Chance Meeting in New Orleans

Chance Meeting

By: Stefi Perkins

This is a true story of the major events which prompted my progression beyond being simply a closet crossdresser. Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the individuals.

Part #1: Sugar & Spice & … puppydog tails?

She wasn’t exactly beautiful. Damn close, though Cute, vivacious, deep-brown eyes, and such a ready, radiant, friendly smile.

We approached one another, squeezed into a small passage lane among the crowd. Acting the consummate gentleman, I deferred to her, making room for her to walk by. Without so much as a word, our eyes met briefly and with a simple facial gesture she seemed to say: Thank you. I appreciate the consideration.

She then passed behind me becoming invisible in the crowd. As she melted into it, I noted that she walked with a very noticeable limp.

My work had again brought me to New Orleans. In past years, I had worked there often, but changes in our company’s structure rendered my trips increasingly infrequent.

As in the past, I booked a room at an ancient, intimate hotel in the French Quarter, near Jackson Square. An easy walk to the river.

The river, like everything else there is a contrast. The serenity of the gliding water–pure in appearance yet possessed by the run-off of two thirds of a continent’s wastes–confronts the onslaught of commercial freighters and massive tankers moving upriver to the petrochemical defilement of the otherwise pristine shore.

Of all the myriad cultures in America, New Orleans is the most unique. An almost ancient–by American standards–city, exhibiting the diversity afforded by successive waves of immigrants, Spanish, French, enslaved Africans, Irish, German, Arcadian, each giving their own unique flavor to the whole yet retaining their identity at the same time.

And of all of the areas within the city, the Quarter is the most incongruous.

Wealth and poverty, high culture and sleaze, art and pornography, religion and hedonism intermingle and co-exist (or at very least, tolerate one another), driven by needs to escape, to multiply, or–simply–to exist.

I was drained from a long day of negotiations. Dumping my suit and tie, I put on a pair of fresh blue-jeans, pulled on the Reboks, and selected a silk warm up jacket to fend off the slight, damp chill of the sub-tropical November evening.

I wanted to relax with a beer at one of the bars off Bourbon Street, then–perhaps–move on to The Old Absynthe House on Bourbon for another beer and a few sets of blues. I had never been disappointed by the music there.

Hopefully, I would see one of my acquaintances from years past; perhaps Vanessa, a black girrrl who tended bar, was addicted to Jeopardy on TV, and knew that if only she could get on the show, she could make enough money to buy the house for which she had been working and saving for nearly twenty years. Money, like everything else in New Orleans, is easy. Amassing it isn’t.

Or maybe I’d see Joanie, the attorney from Jefferson Parish. On my last visit two years prior, we’d enjoyed one another’s convitality so much after first meeting, that we’d gone out together on each of the next two nights.

We would talk, drink, and–if nothing else– enhale the street’s potpourri of aromas–hot grease blending with the overpowering essence of discarded shellfish, intermingled with the nuances of cheap perfume, and the affrontation of the occasional passing of an unwashed human body.

I really didn’t feel like taking the time to dress up that evening, so was glad that I’d brought the jogging jacket and jeans. Besides, I could be more comfortable-physically and emotionally.

I don’t really like gay bars. To me, at least, it seems that everyone tries just a little too hard to act a role, being more concerned with maintaining whatever image it is they wish to project, than with just enjoying themselves.

And everyone, it seems, is trying to “score:” at least, in New Orleans.

I wasn’t. I hadn’t. I doubted I every would. I didn’t want the hassle. And most assuredly, I didn’t want the risk.

Especially, I didn’t like compromising the cover of my double life. Nevertheless, I knew that my best shots to find Joani or Vanessa were at one of the bars off Bourbon. I headed for the one they frequented most often.

Walking in and not seeing them, I ordered a beer, trying to politely ignore the asshole seated next to me, whose drunken insistence on moving his bar stool closer to mine signaled his all-too-obvious intent. I dumped my beer into a takeout cup, and wandered up the sidewalk to a restaurant, with which I was familiar. Vanessa and Joanie both dined there occasionally, I knew.

