Chapter 1

Keys jangled, quick footsteps thumped down a long stairway and a heavy front door gave way as David Nunley dashed out of his apartment building.

As he aimed himself toward Mission Street, two blocks away, he caught sight of his Muni bus already leaving the stop. He sighed, slowed down, and allowed himself to take in the neighborhood. After an evening rainstorm the air was pungent and crisp, and pastel-hued stucco homes along the way looked fresh and washed in the early morning sunlight. He passed two greasy men trying to jump-start a pickup. Further along, a man throwing the morning’s newspapers out of a car narrowly missed him.

Out of the cool air materialized a young, well-dressed Hispanic woman coming up from a side street just ahead. She gave David a quick glance and he returned it before falling in behind her. She was wearing black high heels and the sound of them scratching the sidewalk and echoing from nearby buildings drew his complete attention.

David knew his nearness bothered her. He could pass her if he wanted, but he slowed so he could dwell on her shoes. At that moment he deliciously remembered he was wearing panties–and he remembered their slick, shiny material.

He pretended to read a newspaper after they arrived at the bus stop. When the next Muni arrived, he let her get on first and noted where she sat down. As he passed by in the isle he was rewarded with a glance down her bodice. The beginnings of two perfect breasts resided there, nestled in a lacy black bra.

Does she know I looked?

Standing in the rear of the bus, he felt the touch of panties against his skin. Who would guess that beneath his plain clothing was such exoticness?

Soon he began looking out the bus’s fogged and scratched windows. The motley signs of Mission Street were sliding by–Orozco’s Market . . . Dos Amigos Bar . . . the Coronado Theater . . . Rosalie’s Wig Shop . . .

Standing there in his wrinkled, long coat, holding the overhead bar, David Nunley looked like a college student. His long, unmanaged hair framed a bemused yet honest face, a cross between young Abraham Lincoln and a Mediterranean-ish male model in Vogue or Bazaar. When women looked at him, as they often did, he quickly averted his glance.

He was fidgety as he stood, absorbing the lips, earrings, painted fingernails, nylons and dresses around him.

A woman about 10 years older who might have been a secretary or retail clerk was standing next to him. From time to time their bodies touched as the bus lurched down Mission Street. David could have pulled away but didn’t, nor did the woman. On this plane of consciousness, he rode the rest of the way downtown.

Chapter 2

Arriving in the business district, David Nunley walked two blocks, then caught an elevator to the fourth floor of a glassed-in high-rise. Exiting the elevator, he passed by a plaque announcing the Western Area Office of the Veterans Administration and entered a vast room filled with a labyrinth of cubicles.

The office’s mission was the processing of records and papers the VA used in disbursing its billions in veterans’ benefits. David hadn’t had much trouble getting the job of correspondence clerk, considering his test scores and veteran’s preference. “It’s a secure job–the pay’s decent,” he would reply when asked what he did for a living. As for the women in his department, though, he had to admit that the majority were of the plump, fading and married variety. There were only five single young women in room 420A–and one of them knew more about him than he liked.

A businesslike glance and a good morning from his supervisor greeted David as he walked into his section. Everything about Vince Grasso was brisk. He had the aggressiveness often seen in short men, coupled with a pleasantly ingratiating manner. Vince didn’t bother workers who worked reasonably well, reported on time, and seemed busy. He didn’t seem to notice when they were typing letters to cousin Joanne or duplicating pornographic cartoons.

It was the second look the supervisor gave David that made him think twice. He felt obligated to return a “Good Morning!” What often bothered David was the fact that Vince was about the same age as himself–twenty-six–yet David felt younger and inferior. Maybe it was the suits Vince wore or the mature cookie-duster mustache he affected.

As David moved down the aisle to his cubicle he tried to look at each worker in turn. Some were just settling in at their desks with steaming cups of coffee, including older women with their shapeless dresses and conservative hairdos. Here and there were the men, only one of which David knew well–a young guy called The Jock who followed football.

David passed Corky’s cubicle. She evidently hadn’t arrived yet. He had expected his heart to leap as he rounded her corner, but there was no Corky. Somehow he couldn’t seem to get to work at his desk not having seen her. He looked at the smudgy, obscure Monet print on the wall of his space. He had wanted to replace it with something more exciting but hadn’t gotten around to it.

No Corky this morning! David was unsettled. He thought again about the panties he was wearing. His imagination was vivid enough. It took the voice of Mrs. Johnson, the personable black clerk, to dissolve his small arousal with a question about a record he’d handled. She dressed better than most of the women, wore heels and had a contagious smile. After watching her move her sexy hips down the isle, David finally got down to work. His telephone began to ring and his typewriter wrapped him in its arms and lulled him into a work routine.

In the afternoon when he noticed that Corky still wasn’t there, he sidled up to Vince. “Where’s Corky? Did she call in sick or what?”

His boss looked up from his neat desk with a look of concern. Vince seemed to invest every movement with importance.

“AWOL,” he pronounced. “And this is it, Corky’s gone too far. I’m getting her canned, fired, whatever you want to call it.”

David knew how hard it was to fire someone from a government job, yet Corky had pretty much gone beyond the pale in her flights of freedom. She’d gotten more and more rebellious. David walked back to his desk to face a waiting stack of memos and papers.

After work and a bus ride home, David made his way up the long stairway of his apartment building and opened the leftmost of four identical apartment doors. After having been a poor student rooming with others, David’s job had finally allowed him the luxury of his own place.

Inside was a long flat that began with a kitchen, transitioned into a bedroom, and ended in a living room. The apartment was furnished throughout with completely unmatched furniture and thrift store rugs.

David’s kitchen was notable for being half a photographic darkroom. A single window had been light-blocked, and yellow-labeled bottles of chemicals shared space with yellow boxes of enlarging paper and stained developing trays. The next room, the bedroom, contained a low Japanese-style dining table surrounded by cushions, with a TV at one end. The bed was simply a mattress and box spring on the floor in one corner, and was never completely made. Stood against a wall was a full-length mirror and an old chest of drawers, with the bottom drawer devoted to women’s lingerie and accessories.

Most of David’s presence was expressed in the furthermost living room, with its bay windows overlooking a quiet intersection and providing an abundance of daylight.

There were tall bookcases full of photographic books, LP records, and diaries. Pinned on the walls were his own mostly black-and-white photographs of nature, women and political protests. In a place of honor among those was a classy Ansel Adams photo poster of Aspen trees. Scattered about in no particular order were all kinds of photographic gear. Finally, a simple table made from a door supported a typewriter, a serviceable stereo and an aquarium.

On the floor near the bay windows were several flower pots containing eucalyptus trees he’d grown from seed gathered in a nearby park. Without any wind or adversity, they had grown very fast, with very slender stems–just like Ansel Adams’ Aspens.

A long hallway offered access to a bathroom and the apartment’s only closet, with the extreme left side–out of sight–holding women’s things.

In his diaries, David sometimes called this place his ship, where he could be captain, cook, and stowaway woman.

 

———————————————–

David threw himself and his briefcase on his bed and rested. After dozing briefly, he sat up and looked listlessly out the window. Blank housefronts across the street looked back. He finally stripped down to his panties and searched through his female clothing. Slipping into a lacy white bra and faux breasts, David put his plain white work shirt back on, tucked it into Levi’s, and stepped into the living room. He sat down in a plain wooden chair, absentmindedly rubbed his day’s beard growth, and thought about calling Corky. When he finally dialed, his heart began to race. He wondered why he had so little control over himself.

Corky’s roommate answered. Corky was taking a bath–could she call back? Several hours later, when in the staleness of the evening she still hadn’t called, David tried again. Corky came on reluctantly. She had been on her way out the door. “Oh, the job? Tell Vince I think I’ve quit.”

David adopted a somber attitude and reminded her that some people would jump at the chance to have her job.

“I’m really tired of that hole. I can’t stand it any more.”

“So, what’re you going to do now?”

“I suppose I’ll get another job. But I’m going to take some time off, a couple weeks. Just float with my friends.”

David cringed. Some of her friends scared him. “Well, I’ll miss you down there.”

“That’s the way it is.” Then, in a mischievous voice–”Are you wearing panties, Davie?”

“Yes, I am . . .” His voice became squeaky-childlike as though he was in front of a demanding mother. Perversely, there was something thrilling in it all.

“You know, that’s how I can handle that office shit. I can come home and wear my goodies.” He wished that she was there to share in the wickedness.

After good-byes, he lay back on his carelessly-made bed, closed his eyes and threw one leg over the other. Ah, Corky was becoming so elusive. She really wanted him out of her life.

Lying on his bed, David recalled how she’d moseyed up to him in the office after she’d transferred in from another department. He hadn’t liked her much at first. She was short and she seemed cheap and inconsequential.

He remembered her messy desk, her deprecatory remarks about Grasso and the office, her playful, knowing smile and the sexy bras he’d glimpsed beneath her generous necklines. There had been something undernourished about her–a slightly sallow look to her face. On the other hand, she’d always kept her hair nicely done, brassy blonde and very curly. There had been something too about the shape of her pert lips.

He know it wasn’t quite right, but after she asked him casually if he wanted to visit her apartment, one lonely evening he did. They took a marvelously sudsy bath together and later, after some time in bed, he shyly asked if he could wear a pair of her panties. She had played soul music and there were posters of black musicians and actors on the walls.

David lay on his softly lumpy bed and projected the newsreel further. There had been the time when Corky for some mysterious reason–she wouldn’t say why–had to vacate her apartment. Could she stay with him? David remembered how bowled over he’d been. He wasn’t in love–he’d just never lived with a woman. He remembered how he’d looked forward to just being in the same bed with a woman on a regular basis. He’d never imagined that finding a woman could be so easy.

After she moved in, they would play little touch games at work and go out to lunch together–except for those times when she said she had to meet someone. No, she couldn’t say who. Then there were the times when he went off to see a movie by himself in the evening and phoned back to see if everything was OK, just like calling a wife. Corky had seemed bothered.

They had about two good weeks of sex before she began to slip away. David would see her in the office but she spent more and more nights away from the apartment, giving him time to wear her things. Black men dropped her off after midnight. Sometimes he heard them talking at the door before she came in, and one of the men even had the gall to go into the kitchen and have a beer before he left. David had lain riveted to his bed, listening.

