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The words seemed to come out of his mouth in slow motion. The scene didn't seem real. It was more like the set of a movie, with me playing a character. I tried to discount the significance of the news, but the CT images wouldn't let me.
“This entire area here, where the stomach connects to the intestines” — he pointed to the duodenum, pancreas, associated ducts, and the surrounding lymph nodes — “is simply indistinguishable from the surrounding tissue.” The mass extended up to roughly 75 percent of my liver — about fifteen tumors of all sizes. The tumors in the left lobe of the liver were the size of golf balls, and those in the right lobe were the size of dimes and nickels.
This explanation took only a minute or two. When he glanced over at Kristin, he stopped speaking, and the look on his face told me why. The memory of the look on Kristin's face still grips me by the throat and overwhelms me every time I think of it.
Her entire manner was that of a completely terrified ten-year-old girl. She was at the edge of her seat, sitting up straight, staring wide-eyed as tears streamed down her face. “Our boys aren’t going to have a dad?” He did not answer. She turned to me, looked deep into my eyes and squeaked out in the same voice, “We were supposed to grow old together.”
I tightly gripped her hand and just kept repeating in a determined voice that everything would be all right. What the hell did I know.
Our encounters with these ancient sites were like stones dropped into the still waters of a deep pond. The ripples continue to well across our personal and creative lives, reawakening and informing ourselves and our artistic work. The two of us began this journey as visitors to the sites but ended by feeling we had come home.
For me, the ripples extend far beyond our personal journey. I believe humanity's intimate connection to Earth offers profound knowledge and imagery not just for artists but for everyone. Concepts of Deep Time, of Earth's story within our own bodies, of ancient places that recognize and welcome us — these underscore the mystery of our origins. Such knowledge, with its comfort and hope, is available for the listening.
The final blessing of our project came after our last trip, when we held a photo exhibit in Vevey, Switzerland. At the exhibit opening, we saw for the first time the transforming power of these images on other people. Yet we still carried lingering doubts about our authenticity as artists. Near the end of the evening, an older woman came up to us and asked if we were geologists.
“No,” we said, “although we've always had a love of stones.”
“Are you professional photographers, then?”
“Not exactly. For the most part, we let the places decide where and when to take the picture.”
Her eyes lit up in sudden understanding; she leaned forward as if speaking directly to our doubts. “Ah! Then you are artists!”
You draw close to nature; your vision opens, and you begin to learn.
—David Mowaljarlai, Australian Aboriginal elder
The Healing of an Adoptee -- Chapter 13 by Ellen Miller
I started a search for my birth parents and medical history back in 1986.
I was married, and I wanted to have a baby. The doctor felt I needed my medical history since my husband and I were born in the same town. He wanted to be sure there was no concern of us being related.
I started out very naïve, thinking I was just going to go about and start asking questions among the adoptive parents, but it was very closed, very secretive.
…The wounding started when the lies and the roadblocks began. People didn't want to tell me the truth—they didn't want to tell me who my birthfather was. My birthmother was deceased, and this woman, Sarah, did not want to tell me how she died. On either side of my family, nobody really wanted to talk to me.
…I found out later I was stolen… .
The Hospice Cat Walks into Room 16B -- Poem By Ellen La Fleche
My thin spine trembles like a suspension bridge.
I slink around the I.V. stand,
chin-rubbing the pole to mark my territory.
The fool humans think
I can smell the sour
exhalation of dying cells.
What I smell is memory:
Plum pits softening on the compost
heap like hearts in love. Coffee
weeping bitter droplets into a Pyrex pot.
A maple-carved flute releasing its sap
on an old woman’s lips.
My green eyes absorb the green
numbers on the bleeping
monitor, and for a moment the screen goes blank:
no heartbeat, no blood pressure, no breath.
I smell coyote. A pack of them,
fanging the Navajo moon,
I squeeze through the bed rails,
nestle against Julia’s exhausted
ribcage. My heartbeat is steady as Zen.
I comfort Julia with my silk-cool fur, purring.
Her lover slaps me off the bed.
She doesn't open her eyes
but Julia pats the mattress
inviting me back.
The other evening, as I was gazing at those piles of CDs on my dining room floor, an idea hit me. The next day, I obtained a vendor's license to sell merchandise on the streets of New York. Two days later, on a beautiful Sunday morning at 11 a.m., with an old card table that I had in my apartment when my wife and I used to play bridge with our friends, I was in business on 77th and Broadway. I set myself next to Yoshi, the fruit vendor, with my card table, 42 various CDs of old-time radio shows, and a chair from my kitchen table, and I was ready for customers. No price signs on any of the CDs as I knew everyone would try to get a lower price no matter what I asked. I wanted people to stop, ask questions, talk about their favorite radio shows and I knew that most of the purchasers would be over the age of 50.
By five o' clock I had bought some cherries, peaches, and grapes from Yoshi and had only three CDs left, all Our Miss Brooks, the show that featured Eve Arden.
A well-dressed gentleman stopped by and asked where he might get a nice meal in the area. I told him of Fine and Schapiro, an old-time New York deli just east of Broadway on 72nd Street, five short blocks from where we were. He thanked me, but not before he told me this story.
