[TW: Just toxic bullshit and me drinking about it, basically. Mention of hurricanes. Brief suicide mention.]
It really would have taken a hurricane to match the weather to my mood and Irma was happy to oblige. My melodramatic ass actually wrote in my journal, ‘I wager Asher’s hoping that this hurricane kills me, wouldn’t that be bloody convenient?’ I later, in the same entry, I wrote in all caps that I would ‘DRINK MY FUCKING HEART AWAY.’ Yes, in all caps, too.
I don’t even know why Rowan and Vali would later feel the need to expose my journals and humiliate me. I’m more than capable of doing it on my own.
I spent much of the hurricane oversleeping, overeating, and overdrinking. Just licking my wounds in complete excess. It also helped that, just like the hurricane prior, I was essentially being paid to watch Arrested Development at the desk and write. What was I writing about? Killing Asher. I had a series of books that I’d been planning on introducing them into, a novel that still sits half-written in my collection. It was therapeutic.
The awful truth is when people already think you a monster, there’s less shame in doing monstrous things.
It did give me time to get acquainted with Kaz Brekker, though. I’d discovered a book, called Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Right up my alley, it was a gang of misfits brought together by a need to not only survive, but fuck the world that had fucked them up as kids and come out on top. Of course, give me a sarcastic, dark boy with a genius for plots and manipulation, that had a crow-head cane, for fuck’s sake, and I’m yours.
I knew there was a danger, that with my particularly porous personality, that I was absorbing this work of fiction into my soul. But I liked that. I needed to be someone stronger, more calculating. Less prone to damage, lest a new saint come and decide to make me their failed rehabilitation project.
But gods, it was a novel that soothed my aching soul. I think I had been a little far into the wine, though. I remember Mary, the inn owner’s wife, suggesting that I fetch four bottles of wine from her cellar for the staff to enjoy. “And there better still be four by the time you make it up the stairs,” she warned.
Add that to the number of things that made me feel like shit. And foremost on my plate, was Wendy. I would later experience this in a more profound way five years later, but my bruised heart was making it quite impossible to romantically bond with anyone new. It only made it worse that she couldn’t have been sweeter to me– even bought me a new cane, completely out of nowhere.
And here I was, able to feel nothing but the occasional vague warmth for her. More often, guilty appreciation. She was already saying ‘I love you.’ The most intimate thing I’d been able to say back was, ‘Aww, you’re very sweet.’ I wanted to, but I just didn’t have it in me after the latest betrayal. Or it could’ve just been incompatibility I didn’t want to admit to.
But dating me landed this poor girl right into the path of Apollo’s indiscriminate meltdowns. See, Wendy was pro-adoption as far as furry friends went. You wouldn’t think this would be even a particularly hot or even lukewarm take, but Apollo took this as a direct attack on him. Because of course he did.
I don’t have any existing record of the original status. I believe it was something like ‘Why would you pay hundreds of dollars on a dog when you can just adopt from a shelter?” Apollo jumped into the comments as if this ginger fucker were a spring-loaded jump-scare. He called Wendy ableist, saying that this was an inherently ableist status, given that his purebred Shiba Inu had been trained as a service dog.
At the time, I was watching this from my phone, knowing that this maligned fucker sat at the desk for his morning shift at the inn and that I was due to relieve him. It was mostly one of Wendy’s friends arguing for her, so I hoped in vain my partner would be spared as I inspected our boutique rooms for their readiness. When I finally came down for my evening shift, Apollo began the conversation with, “Did you see what your girlfriend posted?”
“I think I might’ve scrolled past it,” I said dryly.
I did notice that even those who didn’t know Apollo knew he was on his bullshit. One of Wendy’s friends had this to say;
This, of course, meant Apollo was even more incensed. “People always do this! They give me shit for having a purebred when she’s a service dog. She was purchased because she was literally medically necessary. What, do people just want me to not have my dog because she’s not some mutt from a pound?”
I was already seated at the computer, having clocked in, but Apollo decided to hang around, because sometimes fate likes to openly laugh at me. “I’d hope not. That wouldn’t seem fair.”
