• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 03

Between Acts

The extras always hung out in the alley that ran past the stage door to the street. That’s where I used to see her, the temptress of my imagination. She played those other women—the gypsy so-called, the Indian princess, the Ojibwe maiden.

I was young. I didn’t want to live in this boy’s body, to move this way. I played dress-up in my mother’s bedroom and changed my mind before I ever dared to change my clothes, my hair, my breasts, my cock and buttocks.

I didn’t loathe myself. I just felt myself differently. The smooth curve of my young hip made up for the buzz cut that stifled imagination. Still, I would wrap my head in towels like a woman just showered who kept her soaking glory under wraps. I would wear my mother’s slip over a sock-filled bra and steal my grandmother’s old but elegant cigarette holder and vamp across the master bedroom. Before the floor-length mirror. Absurd but beautiful.

At night I would sneak downtown to see the women at the stage door—shaking their hair and wigs, hitching up their elaborate costumes, smoking their anachronistic cigarettes. It was an old repertory for the classics. So the dresses—Oh, my! I still get chills thinking about how clothes remake us, how for a time they remade me, transformed my very sight and self.

And that unforgettable night. She turned her tired eyes to me, cigarette between two lush lips, and she let me know. Without words. Without touch. Just by standing there, facing me. That change was possible but exhausting.

And here I am. Alone. Backstage. My eyelids heavy. A cigarette between my lips. The very woman of my dreams.