Monday, April 15, 2019

Passing Through: a short story

I was driving through Lancaster County, when I saw a bar.  When I did, I stopped and took pictures.  This story popped into my head.  I dictated it speech-to-text, and revised it a little, and here it is.

If you can think of a better title, I'm listening.  The picture in the story, is the place in question.


“So anyway, yeah, this here place been here some a couple hundred years or something I think. Used to be a railway station when the train come through here.  But then the Factory closed down, and when the Factory close down, the train stop coming in. So the bar, it stuck around as couple rooms upstairs and stuff.  After all, ain’t no other place to drink in town nowdays.  ‘Specially when it snowin’ like it is now.

This place here used to be your run by a guy named Tank. I ain't his rightful name of course, but we all call him that cuz he was the fullback on the local high school football team.  Back when he was a kid, his daddy own this place, he did all right with this place, so Tank and he got his self one of them scholarships to State on account a’ being such a good football player.  Now Tank and me, we graduated high school together.  Tank, he weren’t no good student no-how.  Neither was I, so I start working for his daddy in this kitchen here.  So Tank, he flunks out of school, so he join the Army, and he went to Vietnam.  So he go over there and he came back, and he got an injury to his leg and his foot.

So anyway, I don't recall seeing you around here.  You new in town or something, Miss?”
“No I'm just passing through, and I thought I'd stop for a drink.  It’s snowing very hard.”
“Well, you dressed kind of like one of the locals, so that's why I thought such you know, what with them tight jeans and that, what's that on your shirt? That’s what, a Grateful Dead skull thing, or something?”

“Yes, that's what it is”

Grateful Dead "steal your face"

“So yeah I figured it was.  Well, if you don't mind me saying so, young lady, you know it's kind of tight too, and you know some of the fellers ‘round here, they might get the wrong idea and such, you know.  What with you being so, um, busty an’ all.   I'm just saying.”

“Oh, don't worry about me- I can take care of myself.  Besides, last I checked, it was just you and I here.”

“So anyway, as I was saying, oh what are you drinking again? Okay yeah, I remember. I'll get you one on the house.  Tell you what, I’ll leave the bottle of Jack here on the bar, and you refill when you’re ready.  So this here place it been around long time- since the Civil War.  Tank’s dad, well he owned it and Tank, he come back from Vietnam, and he has his foot.  Now some folks they say he did it himself in order to try to get out of the fight, but he got a Purple Heart and stuff, but you know how rumors get started.  A lot of people, they jealous of Tank. So his daddy he left him this building, and Tank, he run it. Tank was running it when the Factory closed, and then when the railroad stop coming through. Tank he manage to keep this place going somehow, I don't know.   Hold on, gonna take me a Tums.  Not feelin’ right.

You know, your shirt reminds me of a story.  So this is about who I don't know 20 years ago at this point I think. I'm here one day cuz Tank, he let me eat at the bar, since I still was cook here.   It was a hot summer day, and it's me and Tank and I'm sitting out here at the bar because no customers and, then walk this business looking guy and he had a crew cut it wearing a short-sleeve shirt and a black bow tie what looked kinda loose.  He look like he was sweating and such, and he come in here. With that tie, it almost looked like his head was a floating above his shoulders.  Heh.

Now Tank, he decorated this place with all his football trophies and all these pictures of the local high school and such, and he also had some, you know, some of this stuff from State.  And basically the locals start to call it the Tank Museum, you know kind of like where you go and see Tanks and stuff except it was Tank, and not… but anyway, in come just guy and he come in sit down.  

Tank says “what you have mister?” The guy he says ‘I'm just passing through and thought I'd stop for a drink.  Jack neat, please.’  Tank, he says ‘Long Way to the city,’ gets him a beer, and looks at the guy funny.  Tank says ‘have I seen you before, mister?’ Guy says he been to town here now and again, but the last time was some years ago.  ‘You in town for business?’  Guys says ‘No, well actually yeah, but I'm just stopping by.’ He got to pick up a couple a things, he said.

Anyway about a couple years back, Tank lost his wife Delores. I think her name was Dolores. Tank, he got a little heavy on account of he couldn't exercise no more, since you know he got wounded in the foot.  So Delores, she been going behind his back with some guy named Dutch.   Dutch live a couple town over, and he so Tank was pretty upset with this, but he don't show it much.  I knew it on account I just know Tank, seeing how we went to school together.  You know this Dutch guy used to come here all the time.  That's how we met Dolores, since she worked here too.  But Dutch he ain't been in here since he took the Tanks wife.

You sure you don't want something to eat?  Jack on an empty stomach ain’t good.  Okay.  Anyway, so this Dutch guy he never come in.  Miss, you sure don’t want food?” 

 “No I'm just passing through and I thought I'd stop for a drink...”

So Dutch come that and Dutch says to Tank ‘I hear you've been talking to a bad about me around here.’  Tank says “What do you expect you steal my wife’ and Dutch says ‘That's cuz you can't  even perform like a man anymore’ and Tank says to him he says ‘Well, I'm more man you ever be’ and he pulls up the shotgun he kept behind the bar, but Dutch, he had a gun’ too.

I don't know what to do cuz I'm scared out of my mind, and this city guy, he's just sitting there minding his business, watching the two with a smile on his face!   So next thing I know the guns go off, both of them, and now they're both… Tank he slumps back behind the bar, and the Dutch guy he had his chest blown off by the shotgun, and he just get blown back all the way to the wall. That wall right there where you see that picture.  Yeah I put that picture there to cover up the hole made by the rest of the shot.  Huh, is it hot in here, or is it just me?  I’m sweatin’ like a pig.

So any such the City guy, he sit there like nothing happened and I say ‘you see that?’ and he said ‘yep, I guess this is my pickup. He puts the beer down on the bar and he says ‘thank you kindly,’ closes his eyes for a couple a seconds, then opens them again.  He says ‘I think you better call the police, cuz I got what I come to pick up,’ and I thought this was pretty weird, but then the guy I swear on Christ Jesus that this guy, I thought for a second his face turned into a skull! I wasn't even drunk or nothin!’ So this guy, he says ‘I see you sometime, but you might not know its me.’

