The Reality Institute

Hermaphrodite Lesbian Rocket Scientists from Mars

Despite what anyone might say, I am the hero of this story.

Everyone knows everything.

Everyone has the answer to everything.

Everyone is a goddamn superhero.

I’m sorry, I’m throwing you right into the middle of this. Well, I find it hard not to because that’s how I’ve got to tell you this story. To give you the full experience, you’ll have to be thrown into the middle just like I was, to fully represent my time on this earth.

This will be a story told in the traditional non-traditional way. It’ll be hip, off-the-wall, and terribly self-conscious. So self-conscious that there will be no way that it won’t be full of shit. I’m also sorry for how self conscious my story is.

At this point, I find it hard not to be self conscious. Not after what I’ve been through, or we’ve been through. It’s not a love story by the way, though there are aspects of love in it (or running throughout it). There are hints of hidden desire and mutual attraction between friends and sexual fulfillment, but all of these incidents are separated from one another and among different people. All the variables are there, but the formula just doesn’t add up.

Let me start from the beginning I guess. Or at least, the most logical beginning because stories like these find themselves twisting in so many ways that the end might as well be the beginning or, in this case, the airport might as well be the beginning. Yes, it’ll be more exciting if I start from the airport.

Like so many people who find themselves crash landing into life on this planet, I awoke at the airport. For a moment, it felt as though my consciousness began just the minute I was exiting the automatic doors and hailing myself a taxi. I was just a few years old and already hailing a taxi.

Of course, from all outward appearances, I looked like a forty-five year old Polish woman and that was how I would be treated. In fact, there was no way for anyone outside of myself to know that I was not a forty-five year old Polish woman. I even had an accent, which will all be explained in due time. But for suspense and story-telling sake, I was a three year old forty-five year old Polish cleaning woman on her way to her first job in the United States, in a suburb outside of Chicago, Illinois of all places.

As I have found, communication is difficult.

People are difficult.

And they all think they know everything.

The cab driver demanded in a grizzled voice that I tell him where I was headed. I hardly knew the man and he was shaking me down for personal information. In fact, he refused to take me anywhere unless I told him where I was going. Reluctant at first to divulge any of my secrets, I remained quiet. After some consideration and threats from the driver, I told him the address. He complained that my accent was horrible. I didn’t even realize I had an accent. I didn’t even realize yet that from all outward appearances, I was a forty-five year old Polish woman. Anyways, his Philadelphian accent wasn’t that great either, though I wouldn’t know for several years that that’s what a Philadelphian accent sounded like.

Chicago, for all descriptive purposes, is beautiful, by the way. He took me through beautiful streets with tall, narrow buildings leaning into the sky and shorter, but narrower trees that exploded into leaves at the top. I took it all in, as a young tyke like me would and could even feel myself aging by the minute.

In no time, I found a cheap apartment in a crime-ridden neighborhood. It was surrounded by factories on either side. It rotted away, literally and figuratively. When I looked for healthy foods, I found liquor stores. To me, it was something very strange and new, but as I would learn, something no one should ask for. Certainly none of the women I found a job with would ask to live where we did.

I was with a cleaning service made up of women from Eastern Europe and a few with Latin American backgrounds. Apparently, I fit right in. Poles happen to be overrepresented in cleaning services in Chicago. Chicago has the second highest Polish population next to Warsaw, Poland. Since the Armenian genocide, there are more Armenians in Glendale, California than in Armenia. Home away from home, I guess. However, I still felt like I had no idea what was going on. It was coming at me from all sides, the pressure and the stress, and because I had just arrived, there was no way for me to deal with it all.

If you’d bear with me a minute, this isn’t a story about friendship either. Love and friendship might be in it, but they’re details to move the plot along, I feel. Because alongside love and friendship and sexual fulfillment and mutual attraction, death and depravity are also present.

There is at least one murderer in this story.

And I was raped three times. Twice by someone I knew. And once by a complete stranger.

But that was when I was older, when I realized that life on Earth wasn’t just about hidden desire for comfort and affection, but hidden desire for more outrageous things. And that’s why I came here in the first place.