Confronted with all this, Corky had merely said, “You and me are just roommates and I’m not making any other promises.”

In retaliation David felt less obliged to restrain his dressing when around her. Several nights when she returned to the apartment late she found him partially dressed as a woman, and didn’t seem shocked or even embarrassed.

One evening–a rare one–when she was home, David managed to corner her and make her tell about the shadowy part of her life.

“I don’t know if you’re ready for this. I mean, I wanted to tell you at first but I was afraid you wouldn’t want me to stay. You’re such a nice guy.”

David assured her that he could handle it.

“Well . . . I’ve been a part-time hooker since even before I met you. So there you have it.” She said she’d been hanging around with some guys on the fringes of the music scene and that she did it to get bucks for clothes and partying.

“When you first moved in was I sharing you with a lot of men?”

Corky laughed a little, then threw her head back to gain composure. “Look, you might not believe it, but I was leaving the scene when I left my apartment.”

“Then what?”

“Then I met some new dudes–like Maxwell, remember, the guy who came in and got a beer?–who weren’t heavy. Pimping was kind of a sport with them. They had money coming in from other places too.”

David imagined svelte black men in furs and leathers hunting with falcons.

“So about that time our love life came apart. I had always thought it was because my panties and stuff turned you off.”

“Well, David, I’ve always liked you as a person. But you didn’t turn me on too much if you know what I mean. I guess I’m mostly into black guys and discos and all that.”

“I’m sorry, but I really keep thinking that my dressing turned you off. I mean, I know that sometimes I look ridiculous.”

“It’s no big deal–once in awhile a trick is into it. But I don’t think you realize how guilty you look when you’re wearing women’s things. You look like a kid caught jerking off or something.”

David looked away.

Resigned to the fact that Corky was lost to the subculture, that she’d found her own brand of addiction like his, he’d thought it best to use her in some other way. With her reluctant approval he followed her downtown a half-dozen times and photographed her from a distance as she picked up tricks near Union Square. It was the matter-of-fact way she approached the whole thing, the way she dressed to provoke men, that interested him. Also, there was the challenge of operating stealthily to avoid an incident with a customer.

It began to bother him more and more that he’d failed with her. She’d become a sex goddess and he just another john. The few times he found her back at the apartment he peppered her with questions– “How could I turn you on? . . . Why do you like black men more than me?”

He had finally reached the hazy conclusion that he should see other women.

David snapped back to the reality of his bedroom and listened to rain hitting his darkened window. The clear, strong wet darkness on the other side of the pane seemed refreshing. Inside, though, his weak room-light cast a yellowish pall over everything. He closed his eyes and began to fantasize. He thought of playing a game with Corky where she would pick him up off the street. As they entered her hotel room, she would know exactly what to do. She would make him disrobe and tie him down to a bed with black leather thongs. Then she’d wrap a thin whip around his penis and pull on it.

David’s hand work eventually brought him to a strong orgasm and he lay for a few seconds with sperm resting in his palm. He basked in the contentment and warmth of his body for long minutes, then held up his sperm. For a moment it seemed to have religious significance–after all, there was the feeling that he had leaped aboard something greater than himself. Then the sperm began to look slightly repulsive. He was so evil now and he was all alone like a little boy in the middle of a dark gymnasium. He took off his bra and panties and slowly, creaking at the joints, got up to straighten things and make himself a late evening snack.

Munching on his cheese-melts, he walked over to look at his favorite photo of Corky, a blowup of her wearing pin curlers and and one of her sexy push-up bras. He’d shot it through her nylons, giving the photo a soft glow.

Now she was pushing him away after he’d asked her to move. There had been too many men dropping her off who might have ripped off his camera equipment, and too many times when she went AWOL for days at a stretch, calling in sick to work and later telling him, “Oh, I was in LA!” She had finally moved in with a woman roommate somewhere across the Bay without giving him her address.

Perhaps the only lasting negative fallout had been when he wrote his parents in Ohio about his living with a woman. Not unexpectedly, a damning letter arrived from his father and a softer-toned letter from his mother. His father’s choice of words was unfortunate. David had become angry himself, so angry that he’d replied, “There is the fact that I’m much worse a boy than you imagine. I dress up as a woman whenever I can.”

David switched on his dusty and scratched TV. He felt both very free and very lonely. After watching nothing memorable for an hour he put on a nightgown and went to sleep. Halfway through the night when the slippery material began to ride up around his waist, he took it off and pushed it off onto the floor.

Chapter 3

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?”

“Twenty-six.”

“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.

 

 

 

Chapter 4

Feeling debauched after one of his weekends of play, David arrived at the office on a Monday needing regimen and regular people to straighten him out. Gene Gatzo was at work early as usual, almost as early as the boss.

Gene approached and asked if he had enjoyed his days off.

“It was pretty quiet. Had some letter-writing to do. Hiked around a little,” David fabricated.

Gene brightened. “H-Hiking’s-s something I used to do a lot of. Where’d you go?”

David was both annoyed and sorry for Gene. Annoyed because he, David, had to listen harder and suppress a superior smile at the labored speech, and sorry because Gene was embarrassed when he stuttered.

“I like to hike up around Muir Woods, Mount Tam and all that. One problem is that I don’t have a car.”

He hadn’t counted on Gene having one. The new clerk asked through his thick glasses if David would like to trek over to one of those places on the next weekend. With reservations and an attitude of we’ll-try-it-once, David agreed. He put on a smile for Gene as they parted. In fact, the smile wasn’t all false.

vvvvv

The hike went better than David expected. Gene’s stutter almost disappeared and there was a certain buddy-buddyness in walking side by side along the roads and trails of the Point Reyes area. Fog persisted most of the day and the pair passed wet berry bushes set between plain, high, rounded hills. At one point they encountered a gray ocean surf coming out of the mists which David photographed in every possible way.

In casual clothes and with knapsack Gene looked more human. He was shorter than David and seemed like a younger brother. Their talk meandered, with Gene saying that he’d stuttered from pre-teen days and that he’d tried almost everything to lose it. David mentioned the time in high school when he was talking to a stutterer and found himself unintentionally imitating the fellow. The stutterer, thinking he was the object of a joke, threatened to hit him. The story made Gene genuinely laugh for the first time.

They’d had some of the same experiences — trying out for sports in high school without much success, hitches in the military, and an early love for science fiction. Eventually the talk got around to women. Gene was saying in a sudden pique, “Women. How the h-hell do you meet them around here anyway? I’ve been going to this country bar in Albany — and so far the only lady I’ve gotten interested in me was 55 and drunk.”

David laughed. “Maybe you ought to check out some other places. You live in San Francisco, right? It’s a mecca for women. You mean to tell me you can’t find any women here?”

“Where should I go? I mean, you’ve been around here a lot longer than me.”

“You just need to circulate. Go out and do things you feel like doing. Take classes that women go to. Join the Sierra Club and go on group hikes.” David realized he should be following his own advice.

“One thing I did — I saw fliers about a group called Ron Johnston’s Saturday Night Experience. It’s this guy who teaches seminars on how to meet people. You know, ten steps to meeting a woman and getting a date. Then Ron and his partner have parties on Saturday nights for meeting people. I went to the class — cost me $50 — then to the party. Thirty eligible men, three foxy ladies and a dozen old maids.”

“So, which one of the foxy ladies did you get?” kidded David. “But seriously, maybe you shouldn’t try to start at the top of the heap. Just go out with someone.”

“Yeah, maybe so,” allowed Gene, looking down absentmindedly and digging his toe into soft, moist earth. “I’ll bet you have a lot of girlfriends, huh?” He had heard about Corky.

“Put that in the past tense.” David went on to describe in a censored version his disappointment with Corky.

“But look at you, David,” said the little hiker, “you’re what the girls all want — tall, handsome –”

David pictured himself with a bra on his hairy chest.

“intelligent …”

“All of those things, naturally,” quipped David. He lectured lightly on how personality and soul counted the most.

“But you have to get in the front door,” insisted Gene.

“Just pull down her zipper. Just kidding. Really, don’t worry so much. With all the gay men around there’s tons of extra women to choose from.”

Gene wanted to know how David’s camera worked, and their hands touched while fiddling with the controls. David said he’d give some instruction if Gene ever bought a decent SLR. Then he regretted his promise. Maybe Gene would get too attached to him. He didn’t want any funny stuff happening.

While riding back home David probed Gene for more information about transactional analysis. He had always shied away from EST and Esalen and their devotees but he decided to look at TA. Later, Gene lent him his introductory paperback I’m OK, You’re OK. Also, Gene had mentioned how he liked his TA analyst, a Mrs. Osaki. David cautioned himself that Gene was the kind of guy who might exaggerate things but maybe he would check out this Asian woman. He would do it without telling Gene, though. Gene didn’t need to know he wanted to see anyone. He started to read the paperback with its yellow-highlighted passages.

David ended up consuming three TA books. He remembered that he’d read Games People Play some time before without connecting it to a therapy, but skimmed it again anyway. Then it was I’m OK, You’re OK and finally What Do You Say After You Say Hello? He read the three at about the same speed he’d read a novel.

Finally David worked up the courage to call Dr. Osaki’s office.

vvvvv

At the appointed time one evening David arrived at an imposing, tree-shrouded house in the middle-to upper-middle class Richmond District after walking three misty blocks from a bus stop. He double-checked the house number and found an embossed business card thumbtacked to the heavy wooden door –

 Maria Ollswell Osaki, Ph.D.
Transactional Analyst
A.T.A.A., A.P.S. 

 

David rang the doorbell. What sort of venomous man-eating creatures would be inside to dissect him? Or would there be some lithesome, beautiful lady-creatures to tell him how unique, brilliant and attractive he was?

Finally the door opened and he was invited into a crowded, warm interior. The rooms were quite comfortable, with dark-hued wood paneling, ancient floor lamps, ferns, muted Oriental rugs and glistening hardwood floors. The house was the sort where murder mysteries are filmed, with secret sliding panels.

David stood in the front room taking in all of this as the host went to find a chair. He made an effort to look at the others in the room. There were several men like himself, painfully quiet. To David the women seemed at ease and talkative while the men were rough-edged and quirky.

