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  • Samira Burnside

The Wrong One

This is a story by Tsukuru Fors (He/They). He is Asian/Immigrant/Transgender, all three labels are super-important to him. Being a graduate of a school in Hiroshima where 350 young lives were decimated on August 6, 1945 informs his anti-nuclear/healthcare justice/human rights activism in the present. Tsukuru is the founder of Red Berets for Queers, an endorser for the upcoming National March to Protect Trans Youth & Trans Lives in Orlando, Florida, on October 7, 2023.


(A photo of Tsukuru Fors)


Content warnings for this story include: Use of the r-slur, misgendering and deadnaming of a trans person, Familial death, strained family dynamics.


Now, without further Ado, "The Wrong One" by Tsukuru Fors:

 

I remember counting incessantly, obsessively, nonstop. An odd number meant “left” or “go,”

while an even number signaled “right” or “no-go.” If a choice must be made among multiple

options, I would go with the first number that I saw, or defaulted to 3, my favorite number. I had a dice in a beautiful tin can that I kept after eating its contents. Later on as a pre-teen, I was given a wristwatch which became my trusted friend. An oracle. It helped me make decisions.


As a child, I was lost in many ways. I could not make decisions, because I was afraid that any decisions I made were seen either as bad or weird by people who should have loved and protected me. I was looking for approval. All the time. I needed confirmation and affirmation.


Who am I? Who am I supposed to be, and why am I here? Every day I was asking myself. The uncertainty led to the excruciating discomfort with being. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to exist.


CERTAINLY NOT HERE. I said to myself, glaring up at an ominous looking HAM radio tower in the front yard of my childhood home. The year was 1981.


My mother let me know that I didn’t belong there. Somehow, I was the wrong one. Somehow, I

was too ugly and slow as in stupid. She despised me and let me know it till my kindergarten

teacher told her that I was reading at the fourth-grade level and that I was actually smart.


Smart or stupid, I felt enormously inadequate, because I didn’t feel like a girl but everyone else

was telling me that I was.


In my family, as a girl I was the wrong one. I was born wrong because everyone wanted a boy. But then everyone thought that I should be a girl, which made everything so damn confusing.


It was around that time when I learned the word “tomboy” in Japanese, but I was nothing of the sort. I wasn’t good at sports. I wasn’t “boyish;” I just had short hair and liked it that way. I was a bookish kind. I would shut the door to my room and write for hours, and that was my favorite pastime. It would have been easier if I were a tomboy, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I just knew that I didn’t belong to the kingdom of girlhood, and for that reason I was the wrong one even more.

 

There was a point in my childhood when my mother morphed into a double V, a vulnerable

victim. She took a 180; previously she had been my number one tormentor.


I would say it was right about when I was ten years old. The year was 1981. My older brother

had gone off to a boarding school, and I was the only child still remaining at home.


My brother was her favorite child. I never understood the dynamics till I left home for good, but in her mind, he was the savior. Also, in her mind he was the sensitive one; he could not be tainted. On the other hand, I was her bitch. Quite literally. I could be tainted because I was so slow and dumb that I couldn’t be affected. Again, in her mind.


I was the only one who remained at home with her, so in her defense she had no one else to

turn to. She turned to me. In a big way.


In my household I was not allowed to go outside once I came home from school. That’s a story

for another time, but that’s why she had me as a captive audience. That’s how her story time

began.


Usually, story times are sweet. Mine wasn’t. Almost every day after I came home from school,

my mother would give me an afternoon snack and sit me down at a low table in a family room.


Then, her stories would begin.


She would tell me how miserable she was in her marriage to my father. She would tell me how

desperately she wanted to kill herself. And then she would go on to tell me the entire saga of

their marriage from the moment of their first encounter to the countless forms of abuse and

neglect she was enduring at the time.


This went on for three years till I was finally able to leave home to go to a boarding school in

Hiroshima and put 250 miles sweet distance between me and my family. By then I had all her

lines memorized and could recite her life stories from start to finish.


And here, my mind starts to drift. If I were to cast my mother in a play, what part should she

play?


A thwarted pageant queen is what I would cast her as. She would wear a strapless gown sewn with gold threads and an equally shiny flapper hat with white feathers. She would be sitting by a window looking out into green meadows, with her pointy chin cupped in her hands, the elbows resting on a kitchen table. Then, she would tell her stories from start to finish, sighing a breathy sigh every 90 seconds or so.