So, in the beginning, I worked with Pink Lady’s Cleaning Service, which cleaned large homes in the Northern suburbs of Chicago, but also a few apartments. Apparently, I was relatively short and a little round, but aside from that I was a beautiful woman, even if I had no choice in the matter. Or at least I was beautiful for my age. And much more beautiful than the other women, despite what any of them might say. I stuck out like a sore thumb, being the only short and round woman among women with average heights and builds.

Plus, I was clumsy and new at the whole cleaning thing. I explained to a bored teenager as I cleaned his large, overly-postered room,

“Ha, see back home, I had a degree in organic chemistry, nuclear physics, and rocket science.”

He replied with apathy covering his interest, “How’d you learn all that stuff?”

“My mother just prayed for me when I was born. She said, ‘Let my baby be whatever she wants’. I wanted to be a rocket scientist with a degree in organic chemistry and nuclear physics as well.”

“Where in Poland did you say you where from?”

“Who said anything about Poland?”

That’s another thing; I’m overly qualified for this job.

I have mastered organic chemistry, nuclear physics, and rocket science.

I can speak five and a half Earth languages. Five being English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. One half because I’ve picked up a few Polish words here and there.

The apathetic teenager rolled his eyes and continued playing “Blackbird” by the Beatles on his guitar.

Also, I have all of the Beatles albums back home.

After similar treatment like this from almost all of my patrons, I learned that it was better to be seen and not heard. To tell you the honest-to-God-truth, it was better to be invisible and almost ghostly. I learned to duck into rooms like a TV spy or a video game ninja. At first, the process of cleaning houses, for me, was clumsy (like everything else I did), but the silence and secrecy of the whole thing I mastered in only a few days. In fact, I never did get over my clumsiness. But the trick was to avert your gaze, to look down at the ground, if one of the members of the household (or their friends) was present. It was like the house was clean and they were none the wiser. Spotless. Leaving no tracks.

Three days on the job and this place sank me into a cold loneliness. As I lay in my small room with my roommate fast asleep, I found myself weeping quietly for the first time. I instantly aged ten years and knew what it was like to be a teenager on this planet.

Of course, my dreams were of home at first. And through the blurry haze and quick cuts of a dream, I could see bits of that far away place that were both comforting and agonizing. They coated my insides with a warm feeling of alrightness, while simultaneously twisting my stomach into knots and draining the blood from my head and replacing that blood with more tears. I awoke and reassured myself (as so many do) that it would all be okay.

There are a lot of us out there, by the way. We came here with degrees in medicine, veterinary medicine, molecular physics, and so on. I say veterinary medicine because a woman named Zoila from Nicaragua comes to mind. Back home, she was a pretty damn good veterinarian but over here, she makes an okay cleaning woman. She told me so herself.

“Margaret,” that was the closest thing to my real name in English that I could find, though the concept of translating names from one language to another is beyond me, “back home I was a pretty damn good veterinarian.”

“How are you at cleaning houses?”

“I’m okay.”

“That’s more than I can say. Back home, I was one of the best scientists around and over here, I make a lousy cleaning woman.” Then again, back home, we were all the best scientists around. Best cello players. Best violin players. Best race car drivers. I don’t think any of us would have made a good cleaning woman. Our mothers simply prayed we would be what we wanted and we didn’t want to be cleaning women. And the good Lord shined brightly upon us.

“Poland must be a beautiful place.”

“Who? Oh right.”

I soon learned that I had to create an alibi for my presence in Chicago. People wouldn’t believe the truth even if I told them. The truth can be confusing and ridiculous at times. Lies can be even more confusing and ridiculous depending on the circumstances and how good the lie is. But after a conversation I had with one of the other women, Anna, I realized that I had to have a good lie. People don’t like it when you make things complicated. So I had to fit in quickly or I wouldn’t be happy and that loneliness would settle on me like moss. Like every other person I’ve met who first meets someone with an accent like mine, Anna asked me where I was from originally. Anna, by the way, was one of the first people I had ever really spoken with (aside from the cab driver). She was the one who greeted me at the Pink Lady’s Cleaning Service office. She was the Pink Lady. She was not a happy person.

“I’m from here,” I thought my lie was simple enough, but it did not satisfy the woman who was mostly tall and slender.

“The United States?”


“Are you Polish?”

