Fiction has been a place of solace for me this year, but in the last two months I haven't had much energy for it. But at my darkest points or times when I feel the worst, I will pick up something that gives me a boost, that makes me think more deeply and snaps me out of a funk, or is just so charming and has just the right tone that it leaves me feeling like I can keep pushing on through the misery of 2017. The most recent story to provide that for me is "Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live" by Sacha Lamb.
I am not trans or Jewish, although those two things are incredibly important to the story. They're only part of the story, though. The rest is about Avi growing up amid loss and confusion and betrayal (and also, demons). Each of us, at different points in our lives, are very specific people. Our experiences change us in thousands of different ways as we move through the world. The title of the story seems dire, but it's also a hint about what it means to be a person in the world. You can't stay the same, no matter what, and the lie of sameness is one pushed incredibly hard by culture at everyone, but especially people who don't fit. Avi is not the same boy at the beginning of the story that he is at the end; Ian changes him, in a thousand different ways. I've come back to the title over and over again, because it invokes death, much like the story does. But it still uses the word "live".
The threads of family connection in this story also messed me up, especially the details of Avi's father and the gulf between he and his mother. It's gutting and incredibly heartwarming to watch the family dynamics operate in this story. The "ideal" of family Avi imagines is restructured and reborn. It's so similar to things I went through as a young adult: seeing parents as people and not simply extensions of their children.
My main critique centers on the demon that Avi befriends, because Ian's family has some sort of connection and teaches Avi how to call on them (also never quiet explaining enough for me to understand). It felt rushed; a bit of an afterthought even though the character herself is important to the end of the story. There are trade-offs in short fiction and this is always one of them for me: even when I love a story, something feels unfinished or underdeveloped. I'm not aware of demons and their lore, which puts me at a disadvantage and unable to pick up the context clues.
If you're looking for a bittersweet romance between two trans boys with a happy ending definitely check this story out.