She came from a poor Catholic family. Her father was a caretaker at a church, and the whole

family, the parents and six kids, lived on the church grounds. My mother, the youngest of the

six, after completing her ninth-grade education, went to work for a pharmaceutical company in

Tokyo as a factory worker. Young workers like her who were super motivated to work to move

up the social ladder were called “the golden eggs” and cherished in the post-war Japan. For the first time in her life, my mother had her own money, not a lot but enough to buy her clothes and good times with her friends. She was having the time of her life when she met my father, a

student at a medical school.


I’ve seen a photo of her taken around the time of their first encounter. She has permed, big curly hair done in the most contemporary style of the day and is wearing a swishy circle skirt that barely covers her knees. She is smiling big and enjoying the attention. Showing me the photo, she tells me she was beautiful once. She had many suitors and could have had any boys she wanted, and there was this young man from the southernmost island of Kyushu, not bad looking but crippled in the left leg. Other men talked behind their back, whispered but just loud enough for my future mother and father to hear, why a glamorous girl like she was dating a short guy with an obvious limp?


She felt sorry for the boy, my father, my mother tells me.


As a child I wondered about her motives for marrying him. I did not and do not believe that it

was altruism; not so much because I don’t believe that she was a good person, but because

marrying someone out of pity seems too mean. Rather, wasn’t there a calculation somewhere in the back of her mind that she was marrying up? My father’s family wasn’t exactly rich, but they were comfortable; they owned land and had the means to send all four of their sons to college. Besides, my father was going to be a doctor, and that clearly meant bright financial prospects.


Also, I have reasons to believe that my mother genuinely loved my father. I don’t know if the

love was there from the beginning or was nurtured in the course of their marriage and matured

later in life. All I can say is that love manifests in the strangest of ways.


At age 10, I became my mother’s keeper.


I took it upon myself somehow to not let her die. I felt that it was my duty to protect her from harm, because I was afraid of losing my home. And wasn’t there a calculation in the back of my mind that somehow, I could win my mother’s love?


There was a feeling of guilt, too. Truth be told, I could not feel love towards my mother.

Throughout all my childhood and youth, I struggled to pin down what love is. To me, love

seemed such a vague and fragile concept. Intellectually speaking, I found it suffocating, for it

seemed too much like a contract. Even as a young child, I knew that certain social protocols

informed that you should love your parents, that it was natural to find love for them. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could not do so, because my mother either disapproved of me or was oblivious to my existence for pretty much my entire childhood.

My father, on the other hand, was my shield, my protector. I would run to him every time either

my big sister or brother teased or bullied me. When my mother said something hurtful to me or

scolded me —sometimes she would call me a retard, because I often daydreamed— I would go to my father and seek refuge. I would not tell him what was wrong, but he always knew how to make me feel better.


My mother’s “stories” destroyed the sense of safety and comfort that I had with my father. In her stories, my father was mean, evil, and sinister. I didn’t know what or whom to trust anymore. I felt like I had to side with my mother. And if I were to stand by her side and express my loyalty to her, perhaps she would love me and protect me in return?


Yes. There was a calculation on my part. If love was entirely contractual, there would be

reciprocity. I was wrong about that. Sometimes you give and may never get the return that you

seek. Not the way you’ve expected anyways. Love manifests in the strangest of ways.

 

My father was an amateur HAM radio operator. Thus, the radio tower in our front yard.


I remember him spending hours in his study after dinner, talking with complete strangers on the

radio. Among HAM radio enthusiasts, as I understood it, it was a common courtesy to exchange postcards after connecting over the radio as a way of record keeping. The postcards came from all over the world, North America, Europe, and the South Pole. Sometimes, I would sneak into the study and inspect the postcards neatly kept in a wooden box on his desk.


My father in his study with headphones over his ears communicating with strangers, to me,

symbolized alienation we each felt in our household. When I think of my family, I think of

beehives, with each of us in a carefully secluded individual pod. There was very little

communication between us. We may have lived under one roof, but we were completely

alienated from each other. I believe that my father felt much safer and less awkward talking to

complete strangers thousands of miles away than talking to any of us family members.


We were connected through our loneliness, together.

 

One day I get a call from my sister, completely out of the blue. She says that Dad is dying, and I need to come home immediately.


She delivers this news flatly. Before I can utter a word, she reiterates her point, “Your presence

is required,” to let me know any responses other than that of compliance are irrelevant and

unappreciated.


In return I inform her that as much as I would love to join the family for this important occasion, I cannot afford to travel to Japan, for I’ve been unemployed for the past two years.

