Oh no! What if I’m a man this time? It’s bound to happen sooner or later. But how can I relate to being a man?
…I find myself a baby boy, on my back, waving and kicking with vigorous baby energy. I am in a bassinet, in an old-fashioned nursery it feels to be in France.
At the foot of my bed sits a young woman staring unhappily from the window. She wears a gathered, lacy servant’s cap. I begin to cry. At first she ignores me, but as I work myself into it, she picks me up and gives me her breast. Her touch ls filled with ambivalence.
The girl is a wet-nurse, her own baby sent to a foundling’s home, to live or to die. She hates me for being there where her own child should be. And yet she feels tenderness. “Poor little thing, it’s not your fault, is it?” But the resentment does not go away.
Now I am just learning to walk. My parents are visiting the nursery; we are on the floor before the fire. My mother wears yellow silk, is pleasant, but distant and helpless. My father– something is wrong. I have been stepping with high-raised knees, stomping with my boundless baby flow. He calls me a “little man”. I am uneasy, but have no words to say to myself that he wants to see me as hard and bristly, as unconnected from delight and sensuousness as himself.
Later, I am in bed for a nap, fussy and excited. Nurse comes to sit beside me –runs her hand beneath the covers, touches my penis through the diapers, rocking it, as I grow still, attentive.
Now I am five or six. I am still in the nursery. I have a fever. The crackling of the fire, the swish of women’s skirts, sound loud and strange. The room seems curved, elongated. I do not find this frightening, just absorbing.
Glimpses of being with my friend at boarding school. Lying tight up to each other, our penises rolling together between our bellies. Swimming naked in a green pond, our penises swimming with us like silvery fish. We remain close through our youth, and in young manhood we are lovers,
A ring. A ring with a red garnet stone. From him. All that is left now. He is dead. I drink absinthe, but I never can numb my despair at his absence, the one person in my life who loved me. One night, drunk, I fall into a canal and am drowned.