“I don’t even know what that is.” What I understood as communication issues (I was lying and she was confused by it) she understood as a language barrier (she spoke English without an accent, I spoke it with one). I really did understand her, I speak English quite fluently. But if I told her the truth, well, I didn’t think she would believe it. So she slowed down and talked louder and was annoying.

“Arrrrre youuuuu,” pointing at me with a sharp finger, “froooooooooooommmmmmm Po-land?” Her voice hit a perplexed pitch on the last word to ensure that I understood that it was a question she was asking. This awkward display left me dumbfounded. I knew what she was asking, but I didn’t know why she was asking it that way. I was silent for a moment, until she started up again, “Arrrrrrrrrre youuuuuuu,” gesturing at me wildly with her index finger, “frooooommmmm-“

“Yes. Very much so. I am from Poland,” I blurted out.

“Great!” she seemed more than satisfied with my answer as it was exactly the answer she wanted. I thought that, yes, the pain was over, but she continued on, “Why. Did. You. Coooooommmme. Here?”

I tried to be completely honest, to see if that might ease the situation, and said, “Ah. I came here to find a meaningful life.” She was confused, so I elaborated, “I came to see what this place was all about. To see if it would live up to my dreams. If it was really such a robust adventure as it was made out to be.”

She didn’t understand again, “You came for money? For dolllaaars? To send to your fam-i-ly?”

“Yes to send to my family.” I said with a patronizing inflexion. God, I hoped that that would be the end of it.

So I was from Poland and I was working to send money back to my relatives. If I had given her anything else, she would have continued to bore that drill of a voice into my face. I could have said anything. I could have said that I was an angel from Heaven or a devil from Hell or I could have said I was from New Jersey and she would not have believed it. I realized that even if I did tell her the ridiculous completely unbelievable far fetched off the wall untraditional traditional truth, she wouldn’t have cared. She would look at me the same way, with that same mystified stare. Either way, it was already decided, I was from Poland. She heard what she wanted and it was easier for me to just accept the lie.

These women, like me, were religious. They were mostly Catholic (whatever that is), but one said she was Jewish and Anna was a Methodist. I once asked during a cigarette break with my coworkers,

“Isn’t it the same God?” They all looked at me with bewilderment and became instantly awkward. I believe now that I had breached a subject that was not to be talked about. “I mean, when you are praying, aren’t you praying to the same thing? Or is it different?” I soon learned from Zoila, when we were away cleaning a bathroom, that there were other religions out there. Some, get this, believed in more than one God. And when it becomes more then one God, it becomes lowercase to become “gods”.

“Though I don’t know any of those people personally,” said Zoila.

“Oh,” I said. “And you believe in just one God right?”

“Oh yes. Everyone who knows anything believes in that one.”

“Oh,” I said.

Everyone knows everything. As far as I can tell, all those prayers go to the same God and as I was to eventually learn, none of those prayers are answered by anything more than mere coincidence.

But that’s just here. Back home, I could pray for an apple pie and I would get it. Back home, faith was just about as reliable as fact. Here, it’s about as reliable as an apple pie. But enough with tales of the old country, the interesting thing is this place I have found myself. It’s the whole reason I came here in the first place, to see if this place was all it was cracked up to be.

On whether it is all it was cracked up to be, I’m still not sure. It was cracked up to be a whole lot. It was cracked up to be It’s a Wonderful Life, Back to the Future, and Shanghai Noon. I found it to be slightly different from all of those movies I had seen, most of them at least.

If I had seen a movie about a rotund man from the former Yugoslavia who drove a van for a cleaning service, I would have been prepared when I met this man. He was an odd man who was relatively large and well dressed. I was not entirely sure what he was well dressed for because as far as I could tell, his job was to drive us to the various houses, park outside, and wait out front until we were done. Sometimes he smoked a cigarette. He identified with me because he too was the victim of Polish jokes, even though he was not from Poland. He was from the former Yugoslavia. But people will hear what they want to or, at least, what’s easy to swallow.

His name, translated into English for some reason and in some unconceivable way, was William. His parents had fled to the United States during a time of civil strife. The same goes for Zoila and her husband. It was not, however, true for me. I fled here because of internal strife of another kind. An existential crisis. An “is there more” sort of mentality. Zoila and William might think that that was not an entirely good enough reason to flee.