David asked a woman if Mrs. Osaki was there.

“She’s not here yet. She’s usually late, anyway — a very busy lady, you know.”

David nodded and began looking at faces again. But the woman, who said she’s been in the program for three months, continued talking endlessly about Osaki’s abilities. David was irritated, yet figured that being seen talking with this woman would make him appear more sociable. Finally the woman excused herself. David grabbed a magazine, and, while pretending to read, imagined telling a fictional Maria Osaki that he was a transvestite. She would have the others grab him and hold him down while she would hold lingerie against his genitals and give him an embarrassing erection.

Maria Ollswell Osaki hustled in a half-hour late with loose-leaf binders, books, a strong leather briefcase and an air of take-charge. But rather than the spare Japanese woman with chopsticks in her belt that David expected, the overweight fiftyish Caucasian woman came in wearing bright and discordant polyester. David told himself that he didn’t need to return after this first gratuitous meeting.

Mrs. Osaki, matronly and dignified facially, spoke in a non-nonsense way and was accorded an obvious respect. She began by asking a woman and her lover when they would pay their account. Working that out, Maria, as she was called by the regulars, greeted David and another newcomer.

The session began with the kind of bloodletting David had seen at a past encounter group. There was an alcoholic, a violently jealous lover and a man who couldn’t offer affection to his wife. A man who seemed gay told intimate things about himself but never mentioned his sexual inclination. The words child, adult, parent, permission and script were often used by Mrs. Osaki. David remained silent and watched the people around him reveal themselves. He sat poised on his chair as though ready to spring into the air at the first opportunity to confess his sins.

All through the session the eminently practical Osaki kept the discussion relevant. She was a woman of some experience. Her favorite comment was “That’s bullshit.” She came on like a Jewish mother and never failed to make fun of those who took themselves too seriously. Still, David harbored doubts about her.

At the end of the meeting the atmosphere quickly changed. Those souls who’d seemed so wounded and over the edge appeared to heal themselves instantly. The conversation went back to jobs and “How are you and Chris doing?”

David was given a ride home by the other first-timer, a comely woman who also couldn’t say enough good things about Dr. Osaki. He gave her a peck on the cheek as a good-by, then went up into his apartment and straight to bed. New people, new thoughts and new feelings rattled his brain. Alone again and master of his space, he quickly drifted off to sleep.

Chapter 5

The following weekend David walked into the offices of The Real Times. Residing in a swaybacked storefront in the industrial South-of-Market district, the Times was one of the surviving underground newspapers from the 1960s. The Corky thing had taken him out of contact with the paper and he wanted to touch base again.

The day before, President Nixon had begun the bombing of Hanoi. David had read every newspaper account. Some aspects of war excited him but not this impersonal rain of destruction. The Russians claimed bomb damage to one of their cargo ships; the Vietnamese, to a hospital. This expansion of the Viet Nam war also made David aware of the probability of more antiwar demonstrations in San Francisco.

As he expected, there was just a skeleton crew working in the newspaper office, since an issue of the weekly had just hit the newsstands. When one of the hippie girls running the front desk — what was her name, Starr? — greeted him by name, he knew they hadn’t forgotten him. He heard another woman taking down a sex ad from the phone. As it happened, the newspaper’s financial underpinning was massage parlor and sexual classified ads — the Times would print any ad short of solicitations for child porn.

The inside of the storefront was wallpapered with posters of rock musicians, posters of pigs dressed in cops’ uniforms, and photos of brutal riot police at San Francisco State and People’s Park. In fact, David’s first association with the paper had been during those incidents. One of his photos, which he could claim had been on the cover of the publication, was still on the wall — a black-and-white of an attractive woman wearing only a skimpy bra, panties and a big smile being escorted by two male gas-masked students, fully clothed. The Times was just that — a mix of fun and seriousness, blood and music, pubescent rebellion and reverence.

Don Hill, the acting editor in lieu of the ailing owner, was sitting at his messy roll-top desk talking to the ad manager, whose bushy hairdo attained such an extraordinary volume that birds might have nested in it. Both were reviewing the just-released issue.

Finally Don was free and David meandered over, shyly walking between art layout tables where several long-haired workers were beginning to create ad pages of the next issue. Don was a thin, bespectacled man with short hair who carried a certain air of authority and caring. His worn corduroy sports jacket was a trademark. David asked what was happening politically.

“Big demonstration Monday,” said Don. “Civic Center downtown. Everyone’s pretty pissed about how desperate Kissinger and Nixon have gotten.”

“Well, I’d like to cover it,” offered David, knowing he’d have to call in sick to attend the affair. “Who else’ll be there?”

Don named the staff photographer, a writer-photographer couple and “Oh yes, a photographer named Diane Beckel-something who came in a few days ago from the East Coast.”

A surge of resentment rose in David. Competing with the staff photographer for picture space was bad enough, but to have to compete against the young upstarts … Oh well, she’d probably turn in lousy prints and they’d kiss her off.

“Then it’s OK if I cover the Monday thing?”

Don indicated he could cover whatever he wanted. “Get some good cop shots — you know, snouts, piggy tails, et cetera. And take care — we don’t need any more hospital cases or cracked skulls.” They shook hands and parted.

David wandered over to a vacant desk to finish reading the just-released issue. As he read he remembered how the newspaper had contributed to the breakdown with his parents. He had once innocently sent them a copy. They said they’d burned it after seeing only the cover, which to David had been innocuous. Well, there had been some pubic hair showing.

In the latest issue there was an article about the Cockettes, the outlandish and irrepressible female impersonator troupe, and about sexual identity liberation. David reflected that he’d never told anyone at the Times about being a transvestite. Women would come to the Times office wearing men’s shirts and trousers and some of the men wore rather flowing garments and earrings. But David tended to dress in a decidedly male fashion, often wearing an army fatigue jacket over Levi’s.

Maybe it was because of his secrets that he sometimes felt he was a spy when he visited the Times. Once a staffer asked him pointblank if he worked for the pigs. Other workers came under suspicion too, but David deep down felt like an infiltrator and impostor. Even in his dreams he often played that role.

When he finished skimming the Times’ news stories and photos and was sure that no one was looking, he skipped to the back of the newspaper to the sex ads. In a section titled Further Out, he found –

 

Mistress Leeta Knows your secret desires and shows no mercy. Get on your knees and lick my boots. 559-7708.

 

Workers in the newspaper office snickered about these. David had never worked up the courage to answer one. Maybe he would, he thought, some time when he could afford to — of if the urgency could let him wait no longer.

David returned home. Sunlight streamed in through the bay windows and the day was warming up unusually for an early Spring Saturday. He spent some time straightening up his apartment, throwing away accumulated magazines and newspapers, and washing two days of dishes in the kitchen-darkroom.

The doldrums of the weekend stretched before him. He wanted to go out and hike or bicycle but he pictured himself doing those things feeling lonely and isolated. He could go see a movie but would it turn out to be a good one? It might be one that left him bored, with a headache and time lost. Here he was alone again. There were women he could call but none had seemed especially interested in him. He didn’t like to beg.

He began to imagine dressing as a woman, putting lingerie and silky fabrics on his body and feeling sexy. He wanted to dress well enough to look in the mirror and say, “This is how it feels to be a woman.” He thought he needed some new garments, not the tired old things in his closet and drawers. His paycheck from the day before would make a shopping trip possible.

He remembered a certain corset shop on Mission Street that had tempted him many times. He made his way out of the apartment into the fresh, sunny air. Taking a crowded bus, he summoned enough courage to get off at 22nd and Mission in the heart of the Hispanic district. There could be no hesitation, no turning back. Through crowds of shoppers, he walked up to Alana’s Corset Shop trying to seem at ease, stopping briefly at the display window to admire clear plastic torsos with perfectly-filled bras and corsets.

David joined a stout Mexican-American woman being served at the counter. Two teenage girls were fingering filmy panties on a rack. Eventually the saleswoman got around to asking if he needed help.

“Yeah, ah … I’d like to buy some lingerie for my wife.”

“Yes, yes, sir,” said the senora. “And what do you look for?”

“I think a bra,” said David. “Maybe a corset.” He began to sweat when he heard the girls giggle. The proprietor brought out two dainty white corsets. He looked at the price tags and managed a little laugh. “I think I’d better look at bras instead.”

“What size, sir?” The woman impatiently looked off to one side.

David fumbled with a slip of paper he took from his pocket. “Ah, a 38B.” As the saleslady went to get some bras, he remembered the time he and Corky had gone shopping together — he’d shyly handed her money and told her which lingerie to buy. She’d gleefully embarrassed him at Penny’s by holding a bra up against his chest.

David left the shop carrying a lacy black bra with slender straps. He recalled how the saleswoman had handled the bra sexily, running her fingers along the inside of the cups as though to seduce him.

His compulsiveness was an overly-ripe fruit as he boldly made his way through other stores buying a new half-slip, a dress and a long wig. At the women’s shoe store he had a hard time because of his man-sized feet. Only through trial and error in the past had he learned what size fit him. He had to settle for a rather commonplace pair.

When the VA clerk got on the bus with his packages, with his checking account nearly exhausted, he felt excited, magic and guilty all at once. Some men hire prostitutes, but I am my own prostitute.

Guarding his packages in his lap, he mused about the early days when he accumulated things by stealing from his mother. Then there were the several times he thought that dressing was ruining his manhood and burned his stash.

Arriving home after the bus has labored up his small hill, he excitedly spread out the day’s purchases on his bed. In the messy apartment they seemed perfect and right, with price tags still on them and the elastic stiff and new. The wig was fragrant as though from a real woman.

David went into the bathroom to pin his long hair back and to shave as closely as possible. As usual when he was in a hurry he made a small cut on his Adam’s apple. The little stainless steel shelf beneath the bathroom mirror was soon full of cosmetics. David applied a grease stick over his beard trace to hide it, remembering the time when he was in a grade school play and his mother had put lipstick on him — ick! And how those very same foreign, alien things in stylish containers now captivated him. Men’s toiletries came in dull, square bottles with thick wooden stoppers.

