22 December 2008

Remembering a Female Friend

This and tomorrow's date were, for much of my life, the most difficult part of every year to get through. So far this year, it's been, if not easier, at least more productive and fulfulling.

It was on this date, many years ago, that Cori hung herself from a rafter in the house where she was living. The evening before, she called me. She spoke vaguely about how everything felt "dim and grim." No love in her life, no job, no permanent address, her family not speaking to her. I told her that all those things were temporary--something I didn't believe myself at that time--and that for someone as beautiful and intelligent as she was (something I meant from my heart)--her turn had to come, and soon.

Then she talked--rambled, really, which was not so unusual, except that her voice felt calm--no, that's not quite the word, nor is serene--in an otherworldly kind of way. It was that sort of calm, the kind of sun seen in the sky before the so-called perfect storm comes in. "I'm coming right over," I said.

"No, that's OK. I'll be all right."

"I just want to make sure..."

"Don't worry about me..."

"You just guaranteed that I will."


"I'm coming."

A few minutes later I walked up the rickety stairs to the room she rented in that house. I motioned to knock but saw the door ajar. I pushed it softly and walked slowly, almost on tiptoes, toward her back. She turned.

We embraced--not in that strangely truncated hug of white Americans, but as if we were holding on for life; both of us were drowning, but I ostensibly had gone to help her. The truth is, I needed her as much as, possibly even more than, she needed me at that moment. I knew she was in a bad way, but I didn't yet have the sesnse of trying to save her life. It was more like I was trying to save myself, to redeem myself--from or for what, specifically, I wasn't sure.

Finally, after some back-and-forth about how we felt lost, abandoned and misunderstood, she told me something I'd suspected, sort of, but did not have the words or spiritual means to comprehend, much less communicate, even less to understand: the dilemma of her life. Of course, I was nowhere near acknowledging my own conundrum, but I nonetheless talked with Cori.

"I hate this fucking body." She pointed toward her crotch. "Fuckin' hate it"

"What's wrong with it?"

"I'm not supposed to have it. I'm not supposed to be a man." Exactly what I would've said about myself--and didn't want to hear.

Yes, Cori was born male, in the same sense I was. She spent the last night of her life with me, crying herself to sleep for the same reasons.

Cori, of course was not her given name. But I have chosen to remember her that way, as a young woman. I hope that she has other vessels bearing her memory and spiritual essence into the world. And I hope some of those human bearers are better than I was, or am.

Only in the last couple of years have I begun to lose some of the guilt I felt for so long. Still, I sometimes wonder why I got a chance to live as I always wanted, while Cori and so many others didn't.

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