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"Black Me Out" • Against Me! (by Caleb Weinhardt)

When I was seventeen, I found the seam around my neck and unzipped it. I felt weightless, finally, like I was floating on water. I started to laugh, skull rattling inside my skin. Who knew it would be that easy?

Carefully, I carried my head over to my body—a new one, courtesy of modern medicine—and screwed it back on. 

I liked this body a lot better than the old one, with its scar-flattened chest and hairy legs, a hidden tattoo I was supposed to be too young to get, and muscles just barely visible under a layer of fat. It was easier for me to see this body in the mirror, and to describe it to someone else. 

I left my old body slumped in the corner of my bedroom. I couldn’t exactly figure out what to do with it, so it just sat there, arms crossed like it was disappointed in me. Like it was waiting for some kind of explanation. 

What could I say? I knew I’d have to do something about it, that I couldn’t just leave it there while it watched me with no eyes. Trying to drown out this strange feeling of being observed, I put on my headphones and soothed myself to the crunch and fray of Laura Jane Grace's electric guitar. 

A few days later, my mom came into my room without knocking, and saw the body sitting there against the closet door. It had shifted slightly overnight, like it always did, this time falling sideways against the dresser.

She sucked in a breath through her teeth. “You’ve got to get rid of that thing.”

“I’m working on it.” 

She pulled my blinds shut like she was closing her cardigan on a windy day. “What would the neighbors think?”

I assured her I would take care of it. 

That night, I dragged the body down the steps of our duplex apartment. It refused to help me at all, thumping over each step. 

The downstairs neighbors’ lights were out, so I hauled it around the back to the dumpster. Slowly, bit by bit, I heaved it inside and slammed the lid shut with an echoing clang. I thought I was done with it for good. Now whenever someone looked at me, they wouldn’t see a trace of that old, heavy thing.

I wore white T-shirts, glad instead of mortified at their slight transparency. No binder straps to show through. Only the dark shadow of nipples, which had been expertly stitched into place. I wore jewelry for the first time—a thin gold chain around my neck, chunky rings on my fingers. I even invested in aftershave, though I didn’t quite need it yet. 

But the thing about bodies is they don’t like to be buried. Some piece of them always turns up after a while, though in this case, I could be fairly sure it wasn’t going to be the head. 

Sometimes I would catch it walking behind me when I left the movies, following my movements. When I looked back, it would dart into an alleyway, only its fingers creeping back into view. I doubted what I’d seen—just some trick of the imagination. I’d already dealt with it, after all. 

Sometimes I saw it cruising down the highway on a bicycle, peddling frantically to keep pace with the old minivan. The wind whipped at its clothes, pulling them tight against soft flesh, and I had to suck in my gut and step on the gas. 

Sometimes I spotted it out in the woods behind the park, just wandering toward nothing in particular. It would stumble into a tree and lean against it for a moment, considering, then turn around and walk off in the opposite direction. 

I used to be afraid that other people would notice, and sometimes they do. Sometimes they point as it scurries back into hiding: “What the fuck is that thing?”

I just shrug. I’ve gotten used to it lingering, always somewhere nearby. We keep our distance from each other. I still feel a little bad for it out there, just wandering. But I’m glad it got the fuck out of that dumpster.

Caleb Weinhardt is a queer and trans fiction writer from Portland, Oregon. When he's not writing stories, he enjoys hiking with his dog, Winnie, and making music. His work has been featured in Transformations, an anthology of classics retold with trans characters, by Carnation Books.


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