12 March 2010

"The Male Woman"

By Curtis C. Chen

On Monday morning, Nick and Nora wake up in each other's bodies. It is, as usual, somewhat inconvenient.

The first time it happened, during their honeymoon, they both transitioned quickly from confusion to arousal. It was, after all, the most intimate knowledge each could have of the other's physical form, and it was much easier to demonstrate certain lovemaking techniques without words.

But after the fifth or sixth time, when it had become clear that this was going to be a recurring, irregular, and unpredictable phenomenon, the trading began to annoy more than it excited. After years of marriage, it's just another fact of life.

Today, Nick slaps at the alarm clock, misses, and realizes she's on the wrong side of the bed. She looks at her hands in the gray morning light and sees pale, delicate fingers and long nails.

Nick rolls over and shakes Nora's shoulder. "Wake up," she says, more shrilly than she intended.

The other body in the bed stirs. The head lifts away from the pillow, and a sleepy baritone voice mutters something unprintable.

"Happy Monday," Nick says.


They shower together, but only out of habit, lacking passion or interest. Nora finishes first, leaving Nick alone to rinse herself. She can tell Nora's in a mood, and she can't even distract herself enough to enjoy the feel of her soft, soapy breasts in her wet hands.

After turning off the water, Nick fumbles with the bath towels, bending forward and trying to get her long, wet hair wrapped up. Nick always has trouble with this part. Nora steps over to help.

"Thanks," Nick says, feeling his hands on her shoulders. Nora deftly twists the towel around Nick's head, then tucks the edge underneath the fabric at the nape of her neck, completing the terry cloth turban.

Nick straightens up and feels lightheaded. Her stomach starts doing somersaults. She recognizes the feeling of nausea in time to maneuver herself over the toilet before the vomiting starts.

The sickness passes quickly, and after Nick washes her mouth out at the sink, she sees Nora watching her in the mirror.

"Something you want to tell me?" Nick asks.

Nora looks down at the floor. "It just started yesterday. I wasn't sure..."

"And you didn't want to say anything," Nick says, "because you're not sure I'm the father."

Nora looks up, his eyes glistening with tears. "I'm so sorry, Nick. I didn't mean to—it just happened—"

"I don't want to hear it!"

Nick marches from the bathroom with quick, precise steps and retreats to the bedroom. She leans back on the bedroom door, closing it, then sighs happily and smiles to herself.

Nora doesn't know how much Nick looks forward to their trade days. And now Nick can feign anger and stay late at work tonight. She's sure that young stud from the mailroom will be happy to take her in the supply closet again. And again, and again. Nick hopes her boy toy has the same color eyes as whoever's been banging Nora.


Photo: mannequin on bench at Wall Drug; Wall, South Dakota, July, 2008.