“You will be compensated for the trip. The cost for the transportation and lodging will be

covered,” she says.

 

The last time I heard from my sister was when my brother disappeared for two days. I had

already been “disowned” by her/my family, but she panicked and contacted me out of

desperation. After she had calmed down, maybe she felt embarrassed and sent me an email

saying that she shouldn’t have gotten in touch with me, because I was no longer part of the

family.


That was almost ten years ago. I am crawling back inside the dark tunnel of my memory. An

emotional wound that I sustained then is still raw, oozing with pus, and not to be messed with.

A sentence from her email still haunts me today. “Please tell [my dead name] that she is

welcome anytime when she is ready to come home.”


In an alternate universe that my sister has created, I am the captor of her little sister’s; I

abducted her from the family and am keeping her locked away, with a gag placed over her

mouth.


In my sister’s mind, there are two people when in reality there is only one. The irony is that

effectively her little sister is gone; I killed her. There is no chance of her coming home ever

again, unless I off myself so my sister can have her little sister back.


My sister refuses to recognize that her little sister and I are one and the same.

 

On my flight to Japan, I had a strange dream; I never dream these days, so dreaming itself was strange. Lots happened in the dream; the time and space continuum got messed up as they often do in most dreams. I morphed from one character to the next and back. The “voices” of the storyteller kept changing, too. I don’t remember many of the details of the dream except at the very end, where my brother appeared. He stood in a poorly lit doorway of what seemed to be the room that we once shared in our childhood home. His face had a muddy complexion, but it might have been because he was standing in the dark. He said, “You should have said so and I would have given it to you,” and threw something at me.


The object landed right by my left foot. I bent over to see what it was. It was my brother’s

favorite miniature car from childhood. When I picked it up and looked up, he was already gone.


Disappeared. Puff. Like smoke.

 

After nearly 24 hours of 1 Lyft, 1 international flight, 1 monorail, 1 domestic flight, 1 bus, and a cab ride, I am finally “home” at the place of my birth. My sister welcomes me with not so much as a smile. She says it is good of me to have traveled so far. And she goes on to ask me

whether I prefer a bath or dinner first. This makes me uncomfortable, because it is what a

typical housewife would say to the man of the house. I politely decline the offer for a meal, as I have no appetite, but say that I would love a bath and a bed. My sister, then, hands me a piece of clothing. When I unfold it, I see that it is my brother’s old sweatpants. They are a bit too loose on me, but not to the extent that I cannot wear them. I almost ask my sister how the big brother is but swallow my words.


Later I will learn the meaning of this.

 

On the following morning, we set out to visit Dad in a hospice care facility. It is about a 50-

minute train ride from where we are, and it is in a hot spring resort town. As I get off the train, I marvel internally at the beauty of the area; the leaves look greener here, the sun brighter, the air fresher. It’s a short stroll to the facility, Mother informs us. That’s literally the only thing she says to me during the trip. From time to time, my mom and sister were whispering to each other, but I had my headphones on for the whole time. I could have cared less about what was being said. In a dysfunctional relationship, your smartphone is your best friend. I was playing with my phone for the whole time, pretending to be distracted. I felt like I was living my life as a teenager all over again.



As we walk into a ward and pass through the reception desk, a nurse greets us. Apparently, my mother and sister are familiar faces to her. She bows her head, smiling. And as her eyes find me, they get really wide. She exclaims, “My goodness! It is good of you to come. Your father will be so happy!!!”


She leads us to what must be my dad’s quarters. The ward is very pleasant. There is none of

that smell characteristic of a medical facility. Lots of natural light. Fresh flowers and framed art

everywhere. In my mind, I’m seeing an imaginary marketing brochure. “Your loved ones

deserve to spend the final moments of their life in a peaceful, dignified manner,” the heading

reads.


The nurse gives a light knock on the door and announces in an almost-too-cheerful tone, “Mr.

Kaneko, we have a surprise for you! Your son is here!!!”


This jolts me awake from my luminating, daydreaming state of mind. I immediately look at my

sister, waiting for her to gingerly issue a correction. When it doesn’t happen, I shift my gaze

towards my mom. Then, back to my sister. Neither of them says a word.


My face has a WIP (Work-in-Progress) smile that’s halfway there. I am smiling because

“passing” feels like an occasion to celebrate. I almost want to thank the nurse for the validation but cannot do so in the presence of my mom and sister’s.


While all of that is going through my mind, my dad must have looked away from the scenery

outside his window and acknowledged us. I hear him say, “Why? It’s you! Wonderful to see you, son.”


