My back against crinkle on vinyl and feet stirruped and suspended, the doctor inspects my abdomen for hair. The starched blond nurse behind him, jotting notes on a clipboard. “Do you shave, Jane?” he asks pleasantly, but he knows without seeing the small, trapped hairs like ants under a layer of fine sand. He has seen my blood work: testosterone rising like an astrological birthright, like it’s filled with helium. I show him anyway—I am a good patient, I give out the antidote to the invisible ink. Not just my legs. Not just my arms, wisps falling in a neat line like Catholic school children in fear of the ruler. Under my shirt, there are millimeters-thick spikes poking like cacti, caravan marching from my breasts across the desert of my belly.
I point to where I have uprooted stalks on my chin, where I have combined powder and bleach and smeared on paste as my mother taught me at age eight. I show him where I have worked my tweezers around swollen red lumps like soldiers’ feet across grenades. I imagine the nurse taking a black marker to draw dots on my paper doll medical self.
They are between my legs now. Over my bare lower half, I can see the tops of their heads over the sheet draped there, foam green like the tail of a waxed smooth mermaid. “Look, Mindy,” the doctor says. Mindy’s head disappears as if dipping underwater.
“No androgenization whatsoever,” the doctor says, and until then I hadn’t understood how they were expecting biological rarity, organs breathing fire, the wild woman of Borneo.
None,” Mindy agrees. “Perfect.”
Kathryn Ionata is the author of the chapbook Yield Signs Don’t Exist (PS Books, 2016). She has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry and her work has appeared in The Toast, The Best of Philadelphia Stories, Cleaver Magazine, Hawai’i Review, and elsewhere. Her family hails from Molise, Umbria, and Calabria; she has had only occasional success in recreating their inscrutable recipes. You can find her on Twitter @katieionata