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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Dream of Dogs

Last night I had a strange dream, in that while it was a nightmare, it wasn't as bad as they usually are.

The dream took place in the house where I grew up in Spring City, which is a very frequent location for my nightmares.

House where I grew up, 1987

There had been a big family dinner or something and all my aunts and uncles from my dad's side were there (but none of my cousins.)  They'd all left except one of them, whom I will just say is the only one I don't get along with.  There were piles of dirty dishes everywhere, and the only food left was partially eaten broiled flounder.  For those that don't know, seafood and I don't get along either.  I hadn't eaten at all, and I was responsible for washing ALL of the dishes and cleaning up the place while the adults sat in the living room, smoked and drank beer.  Never mind that my mum does neither anymore.

Ok, so far, this was familiar ground.

And like usual, I kept shifting back and forth from the little boy I was to my current female self.  Now, my parents had a dishwasher in the 70s, but they rarely used it, as it was LOUD.  So I had to wash them by hand.  This would take hours, as there were literally dozens of plates, serving vessels, and a forest of cutlery.  It all smelled of broiled fish.  The sink was small, so I knew I'd have to wash, dry, refill the sink, wash, dry, ad-infinitem.  Again, this is a common nightmare.  Usually this nightmare includes my older brother, usually as a teen, laughing and throwing things at me, and/or dropping dishes and blaming it on me.  Not assisting of course.  Dishes are "women's work" even though whenever he says this, I'm a young boy.

But not this time.  In fact, in last night's dream, he wasn't around at all.

So, I'm scrubbing, sweating, getting fish down my cleavage (I don't know how either) when the dream takes a turn: a small German shepherd mutt enters the room.  It's Rusty, my grandfather's dog (both died in the 80s.)  Rusty was a small mutt of some kind, and didn't much like me.  However, he was wagging his tail and wanting attention.  So I dried my hands, and squatted down to pet him.  I wasn't surprised to see him, even though I knew he was long gone.

As I petted him, my dog Nittany (died in 2016) walked into the kitchen and we did our usual greeting ritual where she snaked over onto her back and I scratched her tummy. It's really hard to describe. Nittany was neither young or old- kinda in between.  She was glad to see me, and when she righted herself to her feet, she gave her standard big sneeze.

Nittany getting a tummy rub

There I was with Nittany and Rusty, when I saw another German Shepherd walk by.  I stood and walked into that room, and saw Sheba.  Sheba was one of the dogs from when I was growing up.  I think she died in 1979.  She moved slowly (hip dysplasia) and gave me a good sniffing while Nittany gave her a sniff as well.

Sheba in our backyard, mid 1970s.  Back where the swingset is there, later was the location
 of the burn barrel where I burned my girl stuff in 1983

This made me wonder- where was Sabre?  Sabre was my favorite dog growing up.  He died of cancer in August 1983, a week after I burned all my "girl stuff."  I went over to my mum, who was like she was when I was a teen.  The living room smelled of cigarette smoke, stale beer, and fish.  I asked her where Sabre was.  She said "he's about to die, so we locked him up."  She said this without her Scots accent (which was really weird.) I I asked where, and my dad yelled at me to get back to work, and the relative commented about how I was "good for nothing."  After some back and forth and threats, I was told that Sabre was down in the cellar locked up.  I went down the rickety wooden steps (which I think were original to the house) and Nittany followed me.

Now, this house was one of the oldest in Spring City, having been built in 1848 (there was a stone "plaque" on the outside of the third floor stating this.)  The basement was unfinished and not very big.  In the back of it was a white painted wooden door, through which was the "coal cellar." (You can see the door to the coal chute in the picture above, just under the porch.)  I unlocked the door, opened it, and out slowly walked Sabre.  However, he looked terrible.  This hair was stiff and matted, and his massive tail wagged slowly.  He and Nittany sniffed each other hello.  Sabre was so much bigger than Nittany.

Sabre.  I think this picture is late 70s.

I petted Sabre for a bit, and he nuzzled into my breasts.  He then looked at me with fogged over eyes and walked back into the coal cellar.  I left the door open, but I knew he wouldn't follow me back up the stairs.  This is where he lived now- waiting for the mercy of death.

I was so angry as I watched Sabre lay down on the cold stone floor.  I ran back upstairs, Nittany following, to confront my parents.

But that is where the dream ended.  I woke up feeling a mixture of deep anger and sorrow.

Nittany visits my dreams occasionally, usually to be petted, sniff me and lick my face.  However, it's been decades since I've seen Sabre and Sheba.  Rust showed up once a few years back before Nittany died.  Seeing them was bittersweet.  I knew they were long gone, but there they were.  It was as if seeing them was my "reward" for doing all that work.

I was very close to Sabre. He often saw me dressed as a girl back in the early 80s.  He didn't care.  Probably because, unlike my parents, I let him sleep on the couch.  His death (along with the end of my feminine dreams) really plummeted me into the deep depression from which I never recovered.

Still, I miss my puppies.  I'm glad Nittany still visits.  While Sabre and Sheba were my parents' dogs, Nittany was mine, and I loved her.

Nittany complaining about the humidity on a hot summer walk.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 43: Letter from Judy II

Yes, another one that I didn't write.

Judy was concerned.  She didn't know how I felt.  She wasn't the only one because neither did I.

Soon enough, things would take a turn...


Chapter 43: Letter from Judy

Wednesday January 28, 1987 10:40 am

            I am worried about you.  I don’t know how your conversation went with Virginia last night.  I fell asleep before I heard you leave.  I was so tired.  What happened, anything important?  Do you feel better after your talk. 
            Your expression barely changed from when you walked into the apartment until I went to sleep.  I hope you didn’t do anything stupid and discourage Virginia from seeing Chuck again.  She has every right to be excited by someone showing interest in her without you spoiling it for her.  I know you understand this.  I just hope in the heat of frustration and anger you didn’t say anything to persuade her from a decision.  Remember that I care about both of you.
            I am so scared about today.  I don’t know if I can express this to you.  I really am anxious.  I have no idea what to expect.  The fact that I am tired might have an even greater on my emotional state.  I “dunno.”
I gave that day!
            I am in Econ. now and it is very boring.  I have studied for math and now I am writing you.  So excuse me if this sounds jumbled.
            Everything is screwed up for the meeting tonight.  Instead of starting at 7:30 like it was supposed to, I heard it was supposed to start at 6:30 but if I don’t know that means a lot of people don’t know either.  Tracy said she called Virginia and she knew but Tracy said she didn’t think ‘Gin knew what she was talking about.  If the meeting starts at 6:30 then I should be out of there early. 
            Meanwhile I have to go.  Talk to you soon.  Till Then.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Maid in Dracula

Has it really been two weeks since it ended? Has it really been two weeks since we broke the stage down and went to the cast party? Two whole weeks since I last trod the boards, cleaned up after Lucy, and was seduced by Dracula?  Two weeks since this group parted ways, never to be all together again?

For three weekends, I was in the play Dracula, held at the Forge Theater in Phoenixville. I played a small part- a minor role to be sure- of a Maid.   However, I was also stage crew moving things on and off the stage, and I also created a couple of the props.  Oh, and took a lot of pictures.

In Costume

This whole process began back in September, when I auditioned and got the role.  I was surprised to get it- delightfully surprised.  I remember talking to people at the rehearsal, and thinking that they were all so much better than me at this.   After all I'd only been in one play as Sophie: the Vagina Monologues in 2017. In that one, I wrote my own piece.

But I made it, and I was there from the read-through all the way through the production. During that time, my part changed as I tweaked my performance, and the director gave me some tweaks as well. I had to make some of this role my own. For example, at one part I hummed a song.  I had to research a song popular in 1897, which is when the play takes place.   The song I chose was The Band Played On. I'd heard it before done by orchestras and such, but never knew what it was. I found an old recording on YouTube, and memorized it. When I first did this song, I waltzed around the stage (as it is in waltz time.)  That was a bit much, so the director said no to that.

