Guess I'm A Paper Nautilus Now

This is my chance at freedom. That word is euphoric, I can't help but smile feeling the shapes into which it presses my mouth. That's why today has to be the day.

Guess I'm A Paper Nautilus Now
Photo by Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash

by Alexandra Weiss

The sun reflects off nicer apartment buildings across the street before bouncing into my room, making shadow leaves dance on the ceiling. The perfect weather for a trip downtown to the informed consent clinic. I color my eyebrows to look thicker, broaden my shoulders as much as I can. Electricity shoots through my body, like the excitement you feel as a little kid when it's Halloween, so you can wear whatever you want and nobody questions you.

I've spent the last year in limbo. Even working in endocrinology, the stares that started when I cut my hair and switched to baggier scrubs have gotten exhausting. Even when I tell coworkers to call me Max they still ask for Maxine and since I added pronouns to my ID, it's just gotten worse. I don't know if nobody noticed or if they're going out of their way to get it wrong. It shouldn't be that hard. The only people who get it are my trans patients. We have each other's backs. Still, there's only so much of dragging myself through the hospital doors every morning to a chorus of "morning, ma'am" and "hey, miss" that a guy can take. I gotta have my own back, too.

I took the afternoon off for a "doctor's appointment," which is technically not untrue since I'm interviewing at a doctor's office. The clinic provides low cost healthcare to queer and trans people. For my friends getting their HRT there it's like home away from home, at least while it's still legal here/until we perfect our homebrews. And, until we all have to flee the state, it seems like a much better place to work than the hospital where people still see me as that sullen but feminine egg fresh from nursing school. I'm terrified. Excited? This is my chance at freedom. That word is euphoric, I can't help but smile feeling the shapes into which it presses my mouth. That's why today has to be the day.

Working up the courage to open the cardboard box takes almost as much effort as the decision to go for this interview in the first place. I've tried so hard to keep my expectations reasonable but can anyone blame me for having really high hopes for my first packer? I keep fantasizing about that magic moment where flesh meets silicone, where I grab my dick and it feels natural to put it on, natural to feel that weight between my legs, to not be able to lie flat on my stomach without it getting in the way the way my breasts used to. I want to give it a name and wear it to sleep. But what if that's not what happens? What if, when I open the box and grab it from the tissue paper, it feels too foreign to be part of me, or looks uncomfortable, or gives me more dysphoria rather than less? What if it has a weird texture? Or what if it doesn't feel like anything at all? That's why it's been sitting on my desk, still in its cardboard coffin, waiting for a day like today. For me to need it more than I fear it.

Taking my pocketknife to the packing tape I notice I'm holding my breath. It feels like the moments before I stepped across the threshold of my first apartment, a pivot point. Snap of the strings holding the paper tape taut. Knife enters corrugated cardboard, missing the clean slice between folding edges. I don't care. I'm not only ready, I'm desperate. I need to see my dick face to face. Tearing past the messily-opened lid I reach silver wrapping paper surrounding and shielding my packer from view. Wading through the mass of future reused gift-wrap my fingers clasp around something solid, pliable, still soft but undeniably real. For the first time, I feel my penis, as I free it from the packaging and bring it into the light. Shimmering green silicone, smooth and somewhat sticky. It's so cute! Holding it in my hand feels right somehow. So does slipping it into my boxers, letting it brush against my thighs like it's always been there. I grab my interview pants off the back of the desk chair, where they've been laid out to avoid wrinkles for the last three days in anticipation. Putting them on, carefully maneuvering the zipper around my dick, I realize that, for the first time since my egg cracked, or even before then, my body doesn't feel so wrong. Standing before the desk, sun hitting me gently through the windows, I can look down at the bulge in my pants and be honest, I didn't think I could feel this good about my body. Who'd've guessed that something so small as a piece of silicone could make such a huge difference? I'm actually smiling at myself in the mirror. Next to me in the mirror, the clock reads reverse 12:50. Perfect. Just in time to make the red line.

Walking to the station, I feel about two inches taller than yesterday. Clomping up the stairs to the turnstile in my slightly-too-large-but-gender-affirming boots, I trip on an abandoned packet of cigs. Grabbing the railing, I start to let out a sigh of relief, but as I pick up my right foot, it catches in my throat. Something's...shifting...down there. "Fuck fuck fuck fuck" I mutter silently into my mask, boot hitting platform proper. That's when I feel it tip out the side of my boxers and fall down my pants. I scream internally-OH GOD MY DICK FELL OFF- while panic checking to make sure no silicone is visible. As the train pulls in I stomp hard, only breathing again when I feel it make contact with my lucky sock, safely ensconced in my left boot, out of sight. I just hope there's time to go to the bathroom before my interview.

Alexandra Weiss is a writer and plant enthusiast. He grows lemongrass and hot chile peppers. Sasha also edits for Another Chicago Magazine and wrote a chapbook, autumn is when the ghosts come out (Blanket Sea Press, 2022).