Clearing his head of the bus fantasy, David arrived at work late again. Vince Grasso made a notation on his desk calendar. Later, David and Gene went to lunch at their favorite alley lunch stop, Lana’s. The restaurant was underground and crowded, and the smell of fried food permeated the air.
Gene explained that he’d been on the hot seat in his TA group. Evidently he’d had a rough time of it — David had never seem Gene so agitated. “I t-t-thought those people liked me –”
David prepared to listen.
“They told me I couldn’t r-relate to p-p–pee-people. J-Just when I though I might get it on w-with this one woman there. I-I-I couldn’t sleep a-at all last night. I feel about t-two inches high.”
“Are you sure you’re not exaggerating things? How could the leader let this go on?” David had never told Gene about his own sessions with Maria Osaki.
“All I know is it happened.”
“Well, what the hell,” said David, slouching down, “you don’t have to go back if it’s so bad. You know, I’ll bet they were saving up things to hit you with because they thought you were an easy target.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that you stutter, you’re basically shy and you don’t mix too easily.” David had been meaning to call a spade a spade for a long time.
Gatzo’s forehead popped out big beads of sweat. “Look,” he said angrily, “I can’t do anything about my s-stutter.”
David leaned over and asked him to speak softly. Several of the nearby diners were looking their way.
“And I don’t have any problem mixing,” Gene had to add.
“Ah, but it strikes me that you do it kind of forcefully — that maybe you really don’t enjoy meeting people that much.”
“I try, don’t I?” Gene shook his head mournfully and sounded ready to cry. “Goddamn it, I try.”
David resented Gene dumping his problems on him so emotionally. We don’t even know each other that well. On the other hand, David considered that maybe he was just joining those who were kicking Gene when he was down. He, David, didn’t need to be so honest.
“Maybe your EST and TA weren’t the complete answers,” said David.
Gene went on eating stoically, with body held erect. Finally he looked up. “I’ll live.”
David decided not to approach Diane for a while. After the bondage/SM debacle she had to think he was the world’s worst freak-o.
Surprisingly, Gene had a Playboy Club card and he invited David along one evening. They both dressed up for the occasion and got a little drunk in the upper-Montgomery Street establishment, taking in the sexily-swathed bunnies who passed their table. David wished he could reach out and touch the tight costumes — or better yet, become a bunny. He mentioned none of this to Gene, who was enjoying being serviced with drinks. Gene asked one of the bunnies if she’d been to modeling school. When Bunny Carol said no, he replied that it would help her walk more attractively if she had. He asked another if her mother knew she was doing this kind of work. Finally, he failed to tip.
An inebriated Gene exclaimed that by golly, the card had cost a lot but it was worth it. As they were getting ready to leave, he asked David to come see his apartment sometime. Out of curiosity David said he would and before he went to bed that evening had a fantasy that he would visit Gene in drag and try to seduce him. He dutifully wrote about it in his diary.
Gene’s apartment was a converted garage of sorts under a Sunset district home. After driving David there on a Friday after work, Gene led him into a nicely carpeted and appointed, if minuscule, studio apartment. They sat down after Gene showed him a manicured back yard accessible through sliding glass doors. He got a beer for David and began some small talk. David looked at a large poster of two gorillas hugging each other, with the inscription “If it feels good do it!”
It turned out that Gene wanted to talk about a girl he’d been dating, unbeknownst to David. “Her name is Maryann. I knew her mother first — they live four houses away.”
“How’d you get to know them?”
“Once I got a letter of theirs by mistake so I walked over to give it to them. After that, they went out of their way to get to know me — and they invited me over to dinner. An Italian family. You know I don’t cook that well,” said Gene, pointing to a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes, “so it didn’t take much convincing. They have a daughter –”
“It’s getting clearer,” laughed David.
“T-There were t-two daughters in fact, and I never thought anything about them before I went over there. I’d just seen them driving their cars around and that was about it. So I went over one night for dinner and m-met this d-daughter Maryann who works downtown. She’s four years younger than me.”