But that isn’t the only thing he says. He calls me by my big brother’s name. I hear him before I

can catch his facial expression. He is smiling broadly, likely the most apparent expression of joy that I have ever seen him display.


I look at my mom and my sister, waiting for them to correct him. However, the correction never

comes. My mom gives a nod, smiling. A smile that I can tell is fake. My sister shoots me a

warning look: “You'd better not say anything, or else.”


That night, I learn that my brother has been dead for five years.

 

I don’t remember how I got through the rest of my brief family reunion. Dad kept asking me

questions about “my life,” and I managed to dish out white lies. Luckily for me, his mind was

stuck in the past, like that of many Alzheimer patients.


In his mind, my brother was still in college living in Tokyo, and that was the part of my brother’s past that I had some knowledge of. Dad kept asking my brother (me!) about his love life. I was tempted to tell him that his son had met a woman at a dental office that he apprenticed at, got married to her, and had a baby girl. I was just about to open my mouth to spill the beans, when my mom abruptly jumped out of her chair, visibly uncomfortable.


“He is exhausted,” she declared. “We must leave now. Will be back tomorrow.” And before I

could wave Dad goodbye, she led us out of the room.


Back home, there is not so much as a discussion. My sister informs me that on the fifth

anniversary of his disappearance, my brother’s body was found on a beach of a fishing village about fifty miles north of our hometown. They speculated that he had been drunk and fallen off a cliff, as there were some visible damages to the body. They recorded his death as an accident.


The case closed.


I am pushing my food around on a plate, when my sister says this as if reading from a book.

After she is done, she takes my plate away and says my futon is ready. That is a code for “no

further questions allowed.”

 

Things have the tendency to go from bad to worse really fast, but then again, they go bad when they are supposed to go bad even if everything else seems to be smooth sailing.


We get a call in the morning. It is from the hospice. They say that Dad is having difficulty

breathing.


We are there in an hour. We haven’t even had any coffee. We go straight to his room.

My dad is going in and out of consciousness. His doctor says that it won’t be long before he

passes to the other side. There is much to discuss. Decisions need to be made. My mom and

sister leave me alone with Dad to talk to the doctor and his care team. I think that they,

especially my sister, have reservations about leaving me there but go ahead. Before my sister

closes the door, she looks around to give me one last look and mouths the words, “I’m watching you.”


And she shuts the door behind her.

 

All is quiet. So quiet you can hear the white noise of silence. A lemony streak of sunlight is

coming through the window. It may just be me, but I feel that the qualities of sunlight vary

depending on what part of the world you are in. Someone explained to me that it may have

something to do with the air quality, altitude, or latitude. I’m not a scientist and do not really care about any of that but I’ve always thought the sunlight in my hometown has a lemony quality to it.


Faint. Subtle. Fragile, but piercing at times.


I’ve shared the late afternoon hours of waning, atrophy, and decay with my mom many times

but never with my dad. The stories of my family, as told by my mom, would always and forever be associated with the feeling of stagnation. There was nowhere to go. Nothing to become.

Literally, I would have rotted there in our family room if I hadn’t left.


I am staring at dust particles floating and sinking through the lemony streak of sunlight when it

happens. Dad opens his eyes. He signals to me. I can tell that magically and mysteriously he is

fully there. I reach out to him and help him sit up so he can drink some water.


I hold the glass while he drinks. He takes his time drinking. Swallowing seems to take so much

effort. The water goes up the straw ever so slowly. He succeeds in wetting his lips a few times

and is done. I set the glass down on a nightstand. He looks up at me, smiles, and says, “Hi,

son.”


And then, I do the unthinkable. It isn’t premeditated. It just spills out of me. I say, “Dad, I’m not

who you think I am. I am Nobuko, not Nobuhiko.”


“Nobuko” is my dead/female name. In the old-fashioned Japanese way of naming babies, boy names sometimes end with “hiko,” which signals nobility, while girl names typically end with “ko,” which simply means “child.” Thus, in our case, “Nobuhiko (growing boy)” for my brother and “Nobuko (faithful girl)” for me, who was assigned female at birth.


I watch his reaction. The worst thing that could happen would be him not believing me. In other words, not a big deal. His eyes survey me. It seems as if he was looking into the depth of my being. I shift in my chair, feeling discomfort, which I blame on the hard surface of a hospital chair. Dad lets out a laugh and says, “yeah I was right. I thought something was up.”

For the next fifteen minutes, which seem like hours, we talk. Our conversation is slow-paced

and with not so many words. We condense the entire lifetime of our love into these fifteen

minutes.


