For Answers, Look to the Frogs

Katherine checked her reflection in the night-darkened window of the loft, which looked out onto the East River and the housing projects that lined the FDR Drive in lower Manhattan, just beyond. The party was in a nowhere area of Brooklyn, for which realtors were scrambling to find a nickname. At the moment it was called D.U.B.I.O.U.S., or something like that--Dwelling Under Bridges Is Otherwise Usually Sketchy. While pleased with her image, she felt her hopes of finding any action this evening fading. The boys--the 'straight' boys, that is--were off on one side of the apartment and the girls and gay men on the other.

Why do I even bother?

She, like each of the other girls there, sported over a thousand dollars worth of clothing. Really good clothing. Katherine was working a Marc Jacobs top with Daryl K jeans and a really punishing, pointy pair of Sigurson Morrison stilettos. When she walked in the room, sure, the response was universal. She'd outdone herself. From the gay men, there was applause, lavish praise. From the other women, first she got icy, jealous stares, but then concessionary admiration. From the straight men were loud, ironic whistles, but only for a minute. Then they returned to their talk of the Moog versus the Farfisa organ and whatever pharmaceuticals that were on the menu.

In the crowd were three ex-boyfriends. But that wasn't an issue. Everyone shared. This crowd had cross-pollinated in more combinations than Katherine could count. One ex, Julian, was over at the window with his shirt up and a nipple pressed against the glass, wagging his tongue at a man in his apartment across the street. On the couch, Marc and Henry were seated awfully close, completely blitzed on she couldn't tell what, and talking, it seemed, about their feelings. The girls were all touching each other's clothes and hair and talking about 'hot' yoga. It was as if all libido had been sucked out of the room.

"Seriously, what the fuck?" Katherine asked to no one in particular.

Jeff had come over next to her, to adjust his faux-hawk in the window. It was listing off to the side. "Goddamn this hair."

"Jeff, am I not a catch?" Katherine asked without expression.

"'Course you are, hot pants. These guys are all freakin' retarded. Literally. Know what kind of goofballs they have tonight? Marinol. Medical marijuana they bought off an AIDS patient."

"Charming. I swear, the more I hear..."

"The more you want to stop shaving your legs, I know." Jeff was examining the stitching on Katherine's belt.


"It's really good."

Katherine didn't have the chance to acknowledge Jeff's praise for her belt before Colin staggered toward them. He was obviously still heavily abusing Special K, as evidenced by the small, bloody snot bubble hanging from his nose, of which he was apparently unaware. It dripped onto his t-shirt, which was emblazoned with the words "Pimp of the Perverse".

Now the t-shirt's lame and gross, Katherine thought.

" You fucking mess." Jeff grabbed Colin by the arm and slung him into a chair.

"Guh," Colin said and looked up at them.

"This is reeeeally cute." At least she wouldn't be caught in conversational quicksand with him. He usually reverted to a pre-verbal state when in a K-hole.

Katherine went into the kitchen where two women were laughing with the abandon of infants. One had her face planted into the counter, her back shaking. The other was sitting up there with her skirt all twisted. Katherine decided she didn't need to be in on this joke and quickly poured herself a Saphire and tonic. Before she left the kitchen, however, she saw yesterday's Times sitting on top of a pile of recycling. The headline grabbed her. "Study: NYC Water Causing Hermaphroditism in Frogs".

She grabbed the paper and sat on a windowsill. This was it. Validation. It wasn't her. Or, it wasn't completely her, anyway. The article said that a study of the frog population around the reservoir upstate, where New York City's drinking water came from, found that the male frogs were becoming sterile and, often, even developing hermaphroditic characteristics. My god. The article ended with the implication that was now preoccupying those scientists -- was what is happening to the frogs going to happen to humans? "It's already a moot point, boy-o."

Across the room, Katherine saw Victor, walking toward the kitchen. Victor, who was new in town. So new he was still couch-surfing with friends. Relatively uncharted territory. Cute, funny, Victor, with the large black eyes. Victor, with no outward signs of gender dysphoria. She got up to position herself in his path.

In the kitchen, to her horror, he was filling a glass with tap water.

"No, no!" she said and swatted his arm with the rolled up newspaper.

"Arf!" he said, and smiled at her. "Crazy woman."

She took the glass out of his hand. "Please, don't drink the water," she said before she caught herself.

He looked unsure of where she was going with this, but seemed nonetheless amused by it. "What is this, the Mexico of Brooklyn?"

"Something like that." Katherine considered showing him the headline but thought better of it. "This is an old building. The water here has lead in it." She nodded her head, as if agreeing with herself.

He smiled. "Well, your concern for my health and well-being is touching."

"I know. I'm very thoughtful."

"And cute."

She raised an eyebrow. "Hmph. Puppies are cute."

"Yes, they are. So, what'll we go with, then? Pretty? Beautiful?"

"More like it."

"Stunning. Let's go with stunning."

"Who, me?"

"And well-dressed."

"This old thing?" she said and waved her hand, dismissively.

"You wear it well, Sally Housecoat."

Katherine's mind raced and she wondered if she could get him out of there, right then. "Are you hungry?"

He smiled coyly. "Why, Katherine, whatever do you have in mind?"

How wonderful it was to feel like a shameless tart. "I know this little place. It's in Jersey, we could be there in an hour, give or take..."

About the author:

Kristin Murray is living in Philadelphia, where she is enrolled in the Master of Liberal Arts program at the University of Pennsylvania. She welcomes suggestions as to just what to do with such a degree.