He spun in the mirror, twisting his head around trying to get a good look at his entire outfit. The blouse slipped over his arms blossoming out just right, hugging them and making them seem slimmer. They no longer looked simply muscular and masculine, more delicate and soft. Arms that were for comforting and not fighting.
The end of the skirt rested just above his ankles, it fluffed out as he spun catching the air and making him grin. He wanted to just continue to spin and spin letting the hem lift him in the air, sky blue wings for him to fly up above this complicated and difficult world.
He stared straight into the mirror trying to ignore the face that looked back at him, that masculine face full of hard angles and tight edges. He concentrated on his body instead, in the charcoal grey blouse and sky blue flowing skirt. His hard abbs and roughs edges were hidden, made softer, more gentle by these light airy clothes. His legs weren’t hair stalks out to stomp on the world, they were long and slender, perfect for gently walking above and beyond the world around him.
The front door clicked shut and he felt his heart drop out of his chest and into his feet. He quickly fumbled with the buttons on the blouse, the little pieces of plastic refusing to easily slip away from their fabric homes. Swearing he got the last one out and tore the soft sheer fabric from his chest.
He pulled the zipper down the side of the skirt and let the jean material pool at his feet. He folded it neatly as he could and shoved it back into the dresser. The blouse had just been thrown back into the closet, the door not quiet shutting when she came into the room.
He stood in his underwear, heart racing. He stared like a child caught in the act of stealing a cooking, at his fiancé, Samantha. She gave him a quizzical look and shrugged, clearly not going to ask. He knew he should pull out a pair of paints and a T-shirt but he was too scared to move. Did she know?
Samantha stood staring at Jack who was standing in his tight white underwear just staring at her.
She wasn’t going to ask but she ultimately couldn’t help it. “You alright?” His eyes were wide, a look of nervous terror shone out. He stood so still, like he was a criminal unsure if he had been caught red handed or just at a suspicious moment.
“Fine,” he said. His voice was normal not a squeak or a wobble to be heard.
“Did I catch you at an awkward moment? Do you have some pretty girl on the computer waiting for you?” She laughed.She tried to sound casual, but she felt a tinge of worry. He couldn’t be cheating on her could he? Something was wrong, she just needed to fish out what.
“Haha very funny,” he said finally moving, the awkward frozen moment breaking. He turned to his own dresser and pulled out a plain white T-shirt and a roughly worn pair of jeans. “ I was just changing from work and you scared me. Being caught basically naked by a robber would have been a little unsettling.” He said with half a smile as he pulled on his jeans.
“Or perfect timing, might end up saving your life. He would take one look at you in your tighty whiteys and bolt. Crisis averted,” she said chuckling, walking over to her own dresser.
“They aren’t that bad,” he said, pulling his shirt over his head.
“Sure they aren’t,” she replied, still grinning. Why was his banter so strained? Generally their verbal spats were easy and fun. Now it felt forced and like a play neither of them had read or understood. She watched him from the corner of her eye, it took him two tries to fasten the button on his jeans and his shirt was on backward. He quickly right himself and headed out of the room. She wanted to follow him and tell him to cut the crap and tell her what the hell was wrong. She stopped herself. Whatever it was he would tell her soon enough, he always did in the end.
Jack went out onto the porch and leaned on the railing, taking deep gulps of the sweet summer air. The wind danced over his face and gently lifted a few strands of his auburn hair out of his eyes. Out here he felt calmer, less jumpy, less shameful.
That had been a close call. Samantha wasn’t supposed to be home so early, he knew her schedule and routines to the exact second. He knew she always stopped for a diet pop at the same McDonalds on her way home. He knew she always hit every red light on Main Street, never being able to get out of work a minute earlier to avoid them. He knew it all, knew exactly how long he had to the minute Exactly how long he had to live that sweet daydream, one he desired above any other but one he was too terrified to voice out loud. Always hiding in the closet, playing behind closed doors where no one could see or judge him.