He tells me that I, Nobuko, is supposed to be missing. That’s what my mom and sister told him,

and he is glad to find out that is not the case. I tell him that I now am living in the United States

of America, and that in fact I have been living there for the last thirty some years. He seems

amused by the whole thing.


And there comes a long pause in our conversation, and I take another risk, because I can no

longer NOT ask. I ask Dad how he feels about my looking different; after almost three years of

being on testosterone, some facial hair is starting to be visible. Does that make him feel

awkward?


It takes him some time to answer the question. He looks into me once again. I look at him and

look down, not wanting to sway what he is going to say in either way. In the end, he chuckles

and says, “No, not in the least, son. This is how I’ve always pictured you.”


I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say. I wish I could just hug him, but a Japanese father

and son wouldn’t hug. Besides, my dad looks so fragile, and I’m afraid that I would break him.


In the end, before I can say anything else, Dad says he is tired and needs to rest. Something

about the way he looks, the stillness of the moment alarms me. As he rests his head on a pillow,


I extend my arm to press a call button, but he stops me.


“Please. It’s OK. I just need to rest.”


I nod. My vision is blurred with tears, and I can no longer see him clearly.


I do see him closing his eyes. I can hear his one last breath. Then, he is gone.


I get up and walk out of the room. I want to make it seem that no one was there when he

passed. That I wasn’t there when he passed.


Our last moment together was sacred, and I want to keep it private. The moment belongs to us

and not to anyone else.

 

When my mom and sister came back and found him dead, they were angry that I wasn’t there, that I left him alone to die. Truth be told, though, I am not sure what would have made them angrier; me not being there or me being there alone with Dad when he passed.


Customarily speaking, the eldest or only son would be the funeral host, since he would be

considered the head of the household. I politely decline, for I do not feel like it is my place.


Thus, a very modest ceremony is held at a funeral parlor nearby with Mom as the host. A couple of dozens of mourners show up. Not many know me, so they automatically assume that I am “the son.” I am fine with that; it’s none of their business to know.


The evening is drawing to a close, and only a few people remain. A well-dressed lady my mom’s age approaches me, calling me, “Nobuhiko-san.” There are no introductions, but I instinctively know her to be my dad’s long-time confidante and mistress. I have never met her but just know that it is her.


She gives me her condolences and asks me how I am. She shakes my hand, which is

uncharacteristically American of her. Most Japanese of her generation wouldn’t shake hands.

She asks me what my plans are and for how long I will be staying. She inserts “Nobuhiko-san”

in every sentence, which is making me uncomfortable. I am looking for an excuse to leave when I find Mom standing right next to me.


I can see the fury in her eyes, but the fury is directed at me. She shrieks the way I have never

seen her do ever before.


“You will never replace him! Never! You are no substitute!!!”


That is the only time during my short stay that she has addressed me directly.


Everything and everyone stand still. In my mind, only me and my mom are in color, and

everything and everyone else is in black & white. I stare at her, stunned, then angry.


“I know I can’t. Neither do I want to.”


I excuse myself to the mistress lady and start heading for the door. Then, I turn around to face

Mom, as I have one more thing to say.


“One last thing, Mother. I want you to know that I never liked mint chocolate ice cream. My

favorite flavor has always been mocha.”


I leave her puzzled and let her deal with it. It is time for me to go.

 

Packing my suitcase does not take long. In half an hour I am done. I lock the door behind me

and roll my suitcase into the night.


There will be no planes departing till morning. There are no buses to take me to the airport.

Luckily for me, the summer air is warm enough to spend the night outdoors. I am going to wing it.


First, I make my way to a convenience store down the street from my childhood home. At the

same location, there used to be a general store where my brother and I ran to buy some sweets whenever we were lucky enough to score a coin each from Mom. A big silver coin was 100 yen, and back in the day it was enough to last us a whole afternoon. An old couple who ran it retired when I was in college, and it was converted into a convenience store, a critical element of the infrastructure of everyday living in modern Japan.


Though the store itself may not be open (it is past 11pm), I know that vending machines would

be there. Another critical element of the infrastructure of everyday living in modern Japan.


I buy two bottles of water, a can of soda, and a few beers. Then, I walk to a location of what I

remember to be a small park attached to a community center. Sure enough, it is there. The park and the adjacent community center both seem to have gone under renovation in recent years.


They look fresher and cleaner, and as small and neat as they always were.


