Once upon a time people knew what was best for everybody else. Now we can argue when exactly this date was, and likely make a valid point supporting our view. Yes, this is every era within the evolution of organized civilization and anyone claiming otherwise is a fool. Anyone who believes that it is their generation who has finally solved all social problems will also be proven fools. Many point to the worst experiences (or sometimes the best) of earlier times and marvel over how people used to be so small and so narrow. So intolerant. And then they shake their heads, smiling smugly about just how far they’ve come. Often they dream of locking those bigots away, stripping them of their rights. Of giving them a taste of their own medicine.
Rogue Maxwell and Calliope Troydon-Maxwell had been married just over three months by the time she had her third abortion. The two of them had been together for almost seven years. Neither of them believed in the concept of ‘marriage.’ Theirs had been an open relationship since before they had even been a couple (Rogue had been formerly one of Calliope’s other sexual partners.) The only reason they’d gotten married at all was because the tattoo studio Rogue was partial owner of closed, and they desperately needed money. Calliope’s income at the local head shop Premium Euphoric simply was not enough to pay the rent. It was fortunate for both of them that they each had wealthy parents.
The two of them at first did not want children. They spoke to their friends (rarely with one another) about just how much a screaming brat would fuck up their lives. “Kids are assholes!” Rogue had repeatedly boasted to laughter, himself still in his 20s and having made no personal gains since high school.
Calliope was more thoughtful and far harsher in her assessments on motherhood. She ranged from humanitarian (“I couldn’t bring a child into this fucked up world,”) to environmentalist (“Overpopulation is the leading cause of global warming!”), to the adamantly selfish (“If I have this fucking parasite,” she told her friends over a variety of vodka cocktails numerous times, “I won’t be able to party with you bitches as much!” This was received with a like-minded chorus, usually of “fuck that(s)!” and “Woo-hoo(s)” and other noises and squawks from the days and years before when the girls had cut classes at community college to get good and day drunk.)
Up until their friends began to drift and, hypocritically, and began to “settle down,” both Calliope and Rogue were steady in their thinking, getting high every night, going to concerts when the rare group they hadn’t written off as sell-outs came to town, hanging out at the bars with their increasingly younger friends, and then going to after parties in warehouses, usually thrown by older burnouts with drugs to sell. These were the sort of people Calliope started fearing she might someday become if nothing continued to happen.
Calliope had been a brilliant yet angry child. Spectacularly imaginative, she had once considered herself an artist whose vision would change the future. Now she designed the smeary psychedelic walls at Premium Euphoric to the high-winded praise of her co-workers and the few regulars always in the market seeking a new bong.
Rogue, for his part, had dreamed himself as the tattoo artist to his favorite punk rock and thrash metal stars. He had once actually met Bones from the Lower Class Brats. The man had admired one of Rogue’s tattoos, the one of the horned warlord slaughtering the masses with fire and brimstone. Bones had asked him who designed it and Rogue humbly admitted that it was himself. “Cool,” Bones had said, flexing his arm to display the symbolic violence of one of his own. They shook hands. Rogue expected Bones to enter his shop just around the corner after the show.
The two of them were unhappy together, both of them arguing politics all the time. Neither of them knew much of anything about whom or what ran the world outside of the punk rock conspiracy theories they are their friends debated in hipster bars until well past closing time. They hated every president of the US and could find nothing positive to say about any of them. Even Abraham Lincoln fell under their scorn, allegations that he never really ended slavery but merely made it so Southerners could profit legally in the changing society. He imposed “contracts,” one of them (anonymously) stated, citing no facts other than a drunken opinion, followed by group laughter and toasts.
They were both unconquerably liberal, but not in the traditional sense of seeking a better world for everyone. No, they were profoundly negative about everything, watching for the swirling mists of oppression that still existed, but had dissipated into the air, brainwashing everyone with its stink.