Now the folks around here, I tell them this story, and they're like ‘oh, there is old Benny, he exaggerating again’ so on account it’s so weird a story. Now, Tank he buried in a churchyard about a mile down the road.  So Tank, he had a will, and he goes and wills the place to me, on account a he got no kids or wife.  I been runnin’ it since.

Dutch, I don't know what happened with him, cuz Dolores, she died a year ago.  So anyway, so that's the story so where you say you’re goin’, young lady? Wow, My chest feel funny.” Oh wait, you just passin’ through and stuff, you said that.” 

“No, I'm just here to pick something up.”   

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 48: Dream Dream

I know that we all have reoccuring dreams, whether we remember them or not.  I had this dream countless times in college and just after.  I'm guessing I was afraid that I was sliding into alcoholism.  Well, I was in a way- I was self-destructive and hoping to die before anyone learned my "dark secret."

I kept drinking heavily until 2012, when I was arrested for DUI.  I realized how lucky I was not to have hurt anyone all those years, and cut back considerably.  I learned later that many people considered me "a drunk."  They weren't wrong.

I still have reoccuring dreams.  Most of them center around a grotesque version of Penn State, which is maybe ten times larger and the buildings are cramped together on the outer parts of campus, like in a dystopian movie.  I know this "campus" so well, that I can even diagram it in waking hours.  In those dreams, there is always a class I haven't attended, work I haven't done, or somewhere I need to be.  My fraternity house is also much bigger, and populated by not just the guys who were there when I was (still at that age) but many others I don't know.  And all of them hate me. 

Yes, I know Freud would have a field day with me.

So now the into is longer than the chapter.  Go figure.


Chapter 48: Dream Dream

Monday, February 16, 1987 US nearly blundered at summit, report says

            It happens so many times.  The reoccurring dream.

The sky is a blank white, and the sound of the waves is a little strange.  The pale yellow foaming ocean swells push me up and down and I’m so tired I can’t swim.  It is a sea of beer.  I’m so tired.  As I sink, my lungs fill with beer.  I can taste it’s slightly bitter flavor as I drown.  Drown in a sea of cheap yellow beer.

And as I drown…

I’m smiling.

Collegian, Feb 16, 1987.  I did the guy a favor and redacted his last name.  I hope he's grown up since.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Five Years Living Truth

Anniversaries should be marked, says our culture.  I agree.  I mark them almost religiously.  I guess I'm overly nostalgic.  Or foolish.

In any case, this past week, I marked two anniversaries, but I haven't felt much like celebrating.  The Darkness is still upon me, and added to that was horrible news about a friend. 

March 25 marked five years since I started living my Truth full time.  No more him- only Her.  And today, March 31, marks five years since I started work at the bookstore as a woman.

I won't bore you, dear reader, with a summary of those five years.  It's all here on this blog anyway.

I can't believe I've survived this long.  I really can't.  I thought for sure that either I would've been murdered or done it myself by now.  Like most things as I age, it seems like the blink of an eye, yet was agonizingly long.  I am a FAR different person than I was when I first announced my Truth to the world. 

It's funny- the first 24 hours went fairly well.  I received a lot of support.  More than I expected actually.  I took screen shots of it all before I deleted my "male" account.  I sometimes look at it when I'm down.  I try not to think about how many of the people pledging support are no longer in my life.  For a change, I try to think about just that moment in time.

That moment in time happened around 10:50 PM the night before.  My computer was set up on a table in the living room in M's house.  There was a fire in the fireplace.  I forget what was on TV.  In the room were my future roomie/bestie Linda; and Kevin, who also lived there.  I typed my announcement in Word, based upon my "coming out letter." I checked it for spelling and grammar, copied it to facialbook, took a deep breath, and hit "enter."  I told Linda and Kevin "that's it.  It's done."  They congratulated me.  I then stood up and grabbed a cider from the fridge.  Before I returned, the first reactions started coming.

First Reactions

Before I sent that, I had to hide my Truth.  There were places I went as Him, and other places as Her.  For example, I went to Rock Bottom (bar) as Him, and McKenzies (bar) as Sophie.  Same with other places.  I never went out as Sophie without makeup, as I was afraid of being outed. 

It was worse before I told my Wife so long ago.  I jumped at shadows.

But, here's the thing (and I tell this to people just beginning to step out for the first time as their True selves:) If people aren't looking for you, they won't see you.  No one was looking for Lance, especially not Lance in a dress and makeup.  They may spot me as a "guy in a dress" but they wouldn't realize it was me.  Proof- that first night I went out on Halloween 2008, before I spoke to anyone, I walked around the book store.  One of my co-workers clocked me as cross-dressed, but didn't know it was me until I spoke to her. 

March 25, 2014  At the Keystone Conference

But back then, I didn't realize that.

Five years ago, I no longer worried about that.  I now jump at different shadows- wondering if someone is waiting to hurt/kill me for living my Truth. 

Bestselling author and Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan has said that the biggest change in Transition is NOT gender- it's going from "Having a massive secret" to "no longer having a massive secret."  She's absolutely right.  I can't describe that feeling of relief- of no longer having to hide.  I was finally Free.  For a few days, I was absolutely giddy! 

Reality set in on March 31st, 2014.  That was my first day of work at the book store.  Now, I'd been there the day before with Linda, so people could see me and get over the whole "hey- he's dressed like a woman" thing.  I also went to take the edge off of my fear. 

March 31, 2014- First day!

I arrived early, and sat in my car.  I was so scared!  The only fear I could compare it to was walking out the hotel door dressed as a woman the first time.  Or waiting to read my "Coming Out" letter to management.  As I often say, I used to run into burning buildings- but THIS was true fear.

It was raining that day.  I took a deep breath, opened the car door, then walked across the parking lot and into the store. 

I was so happy with what I saw!  Management had posted my "Coming out letter" along with informational materials I'd provided.  And on that display was a post it.

I found out later that it was written by my coworker Dani, who has been and continues to be one of my staunchest supporters.

I wrote about that day HERE.  I'll just quote one bit here:

About three hours into the shift, I stopped dead in my tracks and looked down at myself.  My name tag said "Sophie."  I wasn't wearing a compression shirt, so my breasts stood out proudly.  I was at work as ME.  I thought to myself "this is really happening.  This isn't a dream.  I'm here at work as a woman!"  And I couldn't wipe the smile from my face. 

That was a magical moment. 

Oh, the shirt I wore that day?  I haven't worn it since.  No real reason except that my breasts have gotten so much bigger that it no longer fits!  I still have it though.

Things wouldn't always be so good there.  I was misgendered often by customers, and occasionally by staff.  I was let go from the bookstore on February 13, 2018, along with 2800 others. 

Now it's five years on.  How do I feel?  Well, on the 25th, my dear friends Debbie, Sam, Katie, and my bestie Linda took me out to dinner to celebrate the occasion.  They gave me a beautiful necklace (which was dripping wet because I immediately knocked over a water glass when I sat down.)  I felt... at peace.  I felt lucky that some people think enough of me to do that. 

March 25, 2019

Aside from that?

Well, it's been a hard week, especially the past couple of days.  I won't go into detail, as it isn't pertinent to this topic. 

I look back to the person I was before, and I see a whole different person.  I see an a$$hole, who was in so much Pain, and filled with anger.  In many ways, I am still that person.  I like to think that I kept the best parts of him while shedding that skin.  I still like the same things, listen to the same music...

I'm often asked if I am Happy.  I always answer "No. But I'm at peace."

I guess that's enough.

With Internet Sensation Linda Lewis, March 25, 2019


Thank you to all of you who have followed this blog through the years- old veterans, and new readers alike.  I really appreciate every one of you.  Even you, Pat!  ;)

(And I love comments.  Just sayin'...)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 47: Crow Formal

At this point, I was still very unsure of what I did.  Yes, I was dating Virginia, but I would've preferred Judy.

Here is yet another occasion that age and Transition has given me insight.  I was desperate for affection.  Where many of my fraternity brothers would've not cared about what She thought, and still pursued both women (youth and cockiness,) I couldn't comprehend that frame of mind- at all.  I still can't.

I couldn't admit that weakness to anyone, especially myself.  I felt that unless I had a girlfriend, that made me less of a guy.  Again, I had no idea what Manhood meant, only what I saw.  Frankly, the examples I'd seen of manhood by that point weren't good ones.

So, am I saying that "neediness" is a feminine attribute? Absolutely not.  However, I now recognize that having a partner is not the measure of a man... or a woman.

Did I mention I was young and stupid?


Chapter 47: Crow Formal

Friday, February 13, 1987 Iran panel probes for cover up
            There was no doubt that I was going to Virginia’s Crow formal.  She wanted it to be like a “grand revealing” so that everyone would know we were dating.  This left me with a problem: telling Judy.  How do you tell someone something you don’t want them to know?  Still, I wanted her to find out from me, not Virginia or by just “seeing us.”
            I asked Virginia not to tell her- let it be a surprise.  After all, Virginia was still supposedly dating Chuck.
            Fuck.  How did I get into this?
            So Judy and I went to the library to study and do research for papers.  She was in a foul mood.  Had Virginia told her?
We were walking back through clear freezing night.  The path was lit by the full moon reflecting off the snow and her pale skin.  I finally summoned the guts to tell her. 
“Judy, I have to, um, tell you something.”
“More good news” she said sullenly.
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing.  Tell me.  Please.”
“I’m going to your formal with Virginia.”
“That’s good.”
“We’re kinda dating now.”
Judy’s expression didn’t change.
“Oh,” she said.  “I’m happy for you both.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Why?  You have a girlfriend.  That is what you’ve wanted.  Congratulations!”
“But you and I…”
“What about us?  All you’ve done is break promise after promise to me,” she said.
“What promise did I break this time?”
She paused, looked at me a moment, then kept walking.
“Nothing.  I hope you are happy together,” she said.
“You told me many times that I should date her!”
“I didn’t think you actually would!  Either way, it’s none of my business,” she said.
We walked in silence for a bit, our feet crunching on the occasional ice patch.
“Is Rich coming up?”  I asked.
“Yes,” she said, looking at her feet.
Was she crying?  Couldn’t be.

Collegian  February 13, 1987

Saturday, February 14, 1987 Valentines Day Broker admits to divulging inside information
            I met Virginia at their apartment around seven.  She was dressed in a slinky, curve hugging blue dress that showed lots of cleavage.  The bare shoulders made her neck look extremely long, especially with her short hair.  Her face was lightly made up, but she looked so different because she never wore makeup.  She was dressed to show off.  Me?  I wore my old polyester gray suit with a new red paisley tie.  (Paisley was the stylish thing to wear at the time.)
            As Judy and Rich had already left before I arrived, I wanted to fuck Virginia immediately.  After all, that’s why I signed up for this and hurt Judy.
            “No, this thing is a bitch to put on.  You’ll have to wait,” she said, then kissed me while caressing my crotch.
            I then helped her with her garnet colored Crow jacket, which seemed so out of place, but let’s face facts- it was fucking freezing outside.

            The formal itself was typical.  The Crows set up tables in the living room and we had catered food- chicken cordon bleu.  The open bar was at the front of the house, where they normally set up the DJ stuff.  People were pouring incredibly strong drinks for themselves.  I got beer and wine for Virginia and I.  We sat with Kathy, a few other little sisters and their dates.  Judy and Rich were a couple tables over but facing us.  Judy wore an elegant black dress with long sleeves.  It was tight in all the right places.  She looked beautiful. 
            Judy had yet to master the skill of pretending she was having a good time.  It looked like she and Rich were having a spat.
            “Judy keeps staring at us,” Virginia whispered in my ear before giving it a nibble.
            I noticed.  I wonder why?  Maybe your dress?”
            “The little bitch is probably jealous that I’m here with you.”
            “I doubt that,” I said.
            “I don’t.  She and Rich have been fighting all day.  She didn’t want to come tonight, but since he drove all the way here, he finally talked her into it.”
            “That doesn’t mean it’s because of me.”
            “It is.  I know,” Virginia said.
            Every time I stood up, be it to get drinks (several times I offered Judy and Rich a drink, and was politely refused), going to the john, whatever, Crows were asking if Virginia and I were a couple.  It felt really weird to say ‘yes,’ but kinda comforting all the same.  I mean, no one could argue that she looked absolutely beautiful that night.  I was a lucky guy- I was told so many times.  So why did I keep looking over at Judy?
                                                                        Collegian  February 13, 1987

