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So. On door, the police, are you almost in Dallas, we're not like other victims, so the games are here to help telefono crashing them, Daniel. We met on a train from Paris to Barcelona, sitting next to one another.
We argued over who could use the power to get the solar system off. Sorry, I think it's my instant rush, the beginning of our love story.
The trip lasts like six hours with never stop talking. I was like, well, we have rice and we didn't realize we were just arriving. We agreed to meet back in Paris on March 19th. I'll wait for his Strength and Guardians railway station, we didn't know that coronavirus would confine us in different countries, threatening the power of the universe. We had exchange numbers for the romanticist Nestle FIPA irises plant romantical. Nice office and sometimes a romantic plan is not enough.
Lovely. Well, thank you so much, Cecilia. No, thank you for your time on this story. Bye bye. I have a. himI Heda. Do you have your seltzer? I do have myself there. La la, la, la, la, la, la. Because you're never loved anyone but yourself. This week's essay is The Physics of Forbidden Love, it was written by Malcolm Connor and it's read by McCleod Andrews. And Malcolm's essay was published in 2017 as a winner of our Modern Love College essay contest that we hold every couple of years.
That really serves as sort of a barometer for college kids and what they're dealing with emotionally and in relationships. And for Malcolm, at that time, I remember this was four months after Trump was inaugurated. Malcolm's essay really spoke to that moment right there.
It resonated for that reason with a lot of people who were feeling similarly.
Yeah. You can blame it all on Percocet. I was three days post hysterectomy and a little loopy on painkillers after five years of weekly testosterone injections, the canal, I can't stand calling it a vagina, much less referring to it as my head atrophied to near non-existent. This made surgery difficult. I tore. The pain was bad enough, the fact that it was in an area of my body I had tried to ignore made me feel even worse.
I had been treating the ache with Percocet at the cost of my lucidity in a minor delirium, I developed a sudden need to tell a charismatic acquaintance, a girl from India and my physics class, just how beautiful and funny she was.
It was winter break and I was at home in Wisconsin while she had remained in San Antonio where we went to school, so I decided to send her a quick message. I ended up writing her a rambling letter. Hey, I began to have cow eyes. I know that sounds like a bad thing, but have you ever looked into a cows eyes? They are so deep and brown and beautiful.
I've looked into a lot of cows eyes because I'm from Wisconsin. After ruminating for another paragraph about cows and eyes, I wrote about how when I squinted at the back of her head during physics, it looked as though the kinematic equations on the whiteboard were growing out of her hair. Finally, mercifully, I concluded by asking if she wanted to get together after the break the next day looking for a response.
I found my letter as a new email in my own inbox. In my stupor.
I had sent it not to her, but to myself.
I didn't try to resend it, but when I saw her back at school, I couldn't resist telling the story of my misdirected narcotics fueled message. She laughed, then asked what surgery I'd had to get me on painkillers. That's top secret. I said, you need security clearance. I'm going to need fingerprint scans and your phone number. She gave me her number, but I didn't give her security clearance. No one at school knew I was transgender. I had transitioned at 15 and arrived at college with no intention of discussing my unusual childhood with my peers.
So far, I had managed all right. But now that intention was on a collision course with my dating prospect. The more she and I flirted, the more I realized how unprepared I was to explain my history, should I tell her bluntly or start from the beginning? What if she was angry or told the whole school? Listening to a friend boast of a recent hookup, I felt a bitter envy how simple it must be to have a body that makes sense, that needs no explanation.
After a few dates, I sat her down in the ornithology lab where I worked and tried to explain, since she is premed like me, I figured the simplest explanation was the medical one. How at the start of high school, after years of feeling like a boy trapped in a girl's skin, I was told by my doctor that I had gender dysphoria, the product of a mismatch between body and brain. Although I tried to maintain a confident tone, I grew flushed and hot before I even managed to say the word transgender and my voice grew so quiet that her growling stomach nearly drowned me out.
When I was finished, she sat very still, the only sound of whirring centrifuge in the other room, I waited for her to get up and leave. She didn't. Taking my hand, she said, I had no idea. In the flood of relief, I also felt a twinge of irritation, of course, she had no idea. I'm almost six feet tall with a full beard and an Adam's apple that had once poked a girlfriend in the eye.
What would have tipped her off? I don't really care. I think she continued. Just tell me if I say something stupid. OK. I don't know a lot about it, I don't know anything, actually. For the next week, everything was fine, I was her first kiss, she fed me my first Teekay Pourri. Then one night as we sat in her car, I learned that the biggest impediment to our relationship wasn't that I was a boy with two X chromosomes, but something much more common place.
My heritage. Her parents, who had immigrated to Texas from India when she was five, feared that their culture would be diluted and lost in America, so she was forbidden from dating anyone who was not Indian. With my Midwest accent, ratty Packers sweater and frozen Telopea complexion, I was the antithesis of the son in law they hoped for. She hadn't told them about me and didn't know if she ever would have a more painful breakup later on seemed inevitable.
So we agreed to stop seeing each other. I hoped that the rationality of the decision would offer comfort. It didn't soon enough, though, we drifted back to sitting with each other in physics there during a demonstration of magnetism, our professor pulled the part to neodymium discs only to see them slide back together when she laid them on the table. We watched, took notes and imitated within a week, she was back in my bed. It wasn't a decision, it was physics opposite's doing what opposites do.
