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In my big voice, I break. “My greatest regret is wasting time.”

Blue eggs of estrogen rot in me, and hot veins worm my legs, a rare complication of attempting medical transition near forty.

“I’ll prescribe time travel,” the doctor says.

Please.” I wave my big hands, not three feet across the room but drowning.

She tosses me a last chance, a bottle of pills—B for short, experimental, side effects unknown. “Consult your loved ones,” she adds. “You could dissociate unpredictably, if that isn’t clear.”

“Crystal,” I answer, half listening, my heart already in pieces.

 


 

To wish not being trans is to wish not being. I’m a lump of wet wool at the window.

My partner, a purple shadow, tiptoes the apartment. “Saved you the last donut,” Ro tries.

“The cruller?” I’m crueler, a twisted loop of grief.

“Reminded me of you,” he says. “Prettiest of the dozen.”

I unspool in his arms. Estrogen-allergic women are still women, I want to believe. Betrayed by my body, fearful that B will burn me or worse, who am I but lost? Time travel … What I wouldn’t give to be real.

Ro jackets our whippet, and my loves brave the unexpected winter flurry. Their footsteps dot-dash the blank. Ro doesn’t frown at the stamp of his dragging heel. He smiles, I imagine, at how the snow glitters in their imprints, happier without me.

“Pic? ;)” RedRumbus messages.

Ro encouraged me to make a friend on BDSMLR to spark my sex drive. Likely an extension of my masochism, I attempt a bedroom selfie. Mouth punctured with stubble, I shoot myself overdone in makeup. In the photo, I’m not goth, only sad, not second puberty, yet frozen in an awkward phase, what Mom once declared “Peter Pan syndrome.”

Mid lie about how wet … I put the phone down.

Between the sherbet eye shadow and me, I see her. Choking under a tide of nostalgia, I recall Crystal, the first queer kid I ever met, and her courage—a girl and yet … ?

The world over, Google can’t find her.

“You dressed up for me?” Ro smirks in the doorway.

I swallow my first B pill, sick of saying, “No.”

 


 

For two years, the worst side effect is dry mouth. Increasingly nervous, my doctor moves our regular checkups to a lab out of a sci-fi movie where I glimpse researchers in mauve lab coats and diagrams like knots of bread that make me hungry for living.

At home, Ro nurses me with words of affirmation and peppermint gum. B-ing heals me beyond the “adverse antiaging effects.” My groove returns. In half the time, I’m the woman I always knew I was, or would be, what estrogen couldn’t do. I barely trust my joy.

For my fortieth, Ro suggests we “go big.”

“Wedding? Sex party? Both?” I kid. Dysphoria? I don’t even know her unless shoe shopping.

Safe on the hill of his chest in a Barcelona hotel, I admit, “People say, ‘Love yourself.’ I thought it only meant respect. Like when a good parent says they think their kid is cool. I care for me like a loved one.”

“I see you, baby,” Ro says. He always has.

Eyes wet, kisses wetter. I’m shaking. For the first time, I want nothing to change.

 


 

Social media recommends refriending Mom, and I dare scroll her.

“Had so much fun with my sons yesterday!!” she commented eleven minutes ago under an old photo of my bio-family and masc-me ice skating.

Concerned for her sobriety, I call, though it’s been years. Dad doesn’t recognize my voice. “Crazy bitch,” he says on the second try, and in the background, I hear me—you, laughing at him before the call ends.

The internet whirlpools until I’m gawking at a forum post about A-selves and B-selves and time travel. “IDGAF,” one user says, “B is the fountain of youth.” “Whoever dies last lives forever,” the thread ends.

I emergency-call my doctor, expecting to hear side effects include hallucination of a second self.

“I wasn’t speaking metaphorically,” she explains. “You’re a woman because you will never have lived as a man.” B revises timelines. It diverted my past onto a parallel track with one time-space snag. As my A-self rewinds to nonexistence, I’ll age backward through adolescence, girlhood.

“And then?”

Her sigh is a crashing wave. “You’re in the longest running trial.”

I paraphrase, and Ro stomps to the toilet, rattling my bottle of gelatinous prisms.

Don’t,” I beg, the math of losses and gains blurry.

“For how long?” he demands. He won’t watch another cure hurt me.

We can only cry. I can’t go back. I’m not on the other side.

 


 

We leave messages for each other: amateur theories, emotional support, makeup tips. One user insists we’re casualties of a military-big pharma collab. “So, you’re going to stop?” ends the thread. Another user plans to ignore the doctors’ warnings and “fold”—meet their past self to alter their personal history. They believe their biological present will reattach to the Central Timeline, a chance at normal. We wish them, “Good travel.”

“You willing to risk that?” Ro says, not saying no.

The age gap is fun—until fighting about my snipped curls in the bathroom sink. “OK, Dad,” I say, and the difference glares, side by side in the mirror.

Standing in a downpour outside your college apartment, I steam over how our parents love(d) you. Soaked on the street corner, a familiar crew cut waits for the light to change. You notice me, and I remember her—me, the cute goth with the whippet.

If this has happened already, are you raining on my timeline, or am I raining on yours?

As I pass, you hope I’ll laugh about your lack of umbrella, give you a reason to speak. Between us, a river of time roars. I would give anything not to have your life is all I can think to say. You won’t hear me. Swept apart, I hate that I worry for you.

 


 

My bones shrink and ache, as if elves mine my marrow.

“Love means growing useless together,” jokes my gray-templed angel on his sixtieth.

We skip districts to dodge sharp teachers. Still, I make school friends. My first (last) kiss, my first (last) crush—a full redo. The time I slug the boy who bullies girls. The time …

We bury Bernadette. Ro is too upset to rescue another pup.

“Maybe you should?” He revisits folding. If it were up to him, I would live forever. Although our relationship has changed, it’s love.

Few of us post anymore, maybe folded, maybe not. In a better place, I hope.

B runs one commercial, “Be PTSD-free,” followed by a heart-attack lawsuit. Before the recall, my doctor offers me boxes of pill bottles for three lifetimes. “I hope your quality of life raised to what you deserve, despite how,” she says, retires.

Big words are fuzzy, but I can read. My handwriting shivers across the letters I’m leaving Ro, pages of heart-dotted I love yous, stick drawings of us with tall smiles. The years race. I take every chance.

 


 

Eighty trips around the sun, I’m dying of “acute childhood leukemia.” On the drive home from the hospital, I thank Ro for loving me.

“We haven’t come this far …” he starts.

I make him promise he’ll adopt another dog, take a pottery class, be the nursing home slut.

Against my bedroom window, a nest-building robin snaps its neck. I choose to fold the circle.

Ro enrolls me in your first grade. Hawaiian shirt, neon makeup, pixie cut—prepuberty is pure possibility, and I’m wildly nonbinary.

You’re easy. At recess, we leave the playground for the grass. You hold the picture book’s front cover. I hold the back. We help each other sound out words. It’s weird, reading beside you. You don’t know yet why we never forget her.



Crystal Odelle (they/she) is a queer trans writer, chapbooks editor at Newfound, and author of the novel Goodnight. Their flash stories have appeared in beestung, Passages North, Peach Mag, [PANK], Hobart, and elsewhere. Crystal was a Tin House Scholar and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Find her on Instagram at crystal_ography.
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