John and Silke
In the days leading up to the anticipated visit of Silke's mother, a vague approximation of normality began to assert itself. Silke never picked up the scissors again. She fell asleep late, woke up with a tear-streaked face, and came to class tired. She left her makeup supply untouched, tied her hair back in a ponytail, and did her laundry three times in the space of one week, all in the effort to avoid wearing anything insufficiently androgynous. Maybe she didn't have it in her to "be a man", as she had demanded of herself that night, but she had even less interest in "being a woman", no matter what this new body indicated. Her efforts did not go unnoticed.
"That's a new look for you," Ariana had ventured Tuesday morning, as Silke sat down to her cup of coffee in the worn jeans and black t-shirt she'd found in a box in the back of her closet.
A mumbled "Huh? Yeah", was all Silke, who was in a fog after getting three hours of sleep, could think to say.
Before Silke could direct her gaze firmly into the coffee mug, Ariana looked directly into her eyes. Silke recognised the mixture of concern and exasperation that had characterised Ariana's eyes for the past several days.
"That's all you're going to say?"
"What else should I say, then?"
"Silke, come on here. You've worn that same t-shirt twice in the past three days, even though I distinctly remember you saying how much you hated it three months ago when we were cleaning out our closets. I've had to pick up your slack around the house. You don't sleep, you hardly talk, and you've cried yourself to sleep every night."
Silke opened her mouth to deny this last remark, but Ariana continued, "The walls here are thin. You don't think I can hear you?"
"I'm fine," Silke mumbled to her coffee cup.
"I'm up here," replied Ariana, now audibly annoyed, "and you can really save the 'I'm fine' crap. I'm your friend, and I'm trying to be there for you, whatever's going on, but you have to give me a clue. You know you can tell me, don't you? Now what happened that has you so depressed?"
"I'd rather not…it's really nothing."
"Promise me you'll at least talk to someone."
"I will," she promised, "and thank you."
That was the end of it. While she was relieved that Ariana had stopped pressing her for details, she couldn't get the look in Ariana's eyes out of her head. At the end of their conversation, Ariana hadn't just looked concerned or annoyed, she also looked hurt. That was a look she had never been able to stand seeing in Ariana's eyes.
"I had the most fucked up dream the other night," Silke told Kevin the next day.
"What was it?" Kevin asked, putting down his beer and turning away from the TV. They were at Kevin's, which was becoming synonymous with "sanctuary" for Silke. It was awkward as hell having John's best friend suddenly morph into a member of the opposite sex, but at least with Kevin, Silke could talk openly.
"Everything was normal. You and I were doing what we always do, hanging out at the park, kicking the soccer ball, drinking, all the usual shit. It was surreal."
"That does sound surreal," Kevin laughed, his smile vanishing as he realised that Silke was staring daggers at him.
"It was awful. It felt so real. Like this whole ordeal was just a dream and I was finally snapping out of it. I've never hated waking up more in my life." As she felt the tears welling up yet again, Silke unconsciously leaned in Kevin's direction. The tears finally came when she told him all about the scissors, and about her conversation with Ariana the day before, not noticing that she was edging closer.
Kevin was at a loss. "Jesus," was all that he could think of to say.
"And now I feel awful for shutting out Ariana, but what the hell am I supposed to tell her? I can't tell her this. She won't believe it. The only reason you believe it is because you somehow remember John. I'm glad I can at least talk to you," she finished, as she felt Kevin's arm lying softly about her shoulders. She considered resisting, but then pulled his arm tighter around her, and sobbed into the crook of his elbow until she had no more tears.
Silke brightened suddenly, and looked up at Kevin, "Hey, I just had an idea."
"We could just do it," she replied, excitedly.
"The stuff from my dream! We could make that a regular Friday night thing, just like it was for us when I was John! That would at least be something. We could kick the soccer ball around, get drinks, hang out…"
"Silke," Kevin smiled, "I don't think I even own a soccer ball anymore. I haven't touched one since high school. And I'm certain that you haven't played soccer in your life. And I hang out with the guys on Fridays…"
"That's even better!" Silke replied, becoming ecstatic, "I'd love to hang out with the guys!"
"Um, Silke," Kevin began, not knowing how to say it, "the operative word is 'with the guys'. I don't know if that would work."
"Goddammit!" was Silke's reply, and it was the last word spoken between them that evening. She ran out to her car, determined that Kevin would not see her tears this time.
That had been two days ago. Today was Friday, and Silke's mother was coming tomorrow afternoon. Silke was in unusually good spirits, working with Ariana to get the house ready for the visit. They'd already dusted, vacuumed the entire house, and were now giving the kitchen a thorough tidying.
"So," said Ariana as she continued moving the contents of the counter to the kitchen table, "have you had any ideas about dinner tomorrow?"
Silke, who was emptying the last of the dishes from the dishwasher, had been dreading this question. "Not really. How about you?"
"Do you feel up to cooking tomorrow?"
"I don't really know," Silke replied. She had been surprised at how much she enjoyed helping Ariana make dinner a few nights before, but the idea of actually coming up with an idea for dinner and being in charge of making it was a bit too much.
"Well, there's always Il Forno."
Il Forno. Silke remembered it well. John and Ariana had gone there for Ariana's birthday last year. It was an old Italian place in the middle of town with a twenty-page wine list and three-digit bills for a dinner for two. The food was excellent, and someone else would be cooking it.
"That sounds like a great idea," Silke replied after a moment's thought. I'll make the reservations in a minute. " She smiled broadly as she put the last wine glass into the cupboard, not even hearing what Ariana had just said.
"Any idea what you're going to wear?"
Oh shit, Silke thought, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly in hopes that Ariana wouldn't notice her revulsion at the implications of that question. There was no way she was getting into Il Forno wearing ratty jeans and a black t-shirt. John, Silke remembered, had worn a suit and tie, as had pretty much every man in the place. Silke did not remember seeing any ties in her closet. Adding to her generalised disgust was the realisation that she had no real idea how to pick out what clothes she did have.
"I'll have to think about it. Maybe we could figure it out together?"
"That sounds good to me. Let's finish the kitchen, you make the reservation, and we'll go dig up our closets after that."
Copyright 2006-2007, Élise R. Hendrick, All rights reserved.