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Hoccam's Razor

by Ernesto Salina

Ernesto Salina (born in 1998) is an italian poet and artist. Informed by queer theory, their work explores the sexual and emotional politics of trans identity, focusing on feelings of alienation and pleasure. Ernesto is also a student of Comparative Literature at the University of Turin.

IG: @everythem


Mx. Stuart’s left leg is stiffer than the right. This gives them a light limp in their step, not as pronounced as someone with an injury, but clearly recognizable to anyone who looks too closely.

This, beside the annoyance with oneself, brings the issue of Mx. Stuart being rather late to work, and trying to make their way through the thick crowd of the morning commute.

This is exacerbated by a further series of factors: oil-coloured green-grey clouds threaten the narrow space between the tram stop and the entrance to the Metro, which means more people running to cram themselves down the stairs of the station itself, dressed in their ugly anoraks and carrying plastic-covered backpacks and coloured umbrellas; and more cars not-so-patiently waiting for the crowd to thin so they can force their way through it; and an ice-cold damp wind cutting shin-height and insistently reminding Mx. Stuart of their poor choice in wardrobe and even poorer choice in socks, which in turn reminds them of their lateness to work.

The issue with their leg is due to the length of their left sock, or to put it better: to the decreasing of it with each step they take down the stairs, then to the left, through the plastic barriers marked by green arrows, and then down an even steeper flight of stairs, then a surprisingly empty escalator and finally across the bank. Their sock is now three fingers above their ankle but they dare not pull up their trouser’s leg to adjust it.

All around them the crowd is thinner and sleepy and nervous. Teenagers with bulging red-rimmed eyes and canvas shoes standing limply near the entrances, old women checking the receipts with shame-flushed cheeks as they discover the man at the fruit stand has cheated on the price of courgettes, and women of the same age but tall on their heels and cleaning flakes of mascara from cheeks hastily scrubbed clean with hand soap. People like Mx. Stuart in their suits and lightly patterned shirts and vacant, tired eyes and headphones waiting to meet their colleagues at the coffee machine to tell how they saw an old woman drinking whiskey from a paper cup on the tram – how curious and desperate, to be drinking from a paper cup on such an unstable vehicle.

Mx. Stuart, today, is not waiting to meet anyone at the coffee machine. They only hope to slip unnoticed to their desk, blissfully hidden from their colleagues, to sit down and finally adjust their bloody sock.

The issue with the sock is that it is the wrong sock to go to work wearing. It looks like a normal sock but it is altogether the wrong one to be standing around in on the metro, let alone in the office. And the reason they are wearing the wrong kind of sock is that they woke up incredibly late and got dressed in very low light, stumbling between the bed and the kitchen peninsula and – paradoxically – hoping not to get coffee on their lightly patterned shirt. They got out of the house and made it halfway down the stairs thinking about the horrible taste in their mouth and oily texture of their face when they suddenly froze and realised with horror that the sock they were wearing was incredibly uncomfortable. They stood in the middle of the stairway pondering whether it was worth it to go back and change and finally decided against it, and ran to the tram stop. Which is where they also realised it was cold and damp and windy, all hitting their uncomfortable sock and making it worse.

They look at the flakes of dandruff on the businessman sat beside them. His roots are sparse and oily and the skin irritated red and, indeed, covered in dandruff, which falls from their head to the hood of their blue waterproof jacket. Mx. Stuart had considered sitting down to alleviate their discomfort, but then realised that sitting down would also cause their trousers to rise above the ankles and reveal their sock, so now they are standing with their back to the doors pressed against the dandruff-covered man.

The fault is all Nadir’s. Yes, what a ghastly name to give oneself, Nadir, and they hate her, hate her so much for being asleep in their bed this morning, so they had to keep the lights low, and they hate her for falling asleep last night after keeping them up too late so that they were uncomfortably awake and buzzing for hours as she snored. And they hate her for being called Nadir, strutting her name around on those kilometric green heels she strutted on in their house last night, all loose fitting dark clothes and claw-filed dangerous nails. Sipping her Ozeki One Cup like a promise. She had a green trench coat and a big umbrella with her – so she knew. She knew and they were the one left in the dark stumbling between the kitchen and the bed wearing the wrong clothes.

And usually they are the one wearing the right clothes and she is the garish one, shadowing them at work events reminding everyone of their true nature. They kept her from coming with them lately, to spare themselves the looks of their colleagues when they saw her, towering above everyone, beak-like nose and sharp talons like a bird of prey. They took one glance at her and suddenly they remembered who they were, beneath all those light patterned shirts and careful pose and wording and strived-for productivity. When she wasn’t around, Mx. Stuart would stand in a circle at the coffee machine with a few colleagues and exorcise their otherness, sacrifice it to the Other. It would accept their offer and spare them from being someone else’s sacrifice.

