He did two things before the wedding, besides the expected.
He visited Diane one last time, and they traded stories about their lovers. Her photography was beginning to pay the bills. Afterward, they had quick straight sex, something they hadn’t done since the first time on the couch. It seemed almost healthy.
Finally, two days before the wedding, he went into the woods around Crystal Springs Reservoir above San Mateo to camp overnight. He had always wanted to, even though he knew the San Francisco Water Department patrolled the area. Pat dropped him off so there would be no parked car to raise suspicions. He hiked a mile into the preserve in the late afternoon with a sleeping bag and the bare essentials, figuring this would be the Indian way of doing things. At any rate, it made more sense than a bachelor party.
He lay out his gear not far from the edge of the reservoir, hidden by trees from any observer. Soon darkness settled lightly over the valley. He lay on his sleeping bag wondering if the water department had secret ways of locating intruders. Maybe they used heat-sensing scopes. Then he began to think about his marriage. Suddenly it occurred to him, in a quick sweat, that, yes, he was getting married. Before, it had been more of a conception, an abstract thought. Now its enormity, a proximity he could taste, was brought home.
Just what am I getting myself into? I never really thought this through. What if I need to escape? What if I don’t want to be a dutiful daddy all the time? Maybe Pat wants to erase all traces of Natalie. Maybe she’s artfully been playing along just to snare me.
Maybe she really does love me. Maybe I’m the damned luckiest guy in the world.
He woke up numerous times during the night on the hard, uneven ground. During one such interlude he was looking at stars when out of nowhere an object streaked across the sky in a dazzling blaze of fire. It had grown distinctly brighter toward the end of its path when it simply disappeared in the air — no sound, no puff of smoke, no nothing. Pfffffffffft. A delicate star-tapestry had suddenly transformed into something highly potent and magical. David wondered why it had happened just then, and to him alone.
When he woke again, it was with a start. His heart was pounding and he had an overwhelming sense of everything ponderously closing in. Even his lungs seemed caught in a vise. He sucked in air ravenously as though each breath might be his last and thrashed around trying to get out of the sleeping bag. Finally able to control himself enough to unzip the bag, he sat taking in huge breaths of air. Everything around him seemed tinged with menace. The dark leaves of trees looked like spears. The earth itself seemed to be the wicked, dirty hide of a monstrous animal.
With time, his breathing and heart settled down, but he still couldn’t spit out the pool of mad electricity inside him. There he was getting cold, sitting in his underwear — what if the Water Department found him this way! So he put on his trousers, sweater, and shoes without socks and began to walk in a big circle as though daring the menace to attack him.
When Pat picked him up hours later he decided not to tell her. It would only make her upset. David had decided the episode was similar to his fears about being drafted and going through Army boot camp. All that worry and sleeplessness about being ground into hamburger — and some of the fears had been justified.
That evening Pat and Danielle left for her bridal shower. David, unaccustomed to being along in the house after work, warmed up some leftovers and sat down to watch TV. He still felt a psychic hangover from the previous night at the reservoir.
After watching some sexy lipstick and perfume commercials, he played with the idea of dressing as a woman again, mustache or not. It would make him feel more together. The delicious application of lingerie and a clinging red dress took his mind off his worries. Finally he had to decide whether or not to put on makeup.
So silly to dress and try to look the part with a mustache. With misgivings, he painfully chopped away at his facial hair with a razor. There they went down the drain, those thick stubble hairs of manhood, and on went oily and fragrant substances from Pat’s little cosmetic bottles. He was Natalie again.
She poured herself a glass of Zinfandel and sat down to watch more TV. In the privacy of the softly-lit room she played with herself absentmindedly and wondered if she should have an orgasm or wait until Pat came home to do something. Her indecision gave her a sour feeling.
She deliberated on the edge of tiredness for a half hour. Then she mocked herself. She’d shaved off her goddamn mustache for Christ’s sake! She realized just how nice it was to have an appearance of guyhood. Still, she wondered if she could stand being David Nunley in thick Levi’s and heavy men’s shoes playing hubby for the rest of her life.