It had always been an interest of his, what women’s clothes felt like. They just looked so soft and comfortable, enveloping women, allowing them to dance past him. The fluidity of dresses and skirts had always intrigued him. When he was young he had liked stealing his mothers clothes and playing dress up, though her clothes were always too big not allowing him to get the full effect. No one thought twice, he was just a child playing and exploring, nothing more. As he grew older and the idea got more taboo, he found himself sneaking quick try-on’s of his friends clothes, generally in theater, where it didn’t seem so out of place. Everyone wore strange clothes and played strange roles in there, it was expected and accepted. He loved all the pieces; blouses, skirts and dresses. He loved everything expect heels, those were just painful and pointless he thought.
He had at first thought it was an innocent interest, one that would fade as the clothes become more familiar and ultimately boring. But the more he tried them on, the more he loved it, the more comfortable and at home he felt in his own skin. More and more often he stared at himself in the mirror and wondered what it would feel like to be an actual woman. Not just wear the clothes but to live that life.
He hated his bulging arms and rough hairy face. He couldn’t stand the fur that coated his legs and chest. He wanted soft and smooth skin, skin like Samantha’s. He wanted long hair that laid down his back and got twisted and blown around in the breeze. He didn’t want to have to live like a cliche male, being excessively masculine to avoid any questions or concerns. He waned to be emotional without being called names, to not worry about if he cried in public or got choked up at a movie. He wanted that body, that maternal feel for the world, that softer, gentler side he associated with women. As days and days went by he found himself daydreaming about what being a woman would be like.
Those daydreams felt so good, so right. He felt so happy and comfortable in that imaginary body. Felt at home with that gentle face and the softer lines and edges. He felt like he could say what he felt, be who he wanted to be. Months ago he had started researching Gender Identity Disorder, trying to understand this feeling that had always plagued him. This feeling of just not being in the right body, this lack of happiness and comfort that he felt every time he looked at himself in the mirror as he got dressed. An image that clothes alone couldn’t change, they helped but didn’t fix it. He needed all of it, every piece.
After much consideration, tears and near break downs he knew what he truly wanted. He finally had said it out loud the other day, the words he had been suppressing for ages now. “I want to be a woman.” Now he just had to decide how to tell his fiancé.
Samantha finished getting dressed and was about to go out and find Jack when she backtracked to her closet. It was opened a few inches and she could see something stuck in the side of it. She carefully opened the door the rest of the way to find her favorite dark grey blouse hanging halfway off the hanger, about to fall into a heap on the floor.
She pulled it up on the hanger and carefully shut the closet once again. As she went back to the doorway she racked her brain, trying to remember the last time she had worn that shirt. It had been months. The weather had just turned warm again and they had had no fancy places to go that would have been appropriate for that outfit. So why was it haphazardly hanging like that?
She shrugged figuring that it must have been a result of her harried morning. She must have knocked it around as she had tried to beat the clock this morning. She headed into the kitchen to look for Jack but he wasn’t there. She instead headed out onto the front porch and found him leaning on the railing, staring out at the neighborhood. His shoulders were bunched, head bent, she knew if she could see his face his eyes would be open but not seeing anything.
She carefully came up to his side but didn’t say a word. This had been a normal stance of his lately, just standing lost in thought. They could have been taking a walk, at the store or just getting ready in the morning and he would just go silent and watch the world around him. He never said anything or gave a hint about these moments of silence, what they meant or what caused them. He just stared in silence for a moment then began moving again, like he was a video chat that periodically lagged.
She wanted more than anything to ask him what the problem was. Because there had to be a problem, you didn’t detach yourself form the world and the one you loved for no reason. But she was scared, scared that the problem was her. Was he tired of her? Did he want to go on a break or worse to never see her again? She couldn’t face that, if he was going to end it she wanted to prolong it as long as possible. That knife wound was one she would dodge as long as she was humanely able. Everyday he got farther away and everyday she got more and more scared.
“Thinking hard? Or has the brain finally turned off?” She tried to joke. She knew it didn’t sound playful, more painful.
He jumped, clearly he hadn’t noticed her coming up to him. He turned to look at her, the look he gave her was full of fright yet set with an odd determination. As if in that moment he had made a decision, one he had been fighting for ages. His hands were taut and tight on the railing, as if he was holding onto the last stable thing in the world. He didn’t want to do this, but he going to. She felt her breath catch in her chest.
“Thinking,” he said softly. She almost started crying, she wanted to beg him not to do this. They could fix whatever was wrong, together. The last thing they needed was to be apart.
“About?” she asked, not even trying to hide the shake in her voice.
