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A New Mohawk

Chavisa Woods (2018)

I usually would have slept until at least noon. But I woke up really early, like at eight o’clock. I couldn’t figure out was wrong for a second, then I realized my head was itching like crazy. I sat up in bed and started manically scratching it, but that only seemed to make it worse. As I was scratching it, I was shocked to feel tons of little things moving around on my head. Bedbugs! I immediately thought. Huge ones. I stood up and pulled back the covers. They were all clean. No sign of the red plague. But god, that itching was awful. I ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror.

I think it was Dr. Phil who said there are only about five principal events in every person’s life after which they will never be the same; five events that change you forever. Like, you become a markedly different person after these things happen, and there’s no going back to who you were before. I only have two, and I doubt I’ll ever have any more. The first one was when I was twenty-four and I decided to do the tea and the top surgery (get my tits hacked off) and become a real boi. My second “principal event” occurred when I looked in the mirror that morning.

For a while I just stared at it. Then I started feeling around very gently patting at it with my hands, mumbling to myself, my mouth opening and closing slowly like a dying fish. I watched very closely, mesmerized by what I was seeing: the soldiers standing guard at the checkpoint, the line of cars and people at the base near my neck and the empty deserted area near the front, where, on one side, every few minutes, I thought I could make out some people shifting in the nearby bushes. I fingered the wall that ran like a Mohawk down the center of my head. It was solid, hard stone and did not give under the weight of my touching. Suddenly, I felt something singe my fingertip. I pulled my hand away and jumped back to the tiny sound of three little bombs exploding quickly. I put my hands in the air and pressed my back against the wall. I could make out the microscopic sound of screaming. Something fell from my head to the floor. I got down on my knees and pressed my cheek to the tile to get a good look. It was a little bigger than an ant. Well, I shouldn’t say it. He was a little bigger than an ant, a miniature man wriggling on the floor, blood gurgling out of his mouth in bubbles. By the count of five, he was dead.

I jumped out of the bathroom, grabbed my keys off the table, and bolted down the stairs and onto the sidewalk, faster than I’d ever run. I didn’t even think to try to get on the subway or grab a bus or even a cab. My body just started going and didn’t seem to want to stop till I got where I needed to be. It only took me twenty minutes to get to my doctor’s office. I’d never wanted to see a doctor so badly in my life. It seems silly to me now, that being my first inclination. But in those twenty minutes, I just kept telling myself that all I needed was a doctor.

I slammed open the glass doors and slid along the tile floor, my sneakers squeaking as I landed at the counter, panting beside the line of people waiting to fill out their forms. The man at the front desk started. “Excuse me! Can I help you?” His face went sprintingly from annoyed, to startled, to curious, to horrified as he looked me over.

“I need to do an emergency walk-in! Okay?”

He began breathing through his mouth and nodding unconsciously, the way people do when they are mesmerized by something inexplicable. The people in the line next to me were staring too. A couple of them had stepped away from me. “Uh-huh, sure. Have you . . .” his eyes scanned my head, “been here before?”

“Yeah. Yes,” I hollered, leaning over the counter and pointing at his computer. “My doctor’s name is Murphy. Is she in today?”

He looked from me to his computer to me again, his eyes wide. “I think so.” He typed something on the screen. “Your name?”

“Sheldon. Sheldon Peters.”

“Okay, your preferred pronoun?”


“Ummm, Mr. Peters, is it?”

“Yes!” I shouted.

“What seems to be . . .” he paused again, just staring at me. I looked around quickly. One of the women in the line had backed all the way up to the door and was holding it open, watching me warily. “I’m sorry.” He blinked and tried to smile. “What seems to be the nature of your emergency?”

“I . . . I . . .” I coughed and leaned over toward him. I pointed at my head, and I meant to whisper it, but instead I screamed, “I’ve got the Gaza Strip on my head!”

He shot straight up, tipping his chair over behind him, then stiffened. “We’re going to get you a wheelchair,” he told me brusquely. “Nurse!” He looked at me for a couple more seconds, then turned and disappeared through the door behind him, shouting for a nurse.

They were very sensitive to differences in this place. It’s a special sort of clinic geared toward queer and trans people. I’m sure all the staff had been through all types of sensitivity trainings. But I could tell I was pushing their limits. The walls were calmingly purple. I tried to block out the sounds of machine gun fire and shouting, which luckily are only loud enough to hear if you get very close to me. While I was waiting for my wheelchair I read the mural on the wall. It was a quote by Audre Lorde. It read: <DIFFERENT FONT>“Every woman has a militant responsibility to involve herself with her own health. We owe ourselves the protection of all the information we can acquire. And we owe ourselves this information before we may have a reason to use it.”  I read it twice. Even though I was no longer a woman, it comforted me.