“And not only that, when I confronted her about this, saying to hide me from her awful, ableist views, she told me just to unfriend her. Can you believe that? I didn’t block her, I gave her room to apologise, but I guess that’s just fucking out the window, isn’t it? Do you know how many times I’ve gotten shit because Hoshi’s not just some labrador? I wouldn’t want a big dog, You know, Shibas are actually a smarter breed anyway. I should’ve known not to be friends with Wendy. She’d made a status once about how she would feel less dysphoric if a man wanted to date her and she never did ask me out. We’d talked and everything. It means that she never saw me as a man.” Actually, Wendy had thought Apollo was cute but Apollo had been similarly combative to her in the past. Not that Apollo was willing or able to hear that.
In hindsight, I think that Apollo was under the impression that I was whispering about Apollo’s past– the past I’d forgotten he’d had– in Wendy’s ear. Not that I would’ve been thrilled with Apollo as a metamour, I can assure the audience that none of Wendy’s ill impressions were from myself.
Gods, this made me miss the fucking hurricane.
On and on he went, his argument, essentially saying the same thing over and over again with me giving the most neutral replies possible. I think he stayed in that lobby at least another hour before having a bit of mercy on me.
I had to calm Wendy down. Apollo was offended, Wendy was upset, and I needed a drink– which would continue to be the dynamic between the three of us. Apollo decided to send her this fun little declaration:
Wendy was both solemn and tired by the time she gave me the results of this bizarre little feud.
Though, this same week, Apollo’s mum, the lovely Brenda, had found one of Apollo’s poems about her that he’d written years ago about their tumultuous relationship. She subsequently cursed him out before blocking him for it. I’m once again, astonished, by how little that apple fell from the tree. But I did know that it hurt Apollo.
So, later that week, I suggested that myself, Apollo, and Will go out and grab drinks together. I remember calling ourselves the ‘Salty Avengers.’ As we were at the bar of The Grey, I remember the two of them chattering on about DND– which I felt bitter about, being as all of the local DND groups seemed to be connected to Kirra somehow, and hadn’t deigned to allow me in. Then they began talking about Flannel, who has decided that he detests me before even shaking my hand.
I have in my journal that Apollo went on a rambling rant about how often he considers suicide for himself. I don’t actually remember the context– but I put down that I turned his references of suicide into a drinking game, which is probably how that memory became obliterated.
It was an alright social event. It didn’t seem to relieve any of building storm of self-destruction in my head. It really took a turn when we ended up back at my place. See, Will had left early– approximately forty-five minutes before Apollo had left.
Which, of course, was approximately forty-five minutes in which I was keenly wishing someone would shoot me. “You know, Wendy texting me back, ‘Just block me already’ is irrefutable proof that you can’t be trusted. Obviously, the people you choose to be your partners want nothing to do with me. I wasn’t asking to unfriend or block her on Facebook, I was asking her to just hide me from more of those posts. But she went immediately to asking me to unfriend her? And she’s your partner?”
I had a glass of wine in my hand, sipping it as if it were oxygen and I were drowning. I probably was. I hadn’t yet told Apollo about Asher’s betrayal. I couldn’t stand that ‘I told you so.’ Somehow, focusing on this burgeoning flaw of my current partner being pro-adoption seemed preferable.
“Xanthe, I’m sorry, but if Wendy is going to be a fixture in your life,” Apollo began cuttingly, “then I’m going to continue to get prickly about it.”
At this, I actually laughed. “Apollo. No one is a fixture in my life, I can assure you.” He actually paused at that. I shrugged and sipped my wine. Obviously, my filter had gone to sleep in this late hour and I was finding it harder and harder to be invested in what happened between the two of us.
It was later in this evening that Apollo asked me where I was going on vacation to. Obviously, he’d been asked to work extra days and wanted to know why for. “Just Ohio,” I answered honestly. “I try to go there every two years or so. I aimed for October to go to King’s Island Halloween festivities.” I’d barely gotten this next sentence out before Apollo cut in with his prepared question.
“Are you going to visit [Casey]?” This didn’t seem like a pleasant inquiry.
“Probably,” I allowed.
“You know they’re just using you for sex, right?”
