12 May 2009

Goodbyes and First Steps

Tonight the good-byes are beginning. I have met one of my classes--Writing for Business-- for the last time this semester, and in my current life. Most of the students probably don't know that I'm about to have my surgery, but they seemed to sense that I'm about to embark on some large undertaking. Some are graduating; others asked me what I'm teaching next semester. They all seemed to know that somehow I would be different when the Fall term begins.

Honestly, I didn't want to leave that class. I can only imagine how I'll feel about the hip-hop class tomorrow. It's turned out to be the best and most satisfying work I've done since I did poetry workshop with chronically ill and handicapped kids at St. Mary's Hospital for Children in Bayside, NY.

But my students must move on, just as I will. I hope some of them will remain in contact with me. I used to discourage that, but now I see what a mistake that was.

One good-bye I hope I don't have to say just yet is to Janine. Last night, I talked with Diana on the phone. She relayed the news from Janine's sister: Janine is in the hospital, where the doctors found another tumor at the base of her brain. So it seems that it will be even more difficult than it has been for her to get out and do any of the things she used to do by herself, with Zybicek, with me, Diana, Marie Jeanne and Michelle. I'm going to send her a card, but I'd really like to go to Paris and spend even a little time with her. (I'm not sure of how much time or energy she'd have for me, given her condition.) I don't know how or when I could do that, though.

Ironically, Diana brought up the day I mentioned in "The First Girls' Day Out." We went to Brighton Beach, where I changed into a bathing suit one of them--I still don't know which one--packed. Diana recalled a detail of that day I'd forgotten: My fake breast fell out of the bathing suit when I arced into an oncoming wave. I wonder what sea creature may have found it, and what he or she might have done with it.

She said that it was "one of the most enjoyable days" she ever spent. I feel the same way; I explained to her that it was really my first "girls'"outing. "I felt that a new dimension developed to our friendships," I said. "I'd left something behind, but I also came into something."

"That's because you stepped out of gender," she explained. "Actually , we all did. It became something different from what it was when you were a man hanging out with us."

When I think of it, I feel not only that I stepped out of the gender in which I'd been living; I'd, well, simply stepped out. It was like taking my first steps in the world. I felt scared and exhiliarated at the same time; I was cursing Janine under my breath for insisting that I change into the bathing suit but thanking her for being there as I took those first steps, each one less tenuous and furtive than the one before it.

"It was odd," Diana recalled. "But you were being you, and you were exactly where you should have been."

Now, if that's not affirming, then I don't know what affirmation is.

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