He worked with eyeliner, mascara and eye shadow. Lipstick. Rouge. The silence in the bathroom was total. He wasn’t aware of the other tenants moving about their apartments or the street sounds outside. What he was doing was injecting a steady stream of excitement into his veins.

The sun shone into the all-white bathroom. He momentarily reflected that anyone on the fire escape outside the window or on the roof of the ramshackle shed across the street might see him primping. It was dangerous being a pervert.

On the matter of perversion, he had been quite along in years before he even knew his quirk had a name, or that he shared it with anyone. Where had it been — in one of Freud’s books? — that he had unearthed the work trans-ves-tite, even more momentous a discovery than finding ho-mo-sex-ual in Reader’s Digest.

After putting the finishing touches on his facial artwork, David framed it with the new, perfect wig. His heart rose as he admired his perfect woman’s face in the mirror. He felt the caress of panty hose and the new slip, and the pressing in of the new brassiere’s straps across his back. A padded girdle was authoritatively tight around his middle and genitals. He turned himself in front of the bathroom mirror and posed in various angles so he could see his breasts and hair.

Suddenly there was a shout. He dove below the level of the second-story window and waited with heart racing, feeling like some female soldier in war. Finally, peeking, he saw a man with a beer belly loading the truck of a large American car down on the street. Whoever it was couldn’t see him.

David slipped away to his bedroom to try on his new heels and dress and admire himself in the full-length mirror. Like a teenage girl practicing provocative moves, he angled his head just right, pushed a wisp of hair this way and that, and pursed his lips. Eventually he drew closer and closer to the mirror until he kissed the approaching woman on the glass. The surface was cold.

He set up a camera to photograph himself, thinking that if only he had a car and it was nighttime he could drive around to see if men would look at him. He felt as potent as a loaded pistol — as Marilyn as Marilyn Monroe, as Sophia as Sophia Loren. After taking many pictures of himself, holding his sexual excitement at bay, he sat down and typed an entry for his diary. Pleasurably, he pushed aside strands of long hair from his eyes. He called himself Natalie.

 

I’m sitting up here in my ship, fully dressed. Someone might be able to see me, maybe. What a contrast — my clean and nicely-colored dress, my perfect face and hair, and the dirty windows and run-down buildings across the street. I feel fulfilled and sexy, yet everything around me is decaying. Natalie is my friend, always there when I need her. Thank God I have this apartment all to myself.

 

Natalie lay down on her bed and relaxed. She slowly, teasingly, reached down and pulled her girdle and nylons away so as to touch her penis. She imagined making love to someone else and alternately that someone was making love to her.

vvvvv

When David called in ill Monday morning Vince was skeptical but finally OK’d sick leave. Hoping that no one from the VA office was attending the midday demonstration, David dressed in his photographer’s uniform, a long, tropical fatigue shirt he’d brought back from ‘Nam that provided multiple pockets for photo paraphernalia. Rolls of film in the pockets felt like bullets — or breasts — bobbing around as he walked. He worried that lingering traces of mascara or nail polish might give his weekend excesses away.

As he walked toward San Francisco’s Civic Center plaza from the bus stop he hoped that the demonstration would turn wild — that people would be upset enough over the bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong to raise some hell. The hotter the action the better the pictures he got.

Protesters were forming up in front of City Hall, waiting for formalities to begin. It always helped to have an imposing concrete manifestation of government as a backdrop. David’s excitement rose as he stepped closer. Old men sitting on park benches were muttering and leaving, replaced by longhairs and shorter-haired communists, by Maoists and serious activists, and by families with kids in strollers. David began photographing these types as they stood or sat waiting. Several objected, suggesting obliquely that he worked for the police. David hoped that mentioning the Times would smooth things out but it failed to impress. Even the Times was suspect these days, and many women had an intense dislike of the weekly’s sex ads. It would help, David thought, if he had a beard and wore a beret with a red star — Fidel Castro drag.

David looked at the other photographers, some of whom were familiar from past demonstrations, and wondered if his new competition, Diane-somebody, was there.

Several activists asked him to join the demonstration. He winced — they were always trying to get him to commit himself. David had long thought that demonstrations were silly but had never dared say that to their faces. He was there only to record the event.

vvvvv

After the last speech, which had been repeatedly interrupted by Maoists, a coalition leader jumped to the stage, grabbed the microphone and yelled, “Let’s stop talking and start taking some righteous action! We’re marching to the old Federal Building, the building the killer military recruiters work out of. We’re not going to let anyone in so long as Nixon keeps bombing North Viet Nam. Come on now, let’s let ‘em know we’re comin’!”

David scurried along with other photographers to be in front of the marching throng that formed. A long banner unfurled by the foremost proclaimed “Victory To The Viet Cong And All Oppressed Peoples” while the crowd chanted “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh — Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh.” They’re like school kids at a pep rally, David thought as they headed toward the other end of the plaza.

Soon a moving line formed around the long granite building which occupied a small city block. Throngs of protesters parked themselves in front of doors. David joined the moving line for a time, wanting to be in the center of things to spot picture possibilities. Thinking that some shaggy demonstrator or paranoiac would come up and accuse him of working for the police, he bought a Nixon button with the “x” cleverly replaced by a swastika.

The city father responded slowly but deliberately. San Francisco police, outfitted with riot helmets and head-knocking sticks, marched in and stood in formation opposite the main door. Between them and the door formed a large clot of intent young men and women who began to sing protest songs in earnest. David put a short telephoto lens on his camera and began zeroing in on the cops as pent-up violence and anger permeated the air.

The demonstrators, appealing to a divine right to block doors, even after an order to disperse from a police lieutenant, were shocked and outraged when the police struck. The first sounds of clubs contacting flesh and bone punctuated by shrieks reached David’s ears. Instantly, adrenaline spurted into his veins. Breathing excitedly and making sure he stayed out of the cops’ range, David began getting good shots. He photographed a hapless bystander, a thin fellow holding a bicycle, being set upon by four predatory riot police. In the space of three minutes it was all over. There were bloody heads, hands trussed behind backs — rather sexual, thought David — and more shouting.

Later someone set a Navy recruiter’s car on fire but the cops let it burn out by itself. As David photographed his version of the scarred hulk, a smiling young woman with two taped and battered Nikon cameras around her neck approached him. She had a well-defined, tanned face and wore a quilted vest over a plaid shirt with sleeves rolled up. Her long, dark brown hair, parted in the middle, was secured in back by an ornately carved barrette, and her tight Levi’s were of the properly faded variety. She asked if he was David Nunley.

“That would be me.” David studied her mischievous brown eyes and busy, slender lips.

“The people over at the Times office said I might run into you here. I’m Diane Beckelmeyer.”

“Oh, yeah, they told me about you.” He liked that name, Beckelmeyer. It sounded like a German bakery. “Where are you in from? They said some place out East.”

“Lately from Philadelphia. I was with Streets there.”

Streets was a well-known alternative paper. David retuned to studying her face and forgot to make conversation. “Ah –” she continued, “how was your shooting?”

“Never know ’til I see it. Oh, I’m sure I got a couple nice ones.”

“You were close to that one poor guy getting clubbed by all those fucking pigs.” She looked off to the side from time to time as if looking for more picture opportunities.

“Should have some g-g-great close-ups of that.” I never stutter! “What do you plan to do out here? Are you making it on photography or what?”

“Oh, kind of hand-to-mouth, you know. I’ve got my kid, Bobby, with me. We’re staying with a friend in the Haight.”

David wondered who the friend was.

“The reason I wanted to locate you was ’cause I don’t have a darkroom yet and I’m trying to find someone to develop my film.”

“I usually don’t do stuff for other people — I’ve got this regular full-time job. But hey, today’s different. I took the day off and was going to do darkroom right away. So if you’d like to come over we could develop all of our film.”

“Jeez, I have to go back and take care of my son. If you’re going to run your darkroom, could you develop and contact print for me? There’s a free dinner in it for you sometime — and I could make it over tonight to see how it came out.”

He took her film, warm with body heat, provided his phone number and address, and watched her leave across the plaza, walking buoyantly in the direction of Market Street. Old men were reclaiming their benches and a few indigenous crazies were returning to scare tourists. Just as David was stealing a telephoto shot of her, she looked back over her shoulder and waved. At the same time a great mass of fluttering pigeons flew between them. He took that to be a good omen.

Chapter 6

As usual, he was slower developing film than he’d planned. When Diane Beckelmeyer arrived at seven, dressed more femininely than before, he was in the midst of developing the final rolls of film. Being used to performing his developing ritual alone, he apologized for being preoccupied.

“No problem,” said Diane, “I just want to know how my negs came out.” She smelled fresh and seemed perky to David, sluggish after watching the darkroom clock for several hours. Her body lightly touched his as he held up a strip of negatives to the ceiling light and they scanned the transparent frames. It was her film, not as evenly exposed as David liked, but there seemed to be a fair number of printable pictures on it. She seemed to like close-ups of faces.

He hung that roll of film in the drying cabinet, handling the wet strip delicately. “I can hardly wait for the contact print of that,” she said. As he brought her back a beer from the refrigerator he could see the thin straps of her brassiere through the back of her soft sweater.

The next roll was David’s and they made to look at that one together. To his instant horror, some of the pictures he’d taken of himself in drag were on the roll along with shots from the demonstration. His face heated to fever pitch and he made abruptly to put the roll in the drying cabinet. Diane casually stopped him and asked, “Who’d this?” — pointing to a negative of himself hiking up his dress to reveal a barter belt and nylons. Other nearby frames were equally incriminating.

He frantically hoped that she couldn’t make out his features beneath the wig. “A friend. You know, a friend? As you might suspect, I didn’t intend for you to see these.” He made a nervous laugh.

“My, my, a very sexy friend.” Diane smiled knowingly.

“Oh, we did it for fun. I’m not your cold-ass pornographer.” He managed to change the subject.

After the contact printing, with the prints hung up to dry, David showed her around his rooms. Just as he began to worry about having to make a play for her, she said she hadn’t eaten dinner yet — had he? David had, but said no. Could he make something?

“Is there a Chinese restaurant around here?”

He told her about Yee’s, two blocks down Mission Street. But she picked a different place on the way, the corner burger joint he’d always avoided. As they entered, teenagers and loud music jarred his senses. Diane happily settled into a booth and said the place reminded her of Philadelphia.