The crowd there there that night was subdued and classy; well dressed, well-heeled, and (I knew from past experience) probably half of them were gay. The other half of the crowd probably had no inkling. Or didn’t care. I wondered: if they knew would they have still felt as comfortable as they appeared?

My eyes swept the tables and the bar and, seeing neither Joani nor Vanessa, I reluctantly resigned myself to return to the previous bar, hoping I could slip in unnoticed by my previous admirer.

I did, and cautiously maneuvered to a dark corner of the large, central bar area from which I could observe the crowd without being readily visible to it.

Taking a sip from my beer, I saw her again, seated two stools from me, talking to a hideous-looking queen; the enchanting girl with the expressive face, the ready smile, and the sad limp. I assumed–being where we were–that she was a lesbian. It was curious the empathy which seems to exist between lesbians and transgendered males.

Intrigued, I discretely studied her from the corner of my eye. She was carrying on an animated conversation with the queen. Laughing, talking, and occasionally giving the queen–who appeared unhappy–a hugging caress. It was obvious she was trying to bouy up that individual’s sagging spirit.

A guy–still in a business suit despite the aging evening–sat down next to me. I recognized him. His name was Dave.

He, Joani and I had met at that exact spot and talked at length, two years before. At that time, Joani and I had been–fully and undetectably (and somewhat provocatively, I might add)–“en femme.”

“Remember me,” I asked him?

He looked at me curiously, with only the slightest trace of recognition showing in his eyes.

“Stefi,” I said.

“Shit,” he exclaimed. “I didn’t recognize you. How you been?”

I shook his hand firmly and slapped him on his back.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

I explained that I’d spoken by phone with Joani a month before. She had sent me a very nicely-wrtten (and very lengthy) letter, as well as a recent photo. In it, she also had requested a photo of myself, dressed in an outfit for which she and I had shopped two years before.

For twenty-five years, I’d been married. Our children are on their own. We put both through college. I was a highly regarded and well-paid executive for a very successful medium-sized firm. I’d played a large role in making it that way.

Since I was five or six, I’d known, however, that I was fundamentally different from virtually every other male I had known, and–at least emotionally–very much like every female I had known. And from that very young age, I recognized that my body–not my mind, my emotions, nor my longings–dictated to the world the role I was expected to fill and the behavior I was permitted to exhibit.

It’s an easy lesson to learn. If you’ve got a penis and you enjoy playing dolls with your girlfriends, the boys in the neighborhood will beat the shit out of you on a regular basis. Kind of a self-policing preservation of machismo. Maybe it’s just God’s plan to maintain the natural order.

Anyway, I had quickly learned that–even though I preferred playing dolls, or house, or dress-up–if I didn’t want to get thumped on a fairly regular basis, I had better excel at sports or–better yet–fighting.

I did both. I didn’t start fights but I didn’t walk away from them. And, despite my small stature, I didn’t lose many. By the time I was in high school, I was very popular with friends of both genders. But I wasn’t happy with myself.

I recall the time that I and Cynthia, the girl of my dreams at the time (I wanted to be just like her), had gone to a party following a basketball game.

Her former boyfriend, a second string (and third rate) lineman on the football team, arrived at the party, his mouthy bravado indicating he had been drinking for some time.

He saw Cindy and I and from across the room and yelled out, “What are you doing with that skinny little faggot?”

Not wishing to provoke anything, I ignored him. Cindy scowled at me.

Riveting his eyes on me, he forced his way through the crowded room. “Hey, you little fairy, why are you dating a girl?”

Most of the kids in the room had disapproving expressions on their faces. None of them said anything, though.

A few of them snickered. I turned the other way, towards Cindy, attempting to ignore him. Cindy looked pissed that I didn’t stand up to him. She was embarrassed.

Suddenly, from behind, he pushed the back of my shoulder so hard I had to take three steps forward to maintain my balance.

“Hey, faggot!”

I was humiliated, afraid, and mad as hell.

Calmly, without hurry or apparent malice, I turned as if to speak with him and, as the first words were leaving my lips, I sucker-punched him square in end of the nose. I recall the feeling as my fist pressed through the cartilage, then into the thin bone behind it, only stopping its progress as the knuckles on the side of my fist contacted the hard cheekbones.

Blood splattered everywhere.

He went down in a heap, crying on the floor, and didn’t attempt to get back up. My heart was racing with an adrenalin rush such as I’d never known.

The police were called by the father of the girl at whose house the party was taking place. No report was filled out. The investigating officer, after talking to a few witnesses, thought it funny that a guy my size had been goaded into a fight and then cold-cocked his provocateur. The cop asked the father if he wanted to file a complaint. He said no and the matter was dropped.

Cindy and I left the party and went to my Dad’s car. I started crying uncontrollably. I had hurt that guy, asshole that he was, and my heart ached because of it.

I couldn’t stop crying for almost a half hour as we sat in the car.

Cindy looked disgusted.

The following day, she told me she didn’t want to date anymore. Another lesson learned.

I’d lived up to the world’s expectations. As much as could. And I was disgusted with myself for it.

I continued to explain to Dave the circumstances of being in the bar that night.

“I’ve been so tied up in work, I’ve not yet replied to Joani’s letter, I was hoping to catch her in here to show her these.”

I laid a pile of photographs on the bar in front of him.

My transgendered status was not part of my wife’s bargain when we married. It was certainly not part of my parents’ plan when they raised me. It was certainly not something which my children–had they had a choice–would have selected as a trait of the father who had shared in their procreation and played such a large part in their raising.

And certainly, I didn’t want it. But I had to contend with it.

I had it. It was me

Accordingly, my life became totally compartmentalized. My male activities occupying one compartment; my female activities occupying another, much smaller one, with as little interaction between the two as possible, excepting that little bit which was inevitably apparent to my life mate.

It disgusted her; just the thought.

I dealt with my transgendered status as well as I could, living two disconnected lives. But sometimes, it feels as if the two pull would tear me apart.

A person who knows only my female component had taken the glamour photos of me only a few weeks earlier.

Dave studied them intently.

“Cool,” said a feminine voice from my right.

I turned and was greeted by those still-sparkling brown eyes which had fascinated me earlier. The limping girl from the bar. She laughed. An amused laugh filled with wonder, humor, sensitivity, and–I thought–just a subtle tinge of cynicism.

“That’s you?”

What the hell. I was, after all, in a gay bar, half a continent from home. Why the pretense?

“Yeah,” I replied, “at least sometimes.”

I turned to face her. She was cute, almost beautiful in the classic sense, with a body which was to die for. Seated as she was, I guessed her to be maybe five foot seven or eight, maybe 130 pounds, and stacked.

She was squeaky-clean.

Her clothes were not. Her jeans and the pink cloth jacket on her lap were grease-smudged. She wore a white, nylon shell for a top. It was was scoop-necked revealing an ample cleavage. In the cool, conditioned air, the outlines of her unsupported breasts and erect nipples were clearly visible through the thin material.

Our ages were probably within three or four years of one another.

“You look great in those,” she said. “We ought to get dressed and go out. I’m Gwen,” she proclaimed proudly, extending her hand to me. Her grip was firm and, at the same time, delightfully, delicately feminine.

I noted, with increasing realization, that her hand was larger than mine.

“Steve,” I said, relaxing my grip, “… usually.”

She laughed again, leaning in front of me to retrieve the pictures with which Dave had just finished. Dave’s and my eyes met briefly and he winked, indicating knowledge which I did not share, of the woman next to me.

She studied the pictures intently.

“And when you’re not?”


“Cool.” She laughed again. “So what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

“Looking for a friend,” I replied.

“I think you’ve found one.”

As in many inner-city urban areas, hookers abound at night in the Quarter. Just maybe a little more so. If you can’t find it in the Quarter, it probably doesn’t exist.

It’s cool, it’s relaxed, it’s policed, it’s discrete. But if you’re looking for it, it’s there. The other edge of the sword, however, is that if you’re not looking for it, it’s still there.

She wasn’t hooking.

If anyone else had said what she had just said, under those conditions, in that place, it would have seemed a commercial invitation. Somehow though, I knew (I can’t explain how or why I knew, I just knew) she was seeking friendship, not finance. She seemed a good person, one to be trusted. It showed in her face. She projected sensitivity, concern, intelligence, and honesty.

I was curious though. She seemed almost urgent in her quest for companionship. Was she that lonely?

I bought her a drink and ordered myself another beer.

“You play pool,” she asked?

“No,” I replied, “but I’ve always wanted to learn.”

She smiled again. “Eight ball. No slop. The eight ball is NOT neutral…”

“…and we bank the last shot, right?” I interjected.

She smiled again. “You know the routine,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said, standing, spreading my legs and leaning up to the wall and pressing my palms onto it in the “frisk” position.

“Not THAT routine, you idiot,” she laughed again. “Are we banking the damned eight ball or not?”

“We’re banking,” I decided.

“You break, sucker,” she replied.

I broke, sinking nothing.

She cleared 6 of her seven balls, then missed an easy shot. I sunk five of my seven, before missing. She dropped her last ball, then missed an easy bank on the eight leaving me set up with a easy shot for my last ball, then easy position for a cross corner bank on the eight.

I won. Not by much.

“Customer golf,” I asked?

“Not for you, nor anyone else,” she replied. use of the word “nor.” She was educated.

In the next three hours, we played as partners, taking on all challengers, talked, and drank.

Accompanied by the pavement shaking retort of unmuffled straight pipes, two large guys in leather, had ridden past the open front door of the bar on identical Harley “Fat Boys” and were now watching our game as Gwen and I played partners against two eight-ball challengers.

Either of the bikers was as large as Gwen and I together.

Not wishing to humiliate the team we were playing–two redneck drifters who had obviously been over-served–we dialed down our games a few notches. After Gwen and I both missed two successive banks for a game winner, I sunk my next attempt.

One of the bikers challenged us for five bucks apiece.

“We’re not playing for money,” I offered, “just…” But before I could finish, Gwen interrupted.

“Cool,” she injected, turning to the biker. “My break.” Then turning to me, she whispered: “You’ll have to cover me… I don’t have any money.”

She won the game for us with a two rail cross-corner bank to the side pocket. The game went just two rounds.

Jim, the biker who had originally challenged us, walked around the table, lifting his massive belly up into his chest, confronting Gwen face-to-face. I suspected that he and his partner felt they had been hustled.
He looked angry.

In anticipation of the worst, instinctively (and subtly) I cradled my emptied beer bottle in my hand, not wishing to provoke a confrontation with two guys twice our size, but sure in my desire to protect Gwen if confrontation became unavoidable. I had known her only three hours but I knew I wanted to protect her.

Face to face, glowering down at her, only inches separating them, Jim suddenly lowered himself to one knee, took Gwen’s hand in his, and pressed his lips to the back of it. He looked up at her face.

“Lovely lady,” he said, “you shoot one HELL of a game of stick.”

“Cool,” she replied and, raising his hand to her lips, kissed it back. “Practice up and come back when you think you’re up to the challenge,” she said, giggling coquettishly.

“Bitch,” he replied, standing and giving her a loving hug as a smile spread across his face. They obviously knew one another. He turned to leave.

“JIM,” she said, “the money!”

“Oh, yeah,” he said. He turned, smiling, handing her the two five dollar bills.

Twice, during our winning run, Gwen tripped, going to the table. On one of the occasions, I caught her before she fell.

“Damned hip,” she said. “I can’t wait to have the surgery.” She was still smiling though obviously in pain.

We claimed a table in a darkened corner to finish the residue of our drinks.

“Were you injured,” I asked as I assisted her into her seat?

“Bad hips,” she replied. “I’ve had one replacement and I’ve got to have another. What do you do,” she continued?

“For a living?”

“Of course for a living, you jerk,” she kidded. “What did you think I meant; your sexual preference?”

“I thought I was getting hustled,” I replied jokingly.

Her smile disappeared for the first time.

“Fuck you,” she stated flatly. “Believe me, if I was hustling you, I’d have had your money and been gone a LONG time ago. She stood quickly to leave.

Her hip buckled in the effort and she nearly fell. I caught her elbow and stood to steady her.

“You OK,” I asked?

“Dammit,” she said. She appeared on the verge of crying but quickly recovered and, the smile reappearing, continued.

“I’m fine. Every now and then the damn thing hurts. I obviously meant, what do you do for a LIVING.”

“Marketing,” I replied, “and some writing.”


“How about you?”

“By training or currently,” she asked, stifling a laugh.

“OK… by training.”

“I’m an engineer.”

“No kidding,” I said, “I’m a conductor.”

She pursed her lips at the bad joke as if tasting a sour lemon.

“Good,” she said, “I’ll get you a lightning rod.”

Her joke was worse.

“I’m an electronics engineer by education.”

“What do you do now?”

“I manage,” she replied.

“You manage to get by?”

“No, Dufus,” she countered. “I manage other girls. Prostitutes. Just part time though. I do stage set-up and on-site acoustical engineering when I’m able to work a regular job.”

I overlooked the second part of her comment. I was so appalled and disappointed at the first. “You idiot. You’re too good for that. You’ve got too much smarts to have to resort to that. Besides, you do something like that, you’re talking big risks; hard time, for crying out loud.”

“I don’t HAVE to resort to that,” she said. “I can get money, if I need it. I do it for them, not me. If I don’t manage them, someone else will. They can’t do it for themselves and what they ARE doing is probably the only work they CAN get to survive. Besides, if someone else does it, they could get hurt and I don’t want that to happen. I’m trying to protect them. They’ve just made some bad choices and they need some help. Let me see your pictures again.”

I handed them to her.

“You really look good,” she said. “Would you like to be one of my girls? I know I could find work for you.” She smiled.

I knew she was kidding, just flirting with my fantasies. And she knew I knew. But the fantasy, at least, had such tremendous appeal to me that the thought made my head swim.

“You’re taking me out to eat,” she stated imperiously. “Then, I’m going to spend the night with you. NO sex. Where are we staying?”

I told her.

She was smiling radiantly again. We left our drinks on the table and walked out.

We went to the restaurant where I’d earlier looked for Vanessa and Joani.

I was a little uncomfortable. It looked like a yuppie place. The patrons, as before, were well dressed. We on the other hand–at least in my mind–looked out of place; me in my jeans and jogging jacket, she in her jeans and overly revealing camisole through which her nipples were readily displayed.

Gwen was, and is, my ultimate fantasy. I didn’t want to bed her; I wanted to BE her. It’s so different for people like her and me. We don’t “get off” on sex; We get off on sexuality. And the projection of it. From her, it flowed like Niagara.

Our latent femininity simply has to be given vent.

I remained a bit embarrassed sitting there. Gwen’s revealing top and our inappropriate dress not-with-standing, she had a large Harley-esque eagle tattooed on her right arm.

I personally hate tattoos. To me, at my age, they cheapen the wearer. When I was a kid, the only people who had them worked in carnivals, slept on sidewalks, or had served in Okinawa during WW II or Korea, had gotten drunk one night, and had regretted the decoration ever since.

Her eagle ran from her deltoid almost to her elbow. Having removed her jacket, it was revealed to anyone walking by, and drew several (I thought) disapproving glances.

Interestingly, it also drew several APPROVING glances.

“Where’d you get that,” I asked?

“Oh,” she said, “a boyfriend of mine insisted on it. He was a biker. It’s an “Angels” patch. I used to hook for him.”

“Why,” I blurted out.

“Because you have to do what you have to do.”

We ordered; she rather heavily, me only adequately. Neither of us finished our fare, though the food was excellent.

Both of us ordered an after-dinner drink. The waitress came by with the check. I paid for it with a platinum card.

Gwen asked for doggie bags.

“Taking it home,” I asked?

“Donating it,” she replied. “Some of those poor bastards haven’t eaten in days.”

We walked back to the bar where we’d first met. At the front corner of the bar sat two guys holding hands, empty beer glasses in front of them, heads rested on the bar, looking as if they were dead to the world.

They had been there when I had walked in originally and had not moved since.

Gwen walked behind one of them, leaned over his back and pressed her lips to his ear.

“Want some food Dougie,” she asked?

He stirred. “Say what, pretty lady?”

“Want some food, babe?”

“Yeah, babe.”

“It’s a gift from Stefi and me.”

”Sure ” he said.

“Who’s Stefi?”

I blushed. I was dressed as a male, with nothing feminine about me. Gwen was violating my rule of compartmentalization.

She set the styrofoam tray in front of Doug, then hailed the bartender for a fork and spoon.

“Right behind you,” she said to Doug. “That is Stefi.”

Doug tuned to me, his three day beard growth saturated with encrusted brine from his drinking and the debris of his last meal, his jagged green teeth, visible through his parted lips.

“Ugly bitch,” he offered, then began eating.

Gwen turned to me, still smiling. “He’s an asshole son of a bitch,” she said. “He tried to rape me one night, right after I moved down here. He didn’t know what he was getting into. I kicked the shit out of him.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“He’s hungry and he needs the food. Look at the people in here. Some of them dressed to the hilt; some of them are wearing the only things they own. I’m so lucky,” she continued.

“I had loving parents. They were well-to-do. They gave me everything I could have ever needed including an education. Some of the poor people here never had opportunities like that. Others did, but they just made bad choices. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people. Others have done tremendously well, irrespective of their challenges.”

As we walked out the door, Doug’s head was resting in the empty Styrofoam container.

“I just wish I could do more for them,” Gwen said. “I feel so sorry for them.”

“I love you,” I replied, spontaneously.

Gwen was limping more and more. The short walk to the restaurant had aggravated her hip.

“Want me to call a cab,” I asked?

“My bicycle’s right around the corner. I’ll ride slowly. Or,” she continued, “you can ride on the handlebars.”

She laughed again.

“It’s easier for me on the bike. It takes the pressure off of my hip.”

It was almost 3:00 AM and the streets of the quarter were nearly deserted. Gwen rode in lazy circles on the nearly abandoned streets, as I walked at a brisk pace towards the hotel. She smiled cutely, her eyes radiant, whenever the bike approached me.

“They shot scenes over there for “Interview with a Vampire,” she pointed out.

“I love Anne Rice’s writing,” I said. “She’s able to develop her characters with such sensitivity that they seem like real people, personal friends… or enemies as the case may be.”

“I haven’t really read any of her books. But I know her.”

“You know Anne Rice,” I asked in awe? “How?”

“She comes to the Quarter for inspiration sometimes; just to walk around and observe. I met her one night and we’ve talked several times since.”

As we moved down Decatur street, she pointed out an XJ-6 Jaguar parked at the curb. “I’ve got one of those,” she said. “Or at least I do back at my parents. I don’t see them much. Great cars Jags. They’ve suspensions which give the best luxury-oriented compromise of control, ride, and suppleness I’ve ever seen.”

“You’re a gear-head,” I asked?

