Itossed and turned every night, unable to sleep straight through. I was like the princess and the pea. A pellet of disquiet kept unsettling me. Sometimes I awoke with the feeling that a spotlight had been trained on me while I slept. It was as if my ether body had been conversing with angels, somewhere up near the ceiling. When I opened my eyes they fled. But I could hear the traces of the communication, the fading echoes of the crystal bell. Some essential information was rising from the depths of my being. This information was on the tip of my tongue and yet never surfaced. One thing was certain: it was all connected with the Object somehow. I lay awake thinking about her, wondering how she was, and pining, grieving.
I thought of Detroit, too, of its vacant lots of pale Osiris grass springing up between the condemned houses and those not yet condemned, and of the river with its iron runoff, the dead carp floating on the surface, white bellies flaking. I thought of fishermen standing on the concrete freighter docks with their bait buckets and tallboys, the baseball game on the radio. It’s often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, “Stay there. Don’t move.” My time at the Clinic did that to me. I feel a direct line extending from that girl with her knees steepled beneath the hotel blankets to this person writing now in an Aeron chair. Hers was the duty to live out a mythical life in the actual world, mine to tell about it now. I didn’t have the resources at fourteen, didn’t know enough, hadn’t been to the Anatolian mountain the Greeks call Olympus and the Turks Uludag, just like the soft drink. I hadn’t gotten old enough yet to realize that living sends a person not into the future but back into the past, to childhood and before birth, finally, to commune with the dead. You get older, you puff on the stairs, you enter the body of your father. From there it’s only a quick jump to your grandparents, and then before you know it you’re time-traveling. In this life we grow backwards. It’s always the gray-haired tourists on Italian buses who can tell you something about the Etruscans.
In the end, it took Luce two weeks to make his determination about me. He scheduled an appointment with my parents for the following Monday.
Milton had been jetting around during the two weeks, checking on his Hercules franchises, but on the Friday preceding the appointment he flew back to New York. We spent the weekend spiritlessly sightseeing, assailed by unspoken anxieties. On Monday morning my parents dropped me off at the New York Public Library while they went to see Dr. Luce.
My father had dressed that morning with special care. Despite an outward show of tranquillity, Milton was beset by an unaccustomed feeling of dread, and so armored himself in his most commanding clothes: over his plump body, a charcoal pinstripe suit; around his bullfrog neck, a Countess Mara necktie; and in the buttonholes of his shirtsleeves, his “lucky” Greek Drama cuff links. Like our Acropolis nightlight, the cuff links had come from Jackie Halas’s souvenir shop in Greektown. Milton wore them whenever he met with bank loan officers or auditors from the IRS. That Monday morning, however, he had trouble putting the cuff links in; his hands were not steady enough. In exasperation he asked Tessie to do it. “What’s the matter?” she asked tenderly. But Milton snapped, “Just put the cuff links in, will you?” He held out his arms, looking away, embarrassed by his body’s weakness.
Silently Tessie inserted the links, tragedy in one sleeve, comedy in the other. As we came out of the hotel that morning they glittered in the early morning sun, and under the influence of those two-sided accessories, what happened next took on contrasting tones. There was tragedy, certainly, in Milton’s expression as they left me off at the library. During Milton’s time away, his image of me had reverted to the girl I’d been a year earlier. Now he faced the real me again. He saw my ungainly movements as I climbed the library steps, the broadness of my shoulders inside my Papagallo coat. Watching from the cab, Milton came face-to-face with the essence of tragedy, which is something determined before you’re born, something you can’t escape or do anything about, no matter how hard you try. And Tessie, so used to feeling the world through her husband, saw that my problem was getting worse, was accelerating. Their hearts were wrung with anguish, the anguish of having children, a vulnerability as astonishing as the capacity for love that parenthood brings, in a cuff link set all its own . . .
. . . But now the cab was driving away, Milton was wiping his brow with his handkerchief; and the grinning face in his right sleeve came into view, for there was a comic aspect to events that day, too. There was comedy in the way Milton, while still worrying about me, kept one eye on the rocketing taxi meter. At the Clinic, there was comedy in the way Tessie, idly picking up a waiting-room magazine, found herself reading about the juvenile sexual rehearsal play of rhesus monkeys. There was even a brand of harsh satire in my parents’ quest itself, because it typified the American belief that everything can be solved by doctors. All this comedy, however, is retrospective. As Milton and Tessie prepared to see Dr. Luce, a hot foam was rising in their stomachs. Milton was thinking back to his early navy days, to his time in the landing craft. This was just like that. Any minute the door was going to drop away and they would have to plunge into the churning night surf . . .
