The Line

3

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wrote this for a workshop in response to a prompt to write a dialogue. Thought it might be of interest here as well.

“Were you on TV or something?”

“Excuse me?”

“Did I see you on TV? On some game show or a reality show. You look so familiar.”

“No. Never was on TV.”

“Well, maybe you look like someone.”

“I suppose. No one’s ever told me that before.”

“I’m Lydia, by the way.”

“Graham.”

“Pleased to meet you. I assume since you’re waiting in line to get tickets, that you’re a big Hard Reset fan.”

“Liked them since I was a kid. You?”

“Actually no. Only started liking them a few years ago. They were my sister’s favorite. Too rowdy for me. But I got to listening them after my sister was gone. Made me think of her. I started paying attention to the lyrics. Good stuff. Now I’m hooked.”

“Sorry to hear about your sister. What happened, if you’re willing to talk about it?”

“Sure. It was a few years ago. I don’t want you to think she died. She didn’t die. I just … lost her.”

“Lost her?”

“That’s the way I say it.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a long story. Sure you want to hear it?”

“There are three hundred people ahead of us in line. I’m not going anywhere.”

“OK. The real story. She and my parents were never what you’d call close. Neither one of us, actually, but I was a little closer than she was. My folks were never the gushy types. My father was an assistant college football coach, out of town a lot. Traveled the country to games during the season. Did recruiting in the off-season. And my mother, well she liked excitement and little children didn’t give it. I think we were kind of an afterthought in her life.

“My sister and I were also rather different. I was kind of a home body. She was a nature lover. Always going on hikes through the woods, lobbying to save the streams, and all that. She graduated from college and joined the forestry service. Got an assignment in California.

“Throughout college, we’d email each other. Not really often, but we’d always stay a bit in touch. I met Keith and we started dating and we were totally in love. Actually the last time I saw Georgina was at our wedding.”

“So you’re married?”

“Oh no, not anymore. Another long story. But we were goo-goo-eyed in the beginning. Keith was gorgeous and treated me like a queen. We spent a lot of time together and I kind of lost touch with my friends, acquaintances, and I’m afraid, my sister. There really wasn’t much to tell her. Her messages had gotten shorter and formal, and, well, she wasn’t really interested in details of my newlywed life.

“I feel awful. I should have stayed in touch. She was a really sweet person, and someone who always accepted me as I am. Can’t say that about my parents. Mom always wished one of us would be head-cheerleader-homecoming-queen flashy like she was. It was not to be for either of us.”

“Could you look her up?”

“I did. This was years later, when my marriage fell apart. I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that.”

“I’m a good listener, or so people tell me.”

“Oh Graham, are you sure you want to hear a stranger prattle on about her screwed up life?”

“Do I look like I have someplace else to go?”

“OK. You’re a really patient guy. Wish I could say the same for my husband. As the initial glow faded, we squabbled a lot. Keith was always noticing little things about me that annoyed him. He’d let them go for months and then vent his aggravation. And his career started taking off. He spent more and more time at work and less and less time with me. When I complained about that, I think it really tore him up. He wanted to see me more, but the company was doing really well and it took a lot of his time to keep it running. There were after-hours emergencies he had to be there to deal with.

“Oddly, though, the marriage didn’t actually fall apart until his career did. He had a falling out with one of the partners and they forced him out. Suddenly we were spending time together again, but he was bitter, and the money wasn’t coming in anymore. We were fighting, like, all the time.

“When we finally separated, I was completely alone. I had neglected my social life in favor of being in my husband’s circles, and now I really had no friends. I tried to get in touch with my sister again. But she had vanished.”

“Vanished?”

“Well I’m sure she hadn’t vanished. But it really seemed like she fell off the face of the earth. Email account disabled. Phone disconnected. “

“Did you try to find her?”

“Oh, did I. I didn’t know much about her life in California, but I knew where she worked. I called someone there and they, of course, wouldn’t tell me anything, but they put me in touch with a couple of guys in her group. They didn’t know what happened to her. One day she just gave her notice and quit. About the time she lost touch with me. Didn’t tell anyone why. They didn’t know her well but one of them knew her church. I called the church to speak with a couple friends. They were baffled too. She just ran off. Left town. Cleared out her apartment. Where’d she go? No one could tell me. No one could say why she left. It was as big a mystery to them as to me.”

“So that’s it. You gave up?”

“You don’t have to take it personally.”

“No. It’s not that. I was just hoping you’d, uh, tell me what happened to her.”

“Well I consulted a private detective. Do you know they charge more than two hundred dollars an hour. I was going through a divorce, then, and there’s no way I could have afforded it.”

“You don’t miss her?”

“Every day. But it’s been five years since she disappeared. I figure, she knows where I live. If she wants to find me she can. Because, I can’t find her.”

“I wonder if she feels just as guilty for losing touch with you.”

