by Blake Planty
There are two tubes inserted tightly against my body. I mistakenly believe that they are filling my cyborg body with a valuable, life-sustaining fluid. But I couldn’t be further from the truth. They drain me, meticulously scooping out my innards while my best friend tugs, using both of their hands to apply the pressure necessary to produce suction. I gasp and am violently shaken out of my fantasy, out from the allure of inhabiting a speculative body into one that is far more painful and helplessly corporeal.
“You shouldn’t cry so much,” my friend laughs, “It’s not fitting.”
They bite the inside of their cheek, deep in thought, carefully parsing through their next set of words.
“I’m not worried about you,” they clarify. “I just think you’re a bit of a crybaby.”
“It’s the pain meds,” I tell them.
Neither of us want to bring up how I bawled my eyes out during an episode of The Simpsons where Homer enrolls in night school, nor how I magically found the energy to play video-games twelve hours after the procedure. But up to this point, doctors and needles, and foreign bodies lodged deep into my sides are not unwanted guests. I’ve learned as occupying trans-person-flesh, my body has an open-door policy, as if the world’s biggest WELCOME mat had been stapled to my feet while I looked the other way. I want to believe I was, for a second, something else that required this level of constant maintenance and upkeep. Like a pitiful android or cyborg who teared up at stupid cartoons.
“The meds made me wail too,” my friend says. They make a d’oh noise, like Homer, and finish squeezing my drains. I cringe as I see the bloody soup fill the bulbs hanging from my chest. They’re sorta like proto-tits, my lizard brain thinks, all that gunk, slime, and lost meat straight from the source. It resembles gooey chicken soup. Yum.
When the binding is gone and falls away like dead skin, I’ll finally look like something new. Be a lizard shedding its suit for something fresh, livelier. Despite all the medical intervention, none of this feels clinical. Even as my friend empties the bulbs of the fleshy soup and screws them back into my tubes, I feel nothing. I’m watching a movie scene, floating above myself, eyes glued to the screen that plays everything out. My palms are mostly dry, and so are my eyes, so I have nothing to worry about it. This makes me stronger – being opened up and sewn back together, without any second-guessing.
After we measure the fluid, I’m put back to bed. It’s my friend’s childhood bedroom, the walls painted with a sky full of clouds and a smiling sun. A race car-shaped bed sits next to the mattress I’m propped on. Without assistance, it’s impossible for me to sit up on my own – as if I were a baby, unequipped with the strength to even get myself out. I close my eyes and think of the animation technique where characters are drawn as smeared blobs to make their movement smoother. My imagination unravels itself like a carpet down the stairs. I’m an in-between frame, like the dysfunctional cartoon family me and my friend watch as I feel the medicines do their work. I see myself being cut open and spread apart as if my body was playdough, fresh and easily molded into a new shape. It’s a fantasy I’ve had ever since I was a kid: sculpt a person, crush them between your palms, and re-build them. I move my fingers mimicking the gesture, and a tinge of sadness keeps my eyes peeled on the ceiling instead of the television. It’s like waiting for the doctor in the waiting room again, playing with toys, waiting for the worse to come, and then crying about it later. I want to be small again. My friend tells me to just take it easy.
Nothing happens for the rest of the day. I fall in and out of sleep. I know it’s going to hurt when they finally take the tubes out and snip off the stitches. It’s going to be revealed that I grew a new chest, that the magic worked, and I can go home now. I close my eyes that night and think of myself as a smooth, wet lizard in the rainforest. My old skin slips off my body like a sock, and the tender flesh and muscle gently regenerate. The tubes quietly do their job – they are visitors in my body for tonight, swallowing the unwanted remains of myself. I haven’t been outside for days. The little lizard is warm and unfettered by its new body. I imagine I’m some new animal, resting in its bulb-shaped cocoon, waiting to re-emerge as something healthier, wild.
New blood coursing through me. A new organ.
A sweet, stupid attempt to get it right again.
Blake Planty is a writer living with his cat, Salem, and is currently working on a novella about gay fighting cyborgs. He creates games, essays, and short fiction about bodies and weird happenings. Find him on twitter via @_dispossessed and online at www.catboy.club