13 February 2009

Two Dates

This has to be one of the most interesting juxtapositions of dates: Today is Friday the 13th; tomorrow will be Valentine's Day. Will tomorrow seem like today for someone who asks, "Will you be mine," and doesn't hear the answer he or she wanted?

Does anyone ever answer "no" to that question on Valentine's Day? I've never heard of it. And, the times in my life I've asked, or been asked, the question, it had already been answered--at least for that day.

Now I will reveal a secret from a long-ago Valentine's Day. It's something I would never, ever do now (she says with a wink). It wasn't illegal, but I'm glad the statute of limitations has passed nonetheless. At least I think it has.

OK, I didn't father a child on some Valentine's Day past. If I had, it couldn't have remained a secret for this long. What I did was much more insidious than that.

It goes like this: I was a senior in college and like most students I knew, I was poor. There was a young woman at the school whom I let everyone else think I was dating, or at least studying French with. (Vraiement, nous ne faisons pas qu'etudier. Vraiement!) Because we were both passionate, opinionated people, we got into lots of arguments, sometimes very publicly. To some of our peers--and elders--that alone was evidence of a relationship that never existed, but which I allowed everyone to believe would flower after one or both of us graduated.

I would've liked to have such a relationship with her only because fewer people would have tried to fix me up with their sisters, female cousins, female friends, neighbors or other women in their lives, including their mothers and grandmothers. Yes, I've had people trying to hitch me with all of the people I've just mentioned. More than a few were very attractive, by anybody's standards; some were smart and/or nice. And at least a few of them seemed genuinely interested in me. That was rather funny, really, because I never considered myself terribly attractive or otherwise desirable.

All right: The truth was that I didn't want anyone to see me that way. And I didn't want a boyfriend, either: I'd tried that, and found it even less satisfying than a relationship with a female.

What I couldn't explain to anyone at that time in my life--and for a very long time afterward--was that neither a man nor a woman could make me happy in a relationship because, well, I wanted to be the woman, or at least a woman, in the relationship. Ironically, that very fact brought Tammy and me together--and caused us to break up.

But, oh, yes, I was starting to talk about that V-Day (Sorry, Eve Ensler!) from my youth. The young woman with whom I had the faux love relationship had a boyfriend on some distant campus and had flings with a few local boys. In those pre-AIDS (at least if you weren't in the Village or the Castro) days, that was expected of any sentinent college student.

However, some people, including my parents, worried about my seeming lack of interest in dating. So after I visited the family of the young woman in question, and she visited mine, we had two families hoping that we would couple.

In some ways, it was more intimate than any sexual/romantic relationship I'd had before, or would have for many years afterward. I told this young woman things that I hadn't told anyone else except my mother or my maternal grandmother, rest her soul. And, for many years afterward, I wouldn't tell anyone except my current therapist and the social worker I worked with during as I transitioned from living as Nick to being Justine. (During the intervening years, I went to other therapists and didn't talk about such things with them.) And, this young woman even talked me out of one suicide attempt and literally hugged me out of another, way back in the day.

So, yes, you would be correct in thinking that I cared more about this woman than anyone else I knew at the time except my mother and grandmother, rest her soul. But neither of us was attracted to the other in a sexual way, although I sometimes fantasized about spending my life with her in some sort of Platonic relationship. Of course I never could or would ask that of her: How can you ask that of anybody? Besides, while it would have been safe, at least in some senses, it would not have given either of us the kind of fulfillment we were seeking, however clumsily.

One more aside: Because I had the sort of friendship I shared with this woman, I could understand, many years later, what a sixtyish gay man meant when he told me that he still loved the woman whom he married when he was nineteen years old. She died young, from a cancer that probably could be treated, or at least kept in check, today. He came to terms with his sexuality during that marriage. However, he remained with her as she got sick and spiralled toward death.

All right. Now I'll tell you what I did to that young woman on Valentine's Day during my senior year. I gave her the reddest roses the world has ever seen. I am not exaggerating when I say that any more than I'm lying when I say I don't know how many I gave her; I only know that there were more than two dozen roses in that bunch.

Now, you're wondering: How did I afford so many perfect crimson roses on Valentine's Day when I was a poor student, back when the banks didn't give students credit cards? (Who says that people know better today?)The answer: I didn't pay for them. But, no, I didn't ransack the friendly neighborhood FTD. So what was the source of those almost-unworldly specimens of floriculture?

OK--That woman, if she's reading this, knows who she is and will now find out my secret. I found those roses in a dumpster next to one of the university's scientific research labs. I have no idea of how they ended up there, but there they were: That dumpster was just brimming with them! And, it seemed that every rose I picked up was redder, fuller and otherwise more perfect (and I'm an English teacher!) than the last. I didn't ask how they got that way, or what they were doing there.

So...If that woman had children with Down's syndrome or some other "defect," am I responsible? Or, for that matter, if she suffered from any physiological or psychological problems, are they results of that way-too-extravagant-for-my-means bouquet I gave her?

Did I turn her Valentine's Day into a Friday the Thirteenth?

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