In his office Luce got straight to the point. “Let me review the facts of your daughter’s case,” he said. Tessie noted the change at once. Daughter. He had said “daughter.”
The sexologist was looking reassuringly medical that morning. Over his cashmere turtleneck he wore an actual white coat. In his hand he held a sketchpad. His ballpoint pen bore the name of a pharmaceutical company. The blinds were drawn, the light low. The couples in the Mughal miniatures had modestly covered themselves in shadow. Sitting in his designer chair, with tomes and journals rising behind him, Dr. Luce appeared serious, full of expertise, as was his speech. “What I’m drawing here,” he began, “are the fetal genital structures. In other words, this is what a baby’s genitals look like in the womb, in the first few weeks after conception. Male or female, it’s all the same. These two circles here are what we call the all-purpose gonads. This little squiggle here is a Wolffian duct. And this other squiggle is a Müllerian duct. Okay? The thing to keep in mind is that everybody starts out like this. We’re all born with potential boy parts and girl parts. You, Mr. Stephanides, Mrs. Stephanides, me—everybody. Now”—he started drawing again—“as the fetus develops in the womb, what happens is that hormones and enzymes are released—let’s make them arrows. What do these hormones and enzymes do? Well, they turn these circles and squiggles into either boy parts or girl parts. See this circle, the all-purpose gonad? It can become either an ovary or a testis. And this squiggly Müllerian duct can either wither up”—he scratched it out—“or grow into a uterus, fallopian tubes, and the inside of the vagina. This Wolffian duct can either wither away or grow into a seminal vesicle, epididymis, and vas deferens. Depending on the hormonal and enzymatic influences.” Luce looked up and smiled. “You don’t have to worry about the terminology. The main thing to remember is this: every baby has Müllerian structures, which are potential girl parts, and Wolffian structures, which are potential boy parts. Those are the internal genitalia. But the same thing goes for theexternal genitalia. A penis is just a very large clitoris. They grow from the same root.”
Dr. Luce stopped once more. He folded his hands. My parents, leaning forward in the chairs, waited.
“As I explained, any determination of gender identity must take into account a host of factors. The most important, in your daughter’s case”—there it was again, confidently proclaimed—“is that she has been raised for fourteen years as a girl and indeed thinks of herself as female. Her interests, gestures, psychosexual makeup—all these are female. Are you with me so far?”
Milton and Tessie nodded.
“Due to her 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, Callie’s body does not respond to dihydrotestosterone. What this means is that, in utero, she followed a primarily female line of development. Especially in terms of the external genitalia. That, coupled with her being brought up as a girl, resulted in her thinking, acting, and looking like a girl. The problem came when she started to go through puberty. At puberty, the other androgen—testosterone—started to exert a strong effect. The simplest way to put it is like this: Callie is a girl who has a little too much male hormone. We want to correct that.”
Neither Milton nor Tessie said a word. They weren’t following everything the doctor was saying but, as people do with doctors, they were attentive to his manner, trying to see how serious things were. Luce seemed optimistic, confident, and Tessie and Milton began to be filled with hope.
“That’s the biology. It’s a very rare genetic condition, by the way. The only other populations where we know of this mutation expressing itself are in the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, and southeastern Turkey. Not that far from the village your parents came from. About three hundred miles, in fact.” Luce removed his silver glasses. “Do you know of any family member who may have had a similar genital appearance to your daughter’s?”
“Not that we know of,” said Milton.
“When did your parents immigrate?”
“Do you have any relatives still living in Turkey?”
Luce looked disappointed. He had one arm of his glasses in his mouth, and was chewing on it. Possibly he was imagining what it would be like to discover a whole new population of carriers of the 5-alpha-reductase mutation. He had to content himself with discovering me.
He put his glasses back on. “The treatment I’d recommend for your daughter is twofold. First, hormone injections. Second, cosmetic surgery. The hormone treatments will initiate breast development and enhance her female secondary sex characteristics. The surgery will make Callie look exactly like the girl she feels herself to be. In fact, she will be that girl. Her outside and inside will conform. She will look like a normal girl. Nobody will be able to tell a thing. And then Callie can go on and enjoy her life.”
