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Secession, XX On the thirteenth day following fertilization, "we" found "ourselves" with three X's and a Y to work with, so it didn't take brain surgeons, or even budding geneticists, for the excessive zygote we were to figure out how best to assemble ourselves. We were the thwarted hermaphrodite splitting defiantly down the middle, reconciled to sharing intestines, a bit of pelvis, perhaps a spleen, but not everything . We knew enough each to claim an X, and then I said Girl and yanked the other X out of the communal The biological impossibilityof our zygosityproved no deterrent to my sister. XXOO, she signed our postcards from summer camp (where we were the envy of all sack racers).This valediction was not meant to signify affectionate gestures, vouchers for kisses and hugs that could be cashed in upon our return (she occasionally drew half arrows shooting northeast out of the O's to make this unmistakably clear). It was she on the left and I on the right. To her, I was absence from the 149 stewpot. He (to be) looked on and blinked, so in burgeoning disgust I finally punted the crippled X, amputee, that hobbling, one-legged Y,over to It, deciding his Himness. I could see that He ne It, future brow in a phantom crimp, would have pondered ontological mind-benders all day had I not taken decisive action. Where would we be now had I been as equivocal as we seemed fated to be? Perhaps swappingsex like shoes—today the yob, testicles descending, Florsheims polished and reflecting redundant chins as we bent to tie them; tomorrow a filly, donning a frock, legs crossed tightly as the clasp of a coin purse, retracting the truncheon, passing it under the table like a secret, internal relay, MaryJanes kicking the curious dog as he wags by sniff-sniffing. You can imagine what fatiguing work it would be to cobble together an identity out of such fleshy ambivalence . So I drew a line in start. The space harnessed, circumscribed by Her. She told me once she'd dreamt boys were small as beetles, and she caught them and put them in killing jars, prodding them with a pencil when they got too lippy, feeding them blades of grass through the holes in the lid when they pleaded for rations. We performed theater in the summer, on a stage of rickety orange crates covered in burlap. She wrote soliloquies for me that invariably ended: HIM: (spoken plaintively) Y, y me? She made my circulation quicken, her desperation for sovereign contours. 150 the genetic sand and it has divided us (zippered together though we are like conjoined sleeping bags) ever since. Some nights I stroke his face as he sleeps, feel a tingle in my own. I will him not to stir and he doesn't. He heeds the messages I send him through the beats of our hearts, palpitations we've learned to compose and decipher like Morse code—thumthump thumpity-thump: Don't Move. And I know he does the same to me, caresses me in sleep as intimately as congenital disease. A residue of sensation sometimes pinks my throat as I wake in the morning. Naturally, we do everything together. Even if we weren't soldered along the torso, I don't think he would ever have left my side (though he dreamed of little else). When we were children, our parents always told us they were doubly blessed, as they grinned at us tragically. And so are you, they'd insist, having as we did the peculiar honor of sharing Her cool fingers against my cheek made me well up uncomfortably with tender feeling , and I'd begin to gulp air. It was as though I'd been knocked on my back and was struggling to recover lost breath. I did not think of her in these moments. It was my mouth I imagined kissing. I never ache to leave her, though I do occasionally dream of receiving postcards sent from places with brightly plumed tropical birds or slick-haired dictators on the stamps. XX, she signs them simply so I know it's her. w skin and bone, internal organs bridging that gulf of Otherness that renders the rest of humanity small and cheerless, discrete, forsaken (honor schmonor, anima and animus warring under one tent, launching missiles in a relentless covert land grab, thought I petulantly in those moments when I yearned for autonomy. "Beat...


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