“Do you come in here much?” she asked.

“Once in a while,” he lied, squirming in his seat.

“Kids,” said Diane, “that’s where the real action is. I was photographing them back home.”

“Why’d you leave?”

“Divorce. Technically, separation. Wanted to get away from the scene of the crime, so to speak.” She laughed engagingly. “Go to the land of golden opportunity.” Her husband had been an assistant professor who’d dropped out in the sixties to try a variety of middling jobs without success. She, on the other hand, was making a go of photography. Finally she had left with her son.

David depreciated his possibilities as they sat eating deluxe burgers and shakes. They were alike only in that they were on the fringes of the underground newspaper scene. Still, he was drawn to her vitality and directness and realized that he was chasing her, that he wanted something in her.

He tried to suppress an involuntary yawn but she noticed and suggested they part company for the evening. “Do you want your negatives and stuff?” he asked, irked. “You do want to get some prints in to the Times, don’t you?”

They returned to the apartment, where she chose several shots for him to blow up. Afterwards, he walked her down to her vehicle, a venerable Land Rover, and squeezed her hand as a good-by. Then they both kissed lightly. Her lips seemed cool and warm, soft and sure, all at the same time.

vvvvv

The next morning David was ten minutes late to work, with several excuses on tap. Vince glanced up at him and asked if he felt OK.

David found a staggering accumulation of files on his desk. He fantasized taking half the dull-brown folders and soundlessly putting them back on Grasso’s desk. That would show him. David wondered why he was getting this treatment, as though Vince had evidence he hadn’t been sick. Maybe one of the other clerks had told on him. The tough part was that he had been in such a good mood before he arrived at his desk. The day of violence had made him feel alive again. That and the captivating Diane Beckelmeyer. Beckelmeyer would forever be a sexy name for him.

He told himself it wouldn’t do any good to protest. He would just work at his usual slow speed and not be pressured. He tried to breathe slowly through his nose to calm himself, as he’d read how to do somewhere. That’s it, he told himself, concentrate. Feel the air passing in through the nasal passages. Banish all thoughts from the slate of the mind. Damn! Why can’t I be a news photographer instead of wasting time here?

The first file belonged to a Mr. Sam Delgado.

Just before noon, Gatzo, who’d been sanctimoniously talking to the public on the phone most of the morning, came over and asked David out to lunch. They tried a new spot, an American-style cafeteria three blocks away where the lines weren’t very long. Gene asked him about the demonstration.

“Well … I shot some good stuff. The cops got a bit wild. Oh, and I met this woman photographer.”

Gene seemed excited for him.

“We just met, you know, nothing more. She’s really something. Has a son who I haven’t met. By the way, did you see the demonstration on TV?”

“Yeah, the protesters really provoked things. The news said they wouldn’t let anyone in the building for Christ’s sake.”

David bit his tongue, not wanting to get into politics with Gene, so he went on to describe the demonstration. At one point he made a gesture that he immediately rescinded, a gesture that was at once feminine and seductive. He checked Gene but the clerk hadn’t raised an eyebrow. David remembered times when he’d caught himself acting similarly with The Jock in the office.

Gatzo, his voice stumbling and head moving as if the cutting edge of his words, began talking about women. At an EST party over the weekend he’d met a woman in an early stage of multiple sclerosis where she was shaky. Somehow he’d managed to get rejected again, asking her to sleep with him fifteen minutes into their conversation. David pictured Gene as Goofy the Disney character, asking.

“What’s wrong with that?” Gene was demanding. “God, I was horny. I was trying to be v-v-very u-up-front with her.”

“You must be getting very frustrated, Mr. Gatzo.” David wondered if he really wanted to get involved with a loser. But something was drawing him in — the older brother complex?

“Yeah, I get so h-horny sometimes I think I could screw anything on two or four legs.”

“Pardon my directness, but have you thought of finding a hooker?”

“Not really. I got burned once while I was in the Air Force. I was all ready to come and I said something and s-s-stuttered and the stupid whore laughed. N-Needless to say, I lost it.” Gene shook his head and looked off to the side.

“Next time don’t talk — they said nonverbal experiences are richer.”

David looked at Gatzo as they ate, trying to see him as a woman would. Was there anything at all about him that women might like? There had to be a few out there who’d take on a difficult guy as a mission in life. On the other hand David wondered why he was assuming that Gatzo was hetero. It could be that Gatzo was attracted to him.

On the way back to work a rather androgynous human passed them on the sidewalk. “Female,” said David.

“Yeah, I guess so,” said Gatzo, still dwelling on his disappointments.

“The shoes, the hair and the Adam’s apple,” said David. “If you see a woman with a big Adam’s apple her name is Adam and not Eve.

“I’ve seen a few downtown,” offered Gatzo. “Oh, I saw one in Merrill’s Drugs a week ago. At least I’m pretty sure it was one.”

“A drag queen? How could you tell?”

“I don’t know. There was just t-too much funny about her. Her voice was too low and her face looked kind of coarse.”

They strode past the lobby guard and rode the elevator up to work along with a real woman David wanted to undress. Back in his cubicle, there were even more files on his desk. He wished he could go home and masturbate, or at least lay his head on his desk and sleep awhile.

Something happened later that bothered him to no end. He entered the men’s room at the same time as his boss. David quipped “The urge strikes again” as Vince allowed a grunt of agreement. David realized with a start that with only two usable urinals they would have to stand next to each other. They both unzipped, Vince with a strong, deliberate motion. After an appropriate interval David heard his boss pee against the porcelain. David pushed down against his bladder, waiting for at least a trickle. Sweating, he looked down to see only a small and wilting penis. Vince finished and zipped up.

“Guess I didn’t have to go,” said David. After Vince left, he peed generously and vowed to always pee in a stall in the future. His zipper seemed extremely conspicuous as he walked by Vince while returning to his desk.

After a stressful day at work, Natalie would come out of hiding again. Natalie could help him feel sexy and content. He could become sleek and exciting, even though there was no one around to appreciate him. Finally, Natalie could bring him to a pinnacle of pleasure. Then she all too quickly left. Sometimes when Natalie came out too much, even she couldn’t stop the blues.

vvvvv

David knocked on the door of a house in the Haight Ashbury district. It was near dusk and an advance coolness had settled down in the neighborhood of older stucco houses stacked together like books on a bookshelf. The houses all had upper and lower apartments above garages.

David knocked again and looked at the warm light filtering through the curtained window. Abruptly a child parted the curtain, looked at him intently, then went running, shouting “It’s a man, mommy.” Diane and a heavier, taller woman, introduced as Laura, shortly came to the door smiling.

“Hey!” he said, feeling debonair. The smells of good cooking reached his nose. He had come with an appetite.

As he entered, crayons, dolls and toys were everywhere. Only the kitchen seemed to be in order. He met Diane’s son Bobby and Laura’s two toddlers.

They all ate well around a big circular table before putting the children to bed. Then the three talked and smoked some pot. David nearly forgot to show Diane the latest copy of the Times with one photo of hers, two of his and predictably the staff photographer’s photo on the cover. Diane wanted to know all he could tell her about the Times, about Don the editor and office politics. David apologized for not being an insider.

He followed Diane and Laura into their living room to hear some new records. Wine and pot took their toll on him as he kept trying to be attentive. “Oh Jesus,” he finally said. “The shape I’m in, I’m going to totally conk out any minute. What time is it? Can I use your phone to call a cab?”

“You don’t mind if he sleeps here tonight, do you?” Diane asked Laura, the quieter of the two.

“No problem.” Her hair was shorter than Diane’s and fluffy, and she was more inclined to wear dresses.

vvvvv

He lay on the foreign-smelling sofa in the dark, under a comforter, listening to city sounds. After the pot, sleep came easily.

Later, he remembered reaching up to scratch his nose. He’d been dreaming about walking through woods and a leaf had just brushed his face. He woke and for a wild instant couldn’t remember where he was. Finally he recognized the front windows and the silhouettes of plants. Then he spied Diane trying to hide below the side of the sofa, wearing a shimmering nightgown and wielding a long peacock feather.

“So that was you!” he whispered, trying to grab her.

“Hey now,” she said, pushing him away. “I just came in to see if you were, well, sleeping.”

“Well, I was, you know.” He wondered why he was keeping up this tack of conversation.

“I thought if you were awake, we might, ah …” Diane let some of her long hair sweep across his face. “But if you’d rather go back to sleep –”

David regained his senses. “I thought you were just interested in newspapers and cameras.” Diane put her hand over his mouth and slid onto the old, uneven sofa with him.

vvvvv

The sensation of having her, David wrote later, was like entering a tropical flower.

 

Chapter 7

After the largess given him by Diane, David was more confident when he attended his third meeting of Maria Osaki’s TA group. And just in time, as he had agreed to be one of those on the hot seat for this session.

Maria was late and her clothing atrocious as usual, but David was getting used to her. He worried about how he’d behave in front of everyone. Maybe he’d break down and cry. They probably wouldn’t be satisfied until he’d belched up some heaving emotion. Most of all, would he finally have to say in public that he had a continuing love affair with women’s underwear?

When it was his turn, Maria asked David why he was in the group. Why did she have to be so direct? He wasn’t prepared to go so simply to the core. He preferred the indirect route, the mystery, the drama.

“I guess I’d say that …” he ventured hesitatingly.

“Yes, go on. You don’t have to be shy here.”

“It’s my dad and I. We don’t get along. We have a mutual hate society. We’re not communicating. My mother tags along with him. I should say that they’re back in Ohio.”

“How do you hate each other at such a distance?” asked Maria, pointing her ballpoint at him. “By telephone? Does he come out here much, or what?”

“Right now it’s by letter,” said David in a little voice.

“Sounds like you put some distance between the two of you. Just what do you fight about?”

“Could I break the flow a moment?” asked David. “I brought these photo albums with me. Since I’m a photographer I’m really into pictures — and I thought that people here could get a better idea of where I’m coming from if they saw them. Pictures don’t lie.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” said Maria. “Most pictures are posed. Besides, what we’re interested in most is the here and now — what you’re feeling now — not what happened twenty years ago when you were being potty trained.”

