Now that Pinocchio is finally a real boy, he understands that what he really wants to be is a woman. He knows he has to tell his father, Geppetto, who spent his whole life longing for a son.

“Dad,” he says, “I need to talk to you about something.” He looks around at his father’s small house. It seems much smaller now that Pinocchio is grown up. From the kitchen, he can see Geppetto’s studio, littered with puppets flung about like tiny dead bodies. “You know what you always say about making the puppets? That you can tell what’s inside the chunk of pine even before you start carving it? That you just know?”

Geppetto nods. He carries a basket of bread to the table with arthritic fingers.

“I know something, too,” Pinocchio says. “About what I am inside.” He tells Geppetto that although he gave him the features of a boy and a boy’s name, he guessed wrong when he picked up this particular piece of pine.

Geppetto stays quiet as Pinocchio speaks. When he’s finished, he asks, “How long have you known?”

Pinocchio considers it for a moment. It’s a difficult question to answer. It’s possible that, on some level, he has always known. At the very least, he’s always felt like an intruder in his own body. When he was a child, it was easy to attribute his discomfort to the fact that he was made of wood. He wasn’t like the other boys. He would study himself in the mirror for hours imagining a different body, thinking about being a different person.

When the wood was changed for skin, it didn’t get any better. He thought he just needed to get used to this new form. But, no, this wasn’t right either. In response to his dad’s question he just shrugs. “A while,” he says. “I didn’t know how to tell you.”

“Is this because you never had a mother?” Geppetto asks.

“No,” says Pinocchio, but it kind of makes sense now that he’s thinking about it. He doesn’t think it would have changed anything, but if he’d been around women more, maybe he would have realized it earlier. Growing up, there was only him, his father, the cricket, the cat, and the fish—all men.

Geppetto shakes his head. “Maybe I didn’t socialize you properly.”

Pinocchio remembers the first time he met other boys, real boys. They were drunks and gamblers. They smoked big cigars and smelled like sweat and cotton candy. Is this what it means, he wondered, to be a man?

“It’s no one’s fault,” Pinocchio says. “Because there’s nothing to be upset about. This is who I am inside. This is how you made me.”

On the way back home after dinner, Pinocchio thinks about all the men that he’s met in his life and the fever they built, collectively, in his heart. Jiminy and Figaro and Cleo are all dead. He doesn’t know what’s become of Monstro, the whale that scared him three quarters to death, or the boys that changed to donkeys. And then there is his father, his father’s slow, shaking head. The way his father’s face says, All I ever wanted was for you to be a real boy. If he were still made of wood, he’d be broken or burnt by now.

It isn’t any wonder, then, that he hallucinates a curvy blond with full pink lips to play his subconscious. Pinocchio, she whispers into his ear like a lullaby, this is who you are inside. In his dreams, when she takes off her clothes, he doesn’t touch her. He looks at her, studying each inch for a full minute for the entire time he is asleep.

Pinocchio wishes he could have her soft skin and long hair. He wishes for her tiny, perfect teeth. He wishes his father would say he understands. Say, You’re the child I always wanted. But more than anything he wishes for a time when he doesn’t have to wish anymore.

*  *  *