The director was Suki.  She had previously cast some friends of mine in other plays, and was known for casting gender variant people.   That said, I was the only transgender person in this play, which was fine.  I wonder how many of the cast had previously met a transgender person?  In a way, I was an ambassador.  As usual.

On Stage.  Photo by Dave Richman

We rehearsed for months.  It was a complex play with a lot of sound and lighting affects which I had nothing to do with, but I had to know when my cues were.  Fortunately, I didn't make too many mistakes... well, at least not with my lines.

I could tell so many stories about this experience! I told a couple of them in my TG Forum column a few weeks ago.  What I can say is that the experience was absolutely magical, and I wished it could never end.  But of course, all good things do come to an end, and our final performance was a matinee Sunday two weeks ago.

The matinee was sold out, just like all of our performances.  Yes, we sold out all eight of them, which is a very good record for January (especially for non-musical in that theater.) So I'm told.

Renfield's Chair, which I modified and hand painted.

Props I made/painted.  The words on the bottle mean "Good sh*t" in Mongolian

I met many wonderful people, some of whom had become dear friends.  I must admit that most of them intimidated me from the read through on through most of the production.  Some of them were very talented actors- Theater majors and such.   They had years and so many plays behind them on their resume, and all I had was one.  In particular one woman really intimidated me- one of the stars: Sandy.

Sandy is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, and an amazing actress.   I was sure that she acted for a living, but as it turns out she doesn't.  I didn't speak much to her, then again I really didn't speak much to anyone, aside from making my usual bad jokes, you know, to cover my nervousness and insecurities, but almost everyone was so nice to me- even knowing I am transgender.   As it turns out, Sandy was as nice as she is beautiful.  I wish I could have spoken up a little earlier and gotten to know her better.

Again, almost all of the cast were extremely nice. The woman playing Mina, Safiyyah, was the youngest person in the cast, and she was so incredibly talented.  I wouldn't have guessed by the way she played that role that she wasn't a graduate of a theater program.  She isn't- in fact she still a college student and not a theater major.

Cast Photo 

They show featured to Dracula's and older version and a younger version both of them were theater veterans and both of them were absolutely fantastic. The younger one, Matt Lake, is also an author. He wrote Weird Pennsylvania.   Loren played the older Dracula, and he was full of fun tales of plays and jobs that he'd had pretty much all over the world, but especially the UK.  As Matt is from Birmingham in the UK, they had a lot to talk about.

Dracula's brides were the Vixens, and there were four of them.  I had to say that I think I became closest to two of those Vixens maybe because I saw myself in them.  Also because they chatted with me.  A third vixen, Lauren, was not only incredibly beautiful, but she was also a lawyer and a dancer.  Her Vixen danced ballet, and was absolutely incredible to watch.  I watched her a lot at practice, and I could not believe that anybody could be so flexible! I saw a video of her doing the piece on stage while wearing a long gown.  You see, I have never seen this play.  Not the completed version anyway.  No, I saw just what I could see through curtains as I waited to move things around, and some parts I couldn't see at all- like the Vixens.

Lauren during rehearsals

 As I said, the Vixens reminded me a lot of myself.  They all had incredible strength, which I wish I had.  I don't think they realize their own strength.  Two are authors; one writes Gothic horror, and she looks the part.  She's slim, pale, and beautiful.  If you were going to picture a Goth chick, you would picture her.   The other was more metal, and she rocked a corset!  She was extremely outgoing.  She also wrote a children's book.

 A couple of the cast members are gamers.  I've tried to set up a game, but it hasn't happened yet.  One is actually hypnotist!  Others do other jobs.  Most of them have found roles in other productions, and are already in rehearsal for those.

I auditioned for another role, but did not get it.  I think that, for me, the experience is over- at least for a while.

In a way, I'm still processing what it all meant to me.  I know that, for that time, I felt part of something- something fun.  A group of strangers became like a family to me (albeit dysfunctional and full of characters.)  I knew that I'd find Kristin on the stairs to the dressing room, reading a book.  Or that Joe "warmed up" wearing headphones and dancing.  That Alexis would be at the makeup table, and that Jay would always be late.  That everyone would be glued to their phones during down time while still laughing and gossiping.  Robyn would be obsessing over the baby mixture, and the beautiful Kimmie would need help with her corset.  There was a serene familiarity to it all.