Why am I putting this trip on myself? Pat doesn’t mind if I dress up, even after we’re married. It’s all inside me.
She went into the bathroom where Pat’s makeup still sat on the shelf below the mirror and looked at herself. Natalie appeared genuine and ordinary.
God, it’s good being Natalie again. She fits like a fine old glove.
She impulsively reached out, took one of Pat’s lipsticks and dashed on the mirror –
Natalie and David
David and Natalie
You are such a pair!
In the reception line after the wedding ceremony, David stood next to Pat and his parents. They obviously loved his wife and thought he’d chosen well.
As the congenial line of guests gradually changed from close friends to distant relatives, David remembered briefly his parents’ house in Ohio and walking downstairs to meet them.
They had come in the back door as they always did, his mother before his father. She had seen him first.
“David! David! We wondered who was turning on the lights. What a surprise!”
“We came early,” he said, an unsure smile on his lips. “I wanted to show Pat the town but she conked out on me — she’s out at the motel.” He wanted to hug his mother as was their custom, but held back. She stood expectantly, holding her breath.
“Excuse me,” his father said in a strained voice, conveniently leaving to go outside to feed the dog. His mother cocked her head to one side and smiled a smile of unabashed happiness and then the two of them came together in a great hug. David patted her back. She was older now, her hair thinner, but that smile was still the same.
“It feels good to be here.”
She stepped back. “You’re so good-looking in all those nice clothes.”
“Pat helped me pick them out.”
“I’m sorry, we went to a movie. If we’d only known you were already in town … What can I get you? You must be hungry.”
“Well, I haven’t had a Coke float in years.”
His father came in finally as his mother was pouring Coke carefully over scoops of ice cream. Something about him seemed eager and playful, like the young man in David’s dreams. “You didn’t bring any of your dresses along, did you?”
“Now, Dad,” bristled David’s mother.
David instantly wanted to retaliate. His hope that they could talk about it in a sanitized way was quickly evaporating. “Why, do you want to see what I look like?”
“Not really. Do you still do it?”
David was off his strategy completely. “Ahhh, sure. It’ll always be part of me.”
“We think that probably your being married will have some effect,” his mother said. The three of them were sitting around the kitchen table.
“It’s true that since I met Pat my life has changed a bit. But she accepts that part of me.”
“You know, David,” his mother said, “I was remembering your teenage days, your high school days, and I was thinking –”
“I’d like to hear.” He trusted her more than Maria Osaka.
“Well, what I remember is how unhappy you were with yourself at times. I don’t know if it was us or what. I know I certainly felt inadequate in dealing with your moods. It seemed like you wanted to be someone else. Some days it was like dealing with a different person.”
David considered the thought. “I remember I had an idea that if I put my mind to it I could make myself into anything I wanted to be. I needed some sort of formula — that’s why I read all those psychology books.”
His mother continued while his father seemed defused and almost gentle. “Maybe this was what led you into being a transvest –”
“Transvestite. That somehow you weren’t happy so you tried to become another person.”
David hadn’t seem himself from quite that angle before. Yeah, and I couldn’t be a man because Dad was always stepping on me. “It’s true, I was going through a lot.”
“Everyone, every guy, goes through a lot growing up,” said his father, “but you sure took an unusual route.”
David knew his father had said exactly the same thing to his mother a week or two before. Dad like to repeat his thoughts.
“Well, Dad, can you accept me as I am?”
“I guess we can live with it. We don’t want you to stay apart from us any more.” There was a tear in his eye as he attempted an honest smile.
David, for once without thinking, went over and hugged him. His father at first was stiff. It was the first time they’d ever hugged. I’m not afraid of him any more. He actually seems decent. What the hell will I do now?
Snapping out of his mental fog and returning to the guests at his wedding reception, David looked over at his father. Dad was so much older now and more human. Being married to David’s mother had changed him over the years. He was now a figurehead, and the torch was being passed to David, as reluctant as he was to carry it.
