I eat pluots with reddish mottled skin and yellow or red flesh, and dark shiny muscadine grapes from street vendors in Chinatown. I eat amaranth leaves, malabar spinach, taiwanese si gua, or “luffa” gourds, and shop for a new tote bag, the better to go to dates on, while having enough heft or room for heavy books or boxes of tofu to read or haul back on the subway ride from Adam’s cave in Manhattan to my small bright room in Brooklyn. I soak and boil green chickpeas, large fava beans, adzuki beans, white quinoa, and brown rice, and eat expensive croissants, one with strawberry filling, or cream-filled breads and doughnuts from Korean bakeries, or from Takahachi in the financial district. I don’t have a starter anymore, or time to bake, so I try a ten-dollar loaf of sourdough bread from Frenchette, and another time I buy a baguette from around the corner. I ride my bike as fast as possible on the Hudson River Greenway, and compete with aggressive, and sometimes strikingly muscular bike commuters. My waist measures a little under 24" in the morning.

I am, in theory, available to boundless men. I am Walt Whitman. Walt was from Long Island! But I am not Walt Whitman, and I am on Long Island. I feel the fatigue of dealing with endless profiles on dating apps, profiles which emit little text or text which promises no form of connection, and all that there is is the basic premise that I seem good-looking. But on the train, last Wednesday, I noticed a man smile and look at me.

The time and frequency of these smirks across the aisle keep me from being able to return to my own world; I’m cowed by the force of this flirtation; if I look away, it’s clear that I’m ignoring him. He’s dark-skinned and attractive and I wonder if he’s a doctor, a scientist of South Asian descent. This is a long stretch of the train ride between Manhattan and Brooklyn, so I have plenty of time to think over the situation, and as the train approaches Atlantic Avenue I decide to ask him what the bundle of papers in his hands contains; he tells me they’re a price list for some parts, for something I can’t hear, and asks me if I’d write my phone number down on that bundle. I do, and we exit the train at the same station, in order to transfer to different lines. I discover that he’s from Libya, that he’s 39, that he’s a civil architect of some kind, that he wants to do a PhD in neuroscience, that he’s affiliated with an organization called the “School of Practical Philosophy,” that he has a car and that he went on a cross-country road trip during the pandemic. He tells me he’d like to take me to a restaurant somewhere in Queens. Later, I find his text messages overly frequent, and full of emojis, projecting an air of cloying desperation or the simple assumption that girls want to be coddled. He asks if I’d like to meet in Prospect Park; I deny the date—park dates never work well, and it’s going to rain, and I’m not in a social mood, so I tell him, hours and hours later, that we can meet some other time. A few days later he tells me he’s “thinking of me”—I’m on the way to a date, and then he asks me if he should stop, and reveals that he spoke to me because I projected a “sense of serenity,” and that he was surprised by the “calmness in [my] voice as we talked.” I thank him for the detail, and he leaves me to reach out to him later.

The next time I meet someone on the train—it does happen again—he’s more similar to me. I catch him reading Lacan’s Écrits and ask him which section he’s on; I have a vague awareness of his attractiveness, but I don’t focus on how he looks, I want to know how he talks. We talk about so much in not much time; potato leek soup, Ben Lerner, the perverse structure of the subject, where I’ve lived, how he’s from Cleveland, the expensiveness of groceries, his $13 leeks. I like the details, the leeks, the Ben Lerner; the way he moves to sit next to me, and how close we are as we speak over the noise of the train. He asks me if I’d like for him to give me his number, and I take it down; I wonder if he finds me attractive, it seems like he is single and interested, and I try to look back and see if I can read anything from his voice that would betray an unspoken curiosity. Is he also wondering how old I am? Is he wondering if I’m bad or good? His name’s Ricky.

I can feel myself engorge a little thinking about the potential comfort of sleeping with someone I can talk to, but it’s not love that I see at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel is what I want, pure abstract cylindrical tunnel, the signifier of desire. Perhaps I will be swept into love against my will, but I think I can permanently keep myself at arm’s length from words like “commitment,” which used to matter to me. I want to feel dominant, powerful—I want men to fall in love with me because I represent an ideal, and ágalma. I want to have that and meanwhile snicker about how I’m not ideal, how I’m merely a shell or receptacle for fantasies about me.

