I am not crying in the gynecologist's office, wearing a paper dress--I tried this once before, in the boarding high school, when news papers and shower curtains stitched into skirts sufficed for rebellion--on the sterilized counter a birth control company has sponsored a larger-than-life model of my reproductive system. It looks like something you’d find in a biology class. It can be taken apart in chunks and the tubes are color coded in the same hues as It’s a Girl! and It’s A Boy! gifts. But something is off, so I inch forward feeling like a pervert at the edge of the paper-covered table, leaning in to see the anatomy more clearly.
We’re driving off campus in school uniforms and Ashley’s new-to-her Jeep Wrangler. It has zippers around the windows and I am in awe of them: Zippers. To hold windows. Even though I can feel the inefficiency of the design in the February cold I think: I could sew a car.
I already know all about this, but Ashley says: “Did you know that your pee hole is different from your fuck hole?”
Distracted by her terminology I pause. Recalling my own fascination, roughly twelve years before while dressing myself after a bath, I consider these holes. “Of course,” I say finally, thinking not of the holes but of her discovery of them, and so late. “Didn’t you?”
As I say it I know it sounds snobbish, but we’re in biology together, she’s had a vagina nearly two decades by now, and it’s a rare moment when I know more about the function of these body parts than she does--I can’t help but enjoy it.
“No.” She admits simply, without embarrassment.
“How did you find out?” I’m thinking about books, and the internet is becoming a thing. I am notpicturing her finding out on her own.
“I--you know. Just looked.”
I nod. Despite the inexplicable delay in curiosity, this makes sense. I can’t quite imagine her picking up our text book after a shift at K-Mart, so the image of her crystalizes: her in the same hunched position I’d been in as a five-year-old, pushing things around and taking inventory, the picture feels only a little awkward with her near-adult body: the pubic hair and breasts I could not have imagined as a child. But to discover something so new in your body as an adult, I thought, must have been terrifying.
The model is labeled with fine print and I slide down and off the disposable sheet to get a better look. I am already nothearing the news I’m sure the doctor will give me when she comes back to study my cervix like I am studying this giant plastic organ. I convince myself that by reading and rereading the scientific names I can learn my way out of my own body, I can stitch together my too-generous flesh with this unfeeling one, where no cells grow into horrifying masses.
Finally the name next to the speck that caught my eye comes into focus: Urethra. No, I think, getting up for a closer look: It’s not quite the right place, it’s too small, I look down at my paper lap and think about what I’ve seen there. But there’s no mistaking the small black lettering, and like that, I have to let it go.
Tatiana Ryckman, Holes
American, b. 1986, playing from Austin, TX, USA
Tatiana Ryckman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and writes from Austin, Texas. She is the editor of The Austin Review and her work has been published with Keyhole Press, Tin House's The Open Bar, theNewerYork, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Unshod Quills, and Marco Polo Arts Mag.
Thoughts on the Telephone progress
In the time between being accepted to participate and seeing the work I would be translating I became very nervous that I would "fail" or be uninspired by the work I received. However, when I looked at the work I would be translating for the first time I couldn't believe my luck. I'd had a story festering in me for some weeks and that single image not only forced it out of me, but guided the writing and kept it focused and specific. Overall I thought it was a wonderful challenge and the sort of collaborative work that I'd love to do more of.