There were a few titters. David had to smile. But there he stood with albums in hand, embarrassed, silently asking. Maria, grumbling, finally assented and while the albums circulated, argued with an attendee about not paying on time.

There were murmurs and pointing fingers as the albums changed hands. At one point, Rae, a woman whose obvious beauty had begun to fade, came in with her boyfriend, both slightly tipsy from wine. Maria calmly said she could stay if she toned down and her partner waited in his car. Rae went to look at the photos while Maria asked for comments. No one seemed eager to speak. David at once suspected that his life was so featureless that no one had an iota of interest in it. If only they knew. Or was the verdict so bad that they didn’t want to hurt him?

Then Rae spoke up with the brazenness of a woman who knows she’s speaking for the masses. “You want to know what’s here?”

Maria began a motion to silence her but before she did, David said “Yes … please.”

“Why, this is Anytown, America,” pronounced Rae. The others in the circle nodded their heads, relieved that there wasn’t an esoteric explanation. “This is like the family next door when I grew up. A typical all-American family in the forties and fifties. High school graduation, birthday parties, dad in his Army uniform holding a baby –”

“How does my dad look like to you?” asked David in a quivering voice.

Rae squinted pointedly at several pictures. “A strong man. Seems kind of like a he-man the way he sticks his chest out. He seems very proud to be in a picture with his baby.”

David was flabbergasted. This he-man was the guy who’d generated such hates that David thought he could write a book of atrocities.

“Hmmm,” he responded. “That’s not the way I see him at all. I thought he was a real bastard a lot of the time. He could be mean.”

Maria was becoming interested. She shifted to one side and looked up from the notes she’d been taking. “Like how was he mean to you?”

David put a bullet in his gun, picking his grimiest cartridge. He described the time his father had taken his brother and himself down in their basement and ordered them to rub mud all over their naked bodies because they’d kept playing in mud puddles. Maria told David to relive the episode.

“I feel debased, as though –”

“Talk about everything as though it’s happening to you now.”

Talking to the group was like standing naked again. David worked to prevent his voice from disappearing altogether. “I … feel debased. My body is so white and skinny. My Dad is making us rub cold mud all over our naked skin in the cold basement, like in a dungeon. I can feel the cold floor under my feet. I feel like a Jew in a concentration camp being forced to do something that would take away my last ounce of self-respect. Why isn’t my mother coming to stop this? She just peeked down the basement stairs at us and left without saying a word.”

David noticed that no one in the group was shedding tears or running over to comfort him. And this was his worst story? Shouldn’t this episode explain his being so fucked up?

“All right,” said Maria, “here’s what I see happening. The adult part of you, the part that makes plans, et cetera, is saying, ‘I feel small and naked — my penis is small and naked.’ The child part of you, the part that has feelings and emotions, says ‘I hate my father.’ And finally the parent part of you, which in TA means the instructions recorded in your head by your parents, is saying ‘Rub mud on yourself’.”

Maria continued — “Now I want you to act out your feelings against your father.”

David was in an embarrassed daze — he had to come up with something. Recklessly he said “I’d tie my father to an overhead beam in the basement so he couldn’t see me and I’d whip him. After that maybe he’d be tied to a cross and would rise up into the heavens or whatever.”

“Anything more?”

“Yeah.” David’s mind was clearing. “Then I could be friends with my mother again.” His eyes rimmed with tears he fought to hold back.

“Now try to act out the whipping of your father. Try to feel that you’re actually doing these things to him.”

Fearing that he’d become a spectacle, he said he couldn’t go further. He sat wearily down while Maria complimented him on his progress. After a few seconds he found enough courage to look at the others. They — with the exception of a woman who smiled sympathetically — sat calmly as thought this was their standard cup of tea. The next person stood up. David slowly let all the pent-up air out of his lungs.

Before he went to bed that evening he bloated himself with a huge hamburger and butterscotch ice cream. He was miserable the next day and nearly called in sick.

vvvvv

David became engrossed in what Maria Osaki could tell him about himself. In his personal transvestite alchemy of man and woman together, did his father play a part, this Zeus-like father who’d thrown lightning bolts down from the heavens? David developed enough interest to call Maria’s office to try to set up private sessions with her. She was telling him new things and, as with his earlier fascination with Freud, his intellect was being prodded. Besides, as he wrote in his diary, he needed some attention from someone who cared a little.

vvvvv

When David entered the Sutter Street Medical Building on his first visit, the lobby resembled the foyer of a forties movie palace. Its slow elevator transported white-skinned old patients with vacant eyes. The plants in Maria Osaki’s office were struggling too, and her receptionist had bad teeth. As he waited, he looked out the window of the 39th floor and saw a grayish, smoggy city.

The meeting with Maria proved to be disappointingly short to David, who expected to spill his guts. Instead, she asked that he prepare a contract describing what he wanted to accomplish. Then she mentioned her fee. David nodded mildly, though he hadn’t thought the bill would be so high. At the next meeting a week later, David unemotionally handed over a contract. When she finished reading, Maria looked at him with some surprise as a small smile played around his lips.

“What are you smiling about?” she asked.

“I smile this way sometimes when I get nervous.”

“I read here … Suddenly you tell me you’re a transvestite?”

“Yeah.”

“The contract you’ve given me covers too much territory. We need more specific things to work on. We should chose between your relationships with women and the transvestite thing.” She looked up at David. The smile was still there.

He looked away quickly. “I suppose we should.”

He was a little boy again, being obedient, agreeable and nice. “Well, what’s most interesting to me is my transvestism. It’s made me feel like an outsider. So maybe that’s the part we should work on.”

“OK. You’re a transvestite. That means you get pleasure out of dressing in women’s clothes.”

David nodded solemnly.

“Sexual pleasure?”

“Mm-hmmm.”

“Are you gay?”

“Not really.”

“If I seem way out in left field on this subject it’s because I’ve never had a transvestite in my practice. Or at least one who said he was. How long has this been going on?”

She chose the same words — going on — that his parents might have. “Back to the beginning of puberty, even a little before.”

“And in the contract you mention liking to be punished and tied up. What do you want to be punished for?”

David fit comfortably with the detached, clinical way they were talking. They may as well have been two engineers talking about electronic circuits. He took his time formulating his answer.

“For being bad, for having broken the rules. Maybe for dressing up as a woman — I’m not sure. Also, hmmmm. There’s something in the back of my mind. I guess I like to feel helpless before a woman, to have a woman lord it over me. To feel under the total control of a woman, to have a woman hurt me.” He wonder if Maria was appreciating his honesty. She must have very few patients who are so self-perceptive.

Maria drew the now-familiar three-circles — the ones labeled child, adult and parent — on her blackboard. “Let’s look at this from the TA point of view, OK? I get the impression that it’s the child in you that enjoys dressing. Your child is saying, ‘I feel good when I dress’.”

David looked on with a touch of skepticism while he fantasized having sex with her.

“Now, your parent here,” said Maria as she pointed to a circle, “is saying, ‘Bad, bad. Boys don’t dress like girls.’ Did your actual parents ever say that to you?”

“Just once, the only time they discovered me dressed. They didn’t say ‘bad,’ though. It’s just the way they handled it. My father talked to me in the basement. After that I did everything secretly.”

Maria looked satisfied. “That gives me the clue I need about your adult. Your adult says, ‘I can enjoy this if I keep my parents from knowing. I’ll just protect myself from my parents’ prying eyes and disapproval.’ So what we have here is quite a conflict between your adult and your parent.” She drew arrows between the adult and parent circles. “Your adult protects your child from your parent.”

Maria continued with more circles and arrows. What had begun as three circles rapidly became complicated by smaller additional adult and parent circles and many more connecting lines and arrows. Maria’s explanations became more involved and confusing. David made a mighty effort to understand but the air in her office was stuffy and he had been farting. To make her think he was smart, he said he understood.

Soon the half hour was over — too quickly, when he considered the money he’d agreed to pay. As he waited for the elevator he again remembered vividly his father and the mud incident. There was a whole string of things his father had done. The trouble was that it was getting harder to hate him in his advancing years. David remembered his father’s stories about his father, who’d treated him unfairly. Where would the chain of ill feelings end? Was hate burned into David too, to be passed on to a son of his own? David snorted when he thought of the possibility of getting married and having children — about as possible as strawberries on the moon.

Stepping out of the elevator into the strong light of day, David became immersed in street life — women with their provocative hair and dresses, men with their business suits and darting looks, fat and thin people, and always the rush of traffic. Somehow Maria’s explanations, which had seemed so reasonable on the 39th floor, began to fade. Everything was so alive and vivid outside. He passed the window of a lingerie shop and stopped. Images of red lace and slender straps flooded his cerebrum, forcing all the data that Maria had given him to crash with a resounding thud. As a warmness passed through his veins, he went home and gloriously masturbated, then was depressed. In that state he called Diane.

Chapter 8

Laura answered the phone. Her roommate wasn’t in. That evening he finally reached Diane and suggested they get together over the weekend. “Why not tonight?” she asked. “Why don’t I come over right now?”

“How about tomorrow night?” he asked, afraid she’d want sex when he’d already jerked off.

“Can’t.”

“Saturday?”

“Listen, I think I’d really like to come over now, if that’s OK with you.” At that he gave in and quickly tried to clean up, putting away his lingerie and making the bed.

He’d been fantasizing about Diane as a svelte photographer-woman to worship from a distance, someone who’d treat him a little coldly and who wouldn’t get too involved. He most wanted a woman with whom he could share the ecstasies and mysteries of photography, a woman who was more proficient, perhaps, than himself.

She arrived wearing light brown corduroy trousers into leather boots along with a knit sweater. Her hair was pulled back, just like the first day they met. David poured wine.

“Two weeks ago I didn’t even know you,” she said, squeezing his hand.

“I know.” He made a half-smile. “To be honest, I really wanted you over here tonight.” Even if not for sex. “Because I started my private sessions with Lady Maria today.”

“Who’s this?”

“Her full name is Doctor Maria Osaki, ALC, BBMD, CRS, TNT, LNR. Just kidding. A transactional analyst. Do you know about TA?”