Adam, the man I’ve seen twice, is the one I’m on my way to see when I meet Ricky on the train. I had been writing messages with Adam on the app called feeld since late June, during a period of dissatisfaction with Alex that led me to use the app far in advance of my arrival in the city. It was on Alex’s couch that I heard the phone buzz, and saw that I had matched with Adam, and received the first message from him, something strikingly casual and banal about my eyes being very pretty; I responded with something similarly thrown-off about his “outstanding browline.” I had been interested in his profile because he had called himself an ex-PhD and a failed artist, and because in his interests field, he listed only the word “irony,” rather than the typical list of kinks or sexual interests. Otherwise, I liked how he looked because he looked harsh, a little fucked, like the texture of granite, with lots of small angles or facets in his face, or in the tight folds of his white chinos. We quickly launched into some discussion of these three items; he told me he had tried to start an independent website on finance, something like a platform for creative or literary writing in the field. He wrote long messages which seemed to break the form of the chat window; one of them measured twelve centimeters down the vertical. I was immediately reminded of Z on several counts, first in the wordiness of the messages, and secondly in the way that he did have a strong, angular browline. And of course he seemed to be in the straits of the problems that come around a commitment to some intellectual or aesthetic ideal, again like Z, or like me in relation to him. It pleased me to think of him as a recurrence in a series, rather than a novel or complementary addition to a collection. If he were the next Zane, there’d be a quick depth to the association, relationship, encounter, whatever it would be. I became pleasantly invested in the idea of him whenever I wrote back, and tried to take the conversation through interesting twists and turns. I even became nervous that he wouldn’t like me, instead of being nervous that I wouldn’t like him.

We meet outside a bar called “theotheroom” in the West Village, on Perry street—not far from the Sex and the City townhouse, and the SJP Collection, and a Viennese restaurant called Wallsé with nice Ver Sacrum typography in its logo. Of course wealth and its agglomerations, its precipitates, attract me, because wealth is numinous and immaterial, and thus like concepts, symbols, or signs. I don the white culottes I had gotten at the Acne Studios on Horatio street in 2017. They had been the first really expensive piece of clothing I had bought in my life, at the age of nineteen, only a year into having a part-time job. The culottes continue to be a most valued possession, and are suffused for me with all forms of brilliance and signification, in a sense they are the purest object I own. I pair them with the only thing I can really wear them with, a fitted black merino tank, and decide to put on a shade of bright red lipstick, one which I avoid most of the time. The shade is “true red.” This red is impossible to wear in the daytime, but at night it becomes what it is marketed as, true red, a color devoid of reference, not the color of blood, not the color of flesh or of a flame or of a fruit—nothing more or less than “true red.” So, I’m a fancy bitch, walking down there, with all the fancier ladies and men congregating at restaurants and bars, amongst the quiet privacy of the brownstones.

Adam looks like what I had imagined he would be, wearing the same blue button-down and slim-fitting white pants that he had worn in his pictures, and a little on the shorter side, 5’7”. If anything he is more attractive than in pictures, with the glowy softness of real skin, and the sort of lambent flicker of real eyes.

It is super easy to talk, and somehow I don’t feel compromised, I’m not acting the part of a buffoon. We are able to talk about our undergraduate years without it feeling like a long piece of arbitrary information; both of us had been nerds, and had gone to élite institutions, Yale and UChicago, Stanford and Cornell. We speak about non-sexual subject matter with unusual candor—stuff about our intellectual and creative work, the nature of our disaffection. He also shares material about his time in a monastery in Taiwan, and about Conservative vs. Reform vs. Orthodox Judaism, and I share material about my detransition and its relation to my work, and to my epistolary relationships. When I check the time for the first time, it is nearing 1 AM. He offers to walk me to the train, but there’s some hesitation in this remark, and I feel a bit crestfallen, as I had hoped to see the interior of his apartment. Neither of us want to move; it has been raining lightly for a bit and starts to rain a little harder; he’s a bit wet, which I remark on. He asks if we should go indoors, and when we’re seated, I tell him that I typically ask people what they’re thinking about, but that it usually happens earlier in such an encounter, and that this one has gone on with such vigor that there was no need for it.

But I ask it, nevertheless.

“How can one answer that question?”

“Nostalgia for undergraduate study,” he continues.

And then there’s a comment about finding his current work “existentially draining.”

“Do you find sex existentially draining?”

He tells me he had met with someone who he spoke to about Kierkegaard beforehand; she hadn’t included any photos in her profile, and turned out to be “fat as fuck.” But he did it anyway, and felt some form of self-alienation, afterwards. Then he asks me if I wanted to come back to his place. I’m happy to have played his earlier statement in the favored direction. I insert an artificial pause before I answer in the affirmative.

