End

She came out in the summer of 2020, when it was no longer bearable to remain submerged in fake masculinity. She had grown unimaginably tired of the ever-increasing levels of effort it took to maintain that fa├žade. To look at herself in the bathroom mirror in the morning and try not to cry at the sight of stubble and receding hairline, broad shoulders and square jaw.

So, bit by bit, she told her wife, her friends, her family and her colleagues. And then she changed her name.

The next summer, she and her wife got Blizzards at the Dairy Queen on Araphoe Road, on a warm summer night. They feasted in the red smoky haze of the forest-fire twilight overlooking the city center from fifteen miles south. And then she saw it: A pulse of blinding light high above the core of the urban front-range, and she told her wife of the vision. She tried to put it out of her head.

She thought the whole process of transition would probably take about two years, and she was right.

Alone, in the winter night, in her hospital bed just south of downtown Denver, no wife and no friends by her side, IVs slowly dripping Vancomycin and narcotics into the vein in her right arm, she watched the news of the invasion on her iPad.

This evil old boomer is there on live TV, bashing her. Literally blaming what she is for his monstrous acts of war:

“Do we really want … it drilled into children in our schools … that there are supposedly genders besides women and men, and [children to be] offered the chance to undergo sex change operations? … We have a different future, our own future.”

She cannot believe what she’s hearing. She kept it inside for so long, and she only just became brave enough to show up as herself. It seemed like maybe the world was becoming more accepting. And then this.

She tried to kill herself in March, but didn’t want to make her family sad. She couldn’t bring herself to do it.

Months passed, more surgeries, more friends lost. The pandemic started to ease. She went to Europe for work. People smiled at her out in the world. She was only pointed at and called a “boy” by a few people that summer. She drove through Texas to prove to herself that the world wasn’t as scary as she had feared. It mostly went OK.

In August, she survived an attack and carjacking by a man wielding a knife. Physically unharmed, mentally obliterated.

Work was OK, almost all she had left, sometimes.

She went to a concert with her ex-wife, it was fun. Afterwards, she cried for two days about what she had lost. She asked to be put on antidepressants. And then more antidepressants.

At Christmas, she kissed a girl for the first time as herself. Held hands. Both hands. Stared into the eyes of this person and saw a soul staring back at her that she hoped would melt into her own. The two of them becoming one, slowly, over time. Learning from each other, sharing with each other. Adventuring together through the rest of their lives.

They were happy, these two women who had to fight for everything they had, had to fight to be themselves.

It was a sunny, July day in 2024, and they were out on the trail, they loved to run together. They were both pretty slow, but they didn’t care. As they crested the ridge overlooking downtown Denver, they both stopped to catch their breath, and to peer through the leaves. And then a bright light

And then they were gone.

Beginning of a Short Story

The coffee tasted expensive, not like the scalding watery mud you got at gas stations or donut shops. It was warm, dark, and when she swallowed it, the sides of the back of her tongue were left with a faint impression of chocolate and cinnamon. The beans were a perk from her job – her morning ritual was rooted in manually grinding them with an antique burr mill grinder she found at a flea market and cooking her coffee the Norwegian way, with an egg. Rain pounded the tin roof and swept down the double glazed plastic framed windows she had lifted from the trash bin behind a local home improvement warehouse. The firs and hemlocks she planted swayed in the wind outside, and her little house creaked. She started building the 400 square foot home on an abandoned lot purchased for $20,000, ten years earlier. It was hers in a way that money couldn’t buy. Her hands had touched every square inch of it, her hammer had pounded every nail.

Her connection to the outside world consisted of an old cloudbook and a high speed mobile data puck which she kept powered up on an array of 12 volt storage batteries connected to PV panels epoxied to the roof. The property was cordoned off by a rusting chain-link fence which made the lot look both forbidding and uninteresting. She kept the gate padlocked. No one ever bothered her here. She worked at a coffee roaster down the road which specialized in importing shade-grown beans from Nicaragua and roasting them for a number of expensive coffee shops in Portland. She liked her privacy and the solitude provided by living in this edge city.

She finished the coffee and a plastic cup of Greek yogurt, pulled on a pair of well worn jeans, and layered a wool sweater and breathable rain jacket over her t-shirt. The keys for her 30 year old Volvo 240 station wagon were in her backpack. She took them out, zipped up the backpack, pulled the door to the house shut behind her and threw the backpack on the passenger’s seat. The car groaned to life, its agricultural four cylinder engine still working well after untold hundreds of thousands of miles. The heater even still worked. She pulled out of her lot after unchaining the gate. There was no one on the road at four in the morning – it was an easy and automatic drive to the roasting company’s warehouse five miles down the road. The wipers whipped furiously back and forth, really not doing much other than churning up the water on the windshield. The rain was coming down terrifically hard, but that wasn’t a problem, it was a straight shot to work and she could still see the colors of the traffic lights.

Burt shouted at her from the gantry far up in the brightly lit space, “I see you made it in through the hurricane this morning! I thought that boat of yours might float away!”

“It would probably sink first!” She shouted back. “How’s Mel doing? I haven’t seen you since you got back from Vancouver!”

“She’s doing. Asleep right now, this weekend was rough. She had a terrible bout after the last round.”

“Give her my love!”

“Will do. See you in 30.”

Burt always stopped by her station after his receiving shift was over to say ‘hi’. She had known him and his wife for five years, and they were probably the nicest people she knew. Burt had been laid off his old job working at an engineering firm, and was so thankful to get this job, he had invited the entire company to his place for a pig roast every year since.