Milton’s brow was still furrowed with concentration but from his eyes there was light appearing, rays of relief. He turned toward Tessie and patted her leg.
But in a timid, breaking voice Tessie asked, “Will she be able to have children?”
Luce paused only a second. “I’m afraid not, Mrs. Stephanides. Callie will never menstruate.”
“But she’s been menstruating for a few months now,” Tessie objected.
“I’m afraid that’s impossible. Possibly there was some bleeding from another source.”
Tessie’s eyes filled with tears. She looked away.
“I just got a postcard from a former patient,” Luce said consolingly. “She had a condition similar to your daughter’s. She’s married now. She and her husband adopted two kids and they’re as happy as can be. She plays in the Cleveland Orchestra. Bassoon.”
There was a silence, until Milton asked, “Is that it, Doctor? You do this one surgery and we can take her home?”
“We may have to do additional surgery at a later date. But the immediate answer to your question is yes. After the procedure, she can go home.”
“How long will she be in the hospital?”
It was not a difficult decision, especially as Luce had framed it. A single surgery and some injections would end the nightmare and give my parents back their daughter, their Calliope, intact. The same enticement that had led my grandparents to do the unthinkable now offered itself to Milton and Tessie. No one would know. No one would ever know.
While my parents were being given a crash course in gonadogenesis, I—still officially Calliope—was doing some homework myself. In the Reading Room of the New York Public Library I was looking up something in the dictionary. Dr. Luce was correct in thinking that his conversations with colleagues and medical students were over my head. I didn’t know what “5-alpha-reductase” meant, or “gynecomastia,” or “inguinal canal.” But Luce had underestimated my abilities, too. He didn’t take into consideration the rigorous curriculum at my prep school. He didn’t allow for my excellent research and study skills. Most of all, he didn’t factor in the power of my Latin teachers, Miss Barrie and Miss Silber. So now, as my Wallabees made squishing sounds between the reading tables, as a few men looked up from their books to see what was coming and then looked down (the world was no longer full of eyes), I heard Miss Barrie’s voice in my ear. “Infants, define this word for me:hypospadias . Use your Greek or Latin roots.”
The little schoolgirl in my head wriggled in her desk, hand raised high. “Yes, Calliope?” Miss Barrie called on me.
“Hypo. Below or beneath. Like ‘hypodermic.’ ”
“Brilliant. Andspadias ?”
“Um um . . .”
“Can anyone come to our poor muse’s aid?”
But, in the classroom of my brain, no one could. So that was why I was here. Because I knew that I had something below or beneath but I didn’t know what that something was.
I had never seen such a big dictionary before. The Webster’s at the New York Public Library stood in the same relation to other dictionaries of my acquaintance as the Empire State Building did to other buildings. It was an ancient, medieval-looking thing, bound in brown leather that brought to mind a falconer’s gauntlet. The pages were gilded like the Bible’s.
Flipping pages through the alphabet, pastcantabile toeryngo , pastfandango toformicate (that’s with anm ), pasthypertonia tohyposensitivity , and there it was:
hypospadiasNew Latin, from Greek, man with hypospadias fr.hypo + prob fromspadon , eunuch, fr.span , to tear, pluck, pull, draw.—An abnormality of the penis in which the urethra opens on its under surface.See synonyms at eunuch.
I did as instructed and got
eunuch —1.A castrated man; especially, one of those who were employed as harem attendants or functionaries in certain Oriental courts.2. A man whose testes have not developed.See synonyms at hermaphrodite.
Following where the trail led, I finally reached
hermaphrodite —1.One having the sex organs and many of the secondary sex characteristics of both male and female.2. Anything comprised of a combination of diverse or contradictory elements. See synonyms at monster.
And that is where I stopped. And looked up, to see if anyone was watching. The vast Reading Room thrummed with silent energy: people thinking, writing. The painted ceiling bellied overhead like a sail, and down below the green desk lamps glowed, illuminating faces bent over books. I was stooping over mine, my hair falling onto the pages, covering up the definition of myself. My lime green coat was hanging open. I had an appointment with Luce later in the day and my hair was washed, my underpants fresh. My bladder was full and I crossed my legs, putting off a trip to the bathroom. Fear was stabbing me. I longed to be held, caressed, and that was impossible. I laid my hand on the dictionary and looked at it. Slender, leaf-shaped, it had a braided rope ring on one finger, a gift from the Object. The rope was getting dirty. I looked at my pretty hand and then pulled it away and faced the word again.
