Monday, September 5, 2016

Like The Pine Trees Lining The Winding Road

Catching up a bit here.
The name change became official since the last time I posted here.
At some point, after the tears dried the day I got word, I sat down and the words flowed out, a goodbye letter to "him."

"Steve" is not my real deadname, of course. I hope you'll allow that bit of poetic license.

Dear Steve --

As cliché as it is to say, in this case, it’s true. It’s not you. It’s me.
The time has come at last. The official word is in and you are gone. Boom. Done.
The finality of it is abrupt, but it’s been a long time coming. You knew it. You prayed for it.
Way back when, you totally prayed for this outcome. Every night.
Oh sure, there were those times later on where you prayed for this not to happen, but the universe knew that deep down, no matter how much you protested, your heart really wasn’t in those.

I remember you way back then, Steve.
You were a precocious little twerp, weren’t you?  Your dad said you were reading the newspaper at two. That time at four when your mom and dad were worried/ticked off when you disappeared when you went to the local swimming pool.
You didn’t know what the big deal was. You knew you weren’t lost. You knew exactly where you were going. Why’s everybody so upset?

But you never quite fit in, did you? The playground words – “sissy”, “queer”, “fag”…intended as slurs and received as such, sure. But the truth was that you weren’t “one of them”, even then.
Clueless kid that you were, you just internalized that hate and just felt out of place.
Then you started to realize, Steve.  It couldn’t really be possible, could it? That name they gave you wasn’t really yours. That life you were in wasn’t yours, but that of some unwilling reality show lead unaware they were in a reality show of others’ choosing, years before reality shows existed.
That’s when it happened. At night, while your mom was working the graveyard shift, the better to not hear you, you started to pray. “Please God, let me wake up a girl.”
You started to explore. In another time, with another cast, you might have given me a chance to escape sooner.

But, no, you got the scumbag stepfather out of central casting – a younger man to help mom get her groove back, only to turn out to be a rageoholic control freak who left a damaged wife and stepdaughter in his wake.
That’s when your stubbornness kicked in, right, Steve? You felt things would be safer for you, than me, that people would take it out on you if they knew I existed.
Some people are cut out to be bodyguards. Other people can do it, but it takes a lot out of them. It did with you.
Part of the bodyguard act was to keep up that veneer. Steve was the “happy, uber-guy who liked sports.” You knew your stuff when it came to sports and music.
You had your memories anyway – the bad Peter Lorre impression you did in “Arsenic and Old Lace” senior year (and the accidental table break that turned into a proto-Chris Farley gag in each performance), the games where you were on the edge of your seat for.

Music and sports indeed were there a lot. You got to cover a lot of cool stuff, even if it was the small town variety – the best football game you ever covered, when the local team beat its archrival 31-30 on a 40-yard field goal that cleared the upright by a foot on the last play of the quarterfinals on the way of the state playoffs.
But pretending to be an uber-guy meant stepping into awkward territory, eh, Steve? You remember that bowl trip to Tampa? The one where you went up in the Spaceship, paying $200 for a private lapdance, not because you really wanted one, but because you knew it would be a free pass from uber-guy crap for the rest of the trip. Never mind that you really wished you had a dancer’s curves.
That small town you lived in, Steve, it wasn’t without its charms. But you knew it was a much better, safer place for you than it was for me. You never admitted it, but it played a big part in why you stayed there, why your name didn’t wind up on better bylines.
It’s a lot easier to be isolated when, if you don’t live at the edge of nowhere, you can see it from your house.

Sure, you had a few friends, enough to prop up the illusion that you were fooling people. But they knew. You made the fact that you had walls up pretty fucking obvious.
The gay thing. That was a convenient distraction, wasn’t it? You could tell yourself that you weren’t gay. Over and over and over again. Never mind that it wasn’t really the issue or that you were right, just not in the way you thought.
It got exhausting, right, Steve?
Imagine how I felt! Think about it. You at least had the option of going out, of interacting with people. Nobody knew I existed. Even Mom..and moms always know. She probably thought I was Gay Steve. She even asked you once, and you said, “No! No!”, never letting her know I existed. I hate that you were such a coward then, even if I understand why.

