Hannah invites me to a party where she wants me to meet her friend Becky.
“I think you and Becky could have some fun together,” Hannah says.
I suspect Hannah is trying to pass me off to Becky because I recently told Hannah I thought she and I could have some fun together. Hannah blushed, rested her hand on my thigh, and leaned in close to say, “I’m flattered, but you know I’m marrying Trisha soon.” I placed my hand on top of Hannah’s hand on top of my thigh and said, “Okay, I’ll meet Becky.”
At the party, Becky ignores me all evening, but puts on a show for everyone else. I think she wants me to watch her, so I do. Then I leave the party with the phone numbers of three other women in my pocket. (In hindsight, I think maybe I should have called one of those other women instead of calling Becky, but you know what they say about hindsight.) A couple days after the party, Becky finds me on social media and sends me a friend request. I decide this means I should ask Becky out.
I think she wants me to watch her, so I do.
Becky and I go out for drinks and she talks about herself a lot and pulls out her phone to show me all of her favorite jokes on the Internet. When we end up back at her place, Becky goes on about being a lesbian, no, wait—bisexual, no, wait—queer. To clarify, she tells me she sleeps with men sometimes too. I think, good, I hope so, because here I am. Becky says something about me being a lesbian just before she reaches to pull my shirt over my head. “Wait,” I say, “You should know that under this shirt, you will find two arcing scars where my breasts used to be.”
My friend Jenny calls my scars “shark bites.” She says that’s what her trans friends call their scars. I had never heard that before, but I imagine the story I might tell: I was taking a surfing lesson because that’s what everyone does when they move to California. I paddled out beyond the break and I was waiting to catch a wave when, out of nowhere, this great white shark pops up and goes right for my tits. Chomp. Chomp. Like that, my breast tissue became chum, and that’s how I got these shark bites.
“I can’t believe I didn’t notice,” Becky says. “I went on a date with a trans guy once,” she says. “I really liked him, but he never called me back.”
As a child, I used to practice standing up to pee. Once, I forgot to lock the bathroom door. I was standing over the toilet when my little brother walked in on me. He ran away crying. Later, he asked me between sobs, “What were you doing? What were you doing? Do you . . . do you have a . . . What were you doing? What were you doing?”
One night, I go over to Becky’s and sit down on her bed. Becky straddles me and kisses me. I am sucking on her tongue, and she is grinding against the bulge in my pants, a soft silicone packer. She whispers in my ear, “I wish you had a dick, so you could really fuck me.” I tell Becky that I do have a dick. “You know what I mean,” she says.
Becky does improv at a theater on the San Francisco Bay. Becky loves improv more than anything. Well, the one thing she loves more than improv is her dog Nickles. Another thing she loves more than improv is herself. Becky loves Nickles, herself, and improv. In that order. I hate improv, but I love Becky, so I go to her shows.
I hate improv, but I love Becky, so I go to her shows.
At one of the shows, the actors ask the audience for suggestions to set the scene. Becky says, “What piece of furniture is here in the middle of the room?” A COUCH! Someone shouts. “Okay, we have a couch here,” Becky says. “And there’s some kind of display over here. What is it?” David asks. AN AQUARIUM! Someone shouts. “Okay, there’s an aquarium over here,” David says. And the show is on.
Corey says, “Hey, pal, check out the sharks in that aquarium.”
Billy replies, “Yeah, did you know that some of them are transgender?”
I cringe. The audience titters.
Corey: “Oh really? How do you know which sharks are transgender?”
Billy: “Oh, they’re the ones wearing wigs and lipstick.”
The audience is all hoots and cackles. I notice Becky just off stage, giggling. I sink into my seat, my face burning as I silently weep.
After the show, I go home with Becky, and I tell her the transgender shark joke was fucked up. Becky says it was just a joke. I need to lighten up. Besides, Corey is gay, so he can’t be transphobic, she says. I bite my tongue and we crawl into bed. Becky tells me she wants me to fuck her with my cock. I guide my silicone dick through the O-ring of the harness and into Becky. I press my thumb against her clit as I move inside her. She presses her fingernails into crescent moonprints on my back. Then we fall asleep, gooey and sticky and exhausted.
In the night, I dream: As Becky comes on my cock, I am swallowed up inside of her. Becky’s womb grows into an ocean filled with sharks—great whites, threshers, hammerheads, tigers, leopards. I frantically try to swim away from the sharks, but my limbs are gone. I thrash wildly as I learn to move my tail with skill and grace.
I find my balance as I propel myself in circles around Becky’s womb. I think I remember hearing somewhere that sharks can never stop swimming, and if they do, they sink and drown. It’s probably not true, but all the other sharks are in constant motion around me, circling and circling. Swim. Swim. Swim! Be like the other sharks; be a shark! I think to myself.
I find my balance as I propel myself in circles around Becky’s womb.
I am trying not to panic: What are you doing? What are you doing? Do you have a . . .? Are you a . . .? I am hoping the way I move my tail through the water looks natural, convincing. I do my best to keep my distance from the others, worried that a brush of rough shark skin to my slick silicone skin might give me away.
I think some of the sharks are watching me a little too closely. They seem to be gnashing their teeth at me. Are some of them circling me? What will they do if they sniff me out? Are they terrified of me? Are they laughing at me? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I?
I am trapped.
I am trapped in this sea of sharks.
I am trapped in this silicone skin.
I am trapped inside Becky.
KJ Cerankowski is a professor and writer. Their work has been featured in Short, Fast, & Deadly and The Account: A Journal of Poetry, Prose, and Thought as well as several academic journals. They are currently completing a book of essays about trans stuff.
Illustration by Meg Lionel Murphy.