“i got my list!”
i turn around to see harrington. lanky, lean, dark, with all his teeth out, running toward me.
“i got my list! you get yours. who are you going to be?”
i turn around to the lunch table to finish my container of mixed fruit chunks without responding.
“come on, riley. you get your list?” he sits beside me. “i know you got it. what’s your list say? just tell me.”
“i sent it to the trash.”
“you can’t do that.” he steals a chunk of melon dew from my bamboo bowl and throws it in his mouth. he begins talking around the food in his mouth. i barely understand him. “they’re going to take it out the trash and put it at the top of your incoming transmissions. let’s read it together.”
“no. i’m not interested in knowing.”
“yes you are. if you’re not, i am. we should know. we’ve been waiting sixteen years for this. i’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.” he teases.
“i’m going to be a doctor. i’m going to get married and have three children.”
“you’re excited about that?”
“why wouldn’t i be? i’m fascinated with the growth of cancer cells. they swell and shrink without our permission or knowledge.” he opens his own container of fruit. he is radiating happy energy.
“i mean about the kids and marriage?”
“oh. i’m nervous but i think it will be a good fit. i wish i could tell you who i was going to marry?”
“i don’t want to know. unless it’s me. it’s not me, is it?”
“no.” he laughs. “i already like her.”
i eat in silence while he enjoys his daydream.
“tell me, riley. who are you going to be?”
“i don’t want to know. i’m already someone.”
“you not wanting to know doesn’t mean you won’t know. you have to know. let’s look together. it can’t be that bad. send me the transmission and we’ll open it together.”
i put my biodegradable fork in the bowl and bring up the holographic screen. most of the transmissions are from the society. i enlarge the screen instead of sending harrington the transmission. i don’t mind him seeing it. he is my best friend.
i go to my trash bin to retrieve the most recent announcement from the society. the subject is: assignments. harrington is silent but not eating quietly. i touch the transmission to open it’s contents.
(we are our assignments. who are you?)
girl: woman. mother.
marriage: age 18. (to male)
children: boy to be delivered at age 19. girl to be delivered at age 20
pets: one dog. small.
career: cultivating gardens
i blink the screen away not knowing or caring if harrington read any of it or not.
“i’m sorry.” he apologizes.
“i’m supposed to be a male. they said they would consider it. i can’t be a woman. i can’t get married to a man. i can’t have kids. i’m supposed to be a male. what happened to my gender reassignment? they lied to me.”
“let’s go to the society and talk to them. we can straighten this out. i’ll go with you.”
“no. i’ll go alone.” i stand.
“you got what you needed and wanted. this is not your battle. i can go alone.”
“will i see you again if they say no?”
“we’ll both find out in due time.”
i’m in my bed, my parents aren’t home from work. i skipped school after leaving early yesterday. my visit to the society was unsuccessful. my gender reassignment wasn’t granted. my assignment wasn’t changed. before i left the building against my will, i received 246 transmissions reiterating my assignment. woman. MOTHER. WIFE. and they may as well given me a death threat. i am not a woman. i’ve waited for over ten years to be reassigned a male. it has been done before. when the society deems it necessary. i was told that it would be granted. it wasn’t and the only reason why, “if you can bear children, you bear children. this is what women do. you area woman, aren’t you?”
i leave the house. i get my bike from the back and begin riding. it’s dark. my parents will be home soon, programmed to make dinner, make small talk with smiles on their faces to pretend we’re all happy.
i began a transmission to harrington:
who they tell me to be is not who i am. sorry. love, riley.
send. i keep riding until what’s behind me doesn’t exist anymore.
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