I came out of the writer’s apartment one day (a client of ours) feeling dust trapped inside my lungs, attaching itself to the porous texture of my organs, leaving me in need of fresh air. I found William leaning against the minivan smoking his cigarettes.

“Good afternoon, Margaret. How’s my little Pole doing?” I hated when he said things like this, even if he was trying to be nice and/or sincere.

I coughed causally, “Okay, I think I’m having an asthma attack.”

“Oh my. Do you want me to get you anything? I can drive to the 7-11.”

“That’s okay. I should be fine,” I said. He did seem like a nice man from all outward appearances. William told me about his parents and his brother. His brother had died fighting a police officer back home. Or so the story goes.

William seemed to have found himself in a state of genuine isolation in front of me. As he told the story, he looked off with gray eyes, pretending as though I were not there when he was painfully aware that I was there. It was not so much a show, but a plea for the attention that we all deserve from time to time. He didn’t ask one question the whole time, other than rhetorical ones, but performed his monologue in front of an audience of one.

It all came out of him with the assumption that I too knew the effects of brutal industrialization and war. In fact, I did know some of the effects; I have seen a lot of movies; I have read a lot of books. But I had no first hand experience.

There was silence for a moment. William, still looking off with gray eyes, coughed lightly a puff of smoke. Anna came out to call to me,

“Margaret, we’re going to need to clean out this bathroom.” Anna was not a happy person and because I was new, I had to clean out the bathrooms. She really did nothing but supervise. She sat on the couch and ate graham crackers if the residents were not at home.

The bathroom was much worse than I had anticipated. The toilet was intensely clogged and no novice could undo what had been done. I gave it a shot, flushed the toilet, and plunged. Anna leaned on the door frame eating a graham cracker,

“What are you doing?”

“I’m plunging this thing.”

“(Sigh) That’s not how you do it. You have to use your back with a clog like this,” Anna grabbed the plunger and removed the clog easily. “It’s not rocket science.”

Of course it wasn’t rocket science. If it were rocket science, I would know how to do it. I hadn’t been trained for this sort of thing. I had been trained to build a ship that could house one individual while still maintaining structure and stability and hurl through space at light speed. With planning and a little faith, it was as easy as apple pie.

No one would believe this, of course. They thought all Poles were stupid, most of them anyway. Even a few of the Poles themselves thought they were stupid. It came from jokes like,

“Did you hear the one about the Polack that invented the solar powered flashlight?” asked an old man in one house.

“No, what happened?” I replied.

“I don’t know, it didn’t work or something. Because you’re supposed to use flashlights in the dark I think,” he admitted, while the joke was lost on me.

I should have explained to him that, during the day, the flashlight could be left in the sunlight, while it charged, and then later used in the dark. I have no explanation for a screen door on a submarine, however. This was the same sort of mentality that caused people to rush to insult Helen Keller’s deaf, dumb, and blindness without speaking of her eloquence, intelligence, and compassion. Maybe it’s because she was a socialist, but hearing a word like that will make almost anyone deaf, dumb, and blind in this place.

Even Zoila thought I was an idiot. For instance, as she ate lunch one day, she bent her head down and clasped her fingers together. I asked her,

“What are you doing?”

She didn’t respond so I repeated,

“What are you doing?”

She looked up as if I had interrupted a private conversation, “I’m praying, Margaret.” I laughed raucously.

“Like that?” I asked.

Yes. Like this,” she said, obviously offended.

“You’re doing it all wrong. You have to rub the monophone, say the magic word, followed by the prayer, and say the magic word again. Speaking of which, I haven’t seen a monophone ever since I got here.”

“Maybe that’s how you Polacks do it, but this is how they do it in the United States,” she said.

“How can God hear you if you don’t use a monophone?”

“Faith,” she replied, concluding the subject.

It became clear to me. Through all the praying I had seen in the movies, that I had seen my coworkers do on their lunch break, and that I had seen my roommate do before bed, God couldn’t hear them. They had no monophone. Sometimes, they didn’t even pray out loud. No prayer was ever answered in this place. Like William and his monologue, Zoila and the others were whispering into the air hoping for some sort of attention that was, many times, not received. This gave me even more reason to listen to our rotund driver as he breathed his overdramatic monologues to me.