“What does she look like?”
“Oh, kind of sexy. A little overweight.”
“All that spaghetti. What then?”
“I took her out a couple times. We used her Mustang because she didn’t like my car. You should’ve been there! She wanted to go to expensive restaurants. I think her mother thought I was making real good money. Maybe I exaggerated my job –”
“Did you get anywhere with her?” David wondered if he was digging too deep.
“What it b-boiled down to was t-that she’d get lovey-dovey if I spent lots of money on her.”
“So, did you you make it with her?” David imagined Gene trying to win a prize at the test-your-strength booth at the county fair.
Gene rubbed his mustache. “No, no, no. S-S-Something happened. I went over for a snack at their place one night and the way they were l-looking at me was strange. I thought something weird was happening. I thought they’d …” — Gene paused, suddenly flustered — “I thought they’d poisoned the food, so I just left.”
“You what? — they’d poisoned the food? How could you think that? Did they have a tarantula in the salad or what?”
“It was the way they were looking at me — half laughing, half like vultures. That’s all I can say. There was no way I was going to eat what they had out. B-B-Besides, the food tasted funny.”
“Jesus, did you accuse them?”
Gene finally broke out in a grin. “No, I wasn’t sure enough. Well, anyway, we haven’t talked to each other since.”
On his way home, David knew what he liked about Gene. Gene was crazier than he was.
On his way to Diane’s the following day, David felt so weak toward her that he debated on the bus whether he should turn back. He didn’t like feeling dependent on her. Conversely, he thought he could leave her at any time. The tension was perversely enjoyable.
When he came to their house neither Diane nor Laura was there, but the kids were. Their mommies, they said, were shopping at the co-op grocery down the block. David tried to play children’s games but decided he was twenty years too rational. Diane and Laura came in eventually, both looking nicely tanned and rosy-cheeked. Diane apologized, “David! I forgot you were coming!”
“We just talked on the phone this morning, you know.” He remembered his crude attempts to apologize and patch up things, and remembered being surprised that she had seen her outburst as a temporary thing. She seemingly still wanted to see him. Still, tears formed in the corners of his eyes. He knew how a dog felt when it put its tail between its legs and fawned before its master.
“You know how busy things get around here on weekends,” said Diane, unpacking grocery bags. Also, she explained, their welfare checks had arrived.
That night after a cheery dinner when David tried to cover his sullenness, he and Diane went to her room. The walls had a fading tan complexion and large plastic milk cases held her LP records. Thin wires connected a record player to cheap stereo speakers. There were three arty, immaculately-framed black and white photographs of her son on the wall. Her bed was topped only by a large spread-out sleeping bag over sheets. Diane’s presence, though, made the room more than ordinary.
“I haven’t worn this thing in years,” she said, tossing him a black shortie nightgown from her closet. “It was a wedding gift from my poor husband. Why don’t you try it on?”
David undressed and obliged, knowing how silly he’d look. He glanced at Diane in Levi’s sitting on her bed, her knees pulled up against her chest in anticipation of the show.
He made believe that he was happy wearing the lingerie, which gave him half an erection. According to an unconsciously agreed-upon script he went over to admire himself in her mirror. He wanted to see a female self, but saw instead his hairy, slender body beneath the skimpy lace. When he turned to say something, Diane had coyly opened her shirt and was pushing up her bare breasts. “Do you like these, Davie?”
Davie again. Was he that transparent — was it that easy to see that wearing women’s things made him into a child? He began breathing heavily.
“Would you like to suck them?”
Yes, that would be exactly right. He made to come over, trying to imagine he was a woman. She motioned him to stop. She ran her hands down her sides and in a quick motion pushed down her Levi’s and panties. “And what you do think of my bush?”
“I love it. It’s so perfect.”
He wanted her to order him to do something he couldn’t quite define, so he stood there pleading with his eyes, just as he’d done before Maria Osaki’s group.