Calliope liked to attend protests; carrying signs reading what she figured were profound statements that could change the course of the world. They read, “FUCK TRUMP” and “BITCHES MATTER.” She was a straight white girl (although see had dabbled unsatisfactorily with lesbianism from time to time, each episode increasingly tense because she could not understand why the bitch couldn’t make her cum). She shouted that “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and “ALL WHITE MEN ARE TERRORISTS.” She was arrested at three times at Trans and LGBTQ+ marches, all of them making proud declarations about the seventy-two, or so, different genders the leaders had devised. Calliope had spit on a cop twice, calling him a “fucking fascist pig,” while the third time, which saw her in jail for almost a week, was the result of her throwing a rock at a counter protester who had called her a “stupid dyke.”
During these events Rogue was usually at home, getting high or sleeping, playing video games, watching movies, or masturbating. He usually did nothing during the daytime, angry if woken before noon. Sometimes he would head out to one of his regular bars and hang in the mostly empty chamber with one of his bartender friends, talking to and occasionally even fucking some drunken slag that had lost something important in her life, or had maybe just been diagnosed with cancer. But it was an “honest life,” he told himself. “I am true to myself. I would never willingly hurt anyone.”
Calliope was twenty-eight when she got pregnant for the fourth time. The child was probably not Rogue’s, but neither of them thought too much about this. Unexpectedly Calliope said, “If it’s a girl, I think we should keep it.” Rogue barely heard her, taking another pull from the new hookah-styled vaporizer she had brought home from work. “Okay,” he finally said, blowing out the smoke and coughing. “This shit is really strong.”
Eventually Calliope decided she should probably see an OB-GYN to make sure that all the drinking and drugs hadn’t fucked up her daughter. When the doctor–a woman, of course; she wouldn’t stand for some creepy old man peering into her pussy!–spread the gel on her stomach and roved the scanners around it was discovered, to Calliope’s horror, that it was a boy after all. Again! She had aborted three of those little assholes and now she was faced with the dilemma of ending a fourth! Fuck! She was too tired for this! The last time, last year, the procedure had made her sick for a month. Those fuckers were tearing up her insides–probably on purpose!–because they didn’t think some hard rocking, tattooed, super cool chick like her could be a good mother. She just needed to wait; she had told the people at Planned Parenthood, embarrassed and even a little ashamed. She needed to get her life in order to offer a good time for a child.
Fuck it, she told herself finally. I’ll have the kid. I’ll deal with it. She asked, “Are you sure it’s a boy? Can’t I have a second opinion?”
Rogue was given the task of researching “gender reversal” procedures that might exist somewhere in the world. There was a brief mention of something called the SRY gene, and without reading any more about it he excitedly told Calliope that he had found the solution. Much to Calliope’s rage it turned out that the process had not even yet been perfected in the date palm plants that were the subject of the study. She punched Rogue in the face for this and called him a “stupid pussy-assed fucking asshole.” He laughed. They both got high and had sex.
After long procrastination and hope, Calliope finally decided she would get another abortion. She was eight months pregnant at the time. On her way into the clinic she encountered a protest outside. The aggressively tame people shouted bible verses and prayers. Some of them were pleaded while a handful of others were viciously condemnatory. They held bloody pictures that looked like graphic designs and special effects. One or two of them might have been real, but they were clearly an anomaly even within the standard practice. The crowd was a group of hypocritical lairs, Calliope thought. They were every bit as insincere as their perpetually outraged opposition on college campuses.
Calliope was filled with rage. She started yelling at one of them, screaming “There is no God!” and the standard chimes of “My body, my choice . . . asshole!” She was consumed with righteousness going in and was even more incensed on her way out when they told her she was much too far along to end her pregnancy. She had a tantrum in the room, throwing things around. She tore the box of used syringes and other hazardous waste off the wall, telling the nurse that she hoped she got AIDS from one of them. When she finally stomped outside, her face full of tears, an an old woman told her that she would pray for her. Calliope exploded. “Fuck your prayers you stupid fucking cunt! Fuck you! Fuck you!” One of the security guards at the clinic raced over and pulled the girl away, whispering to her to calm down. She was quiet then, mostly, except when several of the smug bible thumpers shouted lines like “You’re going to burn in Hell, sinner,” and “God is vengeful! If you turn from the lord your child will be antichrist!” The last one truly stopped her. “Good!” she yelled, finding herself suddenly funny. “Good! I hope it is! I fucked Satan after all, anyway!” And she howled with laughter as the guard escorted her back to the car where Rogue was sleeping behind the wheel.
