24 August 2009

Plus La Meme Chose, Plus Ca Change

Tonight I got off the N train at Broadway in Astoria. I figured that I had some time to wait until the bus arrived, so I stopped in Parisi Bakery, which is right next to the entrance of the train station.

If you're ever in Astoria, forget that you're on the Atkins Diet. Any and all of Parisi's breads are to die for, from the traditional French/Italian to their double-helix (they call it "twist") loaf. Semolina, whole wheat, ciabatta: They're all great. And so are their pastries, which they began to make and sell only this year.

Anyway, I'd just walked out of Parisi, a twist loaf in my tote, when a baritone voice called, "Justine, how are you?"


It had probably been five years since I previously saw him. We'd been in a couple of transgender support groups, as I recall. He didn't seem any older, though he seemed shorter than I remembered him. During the course of our conversation, I would learn that he had been in an accident, which left him with a bad back, migraines and holes in his formerly-photographic memory.

He apologized profusely for that loss of memory. However, he seemed to remember the groups we were in, and some of the things I said and did, very well. In fact, he even reminded me that I gave him some of my "boy" clothes. Now I can scarcely recall having had, much less worn, male clothing.

The one thing he had difficulty in remembering was the time I interviewed him on the community-access cable TV program I did. Actually, he remembered my interviewing him and that it had to do with TV; he couldn't remember the details and circumstances.

I can forgive him for that! ;-) He's still as sweet and lovable--and smart--as I remember him. When I first met him, he had recently graduated from college but he looked younger; when we hugged at the end of every group session, I didn't want to let go. Yes, you could say that I was feeling friendly and maternal at the same time.

Turns out, we live only two blocks apart now. Actually, we have been neighbors for a few years; I didn't know it until tonight! Equally ironic is the fact that we both went to see "Gomorra" at the Socrates Sculpture Park film festival last Wednesday and didn't meet each other.

So...We tried catching up on five years during a five-minute bus ride. Last fall, he said, he took a trip to Paris and Rome--his first time in Europe--and "loved it." I can well understand, having lived in Paris and having returned eight times and having been to Rome three times.

He asked whether I'd taken any trips lately. "Colorado," I said.

"Oh, it must have been great!"

"It was."

"It's so beautiful. What did you do."

By this time, he couldn't see anything but my smile, which he later described as "radiant."

"I had my surgery."

His eyes lit up. "You know, when I saw you, I just knew. It must have been wonderful."

"It was." I talked about Marci, the hospital, the Morning After House and some of the people I met there. "You couldn't ask for a better experience than what I had."

"So you're done?"

I recalled that another female-to-male I knew once quipped "When you're becoming a boy, your work is never done." When I last saw Danny, he was about to have the surgery on his chest; he's had other surgeries since then and plans to have what he hopes to be his final surgery soon.

"Yes, the surgery is done. Marci does it all in one procedure, right down to the clitoriplasty. "

His eyes widened. I'm not sure that there were one-step procedures the last time we saw each other. To say the least, I felt very fortunate.

The funny thing is that if anyone had seen us five years ago and were to see us now, he or she probably wouldn't see much difference, at first glance. And Danny and I were talking to each other with the same ease and empathy we had back then. Yet, even before I mentioned my surgery, Danny said that he could sense, the moment he saw me, that "something was different." And I would've said the same about him.

The difference, I now realize, is that each of us feels more confident that our bodies--however similar they are to what they were before--are truly ours, that they reflect in some fundamental way the way we see ourselves and want to be seen by others. Even though he's lost some of his strength as a result of the accident, and I've simply gotten older, I realize now that each of us has been renewed and strengthened by the spiritually healing and nurturing relationships we have developed between our bodies and our selves.

Perhaps we should invert Hugo's Plus ca change, plus la meme chose. We are the same--we are ourselves, that is how we've changed. And how we recognized each other.

1 comment:

EdMcGon said...

This reminds me of the old saying, "No matter where you go, there you are." Regardless of how you change in life, whether physically or with age and wisdom, you will always be the same basic person you were as a child. Mind you, this is not an insult. It is true of all of us.