Diane nodded, sitting cross-legged on the large floor cushions in David’s bedroom, and mentioned the time she’d briefly seen a shrink when her marriage was on the rocks. Sipping her rather sweet wine, Diane narrowed her eyes. “Something wrong?”

“Not much. Some old stuff with my parents I wanted to sort out.” David wished he could tell her about the rest.

“Like what?”

“Oh, typical baggage. Anger at my father. Actually though, what bothers me is going to the therapist and reliving it all. It’s like hemorrhaging.”

“If this makes you feel so bad why the hell are you doing it?”

“Yeah, I’ve asked myself that. Someone said you have to feel worse before you can feel better.”

Diane snorted. “Don’t believe it.”

David liked watching emotions pass through Diane’s face as though she was a little girl. She never hid her thoughts.

The wine was beginning to work. David had begun talking about a lens he wanted to buy. Diane said, “Keep talking but lay on your bellows — I mean belly.” Both laughed.

“On the bed?”

“Yes.” She sat next to him and began strongly working his back.

“Minolta stuff is just as good as Nikon stuff. It just costs less, that’s all,” he said. Eventually Diane lay on him and kissed his neck teasingly. He began to writhe a little. She excused herself to the bathroom.

When she returned, nearly naked, she found an apparently undressed David smiling, lying under bedcovers. She crawled in and reached down to touch his penis and found a curious bulge under slippery underwear. Holding up the covers, she saw him wearing panties. She clicked her tongue as she looked at him with a naughty smile. “Mr. Nunley, do tell! My, my, those panties really make you hard.”

“Well, I like wearing them.”

“You wanted to surprise me.”

David moaned as she touched him through the slick material.

“Now my curiosity is going at 120 miles an hour. Do you wear these a lot? I mean, who would figure — Nunley the intrepid photographer wearing panties?”

“Mmmm. Touch me some more down there. Panties make it so much better.” Then David ran his hand over her own panties and bent over to touch his tongue to the front of them.

“I’ll bet you like my panties more than me,” she teased.

“It’s kind of like frosting on the cake.”

vvvvv

Afterwards they lay naked and sated, panties lying crumpled on the floor. They held hands absentmindedly as her head lay on his chest. He liked the feel of her long hair against his skin. Finally she spoke softly.

“Don’t you know it’s women who wear panties and men the jockey shorts? Don’t you know that crossing over isn’t permitted?”

“Yeah. That makes it more exciting.”

“I expected to find a kinda regular guy — hair on the chest, horny in the usual ways. But I guess no one’s like regular anymore.” She sighed. “Would you rather be a woman?”

David propped himself up on one elbow. “It would be nice to choose which body I’d be in each day. I’d just like to be whoever I want to be at the moment. That would be great.”

“You make it sound so reasonable.”

It was his turn to sigh. “There are fantasies, then there’s reality. Unfortunately, I’ve got big feet and a not-very-beautiful face.”

“Aww, David, you’re very good-looking. Don’t put yourself down. But are you saying that you dress up completely as a woman? Have you tried to pass as a woman?”

David watched as his penis began to spring into life again. Diane noticed, then a look of discovery swept her face. “Those negatives you didn’t want me to see — it all fits now — that was really you in those pictures!”

David blushed slightly. “Yes, dahling. Me as Natalie. I have a female incarnation I call Natalie.”

“I have to compete with Natalie? Ohmygod. What other parts of you haven’t I seen yet? You’re a real puzzle to me.”

“Oh, well. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand me. Sometimes I just stand back and say ‘How come I was dealt this deck of cards’.”

“I feel like you’ve really trusted me by telling me all of this. It must take guts to tell someone.”

“It’s getting easier. When I was in high school I thought if anyone knew I’d die. I don’t mean die, like the girls say it. I mean I’d run away because I wouldn’t be able to face anyone.”

vvvvv

A week later, he delivered himself to Maria’s office again. She wasted no time launching into her analysis.

“The part of you dressing up as a woman is the child in you. It’s kind of like kids dressing up in their parents’ clothes and magically becoming them for awhile.”

David listened. The more involved they got with abstract circles and arrows on the ever-present drawing board, the more he lost track. He’d stopped asking her to explain things he didn’t understand. Obviously, like a football coach at a chalk talk, she had everything figured out.

“The adult in you puts up with it but vaguely condemns it. Your parent, though, is where the conflict arises. Once you started taking your dressing seriously, your inner parent came down on the child in you.” Maria went on with her circles to show how David’s inner child related with his mother’s inner child and his father’s inner adult.

David was remembering that Gene Gatzo had said Maria was having marital difficulties and was living separately from Mr. Osaki, a businessman. David wondered how she would represent herself on the board.

Sterile. This diagram stuff is totally sterile. What I need to know is whether my dressing is OK or if it’s bad for me. He didn’t want to deal with transvestism on the same level as being afraid of elevators or being shy. It had to be on the level of murder and mayhem — otherwise why had he tried to hide it so much over the years?

When his time was up he said, “Maria, I think I need some time to absorb the things you’ve told me. Some of it seems a little beyond me now. Also, I’ve been feeling more and more down after each session. It’s been kind of hard on me.”

Maria raised her eyebrows. “It’s your decision, but I’ll bet you’re trying to escape your confrontation. You should realize that feeling bad shows you’re coming to terms with yourself — that you’re not glossing over it by masturbating all the time and feeling guilty.”

But his mind was made up and after three private sessions he took himself off the hook with options of renewing later.

vvvvv

Diane came over on Saturday. They had nothing in particular planned. Laura had taken the kids to Golden Gate Park.

David ran his hands up under her sweater and felt her breasts under a skimpy bra. He was always a little surprised by the softness. The seductive bra ads he’d seen as a teenager made breasts look rather firm and pointed, and the water balloon breasts he used were resilient. He pulled up her sweater and looked — the bra was shimmery and stretchy. Diane reached down to touch his erection, saying, “You love it, don’t you? You’d like to be wearing it.”

“I thought about it. Too small.”

“Are you wearing panties?”

He wasn’t, and laughed with embarrassment. “How’d you like to go shopping for some sexy things?”

“Like what?” She smiled, looking conspiratorial.

David reddened. “Get some panties, maybe. Whatever.”

“What a perve.”

vvvvv

When they returned with shopping bags from Macy’s she asked David to put on his new panties first. Shaking slightly, he completely undressed and pulled the drapes shut before solemnly slipping into the semitransparent black lace. He had such an erection that it stuck incongruously out the side.

“It’s not right unless I get my dick inside,” he said half humorously. Finally he contained his bulge. Diane quickly undressed, went to his side with her lean body and began to caress his penis. Her fingers touched wetness through the panties.

“God, I can’t stand it,” he said, thinking he might be in heaven. At the same time he felt disappointed. When he was by himself his fantasies were pure. He could scan his imagination for whatever woman, whatever garment, whatever situation he wanted. Now he was with a flesh-and-blood woman with her own desires and her own imperfections.

He also halfway expected her to disapprove of all this — she ought to chastise and punish him. She put on her new pair of white panties, then provocatively rubbed his wet bulge against her less prominent one and touched her breasts to his chest. They both moaned.

David gathered up his courage and asked in a whisper close to her ear if she’d tie him up and whip him. It had been in the back of his mind all day but he’d delayed broaching it. His lust had taken over, though, and here she was, seemingly coming into his fold, apparently wanted to experience his sexuality. He held her tightly for a long time then stood back and looked into her eyes.

Diane returned the look. “You’re kidding. No, you’re not kidding. Look …”

This was the first time David had seen her embarrassed and at a loss for words.

“David, it’s one thing to play house and dress up and all that, and fuck like rabbits. Ha! But dungeon stuff –”

David flopped down on his bed and lay there. “But you like pain a little bit. You like me to bite your tits. Haven’t you ever played with a whip or anything before?”

“And you’re telling me you have?”

“Just with myself.”

“You’re kidding. You flog yourself?”

“Now, come on. If you don’t want to do it, just say so. I thought it might be fun.”

“Do you ever wonder what my fantasies are? I mean, do I have a life?”

“Sorry. I know I’m always hung up on what I want. Tell me.”

“My fantasies are so different from this material stuff you’re into. Sometime I’ll tell you — I’m not in the mood now. So I get to whip you. What will that do?”

“Arouse me, I suppose.”

“I’ll do it for you, with maybe just a teensie-weensie interest on my part. I mean, it seems like herding cattle with a bullwhip or something.”

vvvvv

She began to lightly whack him across his white buttocks as he stood, hands tied to his closet clothes bar. He felt his erection becoming straighter and higher, now free of his panties, as though his penis was growing into a tree trunk.

“Surprise. I’m enjoying this a little,” she said as she began to whip harder.

He began twisting against the ropes and finally asked her to stop. As she continued without letup he whined about getting hurt, then gave up all resistance and let her have her way.

“I never thought I’d enjoy hurting anyone like that. But it was kind of, well … interesting to make you beg. You’re usually so unemotional …”

When he managed to disentangle himself from her amateur ties and came into the bedroom sheepish and with a still-stinging ass, she had him tie her down. In a mental fog that all of this was vaguely wrong, he tied cord around her thin wrists and spread-eagled her on the bed. He blindfolded her, then put on a bustier along with garter belt, nylons and perfume and told her to imagine he was a woman. As he approached her he noticed that his penis had been erect so long it seemed to be getting soft.

Slowly he straddled her and brought his genitals near her face. Then he drew the head of his penis along her lips. He ordered her to take it in her mouth, and after the expected refusals she lapped it up and engulfed it. Eventually he could wait no longer and entered between her legs.

Maybe it was because he’d masturbated earlier in the day, he wasn’t sure, but he didn’t seem close to coming. Diane flexed her body along with his thrusts, a smile forming on her face. She’s not supposed to be enjoying this! David tried to fantasize her whipping him again. She could be wearing a corset with sharp-pointed bra cups that cut into his chest. She’d coil a long wicked whip around his penis. He became harder for a few seconds before getting soft again. In desperation he switched fantasies and tried to imagine her forcing him to dress as a woman.

“Shit,” he complained as he withdrew. Diane lay without moving, still blindfolded. “Goddamn, if we’d done it at the very first it wouldn’t've been a problem. I went on too long.”

