This Charming Man

Table Of Contents

Morning After



"Rick." Her voice is broken, quivering, her breath coming too quick. Her eyes are begging me to prove Heather wrong.

I've gone pale, I know it. I force a stupid laugh. "Sarah, that's bullshit. Heather, what the fuck." My voice is cracking, strained. I feel the lump forming in my throat. My hand reaches for the sofa, misses it, I sway to the left.

This feels like a dream.

Sarah is tearing up, I can see she doesn't believe me. "Say it's not true, Rick"

"It's not true, Sarah. I love you"

She's shaking her head violently. She hasn't even heard me. "Keira Rayman." She reads it from the letter from court. 

She pronounces it like my mum did when she was in disbelief about whatever new shocking thing I'd done. It hits me like a dagger in the heart, or at least like what I imagine a dagger in the heart feels like. I almost double over. It's been too long since hearing that name. I'm not used to it anymore. I'm shaking my head, too, now. Squeeze my eyes shut, focus on the thudding bass of whatever song is playing right now. I can't make out the lyrics. It shakes the ground, or I'm too drunk for the ground not to be shaking. 

"Keira? Is that your name? That's impossible. You're not a girl." 

Her voice kills me. So frail, on the verge of tears. I open my eyes. She looks right at me, lets her eyes wander over my face. My soft jawline, my huge eyes with dark circles under them, my round baby face that she's caressed, that she's praised, that she's called cute and handsome. My thin neck, my narrow shoulders that won't get broader despite working out every day.

I want to say something but the words don't come out. All I can think is "again, again, again, again, again, again ..."

This feels like a dream. 

Heather glares at me. "Of course she's a girl. And a fucking disgusting liar. You know that's rape if you didn't tell her you're a girl." It takes my brain too long to process her words. 

I'm still shaking my head. I'm too numb from the drinks to feel the pain of the bandages wrapped around my chest. I should be too numb to feel this much pain looking at Sarah. She's crying for real now. "Why does it say you're a girl, Rick?" I don't want to hear her voice like that. 

"Rick?"

The scene keeps repeating in my head, so many times I can almost make myself believe it was dream. But of course it wasn't. Rule number one of my life: Everything that sounds like a nightmare is reality. 

I let myself indulge in the powerless lostness, let it push me deeper into the bed, I almost drift off to sleep again. The half-dried tear traces on my face start to wet again as my eyes painfully squeeze out the last bit of water. Oh boy. I'm crying like a sorry sap. My blood has turned to liquid lead in my veins and I feel like I could just stop breathing if I wanted to. Any knocks on the door are drowned out by the music in my earphones, and the maelstrom of self-loathing and desperation pulls on me until I feel I'm going to implode. 

If I didn't feel so heavy, I'd be gasping, hunched over, my mouth wide open in a silent scream and the sobs would sound like an asthma attack. But I've been through that stage, already. Last night, coming home, as soon as I was sobered up enough to remember what had happened. Sarah's disgusted, incredulous face is still burned into my memory and one of the only things I remember clearly, vividly, not dreamlike and foggy.

I don't know how I got home, I just remember throwing up violently in my sink at some point, dry heaving turned to sobbing until I was rolled up on the bathroom floor, hurting all over, out of tears and shaking so hard I was worried if Jerry came home he'd call 999 because I probably looked like I was dying. I don't know how I got into my room and my bed, I probably forgot to drink some water because my head's hurting like a motherfucker and my tongue has never felt dryer before. Apparently I also didn't change out of my clothes and there's a reason why I feel like I've broken all my ribs. I'm too weak to even lift an arm, let alone walk into our messy kitchen and pour myself some tea so it all continues to get worse but I don't care. Also, Jerry is probably up. And I don't want him to see me. The others likely have told him. I groan.

I have to get away from this place as soon as possible. I can't look anyone in the eyes here. But where do I go? The same thing will happen again. Like it has before. They will find out I'm a girl and that my name's not whatever name I will have told them and that I'm a deranged freak. I love Sarah. I love her to death. I want to marry her. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I can't believe I've messed up. We've had sex so many times. I was so careful, always kept the lights out, always kept my shirt on. And the expensive medical glue never disappointed. She never suspected a thing.

I want to blame it on Heather for finding my real ID and my legal papers, and that stupid pack of tampons. I want to blame it on Sarah for believing her. But it's my own fault. I got careless, didn't change the hiding place often enough. I didn't even try to deny it convincingly. 

"Rick?"

All of them. All of them who are there. All looking at me.

What the fuck is this, Rick.

Who are you?

Who's Keira Rayman?

Is that your sister, Rick?

She looks exactly like you. Wait, is that you?

Is this a prank?

Where did you find that, Heather?

What's going on?