His apartment is full of boxes, with a couch hidden on the other side of the mass of stuff. The set of computers and monitors in his bedroom remind me of the computer systems lab in high school; cobbled and hackerish. We sit on the smooth black couch and talked a little, about his work—an episode in which his former employer had sent “goons” to the house of a friend whom they believed had written a counter-report to their report in the activist short-selling business. Our knees turn inward and start to touch; I am aware of the sail-like purity of my culottes and how they seem, like so much modernist architecture, to elide the sensual. The incongruity of my dress, and the faded red of the lipstick, in the sordid apartment filled with boxes comes to my attention just before he lunges at me, and I grip the wet fabric over his shoulder. The first contact with his face is pleasantly dry, and the pressure or force of his body on me makes me feel like an old aeroplane; his whole soul is laid out on display as forceful and aggressive, windy almost. I tell him that it seems like he’s dying. It’s a fresh and accurate statement—he laughs with his face in my neck, and I become ticklish for a brief moment; the laugh is the laughter of recognized truth. His head is hard, it drives into me like a paperweight as he laughs. He grips at my tissue in a strikingly painful fashion, pushing and pulling the fat of the buttocks or thighs, applying what I later am able to describe as a “shear force.” He tries to finger me but it’s uncomfortable, with the nails and fingers not properly curved or angled into the cunt, or with too much pressure applied to the clitoris. I squirm away as he invades me, and I hold the hand to deviate the fingers; then he goes down on me, and I bear the tongue on the clit but keep my hands around his head, ready to push it away. When his head rises back to mine I find that I like his scent, even if it’s artificial, and his cock, even if it’s not that large—given his height, perfectly average. Very little time elapses as he takes out and puts on the condom. It’s not hard to take his cock, but sometimes I’m so unaroused that I can feel him hit the cervix, which lies low when the rest of the genital apparatus hasn’t started to become engorged.

After a while, the cock won’t stay in, in part because I’m a bit closed off, and he becomes a little soft in response. His cock knows that I’m not aroused, or he’s nervous about the fact that I have something he wants, about the fact that I’m not a trashful. The frustration of this failure takes him into a long war-like process of trying to fuck me, while I wait and see what will occur. I fellate him a few times but it doesn’t make him much harder. When he ejaculates later, it’s so brief and quiet that I insert an unheard “almost” before the verb “came.” He gives up on the second round a while later, a very long while later. The condition for our falling asleep is that he clings to me, brings me into his arms, and I acquiesce, breathing slowly and deeply until I do fall asleep, for maybe an hour or two or three, while in full contact with his torso and arms. Throughout the night he has clung to me, as I tell him, “like I’m driftwood.” After fucking more in the morning, with more downtime, and more involved conversation, I tell him I have to go see an apartment at 11, so I leave around 10. He grabs a baseball cap before we leave, with his usual blue button-down and skinny white chinos; the cap domesticates him somewhat. The sun is bright and concordant with the rectilinear forms of the buildings; I like to be enfolded at the angle in which we lean into a hug, I like how he and I leave each other fast, at the mouth of the station, after interminable hours of sordid fornication.

I smile; I’m excited. The crowd on the train is sparse, and composed of more internationals, as well as four-person families, not what I’m used to seeing during the week. I wonder if people think I look strange in the bridal white, the brutalist white which I chose for this mating ritual. I like the solitude of this shame-free “walk of shame.” But I’m so sleep-deprived that the bike ride to the apartment in Ditmas Park feels brutal.


I like the long text messages he leaves behind, between encounters.

It’s always the same stuff—stuff about irony, about falseness, fakeness, stupidity, catharsis, destruction.

I leave him screenshots, and discuss books—I want to revisit existentialism, but I want to do so through the fiction-writers I know: Rilke, Handke, Tolstoy, Chekov. I make comments on boredom and indeterminacy, as foils to the existentialist striving, or will-to-power I identify with him. I spend some time reading about activist short-sellers, and about Blue Orca Capital, and download some of their reports, which I skim.

Last time he left claw marks above my breast, near the underarm.

This time, now that I’ve met him a second time, and met Ricky, he leaves a spot of purple beneath my shoulder, a suctive love bite. When I show him the hickey he doesn’t believe he’s made it, but I know he has. Something about his naïvèté is charming. The sunny walk to the train station is exactly the same in its vibe, but I make a stop in chinatown and buy a panoply of fruits, vegetables, tofu, and a zhongzi from the street; I’m hungry this time, but less sleep-deprived, and my tight brown bleach-printed dress is getting attention.