He was staying at a four-star hotel a few blocks north of where we were and had just gone into the dining room a short time ago for dinner. A male host by the name of Henrie had approached him, and Art, my storyteller, told Henrie that he would like a table for one. “Sorry,” replied Henrie, “we are full.” Art looked around the dining room and saw that there were more tables unoccupied than occupied. He questioned Henrie about that, and was told that the empty tables were for guests who had reservations and would soon show up.
Art left the dining area, went to the entrance of the hotel, and using his cellphone called the hotel dining room requesting a dinner reservation. Henrie, the guy at the other end, asked Art how long it would be before he could actually show up for dinner. Then Henrie stated that there was immediate seating. So Art rushed back to the dining room, told Henrie his name, that he had a reservation, and that he had been told there was immediate seating.
“That is true,” Henrie informed Art, “but we will only seat two at a table and a single is not allowed, even with a reservation.”
“You didn't tell me that when I made this reservation five minutes ago.”
“Sorry, sir, please step aside for this gentleman.”
“Good evening, sir, may I help you?”
“Yes, I would like a table for one.”
Art continued telling me his story, explaining that the same scenario played out with the second diner as with Art. No single diners.
So Art caught up to the second diner as he headed for the hotel entrance and quickly told him that he, Art, had also just been turned away because singles weren't served. Art suggested that the two of them now approach Henrie to get a table for dinner. Frank, the other diner, agreed and they walked up to Henrie with big smiles.
Art spoke up. “A table for two please, near the window if possible.”
“Sorry, sirs, I can’t seat you two because you have no reservations.”
And that's why Art was headed to Fine and Schapiro's Deli.
I enter Northtown Deli hoping to slip into the ladies' room to dry off my perspiration and touch up my makeup before Betsy sees me. But this is not a day for lucky breaks. Or gentle introductions. She spots me immediately and I see her, too. She's in the back booth — very considerate of her — and even from there, I'm easy to see. I'm taller than most of the customers, even the men.
Betsy is a slim, graceful woman of thirty-six. She wears a conservative, understated business suit over a white blouse, a modern-art brooch on one lapel. Fine gold chains fall from her neck. Dangling gold earrings move lightly from her lobes. She wears her hair in a mid-length bob. It's symmetrical and perfectly graduated. It has been blown-dry with a round brush for fullness.
She gets more beautiful with maturity, and she was always a looker. She has great, wide eyes with Mediterranean darkness and an almost erotic almond shape. She has full lips with natural color, so perfect it's a sin to put lip gloss on them. She isn't wearing any today, perhaps because she knows I like her better without. Her bone structure is the stuff of photographic models – high cheek bones, slight hollows just beneath them, and a chin that manages to be both strong and petite at the same time.
Her overall appearance speaks of openness and humanity while also communicating that she is a no-nonsense woman of the world. Usually. Not right now, though. Right now, she is gaping at what used to be her husband. She is clearly stunned at the sight of me and the harder she tries not to be, the worse it gets. Her mouth is open, her eyes are rolling up as she stares at me getting ever closer to her.
I feel like a bad joke. Even though I don't want to, I am seeing me through her eyes. The man she once made love to is in heels, an above-the-knee black dress, carrying a purse. My hair is bouncing up and down with each step and my breasts are jiggling. Several heads turn as I walk the aisle to her booth. I pause for a fleeting moment to see if she will stand to exchange hugs. She doesn't. I slide into the booth opposite her as gracefully as I can. She stares in silence for another several seconds. I use the moment to try to get my heartbeat under control.
Our waiter appears. “Can I get you something to drink?” he asks. He almost addresses me as “sir”, which would have been just perfect. I order water with a slice of lemon. I try to sound feminine but it's hopeless.
Betsy is still staring at me.
“Bob,” she says finally, “What is going on?”
“I'm transsexual. I'm becoming a woman. I go by ‘Bobbi’ now.” I try to say it almost automatically, as I have in breaking the news to friends and acquaintances. But this is much harder. The pain on Betsy's face brings tears to my eyes.
Betsy is speechless. Her mouth is still open, her lips trying to form a word.
“I'm a transsexual, Betsy,” I say finally. I can anticipate her initial questions. “I always have been. It just took a lot of years to understand it. When I was five I tried to wear my sister's dresses. I thought they were beautiful and they felt wonderful. My parents screamed at me for it. Told me that wasn't how a boy should play. My father never looked at me the same again. So I didn't do it again until after you and I split up and I came out. As gay.” I'm rambling now, trying to fill the dead air space as she remains transfixed by the spectacle that I am. “Oh, I had pangs now and then, but I buried them. Never told anyone. Not you, not my parents, not my sister, not my best friend, not even my first boy friend.”
I keep babbling, unable to stop. I give her the whole sorry story in obituary-like brevity. Got to know some trans people. Tried it out. Knew it was me from the get-go. Thought I was a crossdresser, but as time went on I never wanted to cross back to male. “I'm a transsexual,” I say, one more time. My lips quiver a little when I say it.
I wait for her to say something, but she can't. I can't stand the silence. I have to fill it. “I'm very sorry this came as such a shock,” I say, my voice husky and cracking. I really want to cry. “I left you a voice mail message this morning to give you a heads up and give you a chance to back out on this, but I guess you didn't get it.”