Andar Wärje, excerpt from
"Hopeful Materials: A Nordic Trans Man's Response to Ibsen"

Part 1: Ending

The melting down process was the worst—a timeless dissolution of everything he’d known, right down to his toenails. Then straight back into the mould again. Of course, they kept getting his body wrong. Every time he popped off the assembly line, the machinery was faulty. Not the phallic smoke-stack engine he so desired to conduct; instead, a broken bridge over a soft, infinite river into which he would wreck himself again and again.

After a while, he started wondering if there was someone he could speak to. He was generally notified of his failure by form letter, which didn’t leave him much to go on. Another life wasted, then back into the button mould. Not even a personalized note.

If, at the end of his days, he’d been sent to Hell—well, that would be one thing. Eternal torture was something you could grasp. He didn’t aspire to Heaven, that wasn’t his style; being an angel seemed a lot to live up to. Still, this endless spiritual recycling was much worse.

Finally, he got admin on the phone.

“Listen,” he said, trying to be polite. “There’s got to be some mistake. I’ve gone through this whole rigmarole a hundred times already.”

“The thing is,” explained the voice on the other end of the line, “you’re stuck between categories. Not a hero, as such, but not really a villain. You’re not much of a man at all. I’m afraid we aren’t sure where to put you.”

“Well for starters, this body’s defective,” he said, apologetically.

“The moulding process isn’t perfect,” admitted the voice. “Still, most people find a way to make it work.”

The problem was, he couldn’t make it work.

“I adore your body,” said his wife. “I wish I saw more of it.”

It was true. He hid himself from everyone. He didn’t even peek in mirrors to check that his hat was straight.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

And that was true, too. He was always sorry. But it didn’t seem to help.

For a while, he tried drinking his way into the inferno. Prescription drugs, too. It was easy enough to obtain them. After all, the whole world saw what a mistake had been made. Midway through his fifties, he’d find himself staggering the streets, screaming at strangers. Slumped on garbage-strewn curbs, he’d try to open his arm with a blunt shard of brick, peel his skin off like a shroud and rise from purgatory. But it was never enough to just burn already.

“You can’t just go through the motions of sinning,” explained the voice on the phone. “If you don’t really mean it, it doesn’t amount to much.”

Giving to charity and walking old women across the street didn’t work, either.

“How altruistic is it if you’re just trying to tick a box?” said the voice, reproachfully. “You can’t expect us to consider you in the same category as Mother Teresa for that.”

“I don’t want to be Mother Teresa,” he said. “I’m just trying to get out of this cycle. Every time my life ends, it begins again immediately. It’s too much for anyone to handle.”

“I see the issue now,” said the voice, sympathetically. “You ought to be forgetting everything in the mould. Something’s gone wrong if you’re remembering every attempt.”

It was a jarring way to think of his life—failed attempts stacked up on one another like pizza boxes in a trash compactor.

“Respectfully,” he said, “I don’t think that is the issue. I don’t see why I have to come back at all.”



From The Malahat Review's spring issue #214