“I have something I have to tell you. To talk to you about,” he said. He released the rail and held out a hand for hers. She took it and about lost it completely, his grip was firm and strong.
“Okay,” she would not break down, not yet.
They sat on the swing and he turned sitting sideways so he could look directly in her eye. He took a deep breath and she almost leapt to her feet and ran off but she forced herself to remain seated. She was not going to be able to handle this but she had to try.
Jack watched Samantha breaking in front of him. Her voice was shaking as bad as her hands, she was a fragile piece of glass on the brink of shattering. He knew what she was thinking, that he was about to break off the engagement. Tell her he loved her but not enough to marry her. Say that he didn’t want the ring back just a sound end to everything. He knew she wanted to beg him not to do it. God how he wished it was something so simple and straight forward.
“Samantha I love you more than I can ever state. I will always love you. Always hold you in the best place of my heart. I will always hold your happiness above my own. I want to live everyday by your side,” he professed.
“Okay,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “What’s the but?” she asked with a tear choked voice. He shouldn’t have been surprised by that question. She wasn’t dumb, she knew he wouldn’t be saying this, in this way, without having a damned good reason.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed I’m not the same man you met five years ago. I’ve changed as we all do but I’ve also lost a part of me. I though at first it was just how fast the world had changed around me. I ran around trying to fit everything back into place. But there is one piece that no matter how I turn it, shape it or rearrange it, it will not fit into the puzzle,’ he explained.
“Me?” she barely got the question out of her tightened throat.
He felt a tear fall down his cheek, that was the last thing he wanted her to think. “No, no, no,” he said over and over. “You are not even close. You are the piece that began connecting everything in the first place. It is me, I won’t fit or more specifically my outward appearance won’t fit,” he tried. He didn’t know how to say this.
“What?” she wasn’t crying anymore, just looking lost and confused.
He knew he could try to dress it up and spin it so many different ways but that would only delay the inevitable.
“I’m not supposed to be a man, I want to become a woman.” It was all he said. He didn’t dive into the reasons, his struggle or his plans. That was too much for right now. The idea had to sink in first.
She dropped his hands and stood up looking shocked and horrified. She opened her mouth twice but no words came out. She just shook her head, as if trying to dispel a dream, held up her hands and walked back inside. A minute later she was back with her keys and was in her car before he could recover and move. She was down the street before he found his voice.
“Sorry,” he whispered, watching her disappear. Now it was his turn to break down.
She turned the wheel and headed down the driveway and down the street without a backwards glance. Samantha felt her heartbeat skipping back and forth with all sorts of different rhythms. Her mind raced ahead with so many questions and concerns.
For half a second she thought he had been joking. One look into those eyes and that hesitant terrified yet determined tone of voice told her that it was not anywhere close to a joke.
She couldn’t begin to figure out what to do with the revelation he had thrown at her. She just knew she had to get away. She didn’t want to cry or scream or get angry with him, until she knew what her true emotions were. Was she mad?
No, she wasn’t mad. Well, maybe she was a little bit. Mad that he hadn’t come to her with this dilemma when he first began to wonder about all of it. How long had this been on his mind? Was this always swimming around from the moment they had met? Was he with her because she wasn’t extremely feminine, allowing him to take over that role? Was she some sick experiment? Or was this whole thing some horrible test that he was giving her, the supportive girlfriend test. If it was, she was going to lose all her control and go off on him, because that was just cruel.
Her phone vibrated against her side making her jump. At first she ignored it believing it was Jack trying to get her to come home. After a few more vibrations she got irritated and answered it.
“I can’t talk, I’m still thinking,” she didn’t want to snap but it was extremely difficult to keep the bite out of her voice.
“Think about what honey?” It was her mother.
The rush of relief that came over Sam nearly made her swerve off the road. “Are you home?” she asked her mother, her cold tinged voice was gone and a scared little girl was asking.
“Yeah I just got home. I was calling to see if you wanted to come over for dinner tonight. I’m making chicken parmesan.”
“Yes, yes I do. I need to talk to you,” her voice broke on the last word.
“Honey what happened, are you alright?” her mother sounded scared, worried.
“I don’t know. I’ll explain when I get over,” she answered.