“I never thought of it that way. You sure I don’t know you from somewhere? Did you have something to do with the agency I work for? Snyder and Simpson? I’m in the graphic department, so I don’t have as much contact with clients.”

“No. I’ve only been in town a few weeks.”

“Oh. New to the area?”

“Well I spent some time here a number of years ago. But I’ve been living in Florida for the past few years.”

“What brought you back?”

“Let’s just say, things weren’t working out.”

“Oh come on, Graham. I just told you my life’s story. Can’t you do better than that?”

“All right. I wasn’t fitting in. The place wasn’t my kind of place. The people weren’t my kind of people.”

“In what way?”

“They had very definite ideas of what a man needs to be. I thought I was that kind of man. But I’m not. I was really lonely. I decided to return to the last place I felt comfortable and make a fresh start.”

“Oh…”

“Sorry. Kind of a downer.”

“No. Sorry, not that. I just feel for you, that’s all. Is it better here?”

“Well, there’s someone I was close to years ago. I haven’t had the nerve to look them up. I don’t know if I’ll be welcomed.”

“Why wouldn’t you be welcomed?”

“There have been a lot of changes.”

“Is this by any chance a woman?”

“Yes it’s a woman.”

“Look, Graham, you’re a good looking guy. You’ve got nice shoulders and a gentle voice. And I really like that goatee. Any girl would be lucky to have you.”

“No, nothing like that. Not a romantic interest. Just someone I was close to. I actually don’t go for women.”

“Are you gay?”

“I suppose you could say that.”

“Never would have guessed.”

“Not something you can tell by looking at someone.”

“When you say there have been changes – was it something to do with being gay?”

“Something.”

“Want to tell me about it?”

“I suppose I have to.”

“Well you don’t have to. But I’m all ears.”

“Yes, Lydia, I have to. OK. Here’s something you need to understand. When a woman takes testosterone, it changes her body. It deepens her voice. She gets a totally different face. Broader shoulders. She gets whiskers, body hair. Muscles. You can’t tell she was ever a woman.”

“OK. I’ll take your word for it. Why would someone do that?”

“There are some women that have something in their brains that make them want to be men. No one knows why. But it’s incurable. And they have to do it. They feel more depressed and angry the longer they remain women. They have no other choice.”

“Your lady friend. Are you talking about her?”

“But the problem with people who do that, is that they grew up as woman. Maybe there is a lot about being a woman that they like. They like how women try to understand their friends. They like that women have a lot more choices in the roles they can play. Suddenly they’re playing in the world of men, playing a game where they don’t like the rules but they can’t quit. Because their brains tell them they are men. That they have to stay men, even though living as a man doesn’t suit them.”

“I don’t know what to say. Why are you telling me this? Did this happen to someone you know?”

“Lydia, look at me.”

“Huh?”

“Take a good look at my face. My nose. My mouth. Don’t you see it at all?”

“What am I supposed to see?”

“Lydia, I’m your sister.”

“Huh?”

“Yes. I am. I’ve changed.”

“Georgina?”

“No one has called me that for more than five years.”

“Georgina? You can’t be her. I mean you’re a man.”

“Lydia, haven’t you been listening to what I’m telling you. That’s what testosterone does. It changes a woman. Physically. Into a man.”

“But, why would she do this?”

“We’re not talking about ‘she’. We’re talking about me. And it’s because I’m something called ‘transgender’. It means my brain thinks I ought to be male.”

“You’re not happy that way, are you?”

“With my body, yes. I’m very happy. It looks exactly the way I want it to. I used to look in the mirror and be disgusted by my soft skin. My high voice. My delicate bones. My breasts. Now when I see myself, this is exactly the way I’m supposed to look.”

“But your breasts?”

“Those I had to have surgically removed. Cost a fortune. I saved up for years. When I finally had the money, I quit my job, closed up my apartment, got into my car and drove to Florida where the guy who does that surgery is. I figured the people I work with, the people in my church, they would all know I used to be a woman. I wanted to start fresh somewhere. Actually be a man among men. Know what it was really like to live as a genetic man, not someone people are treating as a man just to be kind. I basically broke off all contact with everyone I used to know. Anyone who ever knew my name used to be something other than Graham. Including you, I’m sorry to say.

“After my surgery, I got a job with Florida Fish and Game. It was right in the center of the state. I lived in a small town. I had been on T long enough that I passed well for a guy. No one knew.

“But Lydia, I wasn’t happy. Men have a way of relating to each other. They don’t want to know too much about each other. They need to be tough to deal with the ups and downs of life. So they form these shells around anything that might upset them. It works for them. Works well.

“But it doesn’t work for me. I liked being close with women. I miss being able to open my heart to a friend. The women in my town didn’t trust me. Thought I was coming on to them. Thought it strange that a guy wanted to get to know them. And those with boyfriends and husbands, which was most, well the boyfriends and husbands didn’t take kindly to another guy hanging around their girls.”

“Georgina, how could you be a man? I still don’t understand.”

“Graham. I’m Graham now. And I just explained. I took testosterone.”

“You can just turn into a man like that?”

“Believe it or not, thousands of people do it.”

“But, I mean, you always were a girl.”

“Yes, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t tell anyone. I figured, I’m a girl, I’ll just have to get used to it. But as time went on, through college, and after moving to California, I got more and more unhappy. I started doing research on the Internet. I learned about women who changed their sex. I went to see a counselor and I started taking T. I liked the changes in my body.”

“But you never played with guys. You never did guy things. You went out with guys in school.”

“Being transgender doesn’t necessarily affect your likes and dislikes. It doesn’t change your personality. And it has nothing to do with your sexual orientation. I still like guys. It just means I know I need to be a man.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“Lydia. Sweetie. Don’t try to understand. Even I don’t understand it fully.”

“But if you’re not happy living like a man…”

“I am happy being a man. Every time I look in the mirror I get this little jolt of euphoria when I see a guy looking back at me. But I don’t like everything about being a man.”

“So are you back here for good?”

“Well, it depends. I’m hoping that people here are more accepting. I just want to be thought of as a guy, not a gay guy. There really wasn’t much of a gay community where I lived. But here, I figure I can have gay friends but not have to be out to everyone.”

“You say it depends. What does it depend on?”

“If you forgive me and accept me.”

“Forgive you?”

“Well, I kind of cut you out of my life without explanation. It was not a kind thing to do.”

“I thought I lost touch with you. I thought you would be angry at me.”

“Looks like we both had a part in this. So do you accept me?”

“As a man? It will take getting used to.”

“Yes. It certainly will.”

Hug

 

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About Author

Suzi Chase writes about transgender issues through both fiction and non-fiction. She has had careers in teaching and software engineering and has raised two children.

3 Comments

  1. *

    Five years? Not much compared to the more than 20 years when my sister and I last saw each other.

    There have been times during our lives when my sister chose to have no contact with me for five years and more. It hurts.

    Take these past years since 1993 when we last saw each other. I was on my road trip to Oregon for Summer vacation. Her city was along the route. I called and told her that I was driving by and would like to talk. She begrudgingly accepted my presence at her home for quick visit. I thought to visit again on my return trip, but decided against it considering the way the first round collapsed.

    Multiple years have passed between the time my sister had any contact with me. I write to her – postal letters mostly because she shifts her e-mail accounts and Facebook pages.

    The longest duration she went without corresponding with me was 2001 through 2009. Our mother fell ill and died in 2002; my sister wrote nothing of that. I knew but I decided to wait her out. She finally answered an e-mail that I sent to her late-2009. She blamed me for our mother’s death and blamed me for her supposed debt she incurred managing the estate. None of my sister’s claims were true; it was my sister’s way of passing blame to me as she routinely did as children – she two years older than I am.

    Jump to nowadays.

    I sent a birthday e-mail to my sister in 2014. I wrote about what was happening in my life, that I wanted her to help me celebrate milestones in my life, and I asked her to reply and write about what was happening in her life. Instead, she sent a nasty e-mail reply to me; she told me that she wanted nothing more to do with me. That seemed an easy break for her considering that we are sisters only by my adoption into her family. My presence was the intrusion into her comfy life when we were children. She has no bond to me though I do for her as my ‘big sister’.

    Months passed since last year’s exchange. I sent a birthday letter to her this year; no responce from her. I sent a seasonal holiday greeting and another hand-written postal letter. She sent a brief e-mail to me with little personable element and more about her ‘ground rules’ how she will allow me to correspond with her or else no more letters or e-mails from her. She made her typical accusations against me – blaming me for whatever was her whim. I guess I’m entitled to my ‘ground rules’; we shall see.

    I wrote to my sister hoping for a quick visit as I pass her way again on another vacation trip. She initially expressed non-commitment. My reply asserting my ‘ground rules’ apparently moved her to vows of silence again.

    Much as the characters in Suzi’s narrative were family and the one sister did not recognise her sibling brother, she brought me to feel a personal twinge. My sister would also probably not recognise me if we stood side-by-side in a similar line. I’m certain I would recognise her. I look at her old photographs most days though the ‘newest’ are from 1993; I frequently view a VHS video I made during a 1992 visit. I did browse her Facebook pages until she wiped them off the Internet.

    My sister knows of my change – she knew since we were children. The point being that she has no idea what I look like since we have no familial resemblance. Sometimes I thought of driving to her city where she resides and finding a place where she might pass by me. I did that to a one-time best friend – I sat at his business lobby, he walked right past me, I greeted him by name, but he did not recognise me.

    We shall see whether my sister re-instates her effort to visit with me for the few brief hours I requested from her world where she declares she is too busy for me. I, the dutifull younger sister, am willing to forgive her.

    *

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