You’re at the market deciding what to cook tonight for your partner. It’s early evening, the skies blazing blue, the produce still warm from the day. You pick up a perfectly ripe tomato. It smells like a thousand summers.
Suddenly, a rough hand on your shoulder. You spin around to see two police officers. The biggest one forces your wrists into cuffs. You drop the tomato; it falls to the ground in slow motion, splits, spills its guts into the gutter.
You want to apologise to the friendly market stall holder, but disgust burns black in her eyes. Maybe it was she who reported you. Crime: existing in public.
In the tiny, cold police cell, the officer snatches your bag and takes out your phone.
“What’s your password?”
A blister of panic erupts behind your ribs. Say nothing, your friends have advised you. You say nothing.
But what if this is one of the officers who arrested your best friend when he went to the police to report being assaulted? Or who routinely harasses your trans friends when they’re just going about their day? Or who sets up fake profiles on queer dating apps to monitor people like you?
What if – no, please, don’t think about it – but what if this is one of the officers who does the dreaded anal exams you’ve heard about in hushed, broken voices?
You tell him your password. The risks of not telling him are too high.
It doesn’t take him long to find a photo of your passport, which you WhatsApped to your new landlord as proof of ID. You haven’t had your identity documents changed since transitioning. They still bear your old name. Your dead name.
“So, Omar,” he smirks. A cold wave of shame engulfs you. “I’m arresting you for prostitution.”
“Prostitution?” you say. “I was just buying dinner!”
“What, looking like that?” he says. You’re wearing a long maxi dress, some sandals. The same as most other women you saw today.
The officer slams the door on his way out. He takes your phone with him. Your thoughts race – what else is on there? Just your social apps, your photos, a few too many WhatsApp groups. Some embarrassing selfies, perhaps, but nothing incriminating.
Unless who you are is illegal.
Unless who you love is deemed unnatural.
Unless a text from your partner could land you both behind bars.
You curl up against the cold wall, put your head in your hands. They still smell like tomatoes, and summer, and freedom.