And one thing I DO know... is that I miss it.

Be well.

Matt Lake as Dracula during rehearsals

Friday, February 1, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 42: We Talk

After Judy gave me the letter in the previous chapter, I really wanted to sit down and speak with her.  However, I couldn't that night, as the Fraternity had a Chapter Meeting.   So I had to wait a full day.

Luck smiled on me, though.  Virginia had a date that night, so she wanted their apartment to herself.  That meant Judy was free to do whatever without raising suspicion.

So it was that Judy and I went to the Roy Rogers on College Ave to do homework.  If things went well, we'd move on from there.

Things went well.  At first.

What happened next, I attribute to my being very inexperienced in matters of the heart.  I didn't understand my emotions, so controlling them was out of the question.  Of course, back then I thought I was very grown up and experienced.  The Delusion of Youth.

That night changed the course of my life, but I didn't know it then.  I would soon though.


Chapter 42:  We Talk

Tuesday, January 27, 1987 Coup Attempted in Phillippines

            The Roy Rogers on College Ave was THE place to study.  First of all, it was huge!  There were lots of big tables to spread out all your books and papers.  There was food.  But the most important part- refills on large drinks were free- that was KEY!  Still, it was a bit weird walking into a fast food place on a weeknight and having it as quiet as a library.  Still, I loved their chicken nuggets!  During finals week, tables were impossible to find.  Judy was already there when I arrived, her books and notes spread out in a booth near the front windows.  We could watch the cars and people go by through the slush and light snow. 

            She smiled when she saw me.  Maybe this whole thing wasn’t unsalvageable.  Maybe.

            She was wearing her white angora sweater which clung tightly to her breasts.  Me?  My Police “Synchronicity’ concert shirt.  It was still early in the semester but we both were buried by homework.  I sat across from her and pulled some notebooks from my book bag.  In one of them was the letter she’d given me the previous day. 

            Tonight was the night.  Tonight Virginia was going out with Chuck, the Phi Tau.
Collegian Tues Jan 27, 1987

            “So what are you studying?”  I asked.
            “Health Policy Issues.  Yuk!  And you?”
            “I have to write a story for my writing class, but I figured we could talk about your letter.”
            “Do you think that this is the right time and place to do that?” she asked.
            “Why not?  Being here will force us to keep our voices down and our emotions under control.”
            She shrugged slightly.  “Ok, well what do you want to know?”
            I gulped down some Coke to steady myself.  Why was I nervous? 
            “Well, if I read this correctly” I said while pulling out the letter, “you’re still, um, interested.”
            Judy smiled slightly.  “Maybe.  I don’t know for sure.”
            “Well, what are OUR options?”
            “Are you still interested?” she asked.
            Oh Jeee-zus!
            “I thought I made that very clear.  I’m very interested.”  Mistake!  Idiot!
            “I think I am.  I’m so confused.”  She leaned back and stretched, showing off her beautiful breasts.  Several guys nearby watched and smiled briefly.  I got a few “what’s she doing with him?” looks.
            “You still haven’t answered the question” I said.
            “One option is that we forget it and just be friends,” she said.
            “Another option is that we forget it and go our separate ways.”
            “That is an option.  I wouldn’t like that though” she said.
            “Another option is that we can give it a try” I said.  “We could give us a shot and try to make it work.”
            “I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do.  It wouldn’t be fair to Richard.”
            “Sorry, I don’t care about that part.  I care about you.  Are you being fair to yourself?”
            “Why do you ask?  Because you’re here and Richard isn’t?” she said, crossing her arms over her breasts, pushing them up slightly.
            “Something like that.  You said yourself that you were lonely during the week.  We could keep it quiet.  No one needs to know about you and me.”
            “I also said that I’m not dissatisfied with Richard.”
            I leaned back and sighed.  “So why are we even having this conversation?  Why did you write what you did in that letter?”
            “I told you!  I’m very confused.  I don’t know what to do!”
            “Well I can’t wait forever.”
            “I know.  Would you prefer if I said ‘no’ right now?”
            I leaned forward and put the letter back into a notebook.  “That’s completely up to you.”
            We sat looking at each other for a moment.  My whole world sat right in front of me.  I saw nothing else.
            Then she smiled and unfolded her arms.
            “Why don’t we just see what happens?” she said.  “If things happen, they happen.”
            I smiled.  It was a start- maybe more.