Pat lay against David’s shoulder as they drove with windows down through the long open spaces of the Sacramento Valley at night. Lonely lights in the distance slowly blinked on and off. He struggled to keep the speed of the Volvo down.
“Well, David, how does it feel?”
“Christ. More responsible. Like a fucking adult. No kidding, I kind of enjoyed playing the role.”
“You looked great in the tux.”
“I didn’t’ have time to really tell you this, but when you came down the aisle you lit up the church with your smile. I’m not exaggerating. You looked so beautiful. Everyone said the same thing.”
“I felt beautiful. It all just came together perfectly. Everyone got along so well.”
David remembered the eclectic mix — his parents and brothers and sisters, Doctor Karen Vitriano and male friend, Harvey and Margaret, Diane and Laura with their children, the somber Gene Gatzo and girlfriend (and no duffel bag), Mrs. Johnson and her Polaroid camera, Jeanette, some of Pat’s employees and distant Wyoming relatives, and several members of the Diana Society.
Pat reached down in the glow of the instrument panel, pulled his zipper open and reached inside. “I knew you’d be wearing these.”
At midnight they pulled into the parking lot of a Lake Tahoe condo complex. Compared to the cold mountain air outside, the cozy apartment was soon warm with a blaze in the fireplace. After some microwaved food and leftover champagne, they went directly and immediately to bed.
They were awakened late the next morning by shafts of sunlight illuminating high white walls. “Well, aren’t we supposed to be having a merry old orgy now?” he asked.
“Just supposed to be having fun,” she said lazily.
He slithered over next to her, buried his face in her fragrant hair and put his leg between hers.
“So soon? It’s too early.”
“I’m a morning person, you know.”
“Why don’t you dress up? Now that you dropped your mustache you could look pretty convincing. Then make some breakfast and bring it to me in bed.”
“You never did say anything much about the mustache thing.”
“I figured it was your trip. I like you with it, like you without it.”
“I don’t know. I thought maybe I was outgrowing dressing up for a while there. Then remember what I wrote on the mirror?”
“I hadn’t dressed for awhile. Then it felt so good being Natalie again. Like she wasn’t a big production. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like she was really me.”
“I hope you’re not talking about having a sex change.”
“Don’t think so! But she was so down-to-earth. I mean, it was like I wasn’t creating another person, I was creating the female me, someone who’d be the same a month or a year from now.”
“I liked the way you looked that night. We had such a good romp. But I’ll tell you, I’m still worried about you wanting to become a woman full-time. I don’t think I’d want that.”
“So you wouldn’t want me dressing as a woman all the time in the house, even if I still had a cock?”
“Hmmm. No. Besides, you couldn’t be Natalie there all the time, anyway. You have to take showers, you have to shave, and we have guests over who don’t know about Natalie.”
“I was just testing you,” David admitted. “There’ll be a right time to do Natalie. Gee, maybe I should pick a new name. What fits this new image? Maybe more of a Swedish or Slavic name. I’ll have to cast around.” With that, he went whistling into the kitchenette to make some breakfast.
When he emerged a half-hour later, Pat had fallen back asleep, but the clatter of plates on a tray awakened her. Her eyes took a moment to adjust to the bright light, then she saw … a flat-chested and unshaven David dressed in a slinky nightgown with hairy legs ending in sneakers — and a big smile. “The new me,” he announced. “Gender-fucker!”
“Oh, my, ” postured Pat, “you really do need a new name. How about Man of all Seasons, Man for all Reasons. From Winter to Summer, Love’s quite a number.”
“I like that. Didn’t know you were a poet.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
“Just don’t say you were ever a part-time hooker.”
“I’ll have to tell your about Corky sometime. She was my winter.”
“Yeah. But now it’s summertime. We’re going to have a great, long summer, with fireflies and warm nights, lying naked in bed.”
“And tea and croissants every morning. I love you, David … Dave.” She broke up laughing.
“And I love you, Pattycakes.”