Diane had other ideas and left “for a toy.” David heard some giggles elsewhere in the house before she returned with some oddball lengths of rope and string. Without a word, she tied him spread-eagled on her bed. Then she lit a candle, turned off the overhead light, and the room was completely quiet save for the low rush of a small gas heater. It was easy for David to imagine her as a sexy spider who had complete control over him.
Next she blindfolded him with a scarf and lay next to him. He could feel the warmth of her skin.
She tied a string around the end of his penis and played at pulling it to and fro, sometimes causing a little pain. The subtle feeling of it sometimes brushing his nightie was arousing and David began to involuntarily thrust with his midsection. At that, Diane stopped and touched his wet tip lightly with her finger. He was full of hot sex and yet tied up, unable to do anything.
Diane then left the room again and he lay there in the warm room in anticipation. And lay, and lay. Finally he thought he heard a few more giggles, distantly.
Then the door to the room opened, and there were the sounds of bare feet on a creaking floor. He tried to look out under his blindfold but couldn’t Soon the bed jostled and he felt one, then two, bodies laying next to his. After a barely-restrained giggle, Diane said, “I thought that three women might be better than two.”
“The more the merrier,” David croaked hoarsely. One of the bodies was squashing his penis.
In a battered Yellow Cab on the way home in the wee hours, David mulled over what had happened. Diane and Laura had confirmed his suspicions by making love over and around him. He had tried to act blasé about it all. Their sex had seemed rather vanilla and he never heard or detected anything like a female climax. Every once in awhile someone would snuggle up against him or stroke his member a little. He had ached, hoping that someone would bring him to climax. Finally, when they released him, he went into the bathroom and came.
He remembered how the naked and pudgy Laura had cast a sly, smug smile his way when Diane removed his blindfold. What was that all about? Diane’s just toying with me.
Before he went to sleep at home David had a fantasy that Laura had connived with Diane to recruit a man who could be rendered helpless. That brought back memories of teenage fantasies he’d had of women capturing him, tying him up, carrying him off and making him into a woman with a penis. Then he would live in an all-female society with the delightful mission of impregnating them surreptitiously.
With Gene Gatzo, there was always something new. Now, at work, he was explaining the Joel books. “They were written by this woman who has psychic communication with a spirit person named Joel. He told her about her past lives and all that.” Obviously Gene’s mood was improving.
David asked Gene if he’d given up with Maria Osaki. Gene said he was still going to the group meetings but his enthusiasm was with the Joel thing. He’d consumed the entire series of books, learning that Joel has a high-order being with esoteric knowledge of Atlantis, human history, fate, and just about everything else. David asked Gene if he thought he’d had a past life.
“I wouldn’t be surprised. It might explain a lot of the way I am.”
David loved to watch Gene when he got off on something. He would look excitedly off to one side when he talked and his eyes seemed to bug out of his head. As usual, he’d take his heavy glasses off and wipe them.
“Where are you going with this thing?”
“I’m not exactly sure but I really think there’s s-something to it …. I can see that you don’t buy it.”
David was surprised that Gene had noticed anything in him. “If there was a way to prove it I’d have no trouble with it.”
“Well, haven’t you heard where people have been pronounced dead and then later were found to be alive? They said they’d been to a-another p-p-place like heaven.”
“I’ve never seen a place I’d call heaven. But, yeah, I’ve read those stories. I look at National Inquirer once in awhile.
Gene didn’t laugh. “Well, the woman who communicates with Joel has been able to tell people things about their ancestors which she couldn’t've known unless she had contact with another world.”
Here we go again, thought David, here we go again. “Loan me one of your books, will you? I’m kind of interested, you know, in a scientific way.” Gene took an exceptionally plain green paperback out of his briefcase, titled Meetings With Joel, Part II, by Grace Huebner.
“Maybe you were poisoned by someone in a past life,” said David.
At first, Gene didn’t understand. “Oh yeah. I didn’t think of that.” He pondered the possibility with a small smile.
