12 July 2009
The Day After
Yesterday I was released from the hospital. Joyce, my roommate during my last two days there, was about to take her first walk as a woman. I wanted to give her a good-luck kiss, but I'm not sure how much good luck my kiss would've brought her.
So now I'm back in the "Sabrina Room" of The Morning After House, in which I'd been staying during the two days before my surgery. I could stay here forever, or close to it: High-mesa light that's chimeric because it's so clear fills my windows with a nearly bird's-eye view of the mountain topped with the lighted "Trinidad" sign. To the left and right are backdrops of mountains full of the colors the high-mesa light washes out.
And this room is done in a Victorian contrast of ecru walls and dark wood window frames, closets and other furniture. In this room, the queen-sized bed is, well, really queen-sized.
Last night I made dinner for Marilynne (not her real name), whose daughter's surgery will probably be cited in medical journals for decades to come. It was successful, but it involved techniques that had never before been used--and, without them, the surgery would not have been possible.
You see, her daughter was born with a bodily configuration that maybe a handful of people in the history of the world have had. I won't get into the details, as Marilynne is guarding their privacy. Suffice it to say that her daughter's surgery took two and a half times as long as mine did.
Marilynne has given me a lot of emotional support when she had to give so much to her daughter--and members of her family were giving lots of grief and abuse to her as well as her husband and younger son. She is a saint and her daughter is a hero.
Today another one of those rare cases arrived. Lindy (also not her real name) was born male with a body that was, in essence, female in its shape. But she has the barest minimum of male genitalia, and in her words, "My body was stuck somewhere between female puberty and menopause." She's grown breasts and has some vestiges of female apparatus inside her body. But they are as non-functional as those outward vestiges of her male genitalia.
I don't know the details, but she said that this conflict within her body was destroying her liver and kidneys. And she needs the orchiotomy she will have tomorrow, not only to function as a female, but to save her life.
The most heartening and heartbreaking part of this story is that a woman married her seventeen years ago and seems to be as much in love with her today as she was then. I simply cannot imagine their lives: They have lived in poverty that I have never known, and Lindy has experienced sexual as well as other kinds of violence that make mine seem like scenes out of Lady Chatterly's Lovers.
But Lindy and her wife have two of the most beautiful children I have ever seen: a pretty blonde seven-year-old daughter who reminds me of what my niece Lauren looked like at that age, and an angelic five-year-old boy.
Lindy and her family look as if they are spending everything they ever had on that orchiotomy. Yet I have never seen any people--save, perhaps, for Marilynne and her daughter--who so exude their love for each other without flaunting it. If you cannot see how they love each other, you don't know what love is.