I situate myself at the bottom of a slide. This is where I plan to spend the night. As I’ve

expected, no one is around. Way before the town wakes up and mothers bring their kids to play, I will be gone. I won’t be the drunk at the playground who scares children.


I crack open a beer and take a sip. Public drinking is not as frowned upon in Japan as in the

U.S., but it still is not a good look. I don’t care, though, because here no one knows me. As I lay myself down on the slide and look up at the starry sky, I feel incredibly carefree.


I am thinking of what triggered my comment about the ice cream flavors to my mom back at the funeral parlor. It goes back to a particular day in my childhood. I must have been about five. I was in my Sunday dress, the one dress that I would always be made to put on when we had a family outing. It was peppermint green, made with a thick, stuffy fabric, and came down to about the height of my knees. I hated that dress. Back then, my mom chose all my clothing. I dreaded wearing it but couldn’t tell her. I had a hard time making my wishes known. If I had expressed my desires, would she have honored them? I wouldn’t know. She could have, so that makes me an accomplice in my own servitude.


At a department store downtown, my mom would occasionally buy us ice cream towards the

end of our excursion. There were so many flavors that it was difficult to choose, but my secret

favorite was mocha. My mom thought that I liked mint chocolate, so she always chose it for me.


I couldn’t tell her; little kids were not supposed to like coffee.

On that day, we ended up at the food court at the department store as usual, and Mom bought us each an ice cream cone. Mine was mint chocolate as expected, and I don’t remember what my brother’s was. It was a hot summer day, and the ice cream was melting fast. I had not more than a few licks when my mint chocolate ice cream got dislodged from the cone and ended up on the floor. Immediately, my mom’s scolding voice pounded the side of my head, “This is what happens when you are not paying attention! You are not going to get another one! Let this be a lesson for you!!!”


While my brother enjoyed his cone, I remember staring at the floor, at the melting, disgusting

mint chocolate ice cream. The seating area was crowded, and people were avoiding the soiled spot and making faces at it. I was furious, humiliated, and sad, in that exact order, with furious being of the highest intensity, and sad of the least. I was sad because I lost the cone.


The irony was that I didn’t even like the cone; I didn't even want the replacement. It was the cruelty of my mom’s attitude that hurt me. It hurt me to be called absent-minded, ditzy, and even retarded all the time, and be told that it was all my fault when bad things happened. I was more furious than sad, and it made me angrier at myself that I could not express any of that to my mom. If only I could tell her that I hated the peppermint-colored dress, that I did not care for mint chocolate flavor all that much, and that it was unfair of her to punish me that way.


And the dreaded question of all. The one that tormented me throughout my childhood was: why do you hate me so much?


Is that because I am not a pretty little girl with the nice curls that you desired? I put that stupid, ugly dress on to please you, while feeling totally out of place myself. What if I could make my choices known? What if I could stand up for myself? Weren’t these the thoughts that were going through my mind? It was just that the little me did not quite know how to verbalize them.


Tonight, I walked out of the funeral parlor and my childhood home for the little me that couldn’t. I stood up for myself.


For him.

 

As I’m finishing up my first can of beer, I notice a tiny black cat underneath the slide just out of

my reach. He is watching me, to see if I’m someone to be trusted. Making a tiny pretend

creature with my hand, I move it around at my feet, teasing him, enticing him to come closer.

When he does, I offer my hand to him. Letting him approach me and not the other way around, so as not to frighten him. I wish I had some treats to give him. I don’t, and my palm is empty. The cat sniffs at my hand and licks it all the same. Then and only then, I scratch him gently under his chin.


Very soon, he is making a soft, but rather loud purring sound, which comforts me. He lies next

to me, and I scratch his belly, grateful that he lets me. And that is my night at the park. Me, the

cat, cans of beer, and the starry sky. Me scratching the cat and taking a few sips at a time. If

you had told, say, the ten-year-old me that forty some years later I would be a transgender

person, spending a night at this park, petting a cat, and getting drunk, having stood up for

myself to my mother, I wouldn’t have believed you and would even have been offended. And

yet, here I am. Life takes strange twists and turns, but the road always leads to where it is

supposed to go.


As I empty my fourth and final can of beer, the darkness of the sky is subsiding. Instead, hues of white and blue typical of a dawn are taking over. And a song comes to me; it is “Memory” from the musical “Cats.” I begin to sing. With my changing, post-transition voice, I am yet to know how to carry a tune, and it’s OK. I’m a Work-in-Progress and at peace with that.


Look, a new day has begun.



 

This story was written by Tsukuru Fors.

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