But maybe I didn’t know anything either. Maybe that was how one was supposed to pray. After all, everyone thinks they know the answer to everything. Mine was that people should use a monophone for Christ’s sake. Maybe they deserve a little credit, because they at least deserved a little attention.

Those listening to me now, might think the same thing about this story. They might ask, don’t you care about us? The listeners? I do, I do. And all in due time will I reveal the reason for my visit to this place, where I have come from, and where I will go. It takes some time to get through all of these stories, the background information, the motivation behind people’s actions. And still the whole picture will not be entirely clear. There are details of my time here that will go entirely unnoticed, by even me the story teller. And as you listen, it will be transformed by my mouth and by your ears until it is no longer the same story anymore. Which is why I must take caution in the way the story is told. If it is not handled delicately, you might go out and kill someone. I’ve seen it happen before.

However, to answer one question that must be plaguing you: Yes, not everyone I have met has believed in God. In fact, two individuals who I became extremely close with did not believe in God. They had no prayers to go unanswered. One was the writer and one was the murderer.

The writer’s toilet was clogged because he couldn’t write for shit. He flushed pages and pages down the toilet. We had to unclog it every time we were there. And this writer had just been fired from his job at the local newspaper, when I found him at home, while we cleaned his apartment. I decided to take a heroic stance, breaking the rule of invisibility, and asked him to please stop flushing paper down the toilet. He looked angry when I entered his study.

“I’m no plumber, but I don’t think it’s good for me or the toilet if you keep flushing your manuscripts down there.”

His mood changed instantly from that of an artist at work to an apologetic, privileged man, “I’m terribly sorry, miss, I didn’t even think of you,” he laughed nervously, “It’s just that the toilet is always unclogged by your service by the time I get home that I didn’t even think of it. I really am sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I responded, “just please stop doing it.”

“Oh, yes. Of course.” He walked over to me and stuffed a wad of bills into my hand. I took it unquestionably because it was money, which I needed. He asked as an afterthought, “What’s your name?”


“Great. Margaret, I’m sorry about the trouble. It’ll never happen again.”

The toilet was clogged the next day, so I reminded him. He burst into tears, “Oh, Margaret,” he grabbed onto my shoulders, “I’m a terrible writer. I get into these moods and I can’t-I can’t- I can’t-“ he couldn’t finish his sentence he started sobbing on my shoulder.

“What are you writing about?” I asked.

“Love.” he said. “And death,” he added.

“Oh,” I said.

“And God maybe, or the lack thereof,” he laughed. My interest in his writing had quelled his crying. He told me about his struggling career, how he couldn’t keep a job because he didn’t want to. He wanted to write. I found some sense of power in the way he unburdened to me. I felt special and not entirely alone. I even stopped reminding him about the toilet, which was to be clogged for the duration of our relationship.

He was thirty-two. I was thirteen. It was like Lolita, but no one cared because they thought I was forty-five. Also, there was no sex.

By the time I had been with the Pink Lady’s Cleaning Service for about a year, I had aged to about nineteen. I was still young and had so much to learn. The writer bought me coffee everyday, which may have had a negative effect on my gastrointestinal system because the bubbling I felt in my stomach after such a strong and addictive drink left me clutching my side in pain. I enjoyed it anyway, thinking that I could bear the pain as long as I was not alone. He told me stories he had had and stories he would write if he could only think of how. It was a comforting feeling as I felt closer to him than any of the others. If he was not closer to me than William or Zoila, he was at least closer to me than the cab driver who I have never seen again.

Oh, and William was jealous. I have not told you enough about him, aside from the fact that we talked during cigarette breaks. But there was a coldness in William’s manner that left me unable to relate with the man. He felt as though all it took to bond was to have an Eastern European background and to be from different genders. Maybe I was disinterested in what he had to say because of the little nicknames he gave the cleaning women or the patronizing manner with which he dealt with us. But besides, I wasn’t even Eastern European.

“You’re going on another date with that writer again?” he would demand.

“Oh, no William, it’s not a date. We’re just friends,” I would reply. He refused to accept the possibility that the writer and I were just friends. He couldn’t conceive of it.

“That man, he’s so skinny. What could you see in him? He has virtually nothing to offer except for money. You are his little Polish whore.”

There was no way for me to misinterpret what he was saying. And there was little for me to do in return but to walk away.

