I never loved Sylvia, no—but she was sweet and somewhat stupid and she stood as tall as I; so I knew she was the one. Those were, more or less, my criteria.

Everyone knew we wouldn’t last:—but what good thing does? On auburn autumn days I liked to sit upon the knoll that sloped behind the sun-starved library and there pretend to read; whenever a pretty girl sat remotely by a curious warmth ran through me, and I would conjure up our lives in love in technicolor daydreams. All of these visions bored me. But when I first saw Sylvia, laying lithely in a lemon dress with ribbons in her hair, our lives seemed bound by fate.

Strategically I placed within her vision my very visible self, and draped upon my countenance the colors of gloom. Women love this, for it reminds them of themselves. Before my morbid moods and subtle sobs she was quite helpless, having no choice but to ask, “Is there something I can do?”

“Yes,” I offered meekly up; “come with me to dinner.”

It was Nietzsche, I believe, who said that slaves and tyrants live alike in the figure of a woman; to understand a woman is to understand a man at his most vital and most vicious. One must peer through feline eyes, feel through savage paws, live inside their skin. Which is all I ever wanted from Sylvia. Little things betray so much:—how she thought leggings passed acceptably for pants; how she used “class” synonymously for “culture”; how she ordered salmon over sea bass.

Upon her surface brimmed that girlish glee that doesn’t mask as it confirms the vindictive, vengeful, hateful other half of a whole bitch.

By dinner’s end the night was young and veins of purple stained the marbled evening. But I had plenty work to do, and could not be bothered for a drink; so I walked her merrily home. I recall how cold her palm had felt in mine. I remember reaching for a kiss in spirit, but retreating in real life. Though satisfied by the night’s results I to this day regret this, for she was a pretty girl, and pretty girls are fun to kiss. It would have been no unpleasant way to spend our last concurrent breaths.

Most pretty girls carry about their bodies a bewitching, dainty odor, like an April daisy’s blossom, or like jasmine; quite often looks alone can make their scent enchanting. How intoxicating it is to be before a fragile female, if only for her fragrance! The same cannot be said about a corpse:—for when you separate from bone her supple skin you smell how foul she is from within. I had to wash my hands twice to cease the stench, before beginning to sew and stitch.

And that, or so the story goes, is how I became a woman—in all other ways she was a perfect fit.

Los Angeles, 2011.

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