Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 25 22:07:51 PST 2008

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            CUT OUT MY HEART         /    \  /    \
             PT. ONE OF TWO         /      \/      \
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   We finalized the divorce this morning.  Cordelia
got the money and the house; I got the cat.  We had
lunch together after and I agreed to pick it up in a
couple of days, after I had time to get things settled
with the apartment.
   "I'm glad it's ending like this," I said.  "It was
painful but this is kinda amicable.  Kinda friendly. 
It wasn't bitter.  If it had to end, I'm glad it ended
like this."
   "It didn't have to end, Tuck," she said.  "Don't
act like you had no control over this."  She pointed
at me accusingly with her fork.  "You did this, Tuck. 
You chose this."
   "I didn't choose this.  I didn't say, hey, maybe
I'll make her divorce me."
   She rolled her eyes.  "But you knew.  You knew what
would happen."
   The waitress came by and topped off our water.  I
caught her staring at my boobs again; her eyes quickly
flitted to the fresh stubble on my chin before
averting my gaze completely.
   Cordie waited until after the waitress had left
before picking up right where she left off.  It was a
knack that she has; she had whole sentences in her
head, and if one was interrupted she would remember it
precisely.  I think she did a lot of practicing in her
head, a lot of rehearsing and editing, because a lot
of what she said always had a kind of flowery quality
to it.  And this was one of those times.
   She said, "You're not getting SRS, you're doing
heart surgery.  You cut out my heart when you did
this, and it hurts.  It hurts so bad.  Or it did.  I
dunno.  It doesn't hurt so much anymore.  It's over
   "We can be friends after my change, can't we?" I
said.  "We can hang out, right?"
   "No," said Cordie.  "I don't think we can."

   I'm on a month-by-month with the apartment.  It's a
bit pricier than I'd like, but I don't plan on staying
a real long time.  In two months I should get the
go-ahead for the really major surgeries: most (but not
all) of my penis will be removed: the head will be
reshaped into a clitoris and the skin inverted for my
vaginoplasty.  After that, I've got some minor
cosmetic surgeries (mostly facial restructuring) and a
lifetime of hormones and then (viola!) I'm a woman.
   It'll be a new life, and a new apartment.  I really
want to start over.  Wherever I go, I'll be a woman. 
If I stay in this apartment building, I'll always be
the freak, the in-betweener.  I'll always be alone,
one person in two bodies.

   I found a box of her stuff when I was unpacking. 
I'm not sure how it got there.  I guess it was left
over from when we had moved into the house.  So many
of those boxes never got unpacked.
   I spent a few minutes looking through it.  I can't
say it was a box of memories or anything like that--
at least, not our memories.  Mostly stuff belonging to
her parents, and they were dead long before we found
each other.  She talked about them sometimes, but
mostly I think she wanted to forget about them. 
That's probably why she never found the time to open
   Her father was in the war, and here's a few photos
of his time in Europe.  He's posing with a captured
German destroyer here.  It's not the Graf Spree, but
the other one, the other big famous one: I forgot it's
name.  The Graf Spree had been scuttled.
   There's a letter from her mother to her father. 
They didn't get married until after he came back; he
didn't want to chance her being a war widow, didn't
feel that it'd be fair to her: best not to get too
serious yet.  But she writes, "I wish we had gotten
married already.  If anything happened to you, I'd
lose a chunk of me anyway-- why not call that love? 
Why not call you a husband and me a bride?  I've been
your wife so many times in my sleep.  Come back to me
safe warm & alive.  Call me your wife and I'll call
you my husband and we'll call it love."
   Cordie was always complaining about how
melodramatic her mother could be.  But it actually
reads like something she herself would say-- it's
probably where she got it from, probably hereditary.
   I don't have any poetry in me.  I wish I did.  I
wish I had poetry and I wish I had somewhere to put

   I set the box aside and turned to unloading my own
boxes.  Strangely, they don't feel like my own. 
There's no memories in them, no resonance-- just
things, objects, clothes.  It's like they don't belong
to a person at all.
   I guess it comes with being all uprooted.  In a
state of transition and all that.  It made me feel
vaguely inhuman, and that put this weird little idea
in my head, and I said to myself, the next box I open,
there's going to be a memory in it.  You're going to
open it and you're going to see or touch something and
it's going to remind you of something, it's going to
remind you of thirty-five years on this Earth and
   But there's nothing.  The boxes are full, but they
feel empty.
   It took a little while, but I convinced myself that
this was actually a good sign, a sign of progress. 
That I was already closer to my new life than the old
one.  That I wasn't Tuck any longer.
   I still haven't chosen a new name, though.  I've
flipped through some baby-naming books now and then,
but I hadn't really made a concentrated effort since
Cordelia filed for divorce.
   But before that, we thought that maybe we could
make it work.  Mind you, she wasn't exactly happy
about me wanting to become a woman.  But she was
willing to talk about it with me.  "We've got each
other, we're equals, we said we'd be honest with each
other and so let's be honest.  Let's be adults and
let's talk this over."
   And we did, over the course of several nights and
weeks.  We talked about the medical procedures, the
psychological rigmarole, about our marriage, about
happiness, and about names.
   "I'm so used to calling you Tuck," she said.  "I
don't know if I can get used to calling you anything
   "Well, you'll have to," I said.  "If I get it
done."  (I was still very much waffling back-and-forth
on the matter at this time.)
   "What name do you want?"
   I didn't know.  "But something very feminine, very
   We looked up some names online.  Rachel means
lovely; Elise, a diminutive of Elizabeth, means God's
   "Apparently," she said, "Leah means tired and
weary.  You have to admit, that's very feminine."