There were off-putting things about the writer as well. For instance, to this day I do not know his first name. I was stuck calling him Mister. I did not have his phone number, but could only communicate with him as a cleaning woman. There was no off duty for me. But it was pleasant, sitting out in the sun and enjoying the breeze, even if he didn’t ask me many personal questions.

And there are moments. Sometimes when you’re sitting in a particular place and the setting is arranged in just such a way or the weather is particularly moving. When you feel as though you can see everything for what it is. Your mind sits down and shuts up, leaving you free from judgment or selfishness (maybe), and maybe it’s like you’re a monophone that speaks directly to God or the Infinite Wisdom of the Universe. Or maybe you’re just you and everything else is just everything else. Finally. Well, it’s in these moments (maybe) when you age to be 969 years old like Noah in the Old Testament. But then the next moment, you’re just a wide eyed teenager or an embittered thirty something or a sentimental forty-five year old again. Sometimes, that’s what it felt like out in the sun like that.

No, I did not want to sleep with the writer. I did not want to sleep with William either. And I certainly did not want to sleep with the stranger on the street. There was one individual that I did want to sleep with. And she was supposed to be a murderer.

Her name was Tumbelina. She was six foot three and worked at the circus. They say she killed the ringmaster.

When I met Tumbelina, I was actually forty-five. I had learned a thing or two about life on this planet by then. And I had a true affection for her. She, like me, was only a freak on the outside and made no mistake that people thought of her this way. She had shaved her head and done a sufficient amount of drugs and a murder conviction was about to ruin her life.

But what was the death of one measly ringmaster? Okay, well he probably didn’t deserve to die, whether it was Tumbelina’s fault or not (and what jury would not find a massive and concrete woman like that not guilty). There were far worse crimes that the police could investigate, if not worse, then at least more sinister. For example, when I was forty-five and working at the police station, cleaning up after sweaty interrogations and broken criminals, most of my friends from the Pink Lady’s Cleaning Service were dead or dying. This was when I was forty-five on the inside and forty-seven on the outside. It was two years to everyone else and forty-two years to me since I had arrived.

Zoila came to me one afternoon, closed and locked the bathroom door, and took my hand.

“Margaret,” she told me, “they found a lump in my chest. I have breast cancer, Margaret. Breast cancer!” she became hysterical and there wasn’t anything I could do.

“Can they get rid of it?” I asked.

“They’re going to try. Pray for me, Margaret. Will you?”

About this cancer. Cancer, as I have learned from movies starring Michael Keaton or William Hurt, is something that happens to people where they take stock of everything they have in life and learn not to take it for granted. But as I have learned from people like Zoila, is that it’s a hopeless disease. And it finds itself running through the water systems of neighborhoods like my coworkers’, between factories and filling the air. It finds itself in the rush to find new, more durable, cheaper materials for public consumption and damned the consequences for another twenty years. Could it have been a complete coincidence that those that I worked with happened to live in the same neighborhood, under the same power lines, and also happened to catch the same fatal diseases at the same ripe old ages of thiry-two through sixty-two?

But there’s pneumonia too. That’s what finally got William. Maybe it’s because he stood out in the cold every afternoon smoking cigarettes. That’s what the doctor must have thought or at least that’s what he explained to William’s parents as the most likely cause. Not that maybe his apartment complex was run by a slumlord who had installed no insulation. Yet, Tumbelina was in jail for something she regarded as a twist of fate. A coincidence.

On my planet, everyone dies at the ripe old age of 969, unless they pray to die earlier. You simply speak into the monophone, when you’re in a moment of intense fear of the unknown, and pray, “Let me live to be 969”, saying the magic word at either end of it, of course. “Please, God, let me have a beautiful house when I grow up. Oh, please, God.” And like the fortune telling machine in Big, where the kid wants to grow up fast, God responds with a little card that reads, “Your prayer has been granted”.

But when all the women at my service started calling in sick with cancers of the lungs, bones, and throats, there were no monophones to be found. When my beautiful Tumbelina was found guilty, there was no monophone within even a thirty mile radius, and she wasn’t even looking. When Anna, who I had grown to have some affection for, told us she could no longer run the Pink Lady’s Cleaning Service because she would be in and out of the hospital for treatment and surgery for her mouth cancer (which the doctors called a “horrible-ectomy”), the technology was not yet available to communicate with God. These poor people had to fend for themselves under operations with nicknames that included the word “horrible” in them. You call that progress?