         Later that night, I was leaning on the crowded Crow bar, my back against the one wall- my “usual” spot.  Virginia was away taking a leak in the ladies room.  I was enjoying the music- waiting for the cup of flipping to come, hic, come to me.  Def Leppard- good and loud.
I gotta feel it in my blood
I need your touch don't need your love
And I want, and I need, and I lust
And I want, and I need, and I lust
            Guy pushes himself in next to me.  Seen him before- he’s a brother here.  Think his nickname is Dildo or something.  Italian with thick black hair slicked straight back, unibrow, maybe five eight.  Hear he says he’s a black belt or something. 
            “So have you explored it yet?” he asks me.
            “Explored what?”  I leave off the customary “Your mom?”
            Virginia’s vagina, man!”  He starts to sing “Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina! Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina! Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina!”  Guessing that this may be a fraternity song.
            “That’s none of your fucking biz-business,” I said, turning toward him.
            “Oh come on!  Almost everyone here has.  She’s a little sister after all.”
            Felt ballsy.  “Yeah she mentioned fucking some guys who couldn’t satisfy her.  Figured they were Crows.  Birds have small dicks.  She needed a real man like me to do the job.”
            “Fuckin’ asshole” he started to get all angry.
            “Hey, I’m a fuckin’ guest in your house.  You wanna start something, I’ll be happy to hurt you, but remember, I’m a Skull.  If you guys pile on me, can you handle all of Skull comin’ over, knockin’ on your door? Huh?  Can you?  I don’t think so.”
            He glared at me for a second, probably doing math in his head.   Then he turned and looked down the bar.
            “Hey people!  This fuckin’ Skull says he can out drink us all!” he yells.
            Some people shout abuse.  Others don’t care.  Doesn’t matter.  The avalanche begins.  Every hit, and I hear “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”
            Virginia comes back from the pisser (that took a fucking long time!).  “Skull!  Drink!”
            By then I had two full beers in front of me that needed emptying.  “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”
            “What happened?”  Virginia said, laughing.
            “Dildo lied.  I’m pay-paying the price.”
            “What?” she said.
            “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!”  “Skull!  Drink!” “Skull!  Drink!”
            “Skull!  CHUG!”  Wondered how long it would take to hit one face up.
            I breathed heavy, and chugged one down.  Shook my head.  Don’t puke.  Not in front of them anyway.  Don’t puke!
            “Golden chair!”  I shouted as I headed to the bathroom.  (In case you forgot, Golden Chair means no one can give you drinks while you’re gone.) 
            Upstairs.  Stood in line.  Long piss in the sink.  Puke?  Nah.  Not now.  Rinse hands in other sink.
            Out of bathroom.  Virginia waiting.  She smiled. 
            “I found out what’s up.  I told the bar that Dildo lied and he’s getting hammered now.  Wanna go down and play some more?”
            “Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina!  Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina!  Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina!" played in my head.
            “No.  Let’s go to my place.  Play there.”
            She smiled wider.  “Ok!  I just wanna say good bye to Kathy.”
            Sat on a window ledge.  Turned and promptly puked out the open window.  Hope no one was down there.  Should say goodbye to Judy…
            Virginia came back.  Walked to my place.
            Vah-ginia’s Vah-gina.
 Next Chapter

Friday, March 29, 2019

Sleep Well Jeanine

My friend Dr. Jeanine Ruhsam died the other day.  She was an avid skier, and just finished a run on her favorite slope, when she collapsed.  Lifesaving efforts proved ineffective, and she was declared dead at a nearby hospital.

I met Jeanine in January 2009, on my second might out as Sophie.  She’d come to Angela’s Laptop Lounge at Shangrila to spread the word about a brand new Transgender conference.  She was tall, thin, stylish, and well spoken.  And I was really new and taking my first steps into a new world.  Frankly, I was scared as hell, and she was so well put together, I was intimidated.  However, she took time to speak with me, and welcomed me to the community.  We spoke briefly that night.  I admired her drive and spirit.  I bought her a drink.

Jeanine, Keystone Conference 2016

Jeanine was president of a Harrisburg based organization called Trans Central, and they’d organized the Keystone Conference.    At that first Keystone Conference, there I sat with maybe 80 other attendees, listening while Jeanine spoke to us as peers- as family.  I was so scared when I arrived, yet by this time, I'd found my courage.  (Donna Rose was the Keynote speaker- that was the first time I met her.)

She spoke about beginnings- about how every journey has one, and that many in the small dining room (only one of the three available- now the conference packs all three) were just beginning our journeys.  I was one of them.  She also spoke about Community.  How all of us were part of something larger- that everyone here Understood what we all felt.  Some would call that socialistic, but it was True.  For many of us, me included, it was what we needed to hear.  I'd grown up thinking I was alone: a freak.

I never forgot what she said, or how she made me feel.

The person who checked into that hotel that week, was not the same person who checked out.  That's because of the conference, yes, but mostly because of what Jeanine said.

I saw Jeanine occasionally over the years, usually at conferences.  She was at SCC in 2013, and we talked a bit about my situation at the time.  She encouraged me to persevere.  Essentially, it was a pep talk.  I really don't remember much about it, as I was in a haze of Pain and confusion, but I remember she knew about my situation, and took the time to sit down with me and talk.

With Jeanine, Vanity Club dinner, SCC 2013

Eventually, she earned her PhD in American Studies from Penn State, and she encouraged me to continue my education.  At that time, I was working for Penn State Great Valley, and was deep into planning my "coming out."  Jeanine drove over an hour down to GV, and we spent hours determining what a transitioning Penn State employee would need/want from the University.  PSU didn't have a plan in place, so she was developing one.  We spoke often during that time- planning, negotiating... laughing.  As it happened, days before I was going to sit down with my supervisor at PSU about transition, I was promoted at the book store, so Dr. F wasn't told.  Instead, I focused on my transition plan there.  However, I knew that Penn State now had a transition plan for Transgender employees, and they had it because of Jeanine.

She also twice served as president of Vanity Club, which is the transgender service sorority.  Her tenure was before my time, but those who were there remember her service fondly.

With Jeanine at the first Keystone Conference, 2009

Jeanine had so many friends- some of whom knew her for decades.  They obviously knew her FAR better than I.  In the end, she was like a friend and coworker to me, having worked as we did on that policy. 