“They wouldn’t fuck do it!” Calliope shouted, jarring Rogue awake.
“The fuck?” he said, rattled, not having heard what she’d said. He was angry. It was still only ten AM. “Why’d you fucking wake me?”
They were silent and simmering all the way home.
After the child was born–healthy, although only five pounds and two ounces–Calliope decided she knew what she was going to do with it. Rogue had no say anyway–her body, her child–and it’s not like he actually cared. He had recently gotten involved with a few especially radical Antifa members, and Calliope’s physical state at the time kept her from following him. All of the sudden he was a serious person, enraged by the widespread corruption in America, attacking the obvious fascism of big business and whoever else ran the government with similar tactics to their own. They were going to stop everything they wanted to do. They were going to overthrow the government. It was now Rogue’s plan to impose a new law book on the nation, outlawing hate speech, outlawing actual hatred under the penalty of death. He saw homophobes being re-educated and forced into gay sex, saw religious people forced to renounce their God in public ceremonies, and wished that every right-wing asshole would just be shot on site so the world could be a better place. “This is progress, motherfuckers!” Rogue would shout in the streets through a bullhorn, barely muffled by the mask he wore to cover his face.
Most of these ideas came from Calliope, and she resented Rogue for stealing them from her. But at least it was something. At least it was a step toward social justice.
She decided to raise the child–Tracy–as a girl. She painted a room in pink with swirling flowers. There were rainbows and sunshine everywhere, and the fluffy animals and lovely African-American dollies were all they had to play with. And they loved it, Tracy loved it! They wore frilly, pretty onesies, had flowers and bows in their hair, and eventually graduated into cute little dresses. Their ears were pieced twice before their first birthday. They had their nails painted black. Their penis was mostly taped up near their butt crack, only the hole to the urethra free so urine could dribble out. Calliope had fallen in love with Tracy–they became her entire world. She knew how she was going to raise them. She knew the values that her angel needed to learn. She was going to be a good mother–the best mother!–and help raise a new generation of completely ‘woke’ children.
Five years later Tracy was becoming a problem. They kept uptaping the penis and fiddling with it. They began getting rough, finding balls around the house and throwing them. They had temper tantrums and screamed for ice cream. This was a vegan household. Even vegan ice cream Calliope suspected had traces of animal byproducts mixed in.
Rogue had disappeared two years prior, but had come back about six months earlier. He had a new pregnant girlfriend. Calliope had sworn off men entirely. When he showed up with his whore she would not let him in to see Tracy. She told him the child had died and slammed the door in his face.
Tracy was almost instantly bullied on their first day at school. One rough kid even called him “a faggot.” The kindergarten teacher was torn. She was very liberal herself, very much in support of broader civil rights for everyone, but there was no question that this was a little boy in a dress. Everyone could see it, through the long hair and painted nails. The face was entirely masculine. His–no, their eyes and eyelashes bled boyhood. The other children certainly saw this. And while Ms. Garbon tried to protect Tracy, singling them out as one of her favorites, the obviousness of the deception–and of the possibly abusive perversion of the mother–was creating more and more problems. Other parents were complaining, and although they were morally bankrupt arguments, filled with their own prejudice and hatred, if the entire class refused to accept Tracy, what was she supposed to do?
Calliope went on a warpath. She went to community and school council meetings and called everyone–even Ms. Garbon–bigots, and threatened lawsuits. They were trying to ban Tracy from going to the girl’s bathroom! “What?” Calliope shouted in one pompous man’s face, “Are you afraid my five year old is going to rape that little whore of yours?” Everything was chaos and everyone seemed to despise Calliope, which was fine with her. She was ‘woke,’ and they were all fucking imbeciles! She discussed this with the few friends she had remaining, women almost entirely like her in looks, in values, in beliefs and perceptions. They all nodded their heads in agreement. People were assholes. People would never learn.
When they were eight Tracy insisted they wanted to play little league baseball. They were given an angry “No!”
“Sports are for morons! Are you a moron?”