And while they suffered lay offs and disease, it still had not struck me how wrong the movies had been. It wasn’t until the writer’s hidden desire to explore the unknown, experience adventure, that I realized truly what it was like to live on a planet where you prayers aren’t answered silently and mysteriously. Spotless. Leaving no trail.

The first time, we were both drunk. I insisted he take me home. He insisted that it was late, that I take a warm shower and sleep in his apartment. I certainly was familiar with his bathroom. He was sweet and genuine, but his thrill for the romance he had tasted in novels and plays and epic poems kept him from taking my words seriously. I was not afraid, but I was not happy. Under the fear of a man so passionate and almost violent, I was forced to give in.

On my planet, we get Cinemanx. We get movies like Gone with the Wind and The Beauty and the Beast. And it went much like that. He kissed me too hard. I said “no” repeatedly until there was nothing I could do but give up. I enjoyed no part of it, other than the warm shower and the bed. In the morning, I left with my clothes.

I was sure it was a mistake. A simple miscommunication. He had heard what he wanted to hear. But it happened again when we were both sober. I don’t think that he was happy about it. And maybe he was “in love with me” as he claimed, whatever that means, but I would only see him once more after that.

Had I been attracted to the writer, it might have been sex or “making love” instead of rape, but I wasn’t. The closest thing I can think of to describe why I was not attracted to him in Earthly English is to say that I am a lesbian. In fact, I’m more of a hermaphrodite. We all are.

The only reason I was even attracted to Tumbelina on the outside was because she reminded me of home. In those quick-cut, sentimental memories of that far-off place, was someone resembling Tumbelina almost identically. We were in love. I knew we were in love because I prayed to God that we would be. But I never prayed that we wouldn’t part. That I wouldn’t leave that Garden of Eden to fulfill some mild curiosity of what life could be like in other worlds. And we had satellite, so Earth movies filled me with dreams of that dramatic, gut-wrenching, thrill-a-minute, roller coaster ride that would have me both laughing and crying place called Earth.

And meeting this woman, who was almost too large for a jail cell to hold, shook me with a sense of déjà vu. A sense that she instantly acknowledged my existence and reserved her judgment. She could have just been so close to death, but I believe that she was always 969 years old. I didn’t care if the other suspected criminals, their visitors, or their guards heard me. We talked and I told her everything. Once I knew she was listening, I revealed the truth because sometimes you have to be in the company of a listener who truly cares in order for the truth to move uninterrupted from the speaker’s mouth to the listener’s ears.

I began with the basic truths, telling her about my arrival at the airport, the cleaning service, the strange religious practices I witnessed,

“Heh heh, she looked at me like I was insane! But that’s how we do it where I come from. We use a monophone.”

“Poland sounds like a very strangely beautiful place,” she said.

“Yes, I miss it dearly.” There was a bit of silence as she studied me.

“Margaret, my parents are from Poland and I know you’re full of shit.” She said it with the sweetest and warmest tone. The words full of shit coming from her were like a hand-hold through those bars and she was feeling every ridge on every fingernail and every bone in my short fingers.

“What?” I asked.

“Marge, tell me the truth. You’re not from Poland.”

“Yes, thank you. I am. And I would like it if you did not accuse me of being a liar.” I replied with an air of false dignity.

“I’ve been completely honest with you,” she went on, “I told you how the net tore and I hit that poor asshole and you know we’ve got this trust thing going. Why do you have to lie to me now? What do you think of me?” In the quiet of her sincerity, I began slowly,

“Well, Tumbelina, to tell you the truth, the honest-to-God truth,” I said, testing the waters, waiting for her to give me the go ahead with a nod, “I’m from this other planet.” Then some nervous laughing, but she had this dead serious look on her face. “It’s in the Rainbow Nebula, the Blue Sector, it’s called Sky.”

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“I like the whole rainbow theme. Who came up with it?” she asked.

“God did. Eight thousand years ago.”