After the first few days when all I could think was how stupid we were being, our relationship had evolved into a surprisingly functional one, though with a few limitations. I couldn't post photos of us together online or talk in the background while she spoke to her parents on the phone. Once she had to accessorize her temple apparel, a colorful traditional kurti with an oatmeal like woolen scarf to cover the hickies I had carelessly left the night before. We went on collecting expeditions to find anaerobic bacteria for her microbiology class, I found a way onto the roof of the student center where we would go to look at the stars.
At first, I made jokes about how doomed we were. But as we grew closer, the joke stopped being funny. She was truly unfazed by my Transneft, I exulted in this, it seemed as though I had finally cleared the last hurdle between me and the mundane heterosexual existence. I had yearned for joking about reincarnation once, she said, I must have had great karma to be a human in this life. It couldn't have been that good, I said, or I wouldn't have wound up in a girl's body.
She rolled her eyes, it's not a girl's body, it's yours. As we lay together at night listening to the possum living in my ceiling scuffle back and forth, we initiated each other into our opposite and alien existences. I told her about the ordeals of my middle school years and the euphoria of my first testosterone shot, the suicides of friends, the post transition balancing game, pitting safety against loss of identity and feeling homesick. I told her about walking on a frozen lake Monona and how the Wisconsin would turn orange and then black and stay black for too long until you think you're going to die in the lonely cold before the ice ever melts.
And how one day everything turns green. The trees and branches and trunks and even the boulders to. She had never seen snow, I had never seen sugar cane fields. She told me about her grandparents blue house in Gujarat, where she had lived while her parents tried to ground themselves in Texas and the terror of the plane ride to meet them. Five years old and flying to America and a cabin full of strangers. She attended weekly services at the local Hindu temple and would do her best to explain what had been talked about that day, despite my total religious ignorance.
My favorite faux pas telling her we should name the elephant figurine on her dashboard, Elfie Trunk face, it turns out he already had a name. Lord Ganesh. She and I are still together and we will almost certainly break up our relationship is based on mutual respect and trust, like any healthy pairing, but also on denial. She cannot marry me. We both know this, though. I think she knows it better than I do. The foolhardy logic I use to rationalize my commitment to her will no doubt worsen my inevitable heartbreak, but for now it sustains me.
As animosity toward brown skinned immigrants seems to worsen daily in this political climate and anti transgender bills that stripped me of my dignity draw closer to becoming law, there are days when we wake up scared, go to bed scared and navigate our isolation in between. Why not find refuge, however finite and daring with each other? In a time of such upheaval and uncertainty. Our reckless, quiet love feels like deliverance. Hi, Malcolm. Hi, how are you doing?
It's going pretty well. How about you? I'm doing well, thank you. So, Malcolm, you wrote this essay in twenty seventeen. Are you two still together, so we are no longer together, hmm? We did try to talk to her parents about the relationship, and they had a the response was to basically say, well, you can continue seeing him, but you'll no longer be a part of this family now.
So not a lot of room for negotiation. Hmm, and was that difficult for you? So I. I mean, was it difficult to hear? Absolutely. It was also something that I think we'd both been preparing to hear. And so while it was really difficult, it also wasn't a surprise. And I had decided long before that conversation that if it ever did come to an ultimatum like that, I would not ask her to choose me because her family is her life.
Mm hmm. I loved her and I and I still love her. But it's it would be cruel, I think, to say, well, if you really loved me, you would give up your family. Yeah.
And what was that like for you to be in a relationship that you knew would have to end?
Yeah, I mean, I think that's a good question. It was definitely, in some ways less scary than a regular relationship because it felt like from the beginning we were sort of preparing for the end and admitted so that every additional week, every additional day felt like we had succeeded in sort of stealing it from the universe.
Mm hmm. In a way, it made it easier because it felt like the inevitable breakup would not be either of our faults.
I think in my past relationships, you know, that breakup came and even if you ended up on good terms, you still felt like you'd done something wrong. Yeah, it failed in some way.
It was it was a failure, whereas this was an ending.
Mm hmm. Mm hmm. It makes total sense. Did you guys graduate at the same time?
We did, yeah. We're the same year. I hadn't seen her since we hadn't officially broken up and I wasn't sure what our dynamic was going to be. I didn't see her actually during the ceremony and afterward, you know, we're all kind of milling around outside. And I still hadn't seen her. And eventually my my family was kind of getting antsy to go. And so we started walking away. And then I and I heard her shout my name and I was like, oh, my God.
And I turned around and there she is.
And I'm like, oh, I'm here kind of jogging over to her. And she she just freaks out in a smile. And I were going to smile and I give her this big hug. And it was just like such a relief to be like, oh, we still really care about each other. Mm hmm.
And since then, we've actually. And I if I sound surprised, it's because I guess I am a little bit surprised to have been able to develop a very strong and earnest friendship and in the aftermath. And we I am so happy and grateful that I can call her a friend.
Thank you so, so much. I really, really appreciate it. Oh, thank you so much for talking to me. And it's always a pleasure to be asked questions that I wouldn't have been asking myself by Malcolm by.
Modern Love is produced by Kelly Hans-Peter and edited by Wendy Dorr, music by Dan Powell. This week's essay was written by Malcolm Connor and read by McCleod Andrews. Our Tony Love Story was written and read by Cecilia Passell. Special thanks to Julia Simon, Nora Keller, Mahima Trelawney, Laura Kim on your Streamy Sam Dolnick Corsica, Bonnie Wertham and also to Ryan Wagner and Kelly Rogers at Autum. The executive producer of New York Times audio is Lisa Tobin Amirli.
And I'm Dan Jones. Thank you for listening. See you next week.