There it was,monster , in black and white, in a battered dictionary in a great city library. A venerable, old book, the shape and size of a headstone, with yellowing pages that bore marks of the multitudes who had consulted them before me. There were pencil scrawls and ink stains, dried blood, snack crumbs; and the leather binding itself was secured to the lectern by a chain. Here was a book that contained the collected knowledge of the past while giving evidence of present social conditions. The chain suggested that some library visitors might take it upon themselves to see that the dictionary circulated. The dictionary contained every word in the English language but the chain knew only a few. It knewthief andsteal and, maybe,purloined . The chain spoke ofpoverty andmistrust andinequality anddecadence . Callie herself was holding on to this chain now. She was tugging on it, winding it around her hand so that her fingers went white, as she stared down at that word.Monster . Still there. It had not moved. And she wasn’t reading this word on the wall of her old bathroom stall. There was graffiti in Webster’s but the synonym wasn’t part of it. The synonym was official, authoritative; it was the verdict that the culture gave on a person like her.Monster . That was what she was. That was what Dr. Luce and his colleagues had been saying. It explained so much, really. It explained her mother crying in the next room. It explained the false cheer in Milton’s voice. It explained why her parents had brought her to New York, so that the doctors could work in secret. It explained the photographs, too. What did people do when they came upon Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster? They tried to get a picture. For a second Callie saw herself that way. As a lumbering, shaggy creature pausing at the edge of woods. As a humped convolvulus rearing its dragon’s head from an icy lake. Her eyes were filling now, making the print swim, and she turned away and hurried out of the library.
But the synonym pursued her. All the way out the door and down the steps between the stone lions, Webster’s Dictionary kept calling after her,Monster, Monster! The bright banners hanging from the tympanum proclaimed the word. The definition inserted itself into billboards and the ads on passing buses. On Fifth Avenue a cab was pulling up. Her father jumped out, smiling and waving. When Callie saw him, her heart lifted. The voice of Webster’s stopped speaking in her head. Her father wouldn’t be smiling like that unless the news from the doctor had been good. Callie laughed and sprinted down the library steps, almost tripping. Her emotions soared for the time it took to reach the street, maybe five or eight seconds. But coming closer to Milton, she learned something about medical reports. The more people smile, the worse the news. Milton grinned at her, perspiring in pinstripes, and once again the tragedy cuff link glinted in the sun.
They knew. Her parents knew she was a monster. And yet here was Milton, opening the car door for her; here was Tessie, inside, smiling as Callie climbed in. The cab took them to a restaurant and soon the three of them were looking over menus and ordering food.
Milton waited until the drinks were served. Then, somewhat formally, he began. “Your mother and I had a little chat with the doctor this morning, as you are aware. The good news is that you’ll be back at home this week. You won’t miss much school. Now for the bad news. Are you ready for the bad news, Cal?”
Milton’s eyes were saying that the bad news was not all that bad.
“The bad news is you have to have a little operation. Very minor. ‘Operation’ isn’t really the right word. I think the doctor called it a ‘procedure.’ They have to knock you out and you have to stay overnight in the hospital. That’s it. There’ll be some pain but they can give you painkillers for it.”
With that, Milton rested. Tessie reached out and patted Callie’s hand. “It’ll be okay, honey,” she said in a thickened voice. Her eyes were watery, red.
“What kind of operation?” Callie asked her father.
“Just a little cosmetic procedure. Like getting a mole removed.” He reached out and playfully caught Callie’s nose between his knuckles. “Or getting your nose fixed.”
Callie pulled her head away, angry. “Don’t do that!”
“Sorry,” said Milton. He cleared his throat, blinking.
“What’s wrong with me?” Calliope asked, and now her voice broke. Tears were running down her cheeks. “What’s wrong with me, Daddy?”
Milton’s face darkened. He swallowed hard. Callie waited for him to say the word, to quote Webster’s, but he didn’t. He only looked at her across the table, his head low, his eyes dark, warm, sad, and full of love. There was so much love in Milton’s eyes that it was impossible to look for truth.
“It’s a hormonal thing, what you’ve got,” he said. “I was always under the impression that men had male hormones and women had female hormones. But everybody has both, apparently.”
Still Callie waited.
“What you’ve got, see, is you’ve got a little too much of the male hormones and not quite enough of the female hormones. So what the doctor wants to do is give you a shot every now and then to get everything working right.”