“Now that I don’t buy,” she was a serious atheistic agnostic. But she listened in earnest as I explained God and apple pie and nuclear physics. I also told her that she was the most beautiful woman in the world, but how I could not love her, as I was already in love with a woman who looked just like her back on my home planet. We all looked like her. I explained how everyone on Sky prayed that they would be attractive and the first person who did it happened to be six foot three and look like an Earthly circus freak. It was easier for God to just make us all six foot three.

“Then why do you look like a forty-seven year old short and round woman?” she asked justifiably.

“Ha, well I can answer that. It’s simple organic chemistry and nuclear physics. The stress of light speed travel took its toll on my body, squashing my body flat-wise, making my tallness fat and making my skin all wrinkly.”

“And the accent?”

“My Skyish accent happens to be very similar to a Polish one,” I replied, stumping her again.

“The traditional Polish shoes you’re wearing?”

“I think they look nice.”

“Yeah… me too,” she said, with one final attempt to prove her sensibilities wrong, “And you’re all women?”

“No, we’re more like hermaphrodites. We shoot sperm and eggs into the atmosphere and whatever happens happens. God does the rest,” I said.

“Like sea anemones,” she said.

“Yes! Just like sea anemones,” I said. “If you want to learn more, you can go to a movie store and rent this movie called Hermaphrodite Lesbian Rocket Scientists from Mars. It’s the closest thing to a true story this planet has.”

She found the truth to be wonderful and significant, something you’d have to be 969 to appreciate. And I, for the first time, did not feel alone. And I too was 969 for just a second, until she said,

“Margaret, the jury found me guilty and the judge sentenced me to death.” At which point, I regressed 919 years to the age of fifty and terror and the fear of the unknown came over me. I found myself clasping my hands together, my knees bent to the ground, and saying,

“Oh, please, God. Don’t kill this woman. Please, oh, God.” Of course, it was of no use. I didn’t have the means to speak with God. I had to count on myself.

The police knew exactly who did it. Knew exactly who had access to all the cells, who spent a little too much time speaking with prisoner #561590. Who could rearrange and clean out an entire room without a trace. They knew that the Polish cleaning woman they had hired was a little off.

What they didn’t know was who’s strange machine was parked in the loading zone out front on the day of the break out.

Everyone thinks they know everything.

Everyone has the answer to everything.

Everyone thinks they’re a goddamn super hero.

Even me. But what I had forgotten to take into account was my clumsiness. I accidentally slammed the door to the goddamn police station, waking up the sleeping guard who, moments later, realized something was terribly wrong and saw that inmate #561590 was not in her cell and that he would lose his job.

“Aw shucks,” he said.

Luckily, in the minute it took him to pray to God that it would all be okay, I shoved Tumbelina into the machine, set coordinates for the Sky Blue planet in the Rainbow Nebula, and closed the hatch. And by the time the guard was on the radio in a panic, I was on a CTA headed for the airport, ready to lose myself among the 1,692,900 Poles in Warsaw. From what I hear, Poland’s a beautiful place.

But it was something that that writer said to me, the last time I ever saw him and before William killed him in vengeful jealousy, that made me think that I was still not much more than fifty years old on the inside.

I cried at him,

“You cannot do this to me,” as he tried to force money into my hand. He called me a “stupid Polack” and I screamed in such frustration that I was not, in fact, from Poland. And, like Tumbelina, I told him the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God. And for a moment, he seemed to believe me. I could see it in the anger in his eyes.

“Ha,” he said. His laugh echoed a sentiment we both recognized at that moment (not the recognition of strength that I had enjoyed with Tumbelina, but the recognition of weakness). There was one thing more painful for an atheist to learn than the fact that a God did not exist and that was that a God did exist, but just did not care.

Instantly, the writer’ mind blocked the offense (which could have thrown his entire take on the world into question) and said, ““The belief in God is as outdated as the belief that the Sun revolves around the Earth”. At which point, I knew he wasn’t listening. My face became bright red and wrinkled in irritation.

“Listen, Margaret. The truth is, I love you. That’s it. I’ve said it.”

I was fed up.

“I have to go,” I said, “You cannot treat me like this.” As I closed the door to his apartment, I heard him scream,

“What about me, Margaret?!” And then that thing that I couldn’t forget and in that desperate pitch, “You’re not the center of the universe, you know!”

3 Responses to “Hermaphrodite Lesbian Rocket Scientists from Mars”

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