I'm saying something about my mum, how she wanted to force me to be a girl, because she wanted a little girl so badly. But it's not like last time. This time they're not believing me. I'm not sounding convincing. I'm swaying. Too drunk to form a coherent thought. I'm holding on to the sofa now, leaning on it even. "I'm a hermaphrodite." Last straw. Of course that's a lie. I told this to Sarah once, when she almost found me out. She didn't mind, I don't even think she knew what that was. Now she does mind. 

All these documents, blurry in front of my eyes. Heather is reading them out. My ID. 

"Name: Keira Lauren Rayman

Sex: female"

sex: female

sex: female

"That's a lie" My voice sounds weak and shaky, I try again. "That's a fucking lie, Heather! Who do you believe, me or some faked documents my mother sent me? She's insane, I'm telling you!"

She looks at me with nothing but contempt in her eyes. "How could you do this to Sarah?" It's Sarah's turn to shake her head non-stop again. I'm paralysed. They won't believe me. I fucked up.

Next thing I remember is Charlie driving me to the petrol station to get energy drinks, shaking his head and saying "Not cool, man. Not cool. We'll talk about this tomorrow". By whenever he wants to talk about it, I'll be long gone.

"Rickie? You alive in there?" Jerry is knocking on the door. I make a grunting sound and turn the music down. "I know you're hung over but just wanted to make sure you didn't like, die." He laughs, that's his kind of humour. 

"Do you want me to make you a cup of the strong one?" The strong one is breakfast tea. He usually keeps it away from everyone and gets proper furious whenever someone takes it without his permission, because it's expensive and has some sort of sentimental value to him. The fact he's offering it to me now is concerning. He's never done that before. I shake my head until I realise he can't see me. Then I shout "Nah, I'm good". I don't sound good. I sit up and fight off the nausea. Then I turn off the thinking.

So, now I'm packing my stuff.

And now that are the documents that betrayed me, one letter has a stain on it. That's the last of the pamphlets. The pamphlets about the doctors who could fix my body. About people with the same twisted sickness as me. So many times I've wanted to rip them apart, I've done it already. And glued them back together.

And now there's my jacket, and all my clothes in a duffle bag, and I'm not sure why but I feel like I'm floating and I need to fetch my toothbrush from the bathroom and steal a towel.

And now I've snuck back into the room, sat back down on the bed, and I feel deflated. The thoughts are creeping back in. Sarah can't be off my mind for longer than this. 

Jerry comes in. "Your tea"

"I said I didn't want any"

"Are you leaving?"

I shrug. "I guess"

He shrugs too. "Charlie's called me about..." he trails off.

I shrug again. "Sorry mate." I reach for the cup, it's steaming hot.

Don't think. Drink up. I imagine it's liquor. Which liquor tastes like tea?

He says, stay here Rickie. I don't care whatever the fuck you are. You're my friend.

I say, but I care, and I've taken a towel.

He says, you can keep it, I can give you my good jacket too. Even though it's too big for you. It suits you. Maybe you will grow into it.

Yes. If that's really fine by you.

I'm almost 19. I'm not going to grow another inch. 5'6 it is forever. 

And now I'm out of the house, stumbling down the stairs, still feeling woozy and headache-y. I'm sipping my tea. I'm keeping the cup. Jerry's been a darling. I've left him a note before I left, he watched me write it. We hugged, I changed Sarah's contact name in my phone. She's called me a couple times. So has Charlie. I haven't called back. 

"Is there any way I can fix this, Jerry. She loved me so much. I love her as much as you can possibly love someone."

"She's angry with you, Rick, and very hurt. You're doing messed-up shit and I don't know if she will forgive you."

And I don't know if you forgive me, Jerry, or if you're just pretending. You didn't even hold me back, you even help me leave. You want me gone, I'm no good to be around. But I don't say that out loud.

Messed-up shit.

Sex: female.

I don't look up when I cross the streets. I don't wait for the green lights. They're honking. I'm sorry for annoying you, businessman. I'm sorry for scaring you, young mother. I'm sorry for confusing you, little grandma.

And now I'm at the station and I don't even know how I got there. And I realise I don't want to leave this city. 

I'm sitting on the floor next to the ticket counter, let the cold from the tiles seep into my body. This must be what it feels like to be dead. 

When a random woman asks me if I need help, I realise I look like a loser, or a tramp. Or like I'm actually going to sit here until I die. And that's definitely not an honourable way to die. Not what I imagined for myself. So I say I'm good, get up, almost fall because I'm so god damn dizzy, and stagger to the toilet. After throwing up in the toilet bowl, I don't feel better but I realise just how fucking hungry I am. And I've made a vague plan that entails having lunch, finding a cash machine and a hotel to stay at, for a night at least. And there I'll decide what I'll do next. And resist the urge to call Sarah back because I don't know what to say yet.