08 July 2008

Another Day, Another...?

Another day, another...?

Another day further into this year? Another day passed in my life? Another day closer to my surgery.

Well, duh, you might be telling yourself. The answer is, of course, "yes" to all of the above.

I've never before had a whole year to count down. When I was in school and couldn't wait to get out, graduation seemed far away and abstract, even though I'd seen others don their caps and gowns and walk up to a podium where someone handed them a rolled-up piece of paper tied with a ribbon. Maybe it was because nobody in my family had done it before me. On the other hand, I know people who've had gender reassignment surgery. In fact, I've known two "before and afters", and I met others post-surgery. While I can imagine the surgery itself only somewhat, I can somehow--"Visualize" is not quite the right word; nor is "imagine" --the experience of going through it, and what I might feel.

Empathise--maybe that's the right word. I'm empathising the surgery. I never could do that with a graduation or any other impending experience. Maybe it's because most of my peers have gotten diplomas from high school, many finished college degrees and some of us went on to higher degrees. Just in the sheer numbers, graduation is not such a special, unique experience. Nor is retiring, though that may change. So who else counts off their days? Inmates on death row? Now there's a real stretch for a comparison!

So the analogy to graduation wins, by default, I guess. Maybe I'm making that analogy to my situation because I received an e-mail from a website called "Find Your Classmates" or some such thing. I followed the links to a page from my high school graduating class.

Now, I've never had any nostalgia for any school I've ever attended, probably high school least of all. But I guess I felt like Primo Levi in "Si Questo Un' Uomo" (which, in America, was published as "Survival In Auschwitz": one of the grossest mis-translations in history), a book in which he recalls his internment and escape. One inmate he describes was a real wheeler-dealer: shrewd to the point of avariciousness, nonetheless capable of saving someone's life, however inadvertently, because his impulse toward self-preservation was so great. Of that inmate, Levi muses, "I would love to know what he's doing now, although I have no desire at all to see him again."

That's a pretty accurate description of how I feel about some of my classmates and others from my past. I don't want to bump into them, but I'm curious to know what's become of them. Why? I guess that it has to do with one of my oldest and most persistent weaknesses: my fondness for a story, any story. Of course I want a good one, but I'm even curious to know how the shoddily-constructed and improbable ones go. Maybe that's why I became a student of literature and a writer.

And the ones who turn out differently from what you expected: Why do they? Could, should we have known that they would? One of Allen Ginsberg's "angry angelheaded hipsters"--or a wannabe--was hoisting his baby grandchild up to the camera, doing something I never saw him do back in the day: smile. And it looked genuine. The way that baby looked, I guess I would've been happy, too.

Then there was my only namesake in that class. Of course, she wasn't my namesake in those days, but she would've been had I been born with a female body. Yes, my mother would have named me Justine. She told me that when I was about fourteen or fifteen, I think, most likely when I mentioned the girl with the name that should've been mine. At least it is now; I guess, when you think about it, it always was, after all.

The one and only kid with whom I kept up contact after graduation wasn't on the site. He and I haven't talked to each other in twenty years, at least. There was no falling-out, no rancor. It was just, I think, that one or both of us realized, a few years after leaving that school, that it was all we had in common anymore. Really, it was all we ever had in common: that school, or more precisely, the way we experienced it. And at that point, I was tired of talking about, much less remembering, it.

What would he think of what I've become? What would the wannabe hipster say? Or Justine?

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