He didn’t say the word. I didn’t make him.
“It’s a hormonal thing,” Milton repeated. “In the grand scheme of things, no big deal.”
Luce believed that a patient of my age was capable of understanding the essentials. And so, that afternoon, he did not mince words. In his mellow, pleasing, educated voice, looking directly into my eyes, Luce declared that I was a girl whose clitoris was merely larger than those of other girls. He drew the same charts for me as he had for my parents. When I pressed him on the details of my surgery, he said only this: “We’re going to do an operation to finish your genitalia. They’re not quite finished yet and we want to finish them.”
He never mentioned anything about hypospadias, and I began to hope that the word didn’t apply to me. Maybe I had taken it out of context. Dr. Luce may have been referring to another patient. Webster’s had said that hypospadias was an abnormality of the penis. But Dr. Luce was telling me that I had a clitoris. I understood that both these things grew out of the same fetal gonad, but that didn’t matter. If I had a clitoris—and a specialist was telling me that I did—what could I be but a girl?
The adolescent ego is a hazy thing, amorphous, cloudlike. It wasn’t difficult to pour my identity into different vessels. In a sense, I was able to take whatever form was demanded of me. I only wanted to know the dimensions. Luce was providing them. My parents supported him. The prospect of having everything solved was wildly attractive to me, too, and while I lay on the chaise I didn’t ask myself where my feelings for the Object fit in. I only wanted it all to be over. I wanted to go home and forget it had ever happened. So I listened to Luce quietly and made no objections.
He explained the estrogen injections would induce my breasts to grow. “You won’t be Raquel Welch, but you won’t be Twiggy either.” My facial hair would diminish. My voice would rise from tenor to alto. But when I asked if I would finally get my period, Dr. Luce was frank. “No. You won’t. Ever. You won’t be able to have a baby yourself, Callie. If you want to have a family, you’ll have to adopt.”
I received this news calmly. Having children wasn’t something I thought much about at fourteen.
There was a knock on the door, and the receptionist stuck her head in. “Sorry, Dr. Luce. But could I bother you a minute?”
“That depends on Callie.” He smiled at me. “You mind taking a little break? I’ll be right back.”
“I don’t mind.”
“Sit there a few minutes and see if any other questions occur to you.” He left the room.
While he was gone, I didn’t think of any other questions. I sat in my chair, not thinking anything at all. My mind was curiously blank. It was the blankness of obedience. With the unerring instinct of children, I had surmised what my parents wanted from me. They wanted me to stay the way I was. And this was what Dr. Luce now promised.
I was brought out of my abstracted state by a salmon-colored cloud passing low in the sky. I got up and went to the window to look out at the river. I pressed my cheek against the glass to see as far south as possible, where the skyscrapers rose. I told myself that I would live in New York when I grew up. “This is the city for me,” I said. I had begun to cry again. I tried to stop. Dabbing at my eyes, I wandered around the office and finally found myself in front of one of the Mughal miniatures. In the small, ebony frame, two tiny figures were making love. Despite the exertion implied by their activity, their faces looked peaceful. Their expressions showed neither strain nor ecstasy. But of course the faces weren’t the focal point. The geometry of the lovers’ bodies, the graceful calligraphy of their limbs led the eye straight to the fact of their genitalia. The woman’s pubic hair was like a patch of evergreen against white snow, the man’s member like a redwood sprouting from it. I looked. I looked once again to see how other people were made. As I looked, I didn’t take sides. I understood both the urgency of the man and the pleasure of the woman. My mind was no longer blank. It was filling with a dark knowledge.
I swung around. I wheeled and looked at Dr. Luce’s desk. A file sat open there. He had left it when he hurried off.
GENETIC XY (MALE) RAISED AS FEMALE
The following illustrative case indicates that there is no preordained correspondence between genetic and genital structure, or between masculine or feminine behavior and chromosomal status.
SUBJECT: Calliope Stephanides
INTERVIEWER: Peter Luce, M.D.
INTRODUCTORY DATA: The patient is fourteen years old. She has lived as a female all her life. At birth, somatic appearance was of a penis so small as to appear to be a clitoris. The subject’s XY karyotype was not discovered until puberty, when she began to virilize. The girl’s parents at first refused to believe the doctor who delivered the news and subsequently asked for two other opinions before coming to the Gender Identity Clinic and New York Hospital Clinic.
