It happens every Wednesday. I get stronger.
At the end of this year I will have pulled 52 needles out of my leg.
The hardest part is pushing them an inch and a half into my thigh, with love for my self. The weight from my loved ones’ support makes me feel grateful and helps to slide the needle in deeper.
This ritual was what I wanted, and now every Wednesday morning is blood and a blessing.
I practice yoga for many reasons. The sense of gratitude I can have for a vial of testosterone, aligns when I move and sweat, to the rhythm of others recognizing the miracle of their own existence too. But Wednesday mornings I do alone.
I often resent the fact that I am slammed with the burden of cultivating gratitude for this opportunity to embrace my synthetic outfit, when most other people get to press snooze. But, I am resilient. If I have a label, I’m pretty sure I am machine washable.
She said she would love me more as I became even more of myself. And then only a few Wednesdays in, she dumped me.
She told me she loved me but couldn’t be with me. I wonder if my voice lowered and dropped with my broken heart over the course of that 16-hour drive back to L.A.—leaving my life and love in Denver. I wonder how it changed her too—if it did at all. I didn’t speed even though my foot (stronger than it was the year before) held steadfast to the pedal as I pushed into the elastic band of hope, waiting for it to sling me back to her. A female driving license tucked deep in my jeans pocket together with the dream of one day being a dad.
I knew she needed to concentrate on herself. She told me she still loved me and that even though we weren’t together, she hoped we could be.
“If I love you, it doesn’t matter if we’re together or not,” she said.
Yet her lips found not one, but two others, maybe after they had lingered on a wine glass. But all three of those places were not my lips, and I knew then that loving me was at least fourth on her list.
I flew to Hawaii on a ticket bought by my sister, as a volunteer to help with food and shelter at a healing arts center and eco farm. I patched up walls and painted more colors around that place (and on my clothes) than I had really seen in years. Vibrancy surrounded me, as my heart remained broken. And while distracted by a glimmering sea and wild chickens, I grew my hair longer, so maybe parts of me would be long enough so I could tie myself to her. I had let the wind blow wild through it as if to whip me back into shape.
She asked me if I kissed anyone as I hopped on the plane home. I wanted to share with her my heart and instead I had to send a text that just said, “no.”
But I did kiss the sky with my cheeks and I kissed a cross-eyed cat on her nose. I hugged a woman out there who was deciding whether or not to end her pregnancy. I swam with dolphins and wrapped my mind around books on divinity.
I was intimate with the world.
I cried heavily about her in front of others and stroked my guitar to the rhythm of her name. I leaned into sunsets like they would take me with them. But I was true to my heart and to my love for her. I grew my hair remember, and I was flying back to L.A. to have my chest sewn up and sealed with a stamp of societal approval so I could finally take my shirt off. She said she would love me more as I grew, and there I was. I hadn’t given up.
August came. And so did a message from her.
She needed to get away and was coming out to L.A. I had to go to the airport to meet her—for me, not for her. I don’t think I even showered. I didn’t want to care if she loved me or not. We drove around that night and drank cheap wine from 7-Eleven on Santa Monica beach until the sun was about to rise. I ran back to the place in the sand determined to find her glasses as a sure sign we should be together.
My hands found a red rose first, buried where we had be sitting. My dead name. Her middle name. A beautiful flower.
We made love like never before. And I felt her walls letting me back in as we talked in the language of love. Yet within a matter of days she was gone again. I starting writing her letters, but spaces grew between the I love yous and I realized it wasn’t my place to fill them all. I needed love too.
Her birthday card is still on my bedside table, along with my gifts for her. I wanted to bring them to her, but she told me not to come—that I was just an added stress and she was too busy. Later, I reminded her of my birthday on the day before. I don’t like to think about whether she would have remembered it on her own.
When time for my second surgery arrived, for some reason I still thought she would surprise me. I thought she would help me—rub my back, hold my hand as they put me under, be the eyes to find mine when I woke up, and to sit with me for a few hours. I was mad at my friends for wanting to be there instead. Their love replacing where she should have been. And if love doesn’t look like that from her, I wanted her to show it to me differently—however she could.
Did you know that testosterone changes the shape of our hearts?
It’s bigger now. In fact, every muscle on my body has grown. I have the strength to stay and the strength to leave and also the strength to know that I do not need to steer at all.
My Wednesday ritual makes sure that, whatever else I think I want, will never lead my heart—I will never lose me.
She says she will try to make it out soon.
Maybe she will.
I cut my hair.
Author: James Erangey
Image: courtesy of the author
Assistant Editor: Tammy Novak, Editor: Khara-Jade Warren