“Alright,” her mother answered. Samantha hung up the phone and drove to her parents house, mind completely blank. She didn’t want to contemplate the whole thing right now, all she wanted was to get to her mother. She would know exactly what to do.
Samantha pulled into her parents gravel driveway twenty minutes after she had hung up the phone. The phone was clasped tightly in her hand, it hadn’t made a single noise during the whole drive. Jack hadn’t tired to contact her once.
She walked inside to music softly playing from the kitchen. She entered the kitchen to her mother swaying and humming out of key with the radio while she prepared for dinner.
Samantha sat herself at the counter, gently set her phone in front of her and waited quietly until her mother noticed her arrival.
“Oh hi, didn’t hear you come in,” her mother said smiling and wiping her hands. Her smile vanished quickly though once she caught a look at Samantha’s face. Sam knew she must a look a wreck, her confusion, hurt and anger along with other twisted emotions must be making her look deranged.
“Baby, what’s wrong?” her mother cried as she threw her towel aside. She ran around the peninsula and turned Sam to get a better look at her. “What happened? Did Jack hurt you? Is Jack hurt? Something with your job? Your health? Did your house burn down? Your car? Are the animals alright? Your friends?” her mother rambled on and on. Sam let her go, guessing disaster after disaster, not even coming vaguely close to what had actually transpired. Once she went silent, out of ideas, Sam looked up and directly into her mother’s eyes.
“Jack told me he wants to become a woman,” tone flat and devoid of emotion. She didn’t know exactly what she had expected her mother to say or do. Maybe get angry or disgusted or hug her tight with tears in her eyes telling her she was so sorry. Any of those would have made sense, the chuckle and release of breathy relief left her just as lost as she had been minutes ago. Laughter and relief, really?
“Huh?” was all Samantha could get out.
“You scared me there for a minute. I thought something dreadful had happened,” she patted her daughter’s cheek and went back to the sink to finish preparing dinner.
“Did you hear me right? My male fiancé just told me he wants to be a female. What am I supposed to do with that?” Sam felt anger creeping up her arms, heating her blood. Why was her mother being so damn flippant about this?
Her mother put the chicken back into the sink and took her daughter’s hand and led her to the kitchen table. She sat across from Samantha and asked, “Did he rob a bank? Kill someone? Cheat on you? Have a secret love child? Or a family and life you never knew about? Is he part of the mafia? Going to become a hermit and forsake society? Does he plan on making you his slave or prisoner? Is he going to hurt you?” Again with the litany of ridiculous possibilities.
“No,” Samantha spat. She wasn’t even going to begin to tell her mother how dumb all of that sounded.
“Good, then you’ll be alright. You can handle this,” her mother said patting her daughter’s hands. She looked so calm, like this was normal issue. Would she be acting like this if it was happening to her?
“How?” Sam shrieked leaping to her feet. “How do I handle the man I love wanting to change who he is? I’m not a lesbian, I’m attracted to men! What is going to happen when he’s not a guy anymore?” Sam asked, desperation replacing her anger. Her mother was supposed to have all the answers, where was her wisdom now?
“Let’s think this through. First of all he isn’t changing who he is.” Her mother emphasized the last part hard. She gestured for Samantha to sit down, but Sam refused. She wasn’t doing the calm rational thing right now. “He is still Jack no matter how his body looks or what clothes he wears or name he has. Who he is isn’t going to change,” her mother looked up at her daughter. “You of all people should understand that. Aren’t you always saying the outside is just a casing, what is inside is the real treat? His personality won’t change.” Her mother kept trying to catch her gaze but Sam kept avoiding the eye contact. She knew she would see reason there and she didn’t want reason. She wanted outrage and confusion, someone to make her feel like she was reacting like a normal person and not a naive teenager.
“How do you know? What if this process messes with something?” Sam asked. She was desperate for her mother to understand her terror. Desperate for her to tell her she could walk away guiltless from this.
“I doubt it. Things might shift slightly, but he will still make you laugh, still make you feel like a princess. He’ll still strive to help and care for you. He’ll still be hardworking, determined and stubborn. His fighting spirit and strong resolve won’t die. Those attributes might even get stronger once he is comfortable in his skin,” her mother explained.
Sam sighed, sitting down. You would think her mother was a psychiatrist and not a kindergarden teacher.
