29 September 2009

Loving What Never Was

Have you ever looked at a photo of someone in his or her youth and said--to yourself or whoever happened to be in earshot--"Wow! I wish I knew him (or her) back then!"?

Or, have you ever had such a reaction to the photo of one who's departed?

About the first scenario: I had such a reaction to seeing a photo of Francoise Hardy from around 1969. I also wanted a time machine when a woman I dated in my youth showed me a photo of her father in his Navy uniform. The French chanteuse was beautiful and stylish; my old flame's dad was just pure-and-simple hot. And she knew that's what I was thinking.

About the second scenario: After seeing a photo of Albert Camus on the cover of one of his books--L'etranger, I think--I had a fantasy or two about him. He wasn't particularly handsome, but he had, at least in that photo, one of the most intelligent, if tense and turbulent, faces I'd ever seen. I'd had a similar reaction to seeing a photo of Virginia Woolf.

Anyway...About the only thing stranger than being in love with your own memory of someone is fantasizing about a past life that you never witnessed.

I met Sara and her boyfriend Rob a few weeks before my surgery. We got into an interesting and rather intense conversation that led to our exchanging phone numbers. During the ensuing days I was busy and otherwise preoccupied, as you can well imagine. Then, a couple of weeks after returning home from the surgery, I was taking a walk near Socrates Sculpture Park when I heard someone call "Justine!"

Sara was out with her friend Dee, whom she talked about when we first met. They invited me to dinner at their place the weekend before Labor Day. And now we've been talking frequently by phone.

Now, if the L's and the G's can talk about having "gaydar," what's the transgender equivalent? Whatever it is, it was set off the moment I met Sara and went to multiple alarms when I saw Dee. I knew that Sara is bisexual before she opened her mouth and that Dee is a what I will call "man-que": someone who, in many ways, is even more male than I ever was. But financial and other considerations--namely, her medical condition and her age--keep her from taking hormones, much less having surgery.

When I was at Sara and Dee's place, I had the feeling that Sara was developing feelings for me. She talked about things I will not discuss with anyone else, and she took to my breast--and shoulders--as one might with a family member one trusts completely.

One thing no amount of hormones or surgery will ever efface is the width of my shoulders. They're not quite of NFL linebacker dimensions, but they still have the breadth--if not the strength--of someone who used to lift weights, as I did every day for several years. Normally, I draw attention away from them by the way I dress: I often wear long scarves or blouses or sweaters with long vertical lines or with soft fabrics around the shoulders. People who cry, or simply prop their heads, on my shoulder appreciate that!

But that night I was wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top. So there was nothing between my shoulders and Sara, a fact not lost on her.

Tonight, she called me from the waiting room at a hospital. Her landlord, who is a good friend, has been sick and now the doctors have found cancer in his intestines. And Dee is having problems related to her lupus. "I really wish I had your shoulder right now," she said.

"Where are you? Which hospital?"

"Don't do that. You're still recovering from surgery. We'll meet soon."

"Yes, we will."

"You're so gentle."

"The only thing better than a man who can make a woman blush is another woman making a woman blush!"

"Oh! You're the best!"


"I love you. But I would've loved to've known Nick."

"No you wouldn't."

"You're so sweet and gentle. He must've been, too."

I let it go. It didn't seem the right time to talk about relationships I aborted or otherwise destroyed through my anger. I even warned people I dated not to get too close to me because the monster within me would emerge. I was never physically violent with any of them, but I was probably one of the cruelest people, emotionally, that any of them had ever encountered.

Sara never had to experience any of that. And she never will. Furthermore, I don't think I want to talk about it with her, simply because, frankly, talking about it seems rather pointless. What would she--or I--gain from it?

Besides, while she and I may be turning into each others' friends, I don't envision a sexual or romantic partnership with her. Truth is, I can't have sex with anyone just yet, although that may change soon. But even more to the point, I am in such a transition that I don't want to entangle myself that way--with her, with any other woman or with a man.

What's more, being so involved with someone who's fantasizing about someone I never was, or even just someone she never met, would just be too weird for me.