This week’s extract is from Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters.
The question, for Reese: Were married men just desperately attractive to her? Or was the pool of men who were available to her as a trans woman only those who had already locked down a cis wife and could now “explore” with her? The easy answer, the one that all her girls advocated, was to call men dogs.
But now, here’s Reese—sneaking around with another handsome, charming, motherfucking cheater. Look at her, wearing a black lace dress and sitting in his parked Beamer, waiting while he goes into a Duane Reade to buy condoms. Then she’s going to let him come over to her apartment, avoid the pointed glare of her roommate, Iris, and have him fuck her right on the trite floral bedspread that the last married dude bought her so that her room would seem a little more girly and naughty when he snuck away from his wife.
Reese had already diagnosed her own problem. She didn’t know how to be alone. She fled from her own company, from her own solitude. Along with telling her how awful her cheating men were, her friends also told her that after two major breakups, she needed time to learn to be herself, by herself. But she couldn’t be alone in any kind of moderate way. Give her a week to herself and she began to isolate, cultivating an ash pile of loneliness that built on itself exponentially, until she was daydreaming about selling everything and drifting away on a boat toward nowhere.
To jolt herself back to life, she went on Grindr, or Tinder, or whatever—and administered ten thousand volts to the heart by chasing the most dramatic tachycardia of an affair she could find. Married men were the best for fleeing loneliness, because married men also didn’t know how to be alone. Married men were experts at being together, at not letting go, no matter what, until death do us part.
With the pretense of setting the boundaries of “just an affair,” Reese would swan dive super deep, super hard. By telling herself it would just be a fling, she gave herself permission to fulfil every fetish the guy had ever dreamed of, to unearth his every secret hurt, to debase herself in the most lush, vicious, and unsustainable ways—then collapse into resentment, sadness, and spite that it had been just a fling, because hadn’t she been brave enough and vulnerable enough to dive super deep, super hard?
She saw herself as attractive, round face and full figure, but she didn’t pretend that she stopped traffic; nor did she frequently note people standing around to admire the harvests of her brain. But with the right kind of man, she bore a genius for drama. She could distill it and flame it like jet fuel when solitude chilled her bones. Her man this time was similar to her others. A handsome, married alpha-type who put her on a leash in the bedroom. Only this one was better, because he was an HIV-positive cowboy-turned- lawyer.
He had a thing for trans girls and had seroconverted while cheating on his wife with a trans woman, and the wife had stayed with him, and now he was at it again with Reese. Wheeeee! “Did you bottom or something?” Reese had asked on their first date. “Fuck no,” he said. “My doctors said I had a one in ten thousand chance to contract it from getting head. You figure that at least ten thousand blow jobs are happening every minute, but that one in ten thousand was me. Also, she gave me a lot of blow jobs.” “Cool,” said Reese, who knew that that explanation wasn’t factual, but had only really agreed to make sure he wasn’t going to try to bottom with her.
Within the hour, she had him back in her room and confessing from whom he’d gotten HIV and where. Within two hours, Reese convinced him to talk about his wife’s disappointment, how she was unwilling to let him fuck a child into her even though his HIV had declined to undetectable levels. He described how much his wife hated the IVF treatments, how their clinical nature reminded her over and over what he had done to put her on a cold doctor’s table instead of in their warm marital bed. “You’re getting a lot more candor out of me than I’m used to,” her cowboy said, sounding surprised at himself, even as he squeezed Reese’s tits. “The power of pussy, I guess.” “You might get my pussy,” she responded, enjoying herself and aping his cowboy drawl, “but a good woman’ll flay your soul.” “Ain’t that the truth,” he drawled back.
He lifted a big paw to the back of her neck and brought her face close to his. She sighed, went limp. Her eyes glassily held his. “Tell you what,” he told her, “first I’m going to own your pussy…” He paused, and with his hand still on her neck, he slowly, firmly, pushed her face down into a pillow. “Then we’ll see about my soul.”
Torrey Peters lives in Brooklyn and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and a Masters in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth. She is the author of two novellas, Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones and The Masker.
Torrey Peters is in conversation with Shon Faye as part of the Red Line Book Festival on Thursday 14th October, 8-9pm, online. For tickets, see redlinebookfestival.ie.