David hardly ever thought about his parents back in Ohio. In fact, he was relieved that the whole shocking mess was finally out in the open because it distanced them even further. He knew how his father took the revelation–his father who’d always hated effeminate men and thought they were homos.
Corky continued to preoccupy David. She was on his mind as he worked, usually seeming alluring, cheap and heavenly, all at the same time. Walking the streets, he kept thinking he saw her in buses or cars staring at him impassively.
He managed to see her once more when he offered to take her to a fancy downtown restaurant. She was wearing an expensive new leather jacket.
“What did you discover about me when you lived with me?” he asked earnestly, yet with a small smile about his lips. He didn’t want to seem too involved–this was only an intellectual curiosity. “Really, Corky, don’t be afraid of hurting me, just tell the truth. My dressing turned you off, didn’t it?”
If she made any new answers he couldn’t remember them afterward. It was as though his questions themselves were an attempt at sex. She did say that she was working at a small shop in Ghirardelli Square and implied that it had become a wonderful way to meet horny men with money to burn. The owner of the store was naive and “maybe” she was draining a few bucks. Yes, she was still with her black friends and there’d been a couple scrapes with the law. David figured she’d end up in jail somewhere even though she always bragged about knowing cops.
He asked if he could take a picture of her before they parted. “You take too many pictures,” she replied. “I want you to send all your pictures of me. You know, legally they’re mine. You can’t do anything with them.”
“Bullshit. They’re mine.” His anger surprised him.
“You try to show them or sell them anywhere and I’ll take you to court.”
He wanted to slap her a wide swath with his hand as he’d seen in the movies but instead walked out of the restaurant behind her, invisibly getting his camera ready. When they reached the sidewalk he brought the Minolta up quickly. The compact hunk of glass and steel made a loud click and Corky kicked out at him. He walked away quickly before she could draw a crowd.
When he developed and printed the photo later he thought he’d captured her essential stoniness–pursed lips and unfeeling, angry eyes. Now, looking at it, he could masturbate even more, dwelling on how she would want to hurt him and how she would enjoy it all.
v v v v v
Eventually a new person was brought in to take over Corky’s desk in room 420A. The new clerk was Eugene J. Gatzo, a transfer from the Phoenix office. Gene was an occasional stutterer who looked rather earnest and efficient with a big, rounded forehead and trim mustache. Enhancing those effects were his thick eyeglasses.
Gene seemed bright enough in the few contacts David had with him, even perhaps ambitious–the kind of guy who might take the silly job seriously. However, David soon noticed that Gene had the annoying tendency to launch himself indiscriminately into every knot of people in the office. He was soon avoided by most and by women especially.
Salacious or racial jokes usually good for a laugh in mixed company instantly became offensive when given the Gatzo touch. He seemed to have the straight-backed bearing of a military man without any suaveness.
Then there was that stutter.
Those very qualities, though, intrigued David. He decided to go to lunch with the newcomer half out of curiosity, half as a favor. They headed for a popular Chinese cafeteria on Beale Street. As usual, it was packed.
v v v v v
Gene stood in the food line ramrod straight and ordered the healthy items. After they lucked out and found a table next to the front window, David complimented his choices.
“Thank you, thank you,” Gatzo said with a quick, self-satisfied smile. There was something in Gene’s voice that reminded David of the silly chipmunk records of the 50s and 60s. “I’ve really learned a lot the last couple of years. I s-suppose you could say that I’ve got the health bug. Been reading books on nutrition and vitamins. It’s been helping me. I feel really a-alert and balanced.”
David nodded affirmatively and wondered where Gene had picked up “balanced.”
“Have you read Adelle Davis?” asked Gene.
David nodded. It was too bad about Gatzo. Maybe he, David, could help him somehow. Maybe he could give him a few social pointers. Meanwhile, a woman walked by outside and David turned to see if she was Corky.
Gene was going on about various other disciplines he’d been involved in–karate, intensive journal, EST, self-hypnosis and transactional analysis. That last term caught David’s ear. He’d heard it mentioned before, maybe in the newspaper, but he didn’t know much about it. Gene rattled on that he’d started visiting a transactional analyst in San Francisco after having been with one in Phoenix.