“Or have you thought of the chance that you were a woman at one time?”
“I could’ve been, I suppose. Grace Huebner says she was a man in one past life in Italy and that she was in love with Joel who was incarnated as a woman.”
“That’s thick,” said David. He looked up to notice Vince Grasso headed their way. “I suppose we’re using up too much government time.”
That evening David lay on his bed, alone, dressed as a woman except for wig and makeup. He began reading the Joel book. Coincidentally that evening he’d found lying on one of his tables a flier advertising a past lives session by a certain Ellen Havlik. He suspected that fate was making things happen for him again.
Right away, David felt better about this spiritual-mystical way of looking at life than the transactional analysis approach. This new outlook was friendlier — more about dreams and unseen things. Less industrial. Maybe there were past lives. After all, who was he to know? David moved his belly on the bed as he read and felt the artificial breasts inside his brassiere contact his skin. With his eyes closed he imagined that they were real breasts and toyed with the idea that he had been a woman in a past life — and that that person still wanted to be a woman inside him. He wonder if Joel had anything to say about transvestites or having been another sex in a past life. After much searching, he found a passage where the ethereal Joel was speaking through Grace. Joel had just finished talking about lines of energy that concentrated at certain points on the Earth’s surface, including California.
Friend, this is hard to explain in terms of your concepts, but realize that people have both sexes in one body. Usually the dominant spirit matches the given sex of the body. However, from time to time if the spirit of a past life is particularly strong and of the opposite sex, and if the present person is vulnerable, that strong spirit may come to the fore.
The concept seemed reasonable enough to David.
Gene didn’t need much persuading to join David in signing up for one of Ellen Havlik’s sessions in Mill Valley. They drove over together on a Thursday after work and found Havlik’s address on a quiet, shady street clogged with too many cars.
Twenty-seven people of all ages, sizes and persuasions had already congregated when Gene and David arrived. Most of them, David discovered, where there because they had read past lives articles in newspapers. Several told him that Ellen didn’t waste time — she’d try to put the entire group under hypnosis that evening. The idea of being hypnotized for the first time made him nervous.
Ellen Havlik was a slender, cerebral woman whose face was marred by acne. Explaining that she was doing research for her Ph.D. by running the sessions, she exuded enthusiasm to a receptive audience. When she asked then to lay down en masse on her thick wall-to-wall carpeting, Gene looked like he was ready to meet God.
Ellen began to intone in a weird, high-pitched, occult-sounding voice, relaxing the bodies that a hectic civilization had sent her. After leading everyone into a feeling of weightlessness, she started counting back through the years to childhood, back through birth experiences and then into previous lives. David indeed perceived that he was going back in time in a poetic, dreamy stante. He allowed himself confidence in Ellen.
At the end of the session, after they’d retuned to their limp bodies, an amazing number of ex-Romans revealed themselves. One plump lady with a Slavic accent was sure that’d she’d been with Christ. A young man had been on the crew of a sailing vessel in the 1800s while another had been in Louis XIV France as a woman.
David himself had been an Indian in one of his lives. More interestingly, an Indian woman. He’d even seen the very bead design on his moccasins and the layout of the village where he’d lived.
On the way home David listened to Gene tell how he’d been a stone-age man. “Now that I think of it,” said David, “the shape of your skull is like a Neanderthal Man’s. OK, just kidding.”
David tried to sound nonchalant when he mentioned about having been an Indian woman. In actuality, the possibility of having been a down-to-earth woman wasn’t as exciting as he’d thought it might be.
As he’d done with Maria Osaki, he decided to speak to Ellen Havlik about a private session, since he’d decided to follow up on this female personage. When he called Ellen the next day she discouraged him. There were so many articles to write and talk shows to go to, she complained, besides having to sift through data for her degree studies.
Finally, after he indicated more than a dilettantish interest, she gave him an appointment for a month later. His next phone call was to Maria Osaki’s office to cancel their relationship completely.