06 May 2009

The First Girls' Night Out

While at work, I missed a call from someone I haven't talked to in a long time. I'd turned off my cell phone while I was teaching, and by the time I could call back, I was ready to leave the campus. That would have meant spending only a few minutes with her as I walked to the subway. Or it would have meant remaining on campus for quite a while longer.

I had a pretty good day at work, but I was very tired. But now I'm starting to wish I'd called her.

Diana was part of one of my first "girls' " days out. Just before I started living full-time as Justine, she and three other friends of mine went to Brighton Beach on a beautiful summer day. Actually, we sort of ended up there spontaneously: We'd all gotten together near Diana's home on the Upper West Side and, next thing we knew, we were on the beach.

The soft breeze from the ocean and the light that reflected off the water wove my hair into patterns of light. At least, that's what Diana said. I trust her on that: After all, she's an artist. So is Janine, another one of our friends who accompanied us that day. Later that day, Diana confessed to me that she was a bit anxious about meeting me that day: It was the first time we'd connected since I began my transition. "I feel guilty saying this," she related. "But all I could think was: 'I hope she's pretty.' And, you are."

That coloring in my cheeks wasn't sunburn. Still, Janine concurred and declared that I was "solaire"--as if the sun was radiating from me.

That was when I first realized something that's been very useful to me: The only thing better--or at least more powerful--than a man who can make a woman blush is another woman who can perform that feat!

I think I was still aglow the following night, when we went to an outdoor dance performance at Lincoln Center.

Anyway...I've wanted to talk to Diana and Janine, and to the friends who accompanied us that day: Marie-Jeanne and Michelle. They and Janine were visiting from France; Janine has known Diana and her husband Don for years and stays at their place when she visits.

She used to come here every year or two, sometimes more often. For a time, I was going to France every year. I would spend a day or two with her, some time with other friends and a couple of weeks on my bike in the countryside.

But she fell ill about four years ago and got worse. The last time I saw her--in August of 2006--she was in a wheelchair. Since then, I've received a couple of e-mails from her and talked briefly. I know she doesn't have internet access at her place, so that would account for the infrequent e-mails. However, the times I talked to her, she sounded very tired and not well. So, naturally I've been worried about her.

I hope Diana has some good news. None of them know yet that I'm having my surgery, though I don't think it would surprise any of them to find out. I don't think they're the kind of people who tell you that they're fine, they love you however you are, then disappear from your life. I want to have another girls' day--or night--out with them, especially before my surgery.

Whenever I talk about my travels to France, someone invariably says, "The French hate Americans." Or, "They were rude to you." In other words, they make declarations about what they haven't experienced. Maybe I really do--as I've long suspected--have the world's strangest karma. Even when I was unhappy and angry, I met some good people. The women I hope to see again are examples. Janine, Marie Jeanne and Michelle are about as French as brioches, and they are some of the warmest and friendliest people I've ever encountered. And I managed to meet them in a country where "everybody hates Americans."

Plus, they all know that I've experienced France in ways that most tourists don't, thanks to all those kilometres I pedalled. Marie-Jeanne once declared, Tu connais plus que les francais--I've experienced more of France than the French.

They knew me as Nick, but if we meet again, I would be tempted to relive our first girls' day and night out: my first ever, with any women. Of course, I've learned that you can't really recreate any experience. All you can do is find out what about it made you happy and work with that. But of course that won't stop me from trying. After all, you don't forget your first girls' night out.

No comments: