|To Show Virtue Her Own Feature
by Radioactive Loner
© Radioactive Loner -- all rights reserved
I looked at the phone. Agonized. It'd be much easier to just gradually lose touch, now that this has happened. But ... his friendship meant a lot more to me than any self-respect I might have.
Paul, I thought to myself, let's be honest. It's not self-respect. It's self-pity. Get a hold of yourself.
I picked up the phone and hit a few numbers on the keypad. I began to look and react to how slim my fingers looked -- then I deliberately pushed that train of thought away.
"Hello?" Dan answered.
"Hi," I said. "I, uh, don't know how to say this, but this is Paul."
"Oh, really?" he said with a smirking tone in his voice. "Why, Paul, how high your voice has become."
"Dan, cut the crap. Do you remember how I came down with the Martian Flu a few months ago?"
"Yes?" he said, a tone of doubt invading the fading smirkness.
"Well, surprise. Your best friend's now a woman."
"Yeah, r--I don't--uh, hell, my best friend wouldn't--"
I closed my eyes and spoke quietly, my voice conveying how tired of this. "Dan, listen. You can believe me or you don't. Frankly, I'm sick of trying to convince other people, and I'm tired of dealing with this whole ... thing. I'll be at Morrison's at 8--you can meet me there or not, I really don't give a shit." And with that, I hung up the phone.
Damn it, I would get through this. Even without any friends, if that's what it took.
It was a Saturday evening and I had just got back from the shelter. In college, I had volunteered at homeless shelters during my depressive spells, and I found that those random acts of kindness I could do helped not only others, but helped lift me a little out of those bouts of self-pity I found myself in. I figured it wouldn't hurt to do it again.
I saw the most amazing acts of human nobility there. This one doctor who resembled a bit of a racoon got there at seven o'clock in the morning and was still treating patients when I left at eleven o'clock that night. He worked almost tirelessly treating patients, assisted by a woman who resembled a bear from the waist down. A large ... piggish-looking ... rabbi (yes, I know it sounds rather odd) went around offering counsel or just an ear.
As for myself, I wasn't quite ready to give openly of my soul. I just ladled soup, helped cleaned up some of the people who had been out there a while, that sort of thing. It wasn't anything huge, but it made me feel a little better -- and I'll tell you, seeing all these people not only part-animal, but pretty beat-up, made me realize that as fucked up as this is ... well, it isn't that fucked up. My life isn't in ruins -- it's just pretty badly disarranged.
It had been a very strange week. On Monday, I ran into Dr. Taylor at the Blind Pig ... Dr. Taylor in her feminine form, that is. His feminine form? Gendermorphism really plays hell with gender-based pronouns, I'll tell you. Not that grammar was really my primary concern at the moment.
Anyway, Dr. Taylor proved once again to be a godsend, this time introducing me to a friend of hers who in turn introduced me to the intricies of how the law had changed to accomodate the small percentage of the population that had become gendermorphs. He helped me over the course of a few days set up my identity as Tara Bard, an identity legally linked, at least, to that I had formed as Paul Bard. I now had duplicate driver's licenses and Social Security cards, one for 'Paul' (God willing, I'd have a chance to use this) and one for 'Tara'.
I had then applied for work at another temporary agency, this time introducing myself only as Tara. My typing skills and office knowledge had survived the change intact, thank God, and I was able to find work shortly. I ... didn't really want to focus on getting back on stage. Not yet. There are few androgynous roles in the theater, and I wasn't ready to start studying Ophelia, Juliet, Portia ... no. I wasn't ready at all for that.
I looked at the body in the mirror in front of me. I really didn't want to focus on this woman in front of me at all. It would've been a big difference if this woman in front of me -- no, Paul, that's a mirror, let's face facts, this woman who is you -- hadn't been such a sexpot. I mean, frankly, my psyche was pretty jumped up seeing a good-looking woman in front of me -- but the hormones weren't there, nor were ... well, the appropriate male appendages that would express that sentiment.
I looked at her -- me, damn it, me -- and wondered whether at some point I would start looking at men and start finding them attractive. After all, the hormones were in my bloodstream ... and the biology was there. I sighed and turned away from the mirror. Let's put it this way: if my mind had anything to do about it, a certain netherworld agent would be wearing cold-weather clothing before that happened.
Still, it was time to get ready if I was going to meet Dan at the bar and ask for that favor. I slipped on underwear, trying not to think about how the cloth was tight against an area that formerly would've been a bit bulkier. And my femaleness was made very apparent by the other requisite undercloth, which I slipped on and then fastened behind me. A sweatshirt and jeans completed the process. (I was really not ready yet to try blouses or skirts or other such girlish things yet -- one thing at a time, I kept telling myself.)
Slipping on a leather jacket, I opened the door and left the room.
Snowflakes flung themselves against me and melted from my body heat into ice-cold dashes of water against my face as I walked down the city streets. As I walked, I shivered mightily. My male form had not been in the best of shape, and I had hated that -- but I didn't realize that fat has a little publicized effect of insulation. I was freezing my ba--ha ha, Paul, very funny, I don't think so. Maybe I was freezing my tits off, but not my balls. Anyhow, the sooner I got to Morrison's, the better.