Jesus. This thing with his mum was putting him on the attack mode for just about everyone. I considered this a while before answering. I know it made sense just to lie to this rubbish friend, to bluff that I knew that wasn’t the case, but something in me always wanted to go for the truth. “We’re all being used for something, mate.” Not as profound as I would like, but I’d take it. It was somewhat less pitiful than the ‘At least I have something to give in exchange for what I keep taking from the world’ thought that was bouncing around my head. I decided to take pity on myself and I change the subject. “I’m going to have to resew some of the buttons on my outfits before I go. Dracula Clothing tends to do this thing where they barely sew the buttons on all the way.”
As the subject was now in something Apollo considered himself an expert on, he was happy to follow the line of conversation. “They ship from out of the country, right? They probably do that so that the buttons aren’t sewn on too tight in transit. Maybe they’ll shatter or something.”
My head was buzzing pleasantly. It was that beautiful apex of time wherein I no longer needed company from this plane and was willingly slipping into the warm embrace of the other. “Maybe so,” I allowed, not believing a word. “It’s still irritating to have to resew them before packing them into a suitcase.”
“Fine, go ahead and do that, then,” Apollo’s voice was taking on an infuriating, airy tone that was somehow haughty. “But your buttons will shatter.“
It took a lot of effort not to roll my eyes. “What time is it you work tomorrow morning?”
I think Apollo did take that as less than a subtle hint to leave and he did.
The month wasn’t all miserable, though. Kaspar was having a brief stopover on one of its travels. It was due in New Orleans for its main birthday celebration and of course just had to see me for a tick. And I due mean a tick– it was only an evening and a morning.
There was some sort of new gourmet foods shop on Broughton and I’d been curious about their sort of pre-packaged meal? Picture pasta with all of the herbs, dehydrated vegetables, and seasonings within one package. All one had to do was simply boil it and end up with a passable gourmet meal. So, of course, Kaspar and I spent most of the evening drinking champagne in the Forsyth Mansion. It mentioned having to go back to its hotel room to change and, lucky me, gave me just enough time to cook.
And cooking in my flat was quite the feat indeed. My ‘kitchen’ consisted of a countertop with a mini-fridge, microwave, and a single-burner. I wish I were joking. But somehow, by the time Kaspar arrived, I’d aimed to convince my beloved that this were entirely my concoction.
Kaspar was delighted, of course, to be greeted by its dinner before the course had even begun to cool. “Is this your doing, my Lord Henry?”
“It is!” I’d never lie to Kaspar. In fact, that was in our contract for me not to, so I was existing in a thin plane of technical truths.
We were seated on the floor before my tea-table. The fact that I had no living room to speak of meant that this was a good excuse to enjoy our meal with ‘Japanese-style’ seating, which Kaspar accepted with grace. It was even asking me all about my culinary forgery. “Is the pasta made from scratch?”
“Well, it did have to start somewhere.”
“Where did you get the idea from, dearest?”
“Inspiration can be found all over, if you let it.”
“You must have been preparing this all day, I believe, to have had this ready for me.”
“It would actually take less preparation than you’d think.”
On and on, this tongue-and-cheek waltz went. It was as if we were in a British skit. I was, in fact, vaguely certain that they might have been fucking with me– just seeing how quickly I could dodge a question, how elegant my non-answers were. But Kaspar seemed so earnest and excited that, eventually, I almost felt sorry for having fooled the poor thing. Until…
“I take it I wasn’t intended to observe the discarded packaging in your wastebin?”
Oh, yes, the wastebin in my ‘kitchen.’ The wastebin that was currently out of Kaspar’s eyeline, but that they definitely passed on the way in and witnessed before we’d even begun eating.
This unmitigated brat. I tried to straighten my face, to avoid giving anything away, but a lip-curled grin slowly, without permission, bloomed on my face. “Yes, indeed, you were not!” We both started laughing. And that led to kissing. Which led the night being an entire boost of my rickety morale.
It was later in the night, in a luxurious layer of satisfaction and warmth, that Kaspar sat up in my bed. It wasn’t rare for me to be disarmed by their beauty. The combined ethereal quality of their skin, like snow kissed by the golden rays of dawn, and their platinum blonde, cascading hair could take anyone’s breath away. And I found myself holding mine as they propped themself up on their elbow, wearing nothing but my black satin robe.
Satin seemed made entirely for them, at that moment.
