When I was young I dressed like a boy, though I became irate when misidentified as such. Even now I am sometimes called sir. I object less. When I was young, the boys I loved wore their hair in the style of a bowl cut. I enjoyed the mushroom shape rimming round their heads. Now I find too much hair on a man suspicious. Bowls continue to please me. Convexity is a natural aphrodisiac, the magazines tell me. But I have lived in valleys and on islands and atop mountains, and, eventually, I hate every place. Precipitation disturbs me emotionally. My nose bleeds at sea level. Skiing has become too bourgeois, too sterilized. When I was young, I thought male genitalia involved a single testicle. This turned out to be true, in several cases. I have lived in London once and visited twice. Each time I felt nostalgic for the time before—even the first time—because I imagined my ancestors had constructed Hyde Park and, as such, I possessed some intrinsic nobility. This has turned out to be false in most cases. As for my given name, I am not, as some believe, named after a pharmaceutical product. Even if I was, that pharmaceutical product is not, as some believe, used to treat erectile dysfunction. Longfellow used my name in a poem. I was laughing. I like to think I laugh at least 60 percent more often than I cry. To date, this statistic remains unverified. Sometimes I wonder whether a liter of tears, drunk quickly, would have the same dehydrating effects as seawater. Three years I lived in the desert, and I have reason to doubt the existence of roadrunners. Cartoons irritate me; I love color. I grew up in a house with art supplies scattered everywhere and a general atmosphere of creative defeat. Accordingly, I believed I would someday achieve notoriety. Once, my middle school library mistakenly shelved a book containing explicit sex scenes. It was next to a biography of Harriet Tubman. Reading the book raised my neck-hairs, made my palms sweat. I remember the line: “we fucked like rabbits.” I assumed it involved hopping. It sounded fun. My dream home includes a house-trained bunny that sits on my lap and does not poop on the furniture. I have fucked on most types of furniture, but never a chaise lounge. I have one tattoo. My mother still thinks it’s fake. I have no nose rings. Once, I tested positive for serious blood disease and for several weeks I was morose, fearing that my blood was poison, that I could infect other people, and as such I walked among others like a human grenade, or a vampire. The test later proved false. I was elated, then wistful—lonely, even—since the diagnosis had made me part of a group. I missed feeling like a grenade or a vampire. I felt undetonated and underfed. My identity rewritten. My sense of self smudged out, again.
Allegra Hyde is the author of Of This New World, which won the 2016 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Missouri Review, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, as well as support from the Virginia G. Piper Center, the Jentel Artist Residency Program, The Island School, and the U.S. Fulbright Commission.
Artwork by Allison Dalton