“Fine, but I won’t be attracted to him anymore. I’m not a lesbian.” Sam threw out again. There was something wrong with this, they just had to agree on exactly what it was. “What if I don’t feel anything when he hugs or kisses me? What if it becomes like we are best girlfriends and nothing deeper?”
“Then you part ways as a romantic couple. You stay strong friends and look for someone else. But I doubt that will happen. He has your heart,” her mother gave her a sweet smile but is again disappeared at the frustration on Sam’s face. “Honey you have to at least try. You can’t run away from this without at least trying. You’ll hate yourself in the end if you do.”
“Why didn’t he tell me? I thought we had the perfect relationship, no secrets and no miscommunications. Now I find out that was all a lie,” she almost broke into tears again.
“Honey, has he told anyone about this desire?’ her mother asked gently.
“Not that I know of.”
“He probably couldn’t even admit it to himself until recently. Have you been paying attention, noticing the little things? Anything out of place?”
“I guess,” Sam shrugged as the disheveled closet came back into her head. Now that she thought about it, him being quieter wasn’t the only out of place thing lately. Her makeup was disappearing faster then usual, shoes and skirts ended up in places she swore she didn’t put them. His concentration on women who passed, not in an flirting interested way, just a careful observant way had been increasing. She sat back as she watched the last few months play out, so many signs that he had been struggling, so many she had missed.
“Did you say anything?” her mother asked softly.
“No,” Sam felt her heart sink. The signs were all there, screaming at her out at the top of their lungs. She had known his out of touch attitude was wrong, his interest in her clothes and morning routine was different, a slow increase in the amount of questions about shaving and how she felt inside, deeper than a casual care for her. A curiosity she found odd but had ignored. She had seen things slowly shifting, from way before they even had gotten engaged. She thought the shifts were just natural changes, letting walls down as you got closer to someone. Now she could have kicked herself, he had been screaming for her attention and she had turned away every time.
“Honey talk to him and just try,” her mother was almost begging her. “Don’t walk away without trying.” She clasped her daughters hands tightly.
“Okay,” Sam responded. She was still scared, still somewhat confused but she also felt ashamed of herself. She was supposed to be his protector, his love and caregiver. How could she walk away now, when he needed her the most?
They went silent. Her mother went back to bustling around baking the chicken and cooking pasta. Samantha sat staring at her phone, hoping his face would flash across it just once. It never rang.
After dinner she gave her parents a hug and headed home.
Jack was lying on the couch in the darkening living room, staring at the wall when he heard the front door open and shut. He didn’t call out, half of him hoped it was a robber and not Samantha. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
“Hey,” Sam’s voice was quiet as she entered the dim room.
Jack nodded at her, not trusting his voice.
“Dark in here,” she reached over to the standing lamp and switched it on flooding the room with light.
Jack squinted at the sudden burst of light. He didn’t sit up to look at her. He wanted to tell her he understood, that she could leave him without feeling guilty. He would get on with his life without her. Tell her he didn’t blame her for being upset, angry or even disgusted at him. But he couldn’t say those words, no matter how much easier it would make all of this for her. Saying any of that would mean it was all over. He wanted to beg her not to leave him, to tell her he wouldn’t do it, if it meant her staying with him. His love for he reached far beyond his desire to feel happy in his own skin and body.
“I’ll try,” two words that nearly gave him a heart attack.
“What!?’ he cried sitting straight up and throwing his legs off the side of the couch. He looked directly at her, trying to decide if he had heard her right, heart racing like a runner at the finish line.
“I said I’ll try. I have no idea how this works or if we can do this. But I still love you more than I can say, you still have my heart. So I’ll try,” she shrugged. “I hope that is okay.”
“It’s more than okay. It is all I could ask of you,” he said, voice chocked up so much that the words were barely audible. She must have understood though because she came and collapsed into his arms, snuggling close into his side.
He held her as tight as he could. Ten minutes ago he had thought his whole world was going to slip through his fingers, like water from a pitcher unable to ever be caught again. Now he held his world in his arms and she was going to try to help him through this transition.
He had no idea what was going to happen next. He might not be able to go through with the whole thing, or it might all break into a million little pieces around him. Right now that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they were both going to try, try to create a life were both of them could live in happiness and comfort.