We’d been discussing Hormone Replacement Therapy. Zakary, a rather new partner of Kaspar’s, had actually been one of the first transgender men who received testosterone in the 1920’s. It was also doubly fascinating because Zachary was part of the Luacheiya, an inworld-exclusive species that were essentially werewolves but could be only female. In fact, they were a species that were aggressively misandrist to the point of being TERFy. Those are the complex conversations that Kaspar and I loved to have– as if social politics were a word problem with infinite shades of grey. “Speaking of which– You’ve your first HRT appointment soon. Who is it that has the task to ferrying you to a more acceptable physical existence?”
I was hoping they wouldn’t ask about that awkward topic, but I couldn’t hide my wince. “Ah. A local named Oscar. I initially met him through Asher–”
“Hear me out.” I sat up in my bed. “I couldn’t trust Asher to drive me, because of course, she claims her non-binary stint was a phase and therefore mine must’ve been. So, I hit up her trans-masc friend. I figured, yknow, no matter what venom she’s spouting about me, he’s not going to see it worth denying a fellow human being relief from dysphoria.” And gods know mine has been killing me. I could rarely even have sex without being sloshed, with how incongruent my physical body seemed to me.
Kaspar narrowed its eyes. “I wouldn’t trust that.”
I frowned at them. “He agreed easily and all. Let me show you the Facebook conversation.” I was reaching for my phone, pulling up the conversation to prove my love wrong.
I, uh, did not.
In short, there was only brief messages of my explaining my situation without explaining that Asher was the one originally supposed to drive me, and that their newly transphobic rhetoric was not filling me with the most enthusiastic confidence. Oscar had agreed and I rather thought that was the end of that. Asher wouldn’t have to put with a three hour car ride with their ex and I wouldn’t be fighting the bundle of nerves that told me, quite rationally, that they planned to leave me high and dry for the appointment.
But no, Oscar had blocked me with no explanation.
I curled over my phone, scrolling for any sort of reasoning. Did I get drunk and argue with Oscar in the comments of a particularly spicy Facebook post? Kaspar was more alert now, watching me as I flipped through my apps to investigate. They never did dare to look at my phone directly– instead, I could feel those icy grey eyes watching me for my reactions. It wasn’t until I spied a post on Instagram where everything became clear.
“Occam’s fucking razor,” I muttered. “Yeah, no, Asher hung out with Oscar and suddenly Oscar will no longer take me to my HRT appointment. Okay. Fuck.”
I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation afterwards. I remember that Kaspar was asking about who else could take me– but the problem was, most of the people I interacted with on a daily basis, like the inn staff, Apollo– didn’t know I was intending to begin HRT. With the inn, yknow, it was the south. Just because the general manager was a lesbian didn’t mean everyone was going to be peachy with the non-binary employee’s dropping an octave or so.
As for Apollo, I explained to Kaspar that, as a bit of petty revenge for Apollo lying to me about being on HRT, that I would slowly but surely achieve all of the physiological changes I wanted as a ‘fuck you’ to his lack of help. Here he would be, a story with no testosterone whereas I would have the testosterone and no story. Then I would be oh-so-smug when Apollo gave up and went to me for my source– I looked forward to watching him squirm when he’d have to make up an excuse to why his bluffed-up source was no longer viable.
The Narcissistic games Apollo and I played were markedly more idiotic than the ones between Kaspar and I– also deeply less charming.
It was actually Kaspar’s idea that I ask Facebook. “Your platform is worth more than people laughing at your puns and telling you how lovely you look, my dear. That phrase about the kindness of strangers is more commonly exemplified than one might think.”
And I did. I hid all of the inn staff from it and certainly Apollo and wrote a status, asking to pay someone for a ride. Out of all people, an old Tinder date by the name of Sarah answered.
We hadn’t parted on any hard terms– I went out with her and she, at the time, was going by her middle name ‘Elizabeth.’ That wound, as old as it was, still twinged too often to date someone with a name too similar to my late girlfriend. But I’d kept her on Facebook.
As it turned out, she was the employee of a hotel chain. Not only could she drive me, but she could also pay for us to spend the night in Augusta before going home, hopefully with a testosterone script in-hand. In fact, Sarah/Elizabeth had my entire trip booked and planned before the night was done.