   We went to the library together to get some
baby-naming books.  We took them to the girl at the
check-out desk, and she immediately started beaming at
us.  "How long?"
   "How long what?" asked Cordie.
   "You don't look very far along," said the girl. 
"For your baby."
   "I'm not pregnant."
   The girl apologized.  "Are you, uh, writers then? 
Picking names for characters?"
   "Yeah," said Cordie.  "Something like that."

   "I don't want you to get mad at me, Tuck.  But I
want to say something to you."
   "Sure, anything."
   "We had talked about children, remember?  When we
got married?"
   "We kept putting it off.  Money, et cetera.
   "I'm not getting any younger, Tuck.  I'm.  I'm not
going to have any children.  Am I?"
   "You would have been a great mother, pookie."
   She started to cry, which was rare for her.  But
even her tears were orderly: composed.
   "I would have been a terrible father," I said.
   "You don't even want to be a husband anymore," she
   "I'm still... I'd still be your partner.  I'd still
be the same.  Just the gender would change.  But on
the inside, I'd still be Tuck.  Whatever name we pick
for me."
   "But I won't be the same," said Cordie.  "I'd be
different.  I'd never be a mother, and I'd stopped
being a wife.  I'd be a dyke.  I don't... I don't even
know how I'd feel about that..."
   "You don't really enjoy it as it is," I said. 
"Maybe after, it'd be better for you..."
   "I don't want a woman," said Cordie.  "I really
don't.  If I wanted a woman, I'd have chose a woman. 
I want a man.  I love a man."
   "You love me."
   "Yes.  Yes, I do.  Though sometimes I wonder
   "You love me, and that's for keeps, right?  Better
or worse, et cetera?  Look, Cordie.  Cordelia.  Baby. 
If I was in an accident, if I lost half my body, if I
couldn't walk..."
   "God, don't say that..."
   "You'd still love me, right?  You married a man who
could walk, but if I couldn't, you'd still love me?"
   "Because I'm still the same inside," I said.  "Only
the outside changes.  Don't you see?  I won't be
turning into a woman.  I've always been one, all
along.  You've been in love with a woman all this
time.  A hairy, smelly, ugly woman-- true.  But a
woman.  Baby, please.  It's not worth it if it's not
with you."

   Like I said, we tried to make it work.  I went
through about a year of psychological evaluations and
prep work and all that fun stuff before I got my
boobs.  Cordie had been back-and-forth about the whole
thing up until that point, and I think it was after I
brought the girls home-- after it had started to
become real-- that she decisively made up her mind.
   "I can't do this," she said.  "I can't deal with
these, these things.  I know they mean a lot to you. 
I know that this means a lot to you.  But I really
can't do it anymore.  Please.  If you love me.  Go
back and have them undo it."
   I told her I'd think about it, that I needed some
time.  She conceded me that much-- she never wanted to
be the kind of person to force an ultimatum on me.
   But more time didn't help the situation.  Seeing my
gorgeous breasts juxtaposed with my hairy belly only
strengthened my desire to become fully female.  And
the longer I kept them, the more frayed things became
between the two of us.  Long arguments punctuated by
longer periods of silence.  We sat in separate rooms
and slept on different floors.
   I went back to work shortly after my operation, and
shortly after that, I was fired-- basically, I think,
because of the operation, though my lawyer's still
trying to prove that.
   Cordie believed it, though.  But she wasn't on my
side.  "Don't you see how ridiculous this is?  Is it
really worth losing your job?"
   "If they're going to treat people like that, it's
not really a job worth having, is it?"
   "What about your wife?"  And there, in four little
precise and polished words, there was the ultimatum
that had been lurking all these long months.
   She filed for divorce the next week.

                  * - * - *

   I brought the box by this morning.  She stood in
the doorway in her bathrobe, opening the screen door
just enough to accept the box.  She pulled it over the
   I watched her open it through the mesh on the door.
 "Dad's old war photos," she said. "And my mom's
letter.  I must have read this a hundred times when I
was a little girl."  She smiled weakly.  "Thank you,
   "I chose a name," I said.  "Gemelle."
   "That was my mother's name."
   "I know. Is that alright?"
   "You don't mind?"
   "No."  She smirked somewhat smugly.  "You'll
probably change your mind again anyway."
   "I think I'll keep that one.  It's nice.  Very
   "It means 'twin'," said Cordie.
   I just kinda nodded.
   "Are you going to take Pacino with you?"
   "Uh, not today," I said.  "I was thinking, in a
couple weeks I'm going in for, y'know, the operation. 
I'm going to be in the hospital and stuff, and you
said you'd take care of him while I'm gone, right?"
   "Well, I was thinking, that might be a little
stressful for such a little guy, shuttling back and
forth.  So why not just wait until everything's
settled, and then when he moves over, he moves over,
   "That's fine," she said.  "I can hold onto him for
a little bit longer.  Don't make it too long, okay? 
He doesn't really like Joey all that much."  Joey is
her boyfriend.
   "He doesn't like anyone," I said.
   "No," said Cordie.  "Just his daddy."


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