isn't even close to enough to pay his bills, but the income at least keeps him from digging so deep into his savings as he continues to go on fruitless interviews at places he'd prefer to be employed. Plus it gets him out of the house. Interestingly, it also provides a boost to his self worth to directly charge people for his time.

"My emails aren't sending," says Bob, Matthew's part-time temporary half-boss, and it's no surprise. Bob's Outlook Inbox has 45,000 unread messages from the years 2009-2015 (and the program crashes when it tries to calculate how many messages there are total). It takes Bob's computer a full minute to select the farthest-back email from August 2009 (Subject line: "Test", no body). Matthew deletes it, and thinks about leaves stuck in storm drains. Maybe they're grateful to not be in the sewer.

"I can fix this," Matthew says with a smile. "But first you need to sign my time sheet."

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matt says: peter; what's happening?

parked

It's a rainy midday and Matthew sits in his car in an empty parking lot, reading old journal entries on his phone.

"I was such a petulant, entitled shit," he says.

"Mmm," says Counterpoint, "You've gotten a little better."

The past is a numb limb, attached but alien and remote. Matthew prods it and feels nothing. He considers amputation.
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matt says: people tryin tah crop me

shuffle pause play

Matthew sits with his fingertips at the home row, his pallor overwritten by iridescent computerglow. His music is paused. A significant amount of time has passed, and he hardly knows how to close the gap, to sum things up, to handily crystallize and convey the person he is at this moment or who he has been in the intervening timespan.

Counterpoint looks over Matthew's shoulder. "Ah, you appear to be," he pauses, sighs, "writing about writing."

"I'm trying to explain who I am now," says Matthew, "Relative to who I was before."

"Just list the facts," says Counterpoint.

Biologically speaking, Matthew is a different person: the cells of his body have died off individually and been replaced. Metaphysically speaking, Matthew is much the same. He still doesn't enjoy speaking to strangers, he still feels wildly unsure of even the simplest decisions he makes, and he still thinks most clearly in the quiet hours before dawn. His serotonin receptors still only function sporadically at best.

"I don't feel like that's very useful," says Matthew.

"What's left to say? We'll fill in the rest later!" Counterpoint says, and then leans over to unpause the song.
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matt says: peter; what's happening?

refugee

As foretold, the waters rose a third time. Men in masks descended on Matthew's office and tore the walls asunder. Knocked over cabinets, disassembled desks, and ran great polyurethane tubes through the rubble. Industrial fans rip the humid air and disperse the spores the sprouted in the moist carpet.

Matthew sits in his swivel chair at the pile of bent metal and drywall shards that occupy the same space his desk once did. He takes a deep breath of stale air, and pokes at his phone. Eventually, someone from upstairs comes to retrieve him. 

His temporary desk is nearly identcal to his old one, except it is above sea level and deep - deep - in a cube farm. One neighbor streams Vivaldi, and the others chatter about unfamiliar children. The walls of his cube are ragged, slashed by a quasi-human hand. The corners of the desk appear to have been chewed on, impressions of molars in the simulated wood. Matthew considers the desk's previous occupant as Vivaldi storms.
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matt says: people tryin tah crop me

fiction

Delvin opens the closet door to find a number of aromatic candles flickering atop his desk, casting a dancing shadow down around his bed. "Hey." says a smoky voice from the shadow. He lowers himself to see under the desk and as his eyes adjust to the dark, they meet hers. "Hey," he says.

Counterpoint pauses, frowns. CTRL+A DELETE. The problem he has with writing is that he can't imagine writing anything that anybody would ever want to read. He thinks about writing about the things that are important to him, but he doesn't like actually thinking about important things. Important things are upsetting. Better to occupy himself with fiction. He closes his laptop and crawls out of his nest. 

The condo is quiet during the day. Matt and Lish are out, Bananacat tends to sleep. Counterpoint tends to sleep too, but today he's restless. If it was dark out, he'd take a long walk to clear his head, but he doesn't like to go out in the sunlight. 

Bananacat sleeps in a perfect circle on the carpet. CP kneels down to pet her on the shoulder but she wakes up and bites his hand, teeth sink into the meat between his thumb and forefinger. Counterpoint returns to his nest, shuts the doors, and gives sleep another try.
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matt says: peter; what's happening?

property

"Ew," says Lichelle, her manicured fingernail picking at a buckled corner of countertop laminate. "I thought we agreed that granite is a must." 

"And look at this," says Aiden, "Would you just look." He opens the oven and he opens the dishwasher, and when they are all the way down the doors overlap. "How are we supposed to get any work done in here?"

Lichelle and Aiden flit around the space, calling out flaws to the realtor that anxiously tails them. This condo is a third-floor end unit, one bedroom one bath, and "open concept" in the sense that the entryway and dining room and living room are all the same room. Duct tape holds a small section of the ceiling/molding in place. Lichelle gestures toward it and the realtor notes it on the growing list of complaints:
  • More than the acceptable number of holes in the ceiling
  • Kitchen too small
  • Counters not granite
  • Spiders living in windowframes
  • Ugly paint in closet/office
  • Some sort of nest in the closet/office
  • Two people asleep in bedroom (rude)
  • Bathroom tiles crooked
  • Excessive dust
  • Walls are too lime green
  • Carpets are not hardwood floors
  • Cat smell
  • Broken lock on door to hallway
  • Building's security door easily forced

Matthew wakes to the sound of early-morning traffic. He climbs out of bed, stretches, runs a hand through his hair. He stumbles to the kitchen and fixes himself a bowl of cereal and spills it when he trips over the oven and dishwasher doors.
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matt says: people tryin tah crop me

leftovers

Counterpoint lives under Matthew’s desk. He’s made a little nest in the accumulated detritus, broken video game peripherals and spent sketchbooks. Matt offers him a hand to help him up but CP just shakes it. “Hey,” he says.

“Hey,” says Matthew. “How are you these days? Is everything okay?”

“Oh I’m just fine,” Counterpoint says. “Getting a lot of rest. Spending a lot of time thinking. I may write a novel.”

“That’s great. You should do that.”

"Yeah," says Counterpoint, "I think I will." He smiles weakly.

They continue shaking hands in silence.
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matt says: sigh whatever

office

Matthew has a computer in a closet. The closet is sort of an office, in that it has a desk and a chair and a computer. Matthew can sit in his swivel chair and put his arms straight out to his sides and press his palms flat against either wall. The walls are a vibrant blue.

This is a color that Matthew selected from the children’s section of the paint store. According to its paint chip, this color is called Surf’s Up. The walls are cool on his palms. Matthew sits at his desk in his tiny office and lets the surf wash over him.
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