“A girl after my own heart,” Kaspar remarked.
It seemed a painfully short visit; Kaspar had only intended to spend its actual birthday with me, a fact that left me immensely tickled. We’d talked well into the night about how strangers can be more trusted than long-proven confidants. For example, most strangers at a cafe will loyally keep an eye on your laptop on the next table as you used the loo. But trusting your child with your new husband? Yeah, much worse statistics on that one.
The notion stayed in my head for a few days longer.
As an example, it was almost funny to me that Asher, through sheer circumstance, knew the body’s legal birthday whereas Kaspar never did. Asher had just happened to have their birthday on the day before the body’s, so I felt prompted to expose the date as a fun fact once.
I’d vaguely wondered what Asher would do with that information. Blackmail me, maybe? Could you imagine someone sinking that low?
I was laying in bed, just having woken up in the early afternoon, when my anxious mind began to pour over the possibilities. What could they do with my legal birthday? It wasn’t as if I had any passwords connected to that accursed date. Who even tended to ask for birthday–
Doctors asked for birthdays. To confirm who was calling.
I bolted up and phoned the Augusta Equality Clinic. “Hi, I’m just confirming my appointment for October 11th?”
I confirmed my details. My last name, someone else’s birthday.
“Oh… It looks like that appointment was… cancelled last week?”
My stomach dropped. That fucking cunt. “No– that– must not have been me who called. I have this ex, they were supposed to drive me, but got all transphobic on me and–” Fuck, fuck, fuck. “I really need that appointment.”
It took about ten tense minutes before the receptionist was able to move things around for me to keep my original appointment. I also requested that only calls from my specific phone number can make modifications to my appointment, which was noted. Homicidal thoughts were dancing in my head. Can you imagine being so petty against your ex that you try to ruin their transition? I’m a fucking Scorpio and I couldn’t.
Anyway. It was finally all squared away, my paranoia having saved me. I found myself exhausted by jumping between one crumbling platform to another. Don’t get me wrong, I was good at it, but the amount of times I had to figure myself out of a dire situation that came from trusting the wrong people was getting ridiculous.
But– the appointment and the ride was secured and I had a vacation to Ohio planned next week.
Ohio was fun– in exceedingly small doses. I’ve visited every other year since moving to Savannah. I enjoyed visiting The Alley, a vintage clothing shop in Columbus. There were some Ohio-exclusive foods, like Skyline chili and Donato’s pizza that I loved to partake in. And, you know, vacations wherein one’s visiting one’s parents, one tended to have all of their food paid for. And best of all, King’s Island.
I really only experienced two aspects of the body’s childhood. Auntie Carolyn, with her posh mannerisms and her too-clean house and her shrill, bird-like voice and her tongue-in-cheek humour. And King’s Island. I’m an adrenaline-junkie at heart and those damned rollercoasters could make me feel like I was flying. The rest of the state, particularly my father’s house, tended to be a lot more of a blur. It was primarily Xhaxhollari who fronted then, I later discovered. Ohio in general did tend to be a bit difficult on my general awareness.
Though, there was something else that existed only in Ohio that I hadn’t gotten to see in quite some time. I texted the something in question.
“I’m going to Ohio in a couple of weeks. Vacation.”
Casey texted back. “Oh, sick! Is it your first time back since moving?”
“Well. I’ve managed every other year since.”
“Why didn’t you visit? D:”
I frowned as I typed my reply. “Well. In 2013, we were fighting, then refusing to speak to one another. It just happened to be the same in 2015.” There was a time, recently, where I had been sick and hadn’t been able to go to my bar and all of the staff ended up getting free tattoos. It felt like that same sort of regret.
I watched the little typing bubble appear and disappear. It did that a few times, as if they were typing out something and then erasing it. “Fair. Shitty timing, I guess. Do you want to hang out this time? We can just drink at my place, if you want.”
“Absolutely. Going to have to tell you my latest rubbish ex story.”
“Rad! Let me know when I can pick you up.”
So, yes, even more reason to be excited about my bi-annual vacation back to the land of the most celebrated useless nuts– I mean, Buckeyes. And when I packed my Victorian finest and flew back to that haunted state, my buttons, as you may imagine, were entirely intact and unshattered.