The guy came out running with a nurse and a wheelchair. The nurse shoved me down into the chair. The line parted for me and the nurse kept patting my shoulder, telling me everything was going to be okay. All the way up in the elevator, she tried to pat away my terror and hers.

The nurse who was patting me left as soon as another nurse came into the examination room. This woman was large, Rubenesque and tough-looking with lots of eye makeup and a rose tattoo on her arm. “What do we have here?” She put her hand on her hip and tapped her foot. “They tell me you’re a real special case. But I seen everything. I’m from the Bronx, you know. So go ahead and try me. Let’s hear it.”

I shrugged and directed her gaze to the top of my head. “I think I’ve got the Gaza Strip on my head.”

She clicked her tongue, unimpressed. “Mmmmm-hmmmm. And what are your symptoms?” She tapped the pen on the clip, appearing slightly bored.


“Mmmm-hmmm. That’s what I said.”

“Well, uh. It’s the Gaza Strip. And it’s on my head. See.”

“Fine. Let me take a look.” She laid the clipboard down and took me by the chin, turning my head side to side slowly, getting a good look at it, then released me.

“I don’t know,” she said, “that looks to me like it might be the Great Wall of China.”

“I don’t think so.”

She rolled her eyes, annoyed. “Are you a doctor?”


“Well see now, neither am I, and that’s why I got to get your symptoms. We’ll let the doctor do the diagnosing, ohhhhkay?

“Okay.” I nodded and scratched.

“Don’t you start scratching.” She smacked my hand away. “That’s the worst thing you could do. Now, what symptoms are you having that makes you think this is that Gaza thing?”

“Well,” I thought hard. It seemed strange to think of them as symptoms. “There’s a checkpoint. I mean, it seems to be a checkpoint.”

“Okay.” She wrote it on the paper. “Checkpoints. Go on.”

“And there have been ongoing bombings mostly landing on the right side of my head.”

“Bombings coming from the east going to the west?”

“I mean, that’s assuming my face is south, and also depends on what area of the wall I’m dealing with here, right?”

She raised a painted brow. “Hey, we don’t even know that it is a wall yet. Any other symptoms?”

“Yeah, well, earlier a miniature man fell out of my head, and . . . well, he seemed to have been shot, and he died.”

“Dead men falling.” She wrote it down and placed her pencil behind her ear. “The doctor will be here in a minute. You just hang tight.”

She left the door slightly open. I could hear the news on the television in the waiting room. I walked to the door and listened. They were talking about Israel just like they had been constantly, all week. I heard the word “escalation,” and then “fourth day of fighting.” The doctor knocked on the wall. I went back to the wheelchair as she entered, my hands folded tensely in my lap. She smiled too big at me. I tried to force one in return.

“Hello Sheldon, Haven’t seen you for a while. I hear we’re having a bit of a special problem today.”


It wasn’t long before I realized there was nothing any doctor could do for me. First, Dr. Murphy had asked me where I got my hair done. I had to explain to her that I didn’t do it on purpose. This whole thing just sprung up overnight. She kept me in there for five hours, bringing in almost all of the doctors in the building. They took my blood and urine and my entire life history. Dr. Murphy, at first, was worried it was a side effect of the tea and surgery. But they quickly ruled that out. A few of them thought it was a virus and one of them was dead set on it being a genetic mutation. But no one could come up with any definite answers. I was in and out of specialist offices for weeks. One of them even paid to have me flown to L.A. so he could observe me. I lived in a little room with a double-mirrored wall. He wanted to keep samples of the dead people that were falling out of my head, but I wouldn’t let him. It’s my body. Well? It is . . . I mean, they, are coming from my body.

All the specialists confirmed that the thing on my head is indeed a section of the barrier wall running along the Israel-Palestine border. The best explanation I found was from the guy in California. He deduced that these weren’t the actual people from Israel and Palestine on my head, but flesh-and-blood animated replicas. It’s a living-scale model. He deduced this, seeing that nothing I do, like shampooing or combing, seems to affect or hinder their actions. They are not aware of me or my head. I don’t understand at all how this happened, but the specialist said something, which I wrote down, about chaos theory, and explained to me that everything only has the slightest probability of existence. He said that we know this is true because, and I wrote this down, “it is impossible to simultaneously measure the velocity and position of the divided nuclei in motion.” So, he deduced, if everything only has a slight possibility of existence, then things that cannot exist have an almost equal possibility of existing. In other words, if everything is barely possible, then the impossible is not far from possible.

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