“But I want to plaaaaaay. David is on the team and he invited me.”
This was new. David? Who the fuck was David? “Who’s this ‘David?’” She made the air quotes visual.
“He’s my friend.”
“And he plays sports?”
“Will they even let you on the team?”
“David’s dad is the coach.”
She thought for a moment and then shook her head. “No. No no, sweetie,” she said, taking the condescending parental tone she had always hated prior to Tracy’s birth. “No, I’m sure it’s a trick. They’re playing a trick on you. They don’t really want you on their team. They want to laugh at you.”
Tracy glared at his mother. They blazed a look of complete hatred. “No, mommy. I want to play.”
“Excuse me?” Calliope responded as though she had overheard a sexist comment in a conversation she had nothing to do with.
“I want to play baseball.” There was a pause. Tracy then did something unforgivable. They began to take their clothes off. They ripped the dress and tossed it on the floor. “I don’t want to wear dresses anymore!” They removed their panties and training bra and threw them at Calliope. Then they untaped their penis and stood there naked. “I want to be a boy!” they shouted. “I want to be a boy!” Then Tracy broke down in tears. Calliope had no idea what to do.
Calliope grabbed Tracy, hugged them tight. She said “Shhhhh,” and tried to comfort him. An idea came into her head. “Shhhhh,” she whispered again. “Tracy . . . Tracy. It’s okay. Everything will be okay.”
Tracy withdrew and pulled back, their tears stopping, only their eye liner staining their face. “You don’t have to be anything, boy or girl. You can be gender-neutral. You can just be yourself.”
Sniffling Tracy looked his mother in the eye. “Really?”
“Of course! It’s pretty common now. It’s even popular! You wait and see! Once you get into middle school you’ll find that a lot of children are gender-neutral!”
“But what about the bathroom?”
“You can go wherever you want!”
Tracy thought for a moment. “I want to go in the boy’s room.”
Calliope frowned, and then shook it away. “I’m sure me and some of the other parents can get a safe space third bathroom for all of the special kids like you.”
“Do I have to wear a dress?”
“Only if you want to.” Calliope glanced down at herself, at her black band t-shirt, her black jeans and the studded belt and bracelets and bangles. “When have you ever seen me in a dress?”
Tracy smiled. “Well there was that one time . . .”
Calliope laughed. “Don’t remind me! You father’s wedding! You looked way prettier than me!”
“I can wear a dress sometimes,” Tracy said, reconciled with their mother.
“I love you, baby,” Calliope said, once more embracing them.
“I love you too, mommy.”
Eventually, in their far more rebellious high school years, Tracy once more decided they were a boy. They demanded hormone therapy to make them into a him. They even decided that the gender pronouns were going to be set. He was male. He was a him. And the older he got the more he rejected his mother’s ideas, her values, her beliefs and her perceptions. He would vote Republican. He would declare himself against LGBTT2/TQQIAA rights. He would marry a Republican girl and raise Republican children. He would not visit his mother, and would rush her off the phone those increasingly rare and pathetic times she called. He was much closer to his in-laws, who loved his righteousness.
One of the last times Tracy spoke with his mother she told him that she was dying. She wasn’t, or at least not really, no more than anyone else is slowly dissolving back into the earth. But she said this, trying to get his sympathy. Tracy merely grunted.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Hysterical, Calliope shouted, “Don’t you even care? Don’t you care about anything I ever tried to teach you? How did you become this . . . this thing?”
“It’s your fault,” was all he said before he hung up.
Calliope stared at the phone, baffled. She could not understand where she went wrong. She sat there, looked around her apartment. She stood and looked out the one window into the alleyway. She was getting ready to head out to one of the bars, where she was slowly becoming aware that she was the sad old slag on a stool, waiting for someone to ask to fuck her. She glared at the youngsters she saw, bouncing around on their skateboards and blasting endlessly repetitious whatever-kind-of-music it was. They were calling one another names, probably slurs, but she did not understand them. Calliope shook her head, her vision slumped down to the floor. Maybe someone will wake them all up someday, she told herself. “What is wrong with kids these days?” She ambled out the door and into the street.
©2019, 2020 Lance Polin