I looked at my reflection in a store window as I walked by, and realized how trashy I looked. Hell, I was not in the mood to get all prissied up, but Paul, let's face facts: I'm a woman. Dressing in my now-way oversized masculine clothes was going to do me absolutely no good in the day-to-day necessities. Nor would having my long hair all over the place. I had to start shaping up and accepting facts.
I walked into Morrison's and took a seat at the bar. I ordered a Kahlua and cream. "May I pay for your drink?" said a tall fellow in a suit that was seated on my left.
I looked at him and plastered a smile on my face. "No, thank you."
"Aw, come on. Can't a guy show a little chivalry on a night like this?"
I froze my smile in place and tried not to sound hostile. The guy towered over me, after all. "Really, I ... appreciate the gesture, but no, thank you."
"Fine. Let me introduce myself, though. I'm Brian." He extended his hand.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Dan walk into the bar. Thank God. "Excuse me, but my ... "--aaaaaaaaagggghh, I'm not going to say it, yes I am--"date just arrived." Oh, God. I can't believe I just called Dan my "date." I jumped up from the stool, forgetting my drink, and walked over to Dan.
"Hi," I said, and gave him a small little wave. It was very strange to see him again. When I was male, I stood about three to four inches taller than him. Now I was at least eight (if not more) inches smaller than he was, and looking up at a rather shocked face. "Paul?"
"Yeah," I said. "Ta-da." I half-heartedly gestured with a hand at my body.
"Jesus," he said. "I don't know whether to believe you or not."
"I know this is pretty tough for you to accept, Dan, but I need friends now. I'm going through one hell of an adjustment period. I mean, what would you do if you woke up one morning with a body like this?"
He cast an appraising eye over me. "I'd make her breakfast."
Fuck! I reached up, grabbed his T-shirt, and pulled his face down to mine (he being startled, he didn't resist -- otherwise there's no way I could've pulled him down). I said under my breath in a very angry sotto voce, "Listen, you shit, this is your best friend in here, not just some broad. Would you come on to Paul? I don't fucking think so. Now I spent enough nights cleaning you up after your parties back in college that you owe me one, buddy. Now grab a table, take a seat, and stop ogling my tits." And with that, I released him and pushed him backwards, only rocking him back on his heels a little.
Dan's sole reaction to my outburst was to raise an eyebrow and say, "Well, you certainly sound like the Paul I know."
This was not an auspicious beginning.
Dan swigged his beer, I sipped another Kahlua and cream. "Well ... Paul ... call me convinced, at least for now."
"What convinced you?"
"Well," he said, "I'm not completely convinced. But your mannerisms are very masculine. No woman would sit like that," he gestured. I looked, and I had my legs somewhat planted apart. I jerked upwards and glared at him. "Cute, Danny boy."
"Hey, I wasn't looking."
"Anyhow, if I might go on?" I gestured impatiently. Dan continued. "Well, like I said earlier, you sound a lot like the Paul I know. Not your voice, of course, but the way you phrase your words sounds a lot like him--you. I've got a good sense of ... you, at least the way you were. And my gut is just ... telling me you're Paul. I usually follow my instincts."
I smiled. "Thank God."
He looked uncomfortable. "Um, Paul?"
"Okay, first -- I believe you for now. Keep in mind I'm going to be a little watchful. I mean, I know SCABS, and a friend of my nephew contracted it, so I'm not saying that this happening to you is totally out of the question, or that I don't believe you. But you gotta admit, the odds are a little farfetched, and it's gonna take me a while to fully trust you and get acclimated to this."
I glanced down at the table. "Fine," I said, a little downcast.
"Second -- you gotta understand something, Paulie. You're one hell of a looker now, and I'm ... uh, aw, fuck, well, hell, what would you do if you saw you in the mirror?"
"What are you saying, Dan?" I said, looking at him a little angrily.
"I'm sayin' that I'm not gonna consciously come onto you, Paul, 'cause my brain's telling me that you're my best friend and I know Paul Bard would not like to have a guy come onto him. But I'm also tellin' you that guys do a lotta things they don't realize when good-lookin' girls are around them, and you gotta give me a little leeway, 'kay?"
I started to retort angrily -- something in mind about keeping certain parts of his anatomy clothed -- but then I stopped, and sighed. "Fine. I guess that's fair. I mean, if I saw me in a bar, I'd probably be all over her."
"Thank you," he said. "You give me slack and some time to get used to this, and I'll try to trust you."
I walked into the apartment, and slipped a compact disc into the player. Beautiful, gentle music -- the theme song to 'Cosmos' -- swelled around me. I stared at the ceiling, and wished. Wished that all this would have never happened to me, that I'd wake up the next morning and find myself in my male body and all of this just a pretty fucked-up dream.
But that isn't going to happen, I realized. I've had one hell of a change in my life, a major change and a fast one. But I'm going to get acclimated to this, and my life is going to go on. The music rose in volume to its triumphant climax.
"I'm not going to kill myself," I said aloud to the empty room, "and I am going to survive this. I'm not going to let this triumph over me."
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