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MUSED Literary Magazine.

The Long Silence

Susan P. Blevins

Kostas and his wife Eleni, of Greek heritage, were both born and raised in Brooklyn. They married soon after meeting.

Shortly after their honeymoon, Eleni became pregnant, much to everyone’s delight, and a child was born.

Now, that child was thirty-five, and for all those thirty-five years they had kept a terrible secret. They only had each other with whom they could discuss the undeserved twist of fate they felt had been handed to them.

Immediately after giving birth, the doctor came into the delivery room to speak to them, wearing a very grave expression on his face, and an air of puzzlement.

“Eleni, Kostas,” he began, “I find myself in an uncommon predicament. This is only the second time in my forty years of delivering babies that I have come across anything quite like this. You see, your child has been born with the sexual characteristics of both male and female, in equal parts. I’m afraid it’s going to be up to you to decide if your child should grow up as a boy or as a girl.”

They looked at him blankly. The doctor had to go over it twice more before they finally understood the enormity of the decision they had to make.

Eleni burst into tears. The doctor left the two of them alone with the baby to make their decision. They clung to each other as they looked at the tiny creature, their flesh and blood.

After much discussion and much emotion, their Greek roots asserted themselves and tipped the balance in favor of choosing the male sex for the baby. They had longed for a son to carry on their name, to bring honor to the family, so that was what they decided. Their child would be a boy, and his name would be Arrenopós, which in the old language meant masculine. They thought the name might help him become strong and virile, and they looked forward to having grandchildren one day.

The operation was performed on the neonate, and after a short stay in the hospital, they went home to their large family to show off the new baby, remaining silent, however, about the decision they had been forced to make.

They watched Arrenopós like hawks, and made sure he played manly games with the other boys. But after Eleni gave birth to two girls, they would often find their son playing with dolls and even dressing up in his sisters’ clothes. He loved animals and was always kind and gentle. He hated football and wrestling, which his parents tried to make him participate in at school.

They became very worried, but still said nothing to anyone. Finally, when Arrenopós was twenty, he came to them and told them he did not feel comfortable in his body and was attracted to boys in a sexual way rather than girls. The stigma of homosexuality had lessened by the Nineties, so he told his parents that he was gay and not to expect a conventional marriage with one of the Greek girls in their community.

They were heartbroken, and tormented that perhaps they had made the wrong choice all those years ago, but they said nothing of that to him.

Arrenopós left his Greek community in Brooklyn when he was twenty-five and moved to Los Angeles, where after several failed relationships he finally found the love of his life, a handsome man of Turkish origin named Emre, which means poet in Turkish. A fortune-teller who read their coffee cups one day told them they were very well suited and a balanced couple.

A few years after settling with Emre, Arrenopós decided to have a sex change, and became a woman.

His parents did not close their hearts to him, but he was no longer welcome in their community and no one ever mentioned his name. Kostas and Eleni could never understand the cruel workings of fate, any more than they could forgive themselves for having made what they could only consider to be the wrong decision.