“Oh, yeah,” she replied. “At one time or another I’ve rebuilt everything from small-block Chevy race cars, to bikes and big Healey’s, to an Isetta. Know what that is?”

”Sure,” I said, “a post World War II, BMW “bubble-car” that opened in the front.”

“Right. That’s the one I learned to do body-work on, too. The guys on the football team in high school kept picking it up and throwing it down a hill, because I was different.”

She was still smiling without even a hint of hurt, or animosity for the people who–most assuredly–had hurt her so badly back then, because of her difference.

“It really made Dad mad.”

I thought of myself; how I would have reacted had someone bullied my son–slightly built like me, but arrow straight so far as I know. How her father must have hurt.

“And I know it hurt him deeply,” Gwen continued, her smile– briefly– replaced with a look of sorrow and sympathy.

“Dad really cared for me,” she muttered, half under her breath.

I didn’t probe her use of the past tense.

Then, turning toward me; “He even sent me to a military school to try and straighten me out. Lot of good that did,” she said, nearly laughing.

We approached the hotel and locked her mountain bike to a parking meter. Her last bike had been stolen, she told me, shortly after she had gotten it. The culprit had sawed off the parking meter to which it was locked, left the meter and taken the bike.

We entered the hotel and headed for the elevator. The front desk attendant, who had been so friendly as I had left earlier, glared at me as we walked past with Gwen on my arm.

“Good morning,” I said. No reply. We boarded the elevator and were lifted to my floor.

“No sex,” she said as the door opened.

“No sex,” I replied. I took her hand as we walked through the maze-like hallways of the old hotel in an effort to ease her strain as we descended numerous steps and ramps.

“Why do you want to be here tonight,” I asked.

“I want to be loved.”

“No sex,” I replied.

“I want to be loved. I want to be cherished. I want to be appreciated. I want to be close to someone who loves me for what I am inside, not what I look like or what I can do for them physically.”

She turned her head away from me. I thought I heard a subdued whimper.

The door opened, we entered, and Gwen immediately pealed off her top exposing large breasts and a trimly slender waist. Her damaged hip required her to sit on the bed in order remove her jeans. She did so, facing me, exposing her breasts fully to my view, with no pretense of shyness.

Her jeans removed, she pulled off her lace panties revealing a small, flaccid penis. She rolled onto her stomach atop the bed revealing a shriveled, nearly-empty scrotum.

I repaired to the restroom to undress and found myself embarrassed by by my thin, hairless legs and body. I removed a towel from the rack and draped it around me, sarong-style. She had known me as Steve; I didn’t want to destroy that image.

Tentatively, I stepped into the bedroom.

I lay beside her, silently and without movement, dropping my towels without movement so as to disguise the fact that I was now naked, in my shame, beside her.

Again, she was smiling as she rolled over to face me. “Of what do you fantasize,” she asked?



“I want to be whole. I want to live one life, not play-act through two seperate, totally detached ones,” I said.

“Two separate halves don’t make a whole,” she offered. “They make two separate halves. Maybe two separate lives are better than one, though, if you can help people or be good in either.”

With strength unanticipated by me, she turned onto her left side, flinching as her weight rolled onto, then off of, her impaired hip, extended her arm around my shoulder, and pulled me against the length of her torso.

‘Hold me… please,” she said, and I found my chest pressed to her fleshy breasts, held firmly in her grasp, relishing our closeness.

Unmoving, maintaining the firm pressure holding our bodies pressed together, we lay there.

“You look beautiful,” I complimented her.

“No I don’t. I’m dying,” she replied, her smile returning but– somehow– seeming forced, “but then, so is everybody else. I’m just doing it quicker than most. It’s the damn silicone. It’s spread everywhere. I’ve got lupus. The joint problems are a result of it too. And I’ve got an immune difficiency. It’s not AIDS, it’s a result of the damned reconstruction.”

