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At a truck stop I can really look my situation in the face. The first trans women I saw as a child were on episodes of Cops, caught doing things I didn’t understand in dark parking lots. Raccoons in the trash wearing lipstick. Or drunk truckers were pulled over late at night, only to be discovered crossdressing on the job and made to do sobriety tests in their heels. To not be a woman or to halfway want to be a woman or to try to be a woman: these were all things that happened late at night and on the side of the road.
At a truck stop in Colorado I bought lottery tickets with you, two halves of a woman. Our job with the Bureau of Land Management had ended so we were driving up to Leadville to live out our forbidden workplace relations. We pulled off onto a dirt road to watch a thunderstorm roll in. Lightning hit the ground not too far off. You stood in the road with your legs spread wide and laughing and me not knowing why until piss started pouring out from under your skirt.
We checked into Sugar Loafin Campground. You told the sisters working the front desk that we were “siblings” but not sisters. We set up my tent. You were bleeding which I knew before I knew because I could smell it. I woke up early the next morning and boiled some creek water to wash your blood off my belly. I woke you up and washed your feet.
Your mother flew out to take you on the road trip back east. We drove down to Salida to meet her in a parking lot. You called me a he in front of her, the first of a handful of women who only ever did so once, also in front of their mothers. You pulled me to the ground behind a park car to say goodbye out of your mother’s sight.
I drove west. I drove for twelve hours at a time to meet imaginary deadlines. I was high on amphetamines. I bought a skirt and wore it on the drive. I passed truck after truck and thought about the transvestites inside.
TRANS LOGISTICS SYSTEMS INC TRANS BROTHERS SULTANTRANS TRANSCON
TRANS AERO FREIGHT INC TRANS ALLIANCE TRANS CARGO TRANSSTAR
TRANS BULL CARRIERS TRANS DYNASTY TRANS COACH V-TRANS
TRANS BAY LOGISTICS LARMAX TRANS EMO TRANS TRANS-X
I saw discarded piss bottles in the ditch along the highway. Every road has a ditch alongside it whether they put one there or not. For all the times my father pulled me out of the car and struck me on the side of the road I’ve never seen the same done to anyone else in all these years since. I thought about my mother, who knows so little about me that every so often she suggests I get a CDL and a trucking job. I drove along thinking about how little she knows me. I thought about how ignorance is a kind of knowledge because a hole has a shape.
I drove to Provo to visit a childhood friend, a Mormon who was married and awaiting his first child. His pregnant wife was more shape than wife. She’d left her journal on the coffee table. The most recent passage detailed her having seen “a transvestite” at the grocery store as well as her desire for “him to know that Christ loves him.” I left after midnight and snorted more Adderall. Goodbye to the shape-wife. I hiked five hours up Mount Timpanogos to watch the sunrise. In the west, opposite the rising sun, I saw sunbeams converging on a sunless point like the rings of an onion re-converging at its roots. Driving west I stopped in Walla Walla, famous for its sweet onions. I Skyped you from my motel room. I asked if there was any part of you I’d yet to see and you showed me your asshole.
My nosebleeds got worse. Bloodied handkerchiefs piled up in the back seat of my car, hardened and brown like Civil War bandages. One night in a motel I wrote a script and had you call and read it to me. It said to flush the pills down the toilet and I listened. I do not like to put words into people’s mouths but sometimes you have no choice if you want to hear the right thing.
You sent updates on a portrait you were painting of me. It looked good before you added the nose, when there was still a hole of possibility in my face. Then you gave me a fucked-up nose and ended it. You still call me every so often to tell me about the latest man you’re leaving. Each of them sees you as something like an other half, which does not sit well with you. To me, you were half of my other half, and all of both my halves. And so you keep calling me from North Carolina, often on a drive, sometimes after midnight, the later the better, no mothers in sight.
Gal McMahon is an artist, writer, and programmer living in New York City. She has red hair and a small dog named Tiptoe. Her most recent residency was at the School for Poetic Computation. Her nonfiction is also forthcoming in Hypertext Magazine. This summer, she is studying Hebrew at Middlebury College.