Collegian Jan 27, 1987

            A few hours later, Judy and I headed back to Beaver Hill.  It was still snowing lightly, just enough to coat State College in a thin layer of white and wet.  We arrived back at my apartment and shook off our coats and boots.  It was already past eleven and Mark was in bed. 
Judy lay on the couch.  We kept the light on the kitchen but that was all. 
So I started giving her the back rub I promised.  I kept my hands over her sweater as they were cold as ice cubes.  Every once in a while she would groan just a little.  Her back was very tight and I rubbed and kneaded it for a while.
Eventually I thought my hands were warm enough, so I snaked them under her sweater to caress her soft skin.  She sighed in approval. 
As I massaged her back I unclasped her bra.  She didn’t object.  I rubbed Judy’s back for quite some time.  Eventually my hands tired.  I stretched out on the couch next to her.  We wrapped our arms around each other.  Her soft lips were so close I could taste her breath.
“So what now?”  Judy asked.
I started running my fingers through her soft raven black hair.
“Well, I have some ideas” I said.
            “Like what?” she asked.
            I kissed her lightly.  I didn’t know what to expect.
            She kissed me back.  Tenderly.
            We kissed for a while.  I slid my hands under her white sweater again, and rubbed her back and stomach.  I slowly ran my hand over her left breast.  Judy looked at me with half closed eyes.  “Please don’t do that” she said quietly.
            “Why not?”
            “Because you’ll make me want more” she said, almost moaning.
            As lame as I was, even I caught that invitation!
            I kissed her again, starting tenderly and slowly kissing her harder, deeper.  I caressed her breast gently.  Judy moaned quietly then grabbed my head with both hands and kissed me passionately. 
            This was it!  This was the night!  Finally!
            We kissed and touched.  I nibbled on her neck.  She slid her hand under my shirt and rubbed my chest.
            I wanted 
            To stay in
This moment
            I began to work Judy’s sweater upwards- trying to pull it slowly over her head.  She responded by kissing my neck and ear.  She nibbled my earlobe and whispered my name gently. 
            RRRRRRRRING!!!  The fucking phone rang.
            We looked at each other- the moment ruined.
            “It’s probably Virginia” Judy said.
            I stood and headed over to answer the phone.  Judy lay propped up on her elbow.
            “Hi!  Is Judy there?”  It was Virginia.
            I looked over at Judy.  She rolled her eyes, nodded, and collapsed on the couch, staring at the ceiling.
            “Yeah.  She’s indisposed at the moment, though.”
            “Bathroom?”  Virginia asked.
            “Ok.  Chuck just left so I just wanted her to know that it’s safe to come back to the apartment if she wants.”
            “OK, I’ll tell her.”
            “Are you coming over?”  Virginia asked. 
            “Maybe.  We’ll see.” 

            By the time I hung up, Judy had reassembled herself and stood.
            “I should go back to the apartment?” she asked.
            I walked over and put my arms around her.  She looked up into my eyes. 
            “No.  You don’t” I said.
            “If I don’t, Virginia will get suspicious.”
            Damn!  She was right.  Besides the mood was gone.
            We walked through the light snow down to Sutton Court.  When we arrived, Virginia was sitting on the couch reading her sign language textbook.  She smiled broadly at us when we entered the living room.  I’d seen that smile before.
            I wasn’t in a great mood.  I mean, Virginia just interrupted my best chance yet with Judy.  And something else- a deep anger and pain.  Why did I feel that?  Was it because of another missed opportunity?  Or was I actually… jealous?

The Police Shirt, being worn 20 years later by Wife at Police concert (2007)