“Poor boy,” cooed Diane.

“I’m going to have to beat off,” said David with tears in his eyes. He lay alongside her, embarrassed, and got himself hard. He went into her once more, angry and got soft again. Diane had stopped moving. Finally he lay down with his head in the crook of her arm and masturbated until he came. He began to touch her clitoris with his finger.

“I think I’ll go home,” she said blankly.

He hadn’t expected her to so completely confirm his expectations. He looked at her lying there, resolute and sure of herself. All animation had left her face.

“Don’t you want to come?”

“Not any more. I’m weirded out.”

“I’m going to leave you tied up. You know what they say about strange men you meet. Never trust strange men.”

“Goddamn it, David, untie me now.” She nearly shouted, working the blindfold off and looking at him fiercely.

“I like you this way — it’s quite a turn-on.”

“I don’t care how you like me, If you don’t untie me I’ll scream my bloody head off and you’ll never see me again. Now untie me.”

David untied her before the neighbors heard. In a huff she dressed quickly and left. He looked down from his window as she drove away.

vvvvv

The next day David was riding the bus to work. He had a psychic hangover — exhilaration and depression were having their way with him. Some of his deepest fantasies — that had only been masturbation fantasies prior to Corky and Diane — were becoming realities. The combination of fantasy and reality was a disconcerting mix. He realized that he was uninterested in looking at women on the bus. Had he lost Diane and the relationship that had started so innocently? If only he hadn’t soiled her.

David was reading a story in the Chronicle about a middle-aged man who kidnapped an eight-year-old schoolgirl, kept her chained in his house like a dog and did God-knows-what before being discovered. Then David chanced to read a notice posted in the bus — “PLAINCLOTHES POLICE RIDE THIS BUS FOR YOUR PROTECTION” — and began to imagine a pair of plainclothes cops trying to arrest and remove him from the bus. At least they would say they were cops. He would insist not only on seeing their badges, but their photo IDs as well. They could charge him with resisting arrest if he acted too uppity, though. David pictured himself being forced into handcuffs and pulled off the bus, KGB-style.

“I don’t think these are cops?” he would yell to the other passengers. “Is anyone going to help me? You, sir, are you just going to sit there? Why can’t you get off your ass and help me?” He figured that maybe if he said just the right thing, eloquently and with heart, someone would jump to his aid. He practiced the various ways he might plead his cause. Then he wondered — would he come to the aid of anyone else in a similar situation? Or would he just take pictures?

Chapter 9

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.”

vvvvv

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.

vvvvv

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.

vvvvv

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.

vvvvv

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.

vvvvv

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.”

vvvvv

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.

Chapter 10

The following Saturday David was in the offices of The Real Times with a camera slung over his shoulder. Don Hill and the crew were still there, but David quickly learned that the newspaper had been sold. “I’m hanging on a thread,” Don confessed, though he seemed relieved that the suspense was over. David asked about the new owners. The slight editor chuckled in the conspiratorial way that underground newspaper people developed. “It’s a consortium of investors incorporated in the Bahamas. Kind of shadowy. Our esteemed owner must’ve made enough money to keep him happy in his old age.”

David remembered the legends of how the former owner had gone from selling photocopied Real Times on streetcorners to creating a full-blown weekly newspaper.

“Here, have some cheap wine,” said Don. David had seen many half-finished plastic cups around the office and the paste-up crew looked hung over. The newspaper, already a pale version of what it had been at its zenith in the late sixties, would forever change.

David stayed on to commiserate with Don. He realized that the switch would alienate him, David, from the paper. The new editor would likely be a guy wearing phony beads and white shoes, carrying computer printouts. For the memory, he snapped a quick shot of Don at his roll-top desk. Then the two of them hugged briefly, both a little embarrassed. David gulped the last of his wine and made for the door, grabbing a copy of the latest Times on the way out. The cover displayed a photo taken by none other than Diane of a nude woman meditating on a beach. A lover of hers? David wondered if she would try to get herself on the new staff.

 

vvvvv

When he got off the bus and walked the two blocks home, he picked up the day’s mail and found a letter from his parents. They hadn’t written for several months. Inside his apartment, he dreaded opening it. At least it contained his mother’s gentle handwriting –

 

Dear David,

Your father doesn’t know I’m writing this. He wouldn’t like it. Still, I want to write so you don’t think we’ve forgotten you.

He is still angry about what you told us. I don’t know if he’ll get over it. He’s always been uneasy about homosexuality, so that’s where it stands. You’re his son so it’s hard for him to accept. Sometimes he says that you’re not his son any more.

I want to tell you that mostly he doesn’t understand you. I don’t either. But I’m not writing to tell you to change. I just want to tell you that I love you and always will. Please allow your father some time. You can write if you wish — I won’t show the letter to your father if you don’t want me to.

Love, Mom

 

The last few lines were squished together on the bottom of the page, as was her custom. David had always read his mother’s letters, for it was usually she who wrote, with trepidation. They were invariably serious, full of the small misfortunes of her group of friends. When he read the letters it was as though he was sitting next to her at the family’s old kitchen table. She usually understated things — the mention of a breeze might indicate a hurricane. The few times his father wrote, the language was spartan and terse, without the shadings of his mother. The old man’s handwriting resembled bent wires while his mother’s was soft and delicate.

This letter complicated things. Now he was expected to reestablish contact again, if only with his mother. She didn’t want to lose him. He supposed that there was something about him having been a baby inside her. Even so, David didn’t feel an affiliation. He didn’t think he needed her or them. He had coolly thought that if they died he wouldn’t attend their funeral. They had nothing in common except the thin thread of tradition. They were getting old. Maybe he’d get around to writing in a month or so. He’d show then he could dish it out as well as his old man could.

 

vvvvv

David enlarged one of the photos he’d taken at the Civic Center demonstration — a nonviolent one — and took it to the office to mount on his cubicle wall. Vince Grasso noticed the new picture. He wondered what it meant. David Nunley, employee, was always trying to be different in an obvious, raw way. Vince wondered how a regular clerk could have such pretensions of being a photographer. If David was that good, why wasn’t he earning his living at it? David was always trying to show off, always thought he was special. He’d go off to eat by himself or with the quirky Gene Gatzo. Finally there were David’s offbeat clothes, some of which Vince heard were from secondhand stores.

Vince had never mentioned it to David but once, while looking for a lost file, he had found a little shopping bag in David’s desk. It contained three pairs of panties, a bra and several bottles of makeup. The way he pictured it, the panties and bra might be for a girlfriend, but no guy would buy a woman makeup. Vince had only mentioned it to his wife. They had laughed about the possibility of the stubborn David being gay or a closet drag queen.

David certainly did get rebellious at times. Sometimes Vince could see the anger in his clerk’s eyes. In the end, though, David usually went along with the program. His work was better than average — if only he didn’t call in sick so much. Vince’s eyes went back to David’s photo. Below it David was working on file entries.

 

 vvvvv

Diane and Laura welcomed David with knowing smiles as they let him in their old front door. It was a weekday evening and they were putting their children to bed.

“What’ve you got?” asked Diane. David was carrying a blue nylon athletic bag. “Some goodies,” he replied with a furtive smile.

On the way over, and now in the apartment, he felt cold, to the point where he left his jacket on even in the house.

After some wine and pot, Laura and Diane escorted him back to Diane’s bedroom. “It’s Rocky Horror Show time,” said Diane, opening his bag. “Look at this. You’ve outdone yourself, David.” She pulled out a long black boned corset.

At the same time, David pulled down his trousers to show them the stretch-lace panties he was wearing, complete with half an erection.

David proceeded to dress up, wearing the corset and a dress of Diane’s. They put a little makeup on him and he pulled on a long wig he’d brought. This was always what he’d wanted — so close to his fantasy of being captured by women and turned into one — but he was developing a major headache and queasy stomach.

The three of them lay on Diane’s bed. Diane was reaching under his dress while Laura, like a basking cat, was watching. He pulled away.

“What’s the matter?” asked Diane.

“I’m just not into it.”

“Of course you’re into it, buster,” she kidded. “Don’t act like a vestal virgin.”

“I’m sorry. I just don’t feel like it. I don’t feel that well.”

“It must be your time of the month, Natalie.”

“Don’t get all catty with me, Diane. I could be getting sick. Besides, I probably wouldn’t come, anyway, like last time. I’d just be frustrated while you two get off on each other.”

“So that’s it. Plain simple old jealousy,” said Diane.

“I’m sorry. I’m not into it any more.”

“I’m not into it any more,” mimicked Diane. Laura reached over and touched his forehead. “I think he’d got a temperature.”

He dizzily put his accouterments in his bag and went to the bathroom to wipe off his makeup. Diane came in and looked concerned.

“I’m sorry I teased you, David. Maybe it won’t work out with us — you and Laura and me. Besides, you always seem like you only half enjoy dressing. Like, you’re guilty about it.”

David mumbled an incomprehensible answer. He was sweating profusely.

Diane drove him home. Without Laura, she wasn’t so bad. On the way she mentioned a transvestite group she had met at the Real Times office. She was thinking of doing a photo story about them.

He took an aspirin, then allowed his body to sink into bed. As he floated and slowly rotated in space before falling asleep, he wondered if getting sick was a payback for being degenerate.

 

 vvvvv

“David.” Diane was calling, three days later. “How are you?”

“I’m in bed sick. Catching up on reading.”

“Now we know why you were so out of sorts. Say, I’ve got to tell you about the transvestite meeting I went to, the one I covered for the Times.”

“Oh yeah, you said you were doing that.”

“You don’t sound very interested.”

“I suppose I should be. Well, what was it like?”

“”Hmmm. I wonder if I should even tell you.”

“Stop teasing.”

“OK then. It was really something. This was in Millbrae. These guys are really into it. It was like a Tupperware party or something. You would’ve liked it. They were nice people — had a sense of humor. Some of them even looked sharp.”

“Were there any real women there?”

“A few wives and girlfriends.”

“Hmmm.”

“I got in good with this one guy there, which wasn’t easy because a lot of the transvestites were afraid of getting their photos or names in the paper.” She went on to tell about a Korean-American electrical engineer who lived in San Francisco. “He said you should come to a meeting. He’d like to meet you.”