By Colette Arrand
One of the things Peter liked most about nights when the moon was full was that under its light he turned into a woman. For twenty-eight, twenty-nine days of the lunar cycle he was something boring, just another insurance agent in Downers Grove with a wife and three kids, a certified pre-owned vehicle, an MBA, and a manageable amount of student loan debt. Normal, in a way. Like how people who lived like Peter lived defined normal. Better Homes & Gardens normal, had Better Homes & Gardens not been supplanted by HGTV, which was also about normal homes and gardens for the less moderate of Peter’s peers in the upper-middle class.
He touched the years-old hickey on his neck. It wasn’t that being a woman wasn’t normal, just that it wasn’t something he much thought about before he’d been bitten. Sure, he was liberal—one of his fraternity brothers was a transsexual and he didn’t think anything of it. They were still connected on Facebook and LinkedIn. Every time she posted a picture of herself in a dress or some meme set against a background of light blue, light pink, and white, he gave it a glance and clicked the little thumbs up button. He was glad she was happy, glad that even though she’d been through the ringer, moved from Tuscaloosa to Oakland to Portland and hadn’t been able to put her degree to good use, that he was still part of her life in some small way. But her story and his weren’t a convergence, Peter thought, more like Amy (her name was Amy) bought a house on the beach outright while Pete (who couldn’t think of another name to call himself when he was a woman) was forced into a timeshare by an attractive realtor he never saw again.
But he liked being a woman, kept a stash of dresses and pumps hidden in the typewriter compartment of the antique desk in his office, nice things he bought from expensive online consignment shops and had shipped to a P.O. Box., everything channeled through secret e-mail addresses and credit cards. He felt like a spy in a movie, like if the Bond girl, instead of getting murdered halfway through the movie, was actually James Bond. Actually, he tried not to think much about how he felt. Actually, the whole process—transformation, metamorphosis, whatever it was that made that guy in that book he read in high school wake up as some kind of bug—felt about as bad as every movie where a man turns into something that he isn’t said it would, a great nausea building up in his core and radiating outward, skin turning itself inside-out, blood boiling and cooling. And then it was over, the entire cosmic event. He could squeeze his own breasts, flip his own hair, apply his own makeup and walk out into the night, the same person but different.
Peter loosened his tie. The worst part of this was always getting out of his drab work clothes, doing the work of transformation that the moon didn’t. It felt like wasted time was all, unbuttoning his shirt and kicking off his shoes, peeling his pants and socks off, then doing everything in reverse: tights, bra, dress, makeup, heels. Putting everything on felt a lot better than taking everything off, if Peter was being honest. He liked running a mascara wand through his eyelashes, liked how he looked with a red lip, a plum lip, a nude; matte, cream, or gloss. He didn’t like to think of himself as sexy, but he knew he was sexy, knew that if he saw himself at the end of the bar of the piano lounge he tended to go to on nights when he wasn’t Peter, he’d be embarrassed about his cock stiffening against the fabric of his boxer briefs. Peter smiled. He didn’t have that problem right now. He didn’t have a cock.
Every time Peter transformed, he wondered how long it would take to change back. He didn’t mind, had long stopped believing the lunar cycle an inconvenience, but in a way he just wanted to experiment. He liked going out as a woman, liked being looked at. Peter had taken a women’s studies course his sophomore year and knew that he liked this due to his privilege as a man, due to the fact that he was only a woman once a month, six or seven hours at a time, that he was generally safe, as far as any woman could be safe in a world under the influence of the white, cisgender, heterosexual patriarchy which he, who was all of those things, benefitted from on a daily basis. That, more than the body he inhabited, was the reason he felt comfortable in his body, even when his body was radically altered.
He wondered if Amy, living in Portland, felt the same way, or if the way she experienced womanhood as a kind of all day/every day thing wore on her. Peter had been thinking a lot about Amy lately, actually, had been reading into all the things she had to do to achieve whatever it was that womanhood was to her. He looked at the moon and sighed, which was, he thought, what the Wolf Man would do if Lon Chaney Jr. turned into a woman instead of the wolf man, who howled at the moon and murdered people. He’d burnt so much of the night already, absolutely dreaded the thought of waking up the next morning as if none of this happened, his wife and children still asleep, an entire day of cold calls ahead of him. He felt his fist clench around his keys. He felt the leather seat of his pre-owned vehicle through the fabric of his dress. He felt the engine roar, his car pointed towards Portland, him powerless against whatever drew him there. Pushing the Bluetooth button on his steering wheel, Peter directed his phone to call Amy. It rang. Maybe she’d understand how Peter felt.
Colette Arrand is the author of Hold Me Gorilla Monsoon (OPO Books & Objects 2017) and the co-editor of The Wanderer. She can be found throughout time, space, and the internet at colettearrand.net or @colettearrand on Twitter.