But, things broke eventually. I don’t even know why it happened when it did, but on some subconscious level, I knew I had to make a move before something bad happened.
You had that dead-in-the-eyes look common to so many bodyguards whose time is about out, a look that too often signals that the bodyguard and the person they’re protecting are about to disappear.
You were a master at distracting yourself, Steve, but this time, you were a little too good, because you admitted you were “gay.” That was enough, because my emergence was inevitable at that point.
It was less than a year. I was long overdue to get out. You think the rooms on the Worst Room Tumblr were bad, try applying feng shui principles to a closet for decades.

By the time I first announced my presence, to a woman who said, “I know, it ain’t my first rodeo”, you really didn’t have much fight left, Steve.
Oh, sure, you tried to say that I might only be around part of the time. But how long did that last? Seriously, two months, if that.

That began a weird period where people in the physical world pretty much only knew you, but I started to take over the day-to-day operations of the company, so to speak.
It’s one thing to be Ronald McDonald, a clown-suited guy everybody knows is just a mascot. It’s another to be a guy in a clown suit and only you know that it’s a clown suit. I know it took a toll, enough that you almost took us both with you. Believe me, I’ve thanked people who kept us from jumping off that edge into the too-comforting abyss more than once.

Then came 2012, the year I took over in the front of the house.  I have to give you credit, Steve. You were smart in who you told, knowing for the most part who would stick around for me and who wouldn’t.
Oh, yeah. The latter. The people who think the 2012 change was some fucking overnight whim. But what do asshats like that know? They weren’t there on the playgrounds, in those quiet bedrooms to hear the prayers of a 10-year-old girl speaking timidly through the voice of a boy. They didn’t care enough to notice that you were dead in the eyes, on the way to being dead.

I know what you mean, Steve, about wishing that people who weren’t like me could feel what it was like to be that way for 72 hours, to know that this isn’t an abomination, a perversion or even what those condescending jerks call a “lifestyle choice.”
I moved from that small town to New York and found so many reasons to call it home, from the food and the shows, to more importantly, a charming, sweet, funny lovely woman named Deb. You were so busy thinking about guys, Steve, that it never crossed your mind that I liked both. You poor distracted man.

Most importantly, New York City is the place where I can just be, a place that not only fits my general vibe, but is a place where nobody knew you. No offense, Steve, but you were kind of a sad, miserable bastard for a while there.

Now, here we are. It’s a nice summer night. I have Veruca Salt blaring in my ears and I’m contemplating what it all finally means now that the official word is in that you’re gone.
I hope you don’t mind that my first reaction was to start sobbing tears of relief. I’m really glad you’re gone. You have no idea. Seriously. None.

But, it’s not exactly good riddance, either. You were part of my life for a long time. Too long, yes, but a crucial part of my life, even when you at some point switched from bodyguard to captor. But I know I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for you, either. That’s not the Stockholm Syndrome talking, because you were the bodyguard first.
I know there might be one or two others who miss you a bit, maybe because a bit of me seeped into you and that’s what people responded to. I don’t know.
But, hey, there will always be memories and, if they’re honest, they’ll see that I am far, far happier than you could have ever been.

I’m not sorry you’re gone for good, Steve, but I am sorry for what you had to go through. It’s hard enough for a real child to deal with physical and mental abuse. It’s hard enough for a real adult to deal with the confusion and pain, you were doing it as a fictional character. I’ve seen the photos. I know how much it hurt.

You were my twin, Steve, but you’ve done your job. You’ve punched your last clock. Enjoy retirement, being missing and presumed happy as you dissolve into the mist for good.
Enjoy that swift, sweet fade into oblivion, Steve. It’s a long overdue reward for a job well done.
As for me, I’ll enjoy things plenty for the both of us and, when I speak of you, I’ll try to speak sympathetically.

Here’s your goodbye hug in the mist, my twin brother, my constraining and tattered costume, my frenemy, my passionate protector, my sharpshooter atop the guard tower with the sniper rifle pointed in my direction if I contemplated escape.
So long and farewell, my darling twin. Close your eyes and fade away.
I can take it from here.
I’m good.
I wasn’t you. I’m me.

Your sister,

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