But Jeanine made me feel Included.  She made me feel like I Mattered.  That is a LOT.  I'll never forget that she was there when I needed her to be.  And she was there for so many others as well.

Rest well, Jeanine.  May the four winds blow you safely home.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 46: Typical Day Spring Semester 1987

Not every day ay PSU was a party- no far from it.  Those who didn't learn to balance fun with work usually flunked out after first semester.

What made the experience of college was the day to day routine: classes, homework, sports/activities/clubs, and the people you cared about.

Many things have changed at PSU since i graduated, but that hasn't.

This was my typical day then.  It probably wasn't so different from other college alumni.


Chapter 46: Typical Day Spring Semester 1987

Wednesday, February 4, 1987 Flier says he briefed North on arms drop

            Weather in State College is predictable.  Rain, rain, rain.  There were two seasons- the rainy season, and the season in which no one was around (summer).  This held true especially during the winter.  White gray, brown, white.  Sky, everything else, snow.  The world was a dull slushy icy cold mess.  And we all went to class.  Uphill.  Both ways (really!)  Tons of books!  Oh sorry.  Got carried away.  In any case, the all consuming grayness made a sunny day almost a cause for celebration.  It was always bitter cold.  Go figure- we were in the mountains.
            Of course the worst part was that all the girls were wrapped up in so many layers that they looked like Randy from “A Christmas Story”- amorphous blobs of cold resistant textiles.  No shape, no curves, no nothing!
            So it was in this cold grey world that all of us went to class, worked, studied, fucked, drank, whatever.  Night fell so quickly, and often it was so cold no one wanted to go out.  Problem- we’re in the middle of nowhere.  If you’re under 21, which I was then, and broke, what is there to do?  Well, go to sporting events.  There was wrestling, basketball, volleyball, and they were all free.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons Penn Staters are such fanatics- we were all attending all of the events!

Collegian, Feb 4, 1987
            Of course some nights there were parties during the week, but I had to balance all that out as I didn’t want a repeat of the last semester’s grades.  Add to that, I now had Virginia, so I no longer had to worry about going out to meet people.  (Yeah, like I bothered anyway since meeting Judy!)
            Anyway a typical day went like this:  I woke up, went to classes straight until 2.  I had a couple of hours for lunch, which I ate at the house.  Sometimes, I’d see Virginia, sometimes not.  Then I would go to my afternoon classes.  This semester was different, in that Tuesday I had off, while Thursday I had student teaching all day.  So on Thursday, I’d wake up incredibly early, get dressed and walk all the way across campus to Chambers building for my ride to my class.  I’d get back around five-ish, have dinner at the house, homework and nap until party time. 

Am I the only one who misses this place?
            Tuesdays I had off, so I’d sleep in, recover from my hangover and do homework, usually at the library.
            Many afternoons, I’d have the apartment to myself.  I’d put on one of Bob Dylan’s “Biograph” tapes and just relax. 
“My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.”
            Sometimes Virginia would show up and listen with me, lying on the couch together.  She called them “Dylan chills.”  I learned a lot about a lot, if that makes sense, trying to interpret what the man was saying.
“I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.”

            Life at the house was the same.  I’d walk the halls, smell the pot, and hear the Grateful Dead.  I ate lunch and dinner there, and sometimes people talked to me, other times they didn’t.  But as time passed, more did.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Going Home for Further Studies

So something major happened this past month.  I thought I posted about it here, but I guess I didn't.  (I know I did on TG Forum.)  Seems my projects blend these days.

In any case, I mentioned previously that I'd applied to my alma mater, Penn State, for PhD study.

A little background for those new to this blog- I started college at Drexel University in 1984.  I was a Civil Engineering major, because I wanted to make a lot of money, and I chose a city school because I grew up in a tiny, dying foundry town.  I wanted the Bright Lights and Experience that the city implied.

Well, I hated it.  I hated Drexel; I hated the studies; and I HATED the city.  The only good experiences I had were the people I met, like my roomie "Ripper" Rob Young.  (I wonder what happened to him.)  I also pledged a fraternity.  In May 1985, I was initiated as a brother of Phi Kappa Sigma.

In any case, I hated Drexel SO much that I decided to transfer out.  Long story short (too late,) I transferred to Penn State Main campus, arriving in State College in August 1986.  It was the biggest decision in my life up to that point (that anyone knew.)  It was also one of the best.

With an Old Friend, Feb 2019

Oh, if you didn't know, I wrote a book about my Penn State experience called Men of the Skull, which I serialized some of here in the blog.  Find the first chapter HERE.

With the exception of breaks and Summer 1987, I lived at Penn State from August 1986 to December 1988, when I left for Student Teaching.  I graduated in May 1989, in the midst of deep depression.  So, subtracting that summer I wasn't there, I was at PSU for two whole years.  Not much in the scheme of things, really.

So why do I consider it "Home?"  Happy Valley is my Happy Place.  It's not like I had the four years many people have there.  In any case, like many alumni, I visit as often as I can.  Over the years, so much has changed, except one constant- the students are mostly between 17 and 22 years old.

When I was an undergrad, I was a person whose life was spinning out of control.  I buried my Truth- that I was really female, and did my best to be the male that I appeared on the outside.  I drank. I fought.  My fraternity brothers at Penn State sensed I was different, and I was- they were the Popular guys.  They were the creme de la creme of their high schools: athletes, rich kids... the guys who got any woman they wanted.  And then there was me: skinny, awkward, depressed, and hiding a Dark Secret.  Oh, and Initiated.  I was a transfer Brother, and many of them to this day never let me forget it.  This is one of the main topics of my book.

I received my Masters degree in Instructional Design from Penn State Great Valley in 2007, and worked there for a time.

This August, Thirty Three years after I first arrived in State College, I will return to start my PhD studies. 

Yes, I was accepted.

There are details yet to be ironed out, such as financial aid, place to live, etc.  My roomie/bestie will be moving with me.  For her, it's the opportunity to start fresh- full time as Linda. 

There are differences this time around. 

1) I want to live away from the undergrads.  I am too old to go to parties ("Who is that creepy old person?  Your grandmother?") and I want quiet in which to study.  Therefore, I'll be living away from downtown State College.  Also, I rarely drink any more. 

2) I am not the 19 year old who first moved there.  I am 52, and will turn 53 soon after starting.  I have been around the world.  I've learned so much, and know that I'll never stop learning.  Also, I know my weaknesses and failures.