I looked into her deep brown eyes, slid up in the bed, and cradled the side of her head against my breast. I wanted to ask more but knew I shouldn’t. The smile on her upturned face softened, then contorted into an expression of despair. She began whimpering, almost inaudibly at first, the whimpers growing into soft cries, then billowing sobs.

“I’m not even forty yet,” she cried, burying her my head into bosom. “I’ve got no one, not even my family.”

Her cries continued for a couple of minutes as I comforted her, cradling her face on my chest, and stroking her matted and tangled hair softly with my fingers.

“All I really want to do is to make a difference. I want to help people. I want to take care of the people on the street. And now, I don’t even know how long I’m going to be able to take care of myself.”

I held her near me, stroking her hair and holding her next to me. She dozed off, as I did shortly thereafter.

When I awoke the next morning, she was sleeping soundly, both of her arms around me, her fingers locked behind my back.

As gently as possible so as not to awaken her, I removed myself from her grasp, went to the bath, showered, shaved, dressed myself in the suit and tie I would need for my afternoon meeting in Chicago, and went to the lobby to bring coffee back for both of us.

When I returned, she had awakened. I walked to the edge of the bed, bent, and kissed her on the forehead.

“Brought you some coffee, babe.”

She took it from me with a grateful smile, sipped from it, then went to the restroom to clean up.

Packing to leave, I removed the size 10 jeans, body-suit, and midriff-length denim jacket which I had bought for this trip but had never worn.

“I want you to have these,” I told her. “They’ll look so much better on you.”

“I couldn’t,” she said.

“Please; I really want you to have them.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “Then, I want you to take this from me.”

Reaching in to the pocket of her grease-stained jeans on the floor, she removed a pocket knife.

“You need that,” I said.

“Please,” she replied.

I took it and asked if she would care for breakfast.

We took the elevator down to the lobby and walked through it towards the restaurant.

The daytime desk clerk was discretely oblivious to our presence.

I ate ravenously having eaten so little dinner the night before. She ate virtually nothing and asked the waiter for a doggie bag.

The valet retrieved my rental car for me.

“May I take you someplace before I go,” I asked?

“To the bar, please,” she replied.

We drove back up through the Quarter as the sidewalks were being hosed down in preparation for the coming evening’s revelry, then parked at one of the many now-empty spaces in front of the bar.

Gwen preceded me into the perpetually-dark bar, ordered two orange juices and two coffees for us, and scoped the few people sitting around it.

Most had just come in recently, were drinking coffee, and were reading the Times-Picayune.

One, slumped on the bar across from us had been there when we’d left six hours before.

Gwen delivered her doggie bag to him, then returned to her seat besides me.

“He really is a good person,” she said. “He’s just made a lot of bad choices.”

I finished my coffee and turning to her said: “You are truly a wonderful, caring, incredible person.”

She feigned embarrassment: “Aw, shucks.”

“I’ve got to go.”

“I know,” she replied, “me too. I’ve got a doctor’s appointment.”

I kissed her on the cheek, stood, and moved toward the door.

“I don’t want to lose you,” she said from behind me.

I walked out into the startlingly bright morning sun. Expecting her to follow, I sat in the car for nearly five minutes.

She never came out. I left.

I was lucky to score a first class upgrade on the flight to Chicago.

Aboard the plane, I thought of her, becoming suddenly uncomfortable in my starched, white, business shirt with its confining collar.

I thought of what she was. What she was to me. How she appeared to others. How much we were alike yet how different our lives were. She was such a good person. So unselfish. So concerned for others.

For that I loved her. She had just made some bad decisions and all I wanted to do was to help her.

I smiled to myself, almost laughing aloud, as I realized how closely my thoughts of her paralleled her comments regarding some of the people in the bar.

As I pictured her, tears welled up in my eyes. I started crying softly, uncontrollably to myself.

The large man in the seat adjacent, shifted his position uncomfortably, trying to distance himself from me.

To be continued….

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