David asked Gene why he’d moved. Gene muttered, “I-I guess I wanted to be by my myself. I was kind of under my parents’ thumb in Phoenix–didn’t feel like I had any freedom. I mean, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea–they’re nice people.”
“They jumped in whenever you gave them an opening?”
“More or less,” he said as he took off his heavy glasses, disclosing eyes that were surprisingly tender and liquid. He carefully wiped the lenses as though massaging a part of himself, then put the glasses back on and looked around the cafeteria. David did too and wondered what the other well-dressed people were talking about–surely not about relationships with parents. David realized that he’d talked about his parents with so many girlfriends over the years, especially when he was into Freud, that he’d exhausted the subject.
Gene continued. “My family is so s-s-success oriented. My parents made a lot of money in real estate. My sister has a Ph.D. and teaches out East. One brother is a major in the Army and the other is assistant manager at an auto dealership. Then there’s little old me. My folks put me through an expensive college to become a VA clerk?” Gene’s hand was shaking slightly.
“Sounds a little like me,” said David, laughing.
“We h-had some arguments. I knew I had to get out of there.”
“How old are you?”
“Say, how do the women out here compare with back there?” David coaxed. “I’m assuming you’re not married.”
“Really, you’ve got some fabulous women around here. I mean, they dress to kill. I’ve been trying to meet a few.”
David winced at a fleeting memory of Corky. “How’s it been going?”
Gene took a deep breath before answering. “Oh, I’ve been turned down a couple times. B-But it’s probably just a matter of time.”
On the walk back to the VA building, David had Gene tell him more about transactional analysis, or, as Gene called it, TA. There was something about the word transactional that attracted David. Gene was saying something about the various mental states– child . . . adult . . . and parent. TA was supposed to be a more efficient approach to mental health than psychoanalysis. David, allowing a little proselytizing, promised to go out and buy a book about it. As they went to their separate cubicles in room 420A, David felt more comfortable with Gene Gatzo.
v v v v v
David needed to dress more after Corky left, but he wasn’t making enough money to seriously indulge his desires. Also there was the matter of his embarrassment at going to Macy’s or the Emporium to shop. Someone he knew might spot him looking at pantyhose. He was never sure whether the sales clerks guessed or not.
He bought several new wigs and a long corset from Fredericks by mail, wondering if the mailman had put two and two together. On weekends he took pictures of himself in various stages of dress and developed and printed them. There were explosive masturbations after he had paraded in front of the mirror and camera, becoming different personalities as he changed his costumes. If a neighbor knocked on his door he had to become totally silent and wait for the person to go away. At the end of a session his bedroom and living room would be littered with clothing, false breasts, lingerie and camera equipment. Then he would get mildly depressed and go grocery shopping just to get out and be around people.
At the same time, he wrote long entries in his diary about his ecstasies, along with half-amused soliloquies such as “I know I’m a very evil person” and “I am so, so sinful.” He solemnly wrote that he needed to go out and meet women. “But how? At the laundromat, the supermarket? On the bus?” He wished he wasn’t so shy and unconfident.
Several years previously in his diary he’d spent much time and many pages trying to jot down his formative childhood before it trickled out of memory. The mere act of writing seemed to make him feel better, like talking to an all-accepting listener.
He recorded his early visions of having his penis cut or sawed, and the vivid daydreams of his father looming over him intoning hatefully while everything seemed to grow menacingly large.
“Everything my father wasn’t, my mother was,” David wrote. “She was the delicate, understanding person I sided with early on, especially when she and dad argued. She was soft and pretty while he was a wall of granite.”
Where in his childhood David had experienced his first heartthrob over his mother’s undergarments he couldn’t remember. He remembered wearing her tight swimsuit and old-fashioned girdles, and her soft sweaters and dresses. His inclination was to write on and on and speculate endlessly but too much writing made him ill. He would become too buried in the past and feel out of control. David had never shown the diaries to anyone, having hidden them from Corky because she never admitted to having dreams and fantasies anyway.
David was keenly feeling that it was time to understand his dressing further. Maybe transactional analysis was the answer, even as loath as he was to trust in a group activity.