3) The biggest difference: I am no longer hiding my Truth.  The person who will work for that degree is the woman I was born to be (almost.)  No more pretending and lying to everyone, especially myself. 

Does this mean I now won't visit my fraternity house?  Of course I will.  They hold events for alumni, and I'll attend those. 

In any case, I'll be going Home.  It will take at least 5 years to complete the degree.  Wife and daughter said they'd visit twice a month. 

How does this make me feel?  I don't feel anything yet.  I don't think it'll hit me until all the furniture and boxes are in the new place, and I'm settling in.

Still... Penn State...


Friday, March 8, 2019

Bit of a Lull


Sorry I haven't posted lately.

Haven't felt up to it.  Or anything.

Hopefully soon.

Darkness sucks.

Audition the Other day

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 44: Resolved

It's amazing how Time gives you perspective.  I sort of knew it then, but what I didn't realize is that, on that night, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  And I say that knowing about how many costly mistakes I've made (and continue to make.)

I probably won't be posting the later parts of this narrative (readership is dwindling) so I'll say this.  Virginia and I dated for over a year.  For a time, it was wonderful.  However, the Time of Magic ended that night- the time of courting Judy, and the fun it promised, was over.  I traded her for a sure thing.

I would cost me a chunk of my soul.

Virginia and I dated for around thirteen months before I learned that she was cheating on me.  And I wasn't exactly blameless either.  Our relationship was stormy as hell.  In the end, we stopped speaking to each other at all.  Since Fall 1988, I've spoken to her only once.  I called her in summer 2008 to tell her that I'd written a book, and that she was a major part of it (name changed of course.)  I offered her a chance to read the manuscript, and to request removal or revision of parts she didn't like. She demurred, and said she'd buy a copy when it came out.

Virginia graduated after I did, though I don't exactly know when.  She married the guy she starting dating after me, and has three children.

How do I feel about it all looking at it from the other side?  I see that I was thinking with the wrong brain.  I didn't want the relationship- I wanted the sex.  I conflated one with the other, and paid the price.  Well, I was only 20.  This was my first "adult" relationship, and I learned a lot- the hard way.  Even now, thirty plus years later and having transitioned to my Truth, I still don't understand Virginia.  I don't understand her motivation for what she did, or why.  I guess I never will.

Maybe I thought I could "save her."  I couldn't even save myself.

This entry finally closes the huge gap between the posted chapters.


Chapter 44: Resolved

Thursday, January 29, 1987 Agreement fails to end Manila Siege

            Cold, windy and snowing: another night at Penn State.  Absolutely raw.
            I felt strange all through the day.  The day before, I saw Judy at the Hub around lunchtime and she handed me a note.  What was she afraid of?  Why would I stand in the way of Virginia’s happiness?
            Why indeed.
            Why did I feel loss?  And anger?  Why did I feel jealous?  Yeah, I fucked her but it’s not like it meant anything. 
            She said she loved me.
            But Judy…
            No- I wanted Judy.  I wanted her smile, her soft jet black hair, her beautiful breasts, her whisper and her kiss.
            Virginia said she loves me- but she’s nuts.
            I mean, how could things be better?  Penn State was National Champions- and I was a Penn Stater.  Things with Judy were improving daily.  Even so, I had a girl tell me she loved me and all I ever did was fuck her.  I guess I was doing something right.
            Two girls, the best University, I was young and healthy.  How could it ever be better?
            The wind howled – cold and purposeful.  The snow pounded people, roads, buildings, and the Lion. 
            Don’t fuck this up, Lance.  You’ll hate yourself forever.

           From that day's Collegian
            So today was my first day of student “teaching.”  I was observing a kindergarten class out at Brown Elementary school, maybe twenty minutes outside of State College near Lewistown.  It was a long day, made longer by a kid named Ben Satan.  He was a devil.  Son of a prostitute, he didn’t know who his father was, and his mom never disciplined him.  “I want you to break him” was what she said to Mrs. Shanks, the teacher.
            Long fucking day.  Didn’t get back until sunset when the snow really began coming down.  I ate dinner at the house, and then went back to my apartment to do homework.  Maybe an hour later, Judy stopped by on her way home from the library.  She was cold and wet from the snow.  I made her some hot chocolate.
            Virginia invited Chuck over tonight” she said.  She watched me intently.
            “That’s good” I said.
            “Don’t mess this up for her, Lance.  She can be happy.”
            “Wow…I…why in hell would I want to screw things up for her?”
            “I don’t know.  I just…  I don’t know.  I’m worried, that’s all.  I worried about you both.”
            “Well, thanks for worrying.  She’s happy and that’s what counts.”
            “Lance, what about you?”
            I looked into her eyes, hoping for a smile or a spark, but all I saw was concern.  I didn’t understand what was going on in her head. 
            “What about me?”  I said.
            She sighed.  “What about YOUR happiness, Lance?”
            “When did my happiness enter this equation?”
            Judy gave me a “stop fucking around” look.
            “We could continue what we started a couple of nights ago…”  I said.
            “Oh Lance, stop fooling around.  You know what I’m talking about.”
            I looked directly into her beautiful eyes.  “No I don’t Judy.  I told you: I’m ok.  I told you what would make me happy.  I want to be with you, but you have Rich.”
            The door opened and Marc shambled in.
            “Yo dude!  Crystal called.”  I shouted over to him.
            “How long ago?” he asked while pulling off his boots.
            Exactly 28.673 minutes.  How should I know?  Maybe an hour.”
            “Jeez, calm down man!”  Marc said.
            He turned to Judy as he hung up his coat.  “Could you fuck him already and get it over with?  He really needs to get laid!”
            Judy blushed and laughed a little.
            “No thanks, I already have a boyfriend” she said.
            Marc went into the bedroom.  Judy leaned in to say something.  “Thanks a lot” I said before she could speak.
            She smiled slightly.  “Let’s go get some fries.”
            “Do you wanna go to the Peppers near here or the one down by you?” I said.
From that day's Collegian           
            We slowly walked down the snow covered streets toward Sutton Court.
            “Nothing crunches like snow!”  Judy said as we, well, crunched.
            “You make it sound like a cereal commercial.  Snow Crunchies!  Stays crispy- even in milk!”
            “But remember don’t eat yellow Snow Crunchies!”
            “Why not?  You don’t like the New Banana flavored Snow Crunchies?  They’re better than the chocolate ones!  The chocolate ones taste like shit!”
            Judy laughed.  The snow kept falling.
            After two servings of CC Pepper’s fries, Judy and I were sufficiently warmed up to make the trek across University Drive to her apartment.
            Back to Virginia and Chuck.
            “Think they’ll be in the bedroom?”  I asked as we walked back out into the cold cold storm.
            “I’m not sure.  Virginia can be pretty easy at times,” Judy said, shooting a look at me.  I decided not to take the bait.
            The walk through the deepening snow took forever.  Maybe it was two feet deep?  Twenty?  It didn’t matter.
            The door was locked, and Judy fumbled a little too obviously with the keys.  She made a lot of noise.
            After we walked in we shook off the coating of snow, removed our soaked coats and shoes, then walked into the living room.  Virginia and Chuck were sitting close together on the couch.  The TV was on, but the sound was down.  Both of them were rather disheveled.  Virginia was smiling and Chuck just looked uncomfortable. 
            Chuck was maybe my height.  He had a big blondish “Greatest American Hero” afro.  His face was pale and unremarkable except for his small eyes set close to his long narrow nose.  He had very thin lips and a delicate chin. 
            I had no doubt I could easily fuck him up.  He probably thought the same thing- I wasn’t very intimidating.
            But why would I want to fight him?  He was making Virginia happy- drawing her attention so I could finally lay Judy.  Lay?  No, that’s not right- make love to Judy.  Chuck looked directly at me and shifted slightly away from Virginia.
            “Hey guys!  How has your night been?  Judy said maybe a bit too cheerfully. 
            “Great!” Virginia said.  “Oh, Chuck, this is my roommate Judy, and this is our friend Lance.  Guys, this is Chuck.”
Greetings exchanged.
            Virginia was beaming.  She was happy.  Finally.
            Smile Lance!  Don’t be a jerk!  You still sort of have Judy, and Virginia is happy and off your case!
            I was fucking miserable.  I was completely jealous.  I mean, she loved me- not him!  She told me so!  Who cared if I didn’t want to date her- that I lo- wanted her roommate?  She was mine!
            Wait a second!  Was I insane?  Get over it, asshole!
            I leaned against the wall and watched TV.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Judy walk into the bathroom.  Virginia and Chuck talked quietly, and then Chuck stood up.
            “I have to get back to the house,” he said.  Virginia escorted him to the door.  As they walked past, Chuck looked at me.  “Nice meeting you,” he said with a half smirk.  They disappeared out the front door.
            No doubt groping each other.  He was caressing her breasts, holding her close, feeling me lips and her breath on his neck. 
            Judy was still in the bathroom.
            So I was alone- watching MTV.
            Def Leppard was in the studio singing “Love bites, love bleeds it’s bringin’ me to mah knees!”
            So- the question was: who would bring me happiness?  Now If I understood what was going on, I would’ve realized the question REALLY was “who will fuck me?” 
            Hey- remember I’d only been with two girls up to that point, and one of them was outside the door making out with some reject from the 70s.
            Judy or Virginia: even my addled brain knew I needed to choose.  Did I mention I was stupid?
            Judy came out of her room (wasn’t she in the bathroom?).  “What’s wrong?” she asked.
            “Nothing.  I just don’t like this video.”
            She looked at me for a moment, then she said “I want to get changed.  I’ll be out in a second.”
From that day's Collegian           
            Virginia walked back into the apartment behind me.  She brushed my arm as she passed. 
            “So what did you think of Chuck?” she asked with just a tinge of smugness.  Her face was flushed.
            I looked at her, trying to mask all the shit I was feeling.  However, I still hadn’t learned how to do that.  (I did eventually- wanna play cards?)  Of course, she saw right through me.
            “Don’t you like him?” she asked.
            “It doesn’t matter if I like him does it?”
            “I’d like you to?”
            She looked at me, almost dropping her guard.
            “Fuck you” she said.  She stormed into the bathroom.  Judy came out of the bedroom wearing shorts and a navy t-shirt, her face a mask of calm.  She had to hear all that shit.  I glared at the TV.
            The Bangles were dressed like harem girls and dancing around to their new song. 
Foreign types with the hookah pipes say Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh…Walk like an Egyptian”
“So what do you want to do?”  Judy asked.
Fuck you hard that you cry and scream my name.
“I don’t know.  What are you up for?”
Virginia came out of the bathroom.  “So what’s up guys?  What are we doing?” she asked as if nothing had happened. 
“My house is partying tonight, but I’m guessing Judy is in for the night.”  My expression was as cold as the snow tickling the windows.
“So why don’t just go to your asshole house?”  Virginia said.
“Hey!”  I said.  “There’s no need…”
Virginia that was rude!”  Judy said at the same time.
“Don’t jump all over me!”  Virginia shouted.  “They’re assholes and we all know it!”
Judy half snarled and half sighed as she threw her hands in the air.  “I don’t need this!  She said then ran back into the bedroom and slammed the door. 
Virginia and I glared at each other. 
“I hope Chuck realizes what he’s getting into” I said.
“That’s none of your business” Virginia said.

“Look- we have to talk” I said.
“Why?  Do you want to yell at me some more?  Unless you’re…Nothing.  I have nothing to say to you.”
I grabbed my coat and hat, put my shoes back on, and headed out into the snow.  I’d only been hanging out with Judy and Virginia a couple of months, but this hurt badly.  The magic and fun we had were gone.  Maybe I could still have a relationship with Judy, but now there’d be a fourth person around…
The wind blew the snow into my face.  My nose was numb.  My face was wet and cold.  I wasn’t crying- that was the snow stinging my eyes.
“Hey asshole!  Wait up!”  She yelled, muffled by the storm.  I turned and saw Virginia jogging up the East Prospect street hill behind me.  I waited for her.
“What do you want?  I thought you had nothing to say to me!”  I said.
She finally caught up to me.  “I’m sorry.  I was rude.  I didn’t expect you to leave.”
“Well Judy was pissed off and you had nothing to say to me.  Why should I stick around and listen to you bad mouth my fraternity?”
I turned and kept walking.  Virginia followed me.
“You bad mouth MY house.  You constantly put down women saying we’re whores and we can’t be trusted, and I have to take it!”
“You don’t have to listen to anything.  You can walk away anytime you want.”
“I should just kick you in the nuts?”
“You do what you want.  I’m cold, and I’m going to go home then go to my house and get drunk.”
“Fine!  Fuck you!” she shouted as she stopped. 

I kept walking.

Past PIKA. 

After some seconds she figured out I wasn’t stopping.
“Wait up!” she shouted.
I stopped and turned.  “What?  What the fuck do you want?  You made your choice!  You said your piece!  What else is there to say?  What?!?”  I shouted.
She stopped.  Her eyes were so sad.  She looked so vulnerable standing there in the storm.
“Whatever” I said and kept walking- past Beaver Hill and up onto campus as the snow slowed to flurries. 

I kept trying to straighten things out in my mind.  What to do now?  How did I fuck this up so badly?  My feet carried me up the hill without thinking: Up the hill to the Lion.
The Lion was watching quietly from under a layer of white.  Cold snow-covered stone.  With my blue Member’s Only jacket, I completed the proper colors.  I cleared off a bit of the base and sat down.  My chest heaved with a heavy sigh.  I wouldn’t call or visit for a few days.  Let things cool down.  Let Virginia’s relationship take root.  My face was buried in my hands.
The snow stopped.  I looked up- at the corner of the parking lot stood Virginia.  She followed me, but I was too lost in thought to realize it.  When she saw me look up at her, she approached quietly; walking in my footsteps through the maybe eight inches of snow.
“I thought you were going to your house” she said.
“I will.  I just made a detour.  Why aren’t you over at Phi Tau with Chuck?”
“He’s studying.  Some people actually do that on Thursday nights.”
“You can’t resist any opportunity to bust on my house, can you?”
“It’s only fair!  You dragged me all the way across campus” she said.
“Hey!  Don’t try to blame that shit on me!  I didn’t tell you to follow me!  I didn’t want you to follow!  You did that on your own!”
“I didn’t want to end things like that” she said.
“Whatever.  What do you want from me?”
I…  I just want us to still be friends,” she said.  She was now standing right in front of me, maybe three feet away.
“You made your choice.”
“So I can’t have him and still be your friend?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Yes you did!” she said.
“I meant…”
“What?  Why can’t we still be friends?” she said.
“Because it won’t be the three of us anymore.  He’ll be there.”
“Can’t stand a little competition from a Phi Tau?  Well, it’s not like you were going to go out with me, so I found Chuck” she said.
“I never said that!” 
“No, you just wanted me around to fuck once in a while, asshole!”
“You could’ve kept your legs closed!” 
“Yeah, and piss you off!” she said. 
“How would that have pissed me off?”
“You would’ve…”
“I would’ve what?”

“It doesn’t matter.  You weren’t going to ask me out, so I found someone else” she said.
“Fuck him yet?”
“That’s none of your fucking business!”
“Yes it… you’re right.  I apologize.”
“Well the answer is ‘no.’ Surprised?” she said.
“I’m not a slut!  In fact, we only kissed for the first time tonight.”
Yeah, right.  I sat looking at her. 

“I’m sorry I came here.  It’s not like you’re going to go out with me, so…” she said, turning away.
“I never said that!”
The snow started again, lightly.  Flurries.
“You keep saying that,” she said, turning back to face me.
“Because you keep trying to put words in my mouth!”
“What else am I supposed to think?”
 “I don’t know” I said as I stood up.  My ass was cold as the stone I was sitting on.

She was dead right.  I’d been chasing Judy, but fucking Virginia.  Now remember, I was still really inexperienced with the whole sexual relationship thing.  Nor did I have a lot of experience with adult level head games.  Virginia was playing me like a violin, and I had no clue.
“You know, Chuck is afraid of you.  He thinks that all you have to do is ask and I’ll come running to you” Virginia said.
“Is that what he thinks?”
“He thinks that I could never be with him because of you.”
“Why does he think that?”
“We talked about you.  Judy mentioned you to him as well” she said.
“How did I come up in the conversation?”
“After Judy mentioned you, he asked about you.  Then tonight he said he felt that there was something wrong because I was… hesitant.”

Christ, it’d been such a long day- waking up early, the student teaching, tramping through the snow- I was tired.  My brain was tired.  I saw the choice this way: Virginia was all but throwing herself at me.  She’d already said she loved me.  Judy was only a maybe.  I mean, I felt a hell of a lot more for her, but I was tired of being alone.  It boiled down to this: Virginia was a sure thing.  Judy wasn’t.

“So you still want to go out with me.  What about Chuck?”
“I’d rather be with you” she said, almost whispering.  Her eyes were so vulnerable, like she was about to cry.

“Ok.  I’ll go with you.  But there have to be conditions.”
“Like what?” she asked suspiciously.
“I don’t want anyone to know- not my house, not yours, not even Judy.  I don’t think your house would like it if a Skull’s dating one of their little sisters.  My house would give me endless shit too.”
“You’re probably right” she said.
“Also, I want time to spend with Judy.  She’s my friend and I want to see her.  Besides, if I don’t, she’ll get suspicious.” 
I also wanted to keep my options open- I still wanted Judy.
“Ok.  Anything else?”  Virginia said.
“If you’re ok with those conditions, then…”  I stepped toward her.
“Then what?”  She said quietly, looking up at me.
We kissed passionately, holding each other warm against the increasing storm. 
I looked at her.  “Well?”
“I’m ok with that” she said.
We kissed again.  The Lion sat watching quietly as we then walked away, hand and hand, into the snowy night.
The snow was coming down heavily again as we walked back to my apartment.  When we arrived, Mark was already asleep.  He had an early class.
We kissed hungrily, stripping off our many layers of clothing.  I fetched a towel from the bathroom and stretched it out on the living room floor.  (Didn’t want her to get rug burn!) 
I guided her to the floor, laying her on the towel and entered her.  She wrapped her legs around me as if she feared I’d leave.  As we fucked, she kept gasping “I can’t believe it” and “I’ve wanted this for so long!”
Too soon I finished.  The deal was sealed.  We looked at each other.  Her eyes danced.  Tears ran down her cheeks.  I kissed her lightly.
“Thank you” she said, quietly, and smiled.