The Week Before Halloween

I turn off all the lights until “it’s as dark as Noah’s ark when it’s dark.” That’s the second line of a poem written by a neighbor girl. Today she gave me a private reading of it in exchange for giving her a ride.

I light a candle – for whom, I’m still deciding – when the phone rings. It’s Lee. The candle lights for Lee.

We met in film school, back when I was a culture vulture. Well, not really a vulture, more like Snoopy pretending to be a vulture, using the art of others as braces for my artistic posture.

From the shelf I pick up a forgotten necklace, untangle it, lay it around my neck. I describe it to Lee: “it’s plastic beads and metal hoops and it was probably suffocating in some girl’s cleavage only days ago.”

We bitch about The Perks of Being a Wallflower being called this generation’s Breakfast Club. “Don’t they know it’s set in the ‘90’s?” Lee asks, and I answer probably not, but incidentally, I just finished reading Molly Ringwald’s first novel, When It Happens To You, and when did it happen to us? Somehow we started as that and became this. God is like a thief in the night – no – a nocturnal interior decorator who sneaks in and gradually switches a couch, a lamp, a painting, until you are home away from home.

Not so long ago – not even on a good day, which made me think I was a good person – would I think my life taking place in a church-bought duplex, to love our neighbors in a diverse area. Actually, it’s diverse now that we moved in?

I hear Lee mention his roommate, the roommate he’s mentioned for 2 years, but this time I’m not content with an honorable mention. I ask if he’s more than a roommate.

There is a pause. With my lips, I surround one of the metal necklace hoops, forming an expression like the Coppertone girl.

“Yes.” Lee says. “He’s my partner.”

He apologizes, “I know your beliefs – ” and I smile, “No, you don’t – ”  and soon we’re Victorian houses being opened, furniture undraped, dust floating like thoughts, secrets gasping for breath.

We talk for another 20 minutes, say goodbye for another 15, talk for another 5, and then actually say goodbye.

It’s quiet. The orange streetlight fills the room and it glows like the center of a jack-o-lantern. I smile and wonder what I’ll be this year.

Engender

I stand at the bathroom mirror, the portal of narcissism, too embarrassed to enter. Where are my enablers? The foundation. the clothes. The curling iron. The hairspray. The eyebrow pencil. They hover over me, and when they are done, I am hidden, but I am here. Now I can go there.

They’re all eyes. Eyes that are scanners running across my barcode. Scan. No beep. Scan. No beep. They’ll have to enter it manually. They ask: “So. What are you?”

I smile. “Glam Rock Peter Pan.”

“Oh.”

“Or Prince as a Pirate.”

“Hm.”

“Or a character from Velvet Goldmine.

I bag and carry myself away. No merchandise in the public restroom! But I go in. I am not doing this to impress people. I am doing this to impress that person, now standing on the other side of the portal. That person who looks like me, but so much more lovely. I mistake myself for them. We are Annie Lennox at the end of the “Who’s That Girl?” music video: opposite sex symbiosis. Male and Female He created them. Male and Female I combined them.

This is not a costume. It’s a confession.

I don’t need your lust. I don’t need your love.

All I need is His indwelling. All I need is this instant.

In the iris of imagination.

Pre-Bake

My gender identity is something like a lump of clay that’s been sitting in a kiln, at a low temperature, for 24 years, gradually hardening (sort-of-pun-sort-of-intended).

I want to be a man.

You do?

I do.

You may kiss yourself.

I like my beard, I like my body, I like my…little boy below the equator. None of it needs to be altered or disguised or subdued. God’s been sending me fan mail. Really sweet stuff. Some of it doesn’t seem like the truth, but it is, and I’m starting to believe it.