But the moment someone saw the pair of them – Mr. and Mx. Stuart as she mockingly called them – they remembered. And the next day they had to bring a bigger offer than usual, maybe pay for a coffee or two but never make it obvious – I put two euros in by mistake, do you want anything?, so as to not foreground the reason for their offer.

She is not with them today but she might as well be, or maybe in a mocking sort of way they took with them a small part of her, soaked through that bloody sock. She follows them through the Metro exit like they followed her through the door last night, her chattering all the way, dropping those heavy clunky heels from the stair of their loft bed, her socked foot coming to rest on their forehead and pressing slightly to make them drop to their knees. They knew what she was getting at, and they wanted to say no, no I have work tomorrow and I am tired and please can we go brush our teeth in the bathroom, you washing your face and armpits in the sink while I laugh from the toilet, while I follow all the steps to build my morning, I prepare the moka and my backpack and my clothes to sleep.

But to say no to her would have been a long, drawn out affair, as she was a busy person and they were always busy as well and Tuesday night was for the two of them not merely existing in the same space. She would take it kindly and climb down, go to the bathroom laughing but with red cheeks and they would have given her a few moments before following her, feeling guilty for two days after.

So they dropped to their knees and made a spectacle of it in the process, and when their shins hit the terracotta floor they closed their eyes and waited for her move.

And if she didn’t want to either, that would have been even worse because she took the time and they didn’t. If she wanted to do this with someone, there were better suited parties for it, but they were her oldest relationship yet, and had been through frankly shit times, so she took the time to drive across the city at 10 p.m. on a work day, dressed in their favourite clothes and to do their favourite thing.

That’s the other issue, the favourite thing, which is making them feel seasick and disgusted in the claustrophobic elevator, the stink of which they carry through the corridor to their desk. Another mark the Other was keeping an eye on. Thankfully a small one they could hide, unlike Nadir who had the awful tendency of being a hundred and ninety-three centimetres plus heels and speaking her mind. But that was another reason they were extra-careful in every step around the office. That was the main reason why they had separate clothes for their activity that they could bundle up and throw in the wash, all the same fibre and colour to make it easier.

They wore these clothes like a uniform, part of the offerings to the Other that would spare them of glances and kept them from feeling as alien – and they wore those clothes like a shield that protected the uniform as she pissed all the way down their chest, a long arched spray hitting their cheeks, torso, dripping down their legs and soaking into their socks. Feeling the flush of shame and arousal and disgust and orgasmic ecstasy starting from the bottom of their toes up to their scalp, leaving them awash from thoughts and sin and error.

Afterward they would run to the bathroom and puke yellow tinted saliva in the bowl. Scrub their skin pink and flayed in the shower, lather themselves in neutral-perfumed cream and light fresh Eau de toilette. In the meantime, Nadir would pick up all their clothes, start the washing machine with the 60° hygiene program that burned and flayed those clothes every month. They would go to sleep with breeze streaming from all-opened windows and still, sometimes, the nausea would come back. This was their aftercare: Nadir kept chatting until she fell asleep and they would be left awake, still nauseous and feeling both claustrophobic-hot and congealed in a deep well of loneliness, until exhaustion took over.

They feel nauseous sitting at their desk now. Afraid they would have to puke into their paper bin, and then have to explain it. They could fake illness: make some huge crash that would draw the secretary to their office and find them fainted on the floor. Then they could go home and people would be nice to them, write them kind words of swift recovery.

They do not faint. Nor do they puke. They feel Nadir’s judging eyes set upon them the moment they even think of running. She is anger but she rarely is judgement, unless it is deserved.

So Mx. Stuart closed their eyes and focused on the way she drove all through the city under the rain because of a promise made days ago in passing, stopping to buy a drink. Cleaning their floor and following their ritual perfectly – them trusting her and only her with this part of their life – and then indulging in her only request: to talk until she fell asleep. They focused on the clean and smooth skin of her hands as she combed through their hair, standing far enough away as to not suffocate their claustrophobia and close enough to keep them tethered to her warmth. Loving them for years and years despite them being this alien from both parts of their lives.

None of their co-workers' wives and girlfriends are like this: they always talk about how untethered they feel, and how they would love to have dirty horrible sex which cannot be done under their familiar roof.

Mx. Stuart stands up from their chair, feeling Nadir’s love hitting their chest, their cheeks, washing over their torso and legs and socks. Her care enveloping them and protecting them. And they walk towards the coffee machines.

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