12 June 2009
Twenty-five more days until the surgery. Twenty-two until I leave for it. I teach English; I'm not supposed to be this good at counting!
I'm still thinking about that student's question: Who's homeless? And my response to it: What is a home?
Now I am at the desk in the house where I have lived for four years and on the block where I have lived for seven. This is probably the closest thing I've had to a home in a very, very long time--if indeed I ever had one.
Now I am recalling the day a couple of months ago, during spring break, when Dominick and I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Afterward, we stopped by the house on Dahill Road where I lived from the time I was eight until I turned thirteen. From there, we went to El Viejo Yayo, a restaurant around the corner from the Bergen Street apartment in which I lived for seven years before I moved in with Tammy.
Perhaps the house on Dahill Road was a home for me at one time. I had no choice but to be there, and Mom and Dad had no choice but to have me there. It wasn't bad, really: If anything, having a bedroom with a window that opened out to the length and expanse of Brooklyn, all the way to the Verrazano Bridge, probably helped to develop my imagination, or at least my mind as I know it, whatever it is.
My brothers and I walked four blocks to school every morning. We'd walk those same blocks home at lunchtime, and back to school after lunch. Then, depending on how much energy or homework we had--or whether or not we were facing punishments--we looped or bolted back to the house after the last school bell rang. A couple of hours later, we'd eat supper with us; Dad would also be at the table, unless he was working overtime. He almost never spoke at the table; we didn't say much, either. Still, we did have a sort of bond at that table.
Did that make that house or my family a home? Probably. Then again, Eva and I used to eat dinner together just about every night, but I hardly think of us now as a real couple, any more than I think of the place in which I lived as a home. We ate at the same table; sometimes, we worked in the same kitchen on preparing the same meal. But now I recall that we never shared those experiences. We were more like people who happened to land in the same place for a period of time, much like the farmhouse in the no-man's land between the Allied and Axis lines in which Adam spent a winter with local peasants, the local Nazi constables and resistance fighters. They were all inside that house for one reason: to survive the brutual and seemingly endless winter that gripped the Vosges that year. Once spring broke, they all parted ways and never heard from, or about, each other again.
Adam once told me that no matter how much clothing he wore, no matter how big and intense the flames in the fireplace, no matter how much tea or soup they sipped or gulped, he and the other men in that house were cold. And hungry. Those were really the things he and they were trying to escape; you can cope with an odious political ideology, he said. We do not die from darkness; we die from cold. I would not know until many years later that Federico Garcia-Lorca wrote that; later yet, I would begin to understand what he meant.
Survival is not about defeating the forces of darkness; it's about coming in from the cold. As near as I can tell, it's the purpose of having and entering a home.
What do you do when your own body is not a home? That's what I was thinking when I nearly burst into tears in front of the class. If they were to ask me, I'd've told them it's the reason why I undertook my transition and why I'm about to undergo the surgery.
No matter what I did with and for other males--or what they did with and for with them--I never felt their gender was my home. I always knew I didn't belong there; the more intimately and intensely I understood that, the more desperately I tried to fit into it. And, as you probably know, my efforts failed miserably, and at times I failed pathetically.
I sense that the female gender is a home for me. At least, since I've started to live in it, I haven't felt that insatiable, gnawing emotional hunger and the endless spiritual cold I experienced for so much of my life.
Would my students have understood any of that? Does Dominick? Do you, Dear Reader? Can anyone?
Oh, that was quaint as all hell: Dear Reader. But what the hell.
I really feel I've been on my way home. But I'm not sure of which is more difficult: Remaining in a place in which has never been home, returning to a home in which you've always lived, or coming to one for the first time, having never seen it but knowing full well that it's where you've always belonged.