I love the marks. But why does it have to hurt so much? Why the tectonic subduction, the “shear force” applied with his small and hard hands that taper into small nailbeds? Why does he have to twist me out? Why wring me? It hurts so much to have contact with him, and I can’t help but feel that the pain of it is keeping me from feeling basic arousal. The words “hurt” and “pain” in my world have so consistently been used to describe psychic, emotional “hurt” and “pain”—so now that I get to use it in the physical sense, it seems that the meaning of the term has been perverted; it’s somehow improper to apply the words “hurt” and “pain” to the “mere pain” of someone trying to pull your flesh apart. Our second date began at the Whitney; after several hours of decent but unecstatic viewing and commentary, we go to a bar, and talk more, this time about his divorce parents, and my parents, and my mother’s assault. The bill for the two drinks is $34, which I’m a bit shaken by, though he makes enough to afford rents above $4000/month and doesn’t seem to spend much money on himself. At his house he lunges at me again, this time while I’m on the floor looking at his books, or rather the full-margin annotations in them: Nietzsche’s Will to Power, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. When he throws me on the bed things become painful again, not from his cock, but from his hands and fingers. He fucks me before I’m feeling aroused, and I don’t remember how I act; again his cock softens, later, after he has come and tries to fuck a second time. After a while, I tell him “no, no more sex.” He has claimed that he’ll make me come before the end of the night, and I say no, no, no. I’ve never said no to sex before, well, I did once, with Alex, but other than that, never. I want him to succeed with his goal, but not now, not while it’s impossible. Maybe he will end up being right, though—maybe something magical will modify my cunt’s response to the whole situation. When I get somewhere in the vicinity of an orgasm, he can’t thrust with the consistent force I need; I guess out loud that he’s exhausted, and I privately suspect that he needs more core strength, or better aerobic endurance, or some form of health.

With all these “no”s he had his own “no”s. I would move out from under him, and he would pull me back under. My legs were pressed shut, and he’d try to pry them apart. He’d pull me back with such force, such that there was a kind of acceleration, a thrownness to what I felt. Because he isn’t heavy or strong, I can’t manage to feel alarmed, but I wonder if he’ll rape me someday. I can’t understand what we’re doing as a violation, however—we have clashing wills, and he acts like he’s dying. He’s a dying soldier in the trenches, doing anything he can to remain alive, and one doesn’t deny that vitality, one wishes to listen to it. Maybe I don’t believe that it’s possible to rape me, as I don’t have strong enough convictions about what I want, or what should absolutely not happen, that would make a violation possible. If I say no and he says no, why is it that my no should take precedence over his? And he may have his selfish, individual will, but he is nice to me—I enjoy how he tells me I smell like home, and that he brings me into his arms as we fall asleep.

When I arrive home after this second date, I receive an email from Z—Z whom I had just been talking about with Adam the previous night. I write him a letter. But it sounds too fucked, it’s too embarrassing, what I write about, with all this business of “prying” and being “pulled” or “thrown.” It sounds like I’m trying to punish myself, and that I should be brought to make choices that are more wholesome, more chaste.

But I am in search of the pure, the wholesome, and the perspective of chastity. I know it when I find it. The night of our second date, Adam dreamt that he saw me covered in cum. We woke at 5 to the sound of a large moth fluttering against the window; he tried to kill it with a broom, but I caught it manually, and in the bathroom let it sit on my naked chest, so I could take a photo of it in order to iNat it, before cupping it in my hands, and flushing it down the toilet, all while he looks on. It’s an “oldwife underwing,” I find out later.

He told me he dreamt of me covered in cum while his arms were around me, a little after dawn. He also dreamt that I urinated on him, some other time, because I need to pee so much. On Monday he tells me that he dreamt of being quartered, after I had shared with him a quotation from Sade in which this occurs.

These are the images which come after the scuffle and tussle of sex; pure and light, light and free, free and abstract. The condition of love that I sometimes feel creeping into me has to do with this apprehension of beauty in moments. I don’t know how to square this happiness with the gruesome semi-softness of his cock.

And being enfolded in Adam’s arms as he falls asleep and as I do is being enchained in a hopeless situation of closeness, an impossible situation. People only hold the other close in such situations if one is deadly cold, deadly cold in the heart. I can’t believe I’ve managed to sleep, and this seems like small magic. I want to dwell inside the envelope of such moments, moments that are irrevocable but also difficult to recount. The divine mystery—what makes it so difficult, yet so important to integrate sex into language, other than a desire to be part of public life? Isn’t it necessarily and primarily spiritual, this practice that requires me to posit a relationship with God, God the addresee, the listener, the one who can bruise and punish me?

