I stand in front of this body-length mirror. The compression vest is gone, the drains are removed, and all the cushioning gauze has been peeled away; I’ve watched video after video of other transgender guys’ reveals, and I’m ready to be ecstatic about my new chest, free of female tissue.
I leer at my reflection.
My father’s words— you’re mutilating your body— ring at me as I eye an un-defined chest, flat and plain. There are mixes of purples, reds, and yellows all over, clustering over my normal skin color. The wounds, mile-long dried blood-covered incisions, are still covered by a layer of tape, but I can clearly see that my left is longer than the other, ending right in the middle of my chest; my right one ends about an inch away from it. My nipples look like they’re raw flesh stickers plastered onto my pectorals. I keep this smile across my face, worried to drop it in front of my mother and surgeon.
Memories flood my mind: my mom telling me how sad it was that I started hormone therapy; my best friend of ten years ghosting me when I asked her to call me Aarron and he; the burning sensation of my father ripping my backpack from me to stop me from going to school with unshaven legs.
* * *
The mixed colors of my chest glared at me as my parents would; I feel nothing like everyone does in those videos. Instead, I am still, having a staring contest with my chest, and it’s winning. I tell the surgeon it looks good, but in my mind, just in front of those words and memories I ask myself— was this a mistake?
The surgeon covers the nipples with yellow squares, to keep them moisturized so they can heal correctly, places Band-Aids over the drain holes in my armpits, and puts my compression vest back on. I’m silent on the way home. I tell myself that with time, the body will heal, and I can shape it into how I desire, but the uneven wounds, the collage of colors, even the yellow tint under my arms from the iodine, haunt me at night, and I stare back at it all again every few hours, when I remove this vest for some aftercare.
* * *
Two years later, I lay in my bed, the T-shirt material of my sheets brushing against my body, my exposed chest. It has defined pec muscles, nipples that blend into the skin now at the edges, the wounds, sorry, incisions, are now scars, are faint, a shade lighter than my skin, nearly invisible. In the morning I’ll wake up, look at myself in the bathroom mirror, and notice a small “dog ear” on my right side, at the end of the scar; I see my parents, my best friend, the collage of colors, in that small mountain. I eyeball it until I can do nothing but cover it with my shirt.