I’m stuck on what it’s like to fornicate, and with each week of the year that goes by without no sex, I find myself more and more backlogged with experiences which I haven’t integrated into language. I received a moment of true repetition when I feel Adam push my legs apart, the way Z pushed mine apart somewhere in Yamanashi prefecture, a moment I found significantly erotic, in part because it didn’t seem like something that would ever happen to me, until then and now. Echoes of what I find riveting about the disappointment, rancor, and turbidity around sex come back through me now and then, and that’s when I’m most fulfilled.

In the months since I detransitioned, from female to male to female, I have encountered men in a sexual sense without significant pauses; the first in July 2022, the next in August 2022, and the next after that in December 2022, until I began to see a man and other men more consistently from February 2023 to the current moment. I was riven when I discovered that sex with someone I felt in love with didn’t feel like much, and after that experience, I sought the intense end of love, which I define as the falling off of orgasm. I soon found it, but also found a consistent and essential asymmetry in the fact that the men came more often than me. The feeling of unsatedness became an integral experience of my life; it was the crystallization of desire. Then it wasn’t clear to me if what I wanted was an orgasm, and thereof the glow of restfulness, or the frictional distress of unresolved non-orgasm, or pre-orgasm, which provided for me an image of all want.

If I want the latter more than the former, why do I want it? In order to write? And who am I trying to write about it for? It’s not like I want to make an advice column on women’s orgasms, I’m not a women’s orgasm activist. I’m not trying to make men make women come. I may be interested in portraying, for the sake of portrayal, the details of sexual experience, the way one decides to paint an apple or a landscape or a portrait of a woman. Atelier sex is what I’m after. I like Manhattan because I’m a materialistic lover of clothes.


The day before I left Ithaca I went mushrooming with Alex.

I like that too. I felt like a dog assistant. I wanted to touch him all the time.

He gave me two orgasms in a row, on the antepenultimate and penultimate days, and on the last day, a near-orgasm that broke me; I became so mad with lust that I pushed him off the bed, and grabbed a knife, and tried to break it, driving its point into the wood floors and bending it until I couldn’t, and scratching at the floor until I collapsed on the floor in tears. I don’t know what to make of this, but it’s clear that I’m in essence mad, that sex drives me mad, or at least it does when I’m nearly satisfied. I tried to kill myself, but instead I destroyed the knife, and then I returned to his side, and said, after a while, I want to burn to death.

With Adam I’m safe, because Adam can’t make me come, though I want to be the one that slices his head off, later, as I did in a recent dream, Alex’s beatific unconscious body lay on the kitchen floor, and I needed to “disassemble” it, so I swung a long knife over my head, and the cut was bloodless, so clean, so dead.

What is anyone supposed to do with this knowledge? What am I supposed to say I’ve learned from it?

Alex seems to have recovered, or at least I wrote to him about it, about the sensation of arousal that so quickly transformed into suicidal rancor, and I hope he understood, that the gesture meant I loved him and wanted him well, that what I deal with I deal with in my own way, that no one is there to save or absolve me of it, but that I have my ways of making it work, of at least being a good friend when it’s time to be good.

The evening of the knife I ate wild mushrooms that turned black in heat, one with scaly black on its cap, the other with a reddish velvet cap and yellow underside. We were well-assured of their edibleness, and I found them delicious, like what I imagine to be an engorged but soft ear, though no dimension of man is so thick and tender, not even his tongue. I smiled sweetly at the sweet smile of Alex as he ate, as he charred corn on the grill, as he fed me chanterelles which I refused because I was too sad to eat, something that hardly ever happens to me. I cried and smiled and cried some more, and the sex that led to the knife was so pleasurable.

When I look at pictures of Alex I want to touch him and I want to tell him how much I love him, for being in body and soul so basilic. I’ve written to him about Adam, and he may believe I’m being overcome with what’s new, and that as a flighty girl I move on fast. It’s true—I am inundated with new men, but I think of the knife now and then, when I can bear to think of it, and on days when my cunt pulses on the MTA, I think of what I like about his cock, and about how precarious it feels to have it in me, knowing it could be finished, that it could leave me hanging in a way that compelled me once to run up to the kitchen and grab a knife.

I need Zane to remind me of the monk-self, the version of me who writes with such intense concentration at the Weill medical school library, the version of me who buys the vegetables most specific to Chinatown. He wonders in the email if he’s now “static and sexless”—I want to tell him, “yes, since that’s exactly what I want or need right now. I want it because everyone else is writhing with lust, or makes me so.”

Zane’s cock is abstract, distant, and to name and think of it feels like an anachronism. Would it be possible that this incident of the knife would not, in fact, be transferrable to other situations? Is it possible that I could have sex with someone and experience the ends of desire without referring back to this primary act of violence? Would Adam simply find it “hot” if I told him about my somewhat waylaid attempt to be Judith?