During examination, undescended testes could be palpated. The “penis” was slightly hypospadiac, with the urethra opening on the underside. The girl has always sat to urinate like other girls. Blood tests confirmed an XY chromosomal status. In addition, blood tests revealed that the subject was suffering from 5-alpha-reductase deficiency syndrome. An exploratory laparotomy was not performed.
A family photograph (see case file) shows her at age twelve. She appears to be a happy, healthy girl with no visible signs of tomboyishness, despite her XY karyotype.
FIRST IMPRESSION: The subject’s facial expression, though somewhat stern at times, is overall pleasant and receptive, with frequent smiling. The subject often casts her eyes downward in a modest or coy manner. She is feminine in her movements and gestures, and the slight gracelessness of her walk is in keeping with females of her generation. Though due to her height some people may find the subject’s gender at first glance somewhat indeterminate, any prolonged observation would result in a decision that she was indeed a girl. Her voice, in fact, has a soft, breathy quality. She inclines her head to listen when another person speaks and does not hold forth or assert her opinions in a bullying manner characteristic of males. She often makes humorous remarks.
FAMILY: The girl’s parents are fairly typical Midwesterners of the World War II generation. The father identifies himself as a Republican. The mother is a friendly, intelligent, and caring person, perhaps slightly prone to depression or neurosis. She accedes to the subservient wifely role typical of women of her generation. The father only came to the Clinic twice, citing business obligations, but from those two meetings it is apparent that he is a dominating presence, a “self-made” man and former naval officer. In addition, the subject has been raised in the Greek Orthodox tradition, with its strongly sex-defined roles. In general the parents seem assimilationist and very “all-American” in their outlook, but the presence of this deeper ethnic identity should not be overlooked.
SEXUAL FUNCTION: The subject reports engaging in childhood sexual play with other children, in every case of which she acted as the feminine partner, usually pulling up her dress and letting a boy simulate coition atop her. She experienced pleasurable erotosexual sensations by positioning herself by the water jets of a neighbor’s swimming pool. She masturbated frequently from a young age.
The subject has had no serious boyfriends, but this may be due to her attending an all-girls school or from a feeling of shame about her body. The subject is aware of the abnormal appearance of her genitalia and has gone to great lengths in the locker room and other communal dressing areas to avoid being seen naked. Nevertheless, she reports having had sexual intercourse, one time only, with the brother of her best friend, an experience she found painful but which was successful from the point of view of teenage romantic exploration.
INTERVIEW: The subject spoke in rapid bursts, clearly and articulately but with the occasional breathlessness associated with anxiety. Speech patterning and characteristics appeared to be feminine in terms of oscillation of pitch and direct eye contact. She expresses sexual interest in males exclusively.
CONCLUSION: In speech, mannerisms, and dress, the subject manifests a feminine gender identity and role, despite a contrary chromosomal status.
It is clear by this that sex of rearing, rather than genetic determinants, plays a greater role in the establishment of gender identity.
As the girl’s gender identity was firmly established as female at the time her condition was discovered, a decision to implement feminizing surgery along with corresponding hormonal treatments seems correct. To leave the genitals as they are today would expose her to all manner of humiliation. Though it is possible that the surgery may result in partial or total loss of erotosexual sensation, sexual pleasure is only one factor in a happy life. The ability to marry and pass as a normal woman in society are also important goals, both of which will not be possible without feminizing surgery and hormone treatment. Also, it is hoped that new methods of surgery will minimize the effects of erotosexual dysfunction brought about by surgeries in the past, when feminizing surgery was in its infancy.
That evening, when my mother and I got back to the hotel, Milton had a surprise. Tickets to a Broadway musical. I acted excited but later, after dinner, crawled into my parents’ bed, claiming I was too tired to go.
“Too tired?” Milton said. “What do you mean you’re too tired?”
“That’s okay, honey,” said Tessie. “You don’t have to go.”
“Supposed to be a good show, Cal.”
“Is Ethel Merman in it?” I asked.
“No, smartass,” Milton said, smiling. “Ethel Merman is not in it. She’s not on Broadway right now. So we’re seeing something with Carol Channing. She’s pretty good, too. Why don’t you come along?”
“No thanks,” I said.
“Okay, then. You’re missing out.”
They started to go. “Bye, honey,” my mother said.
Suddenly I jumped out of bed and ran to Tessie, hugging her.
“What’s this for?” she asked.
My eyes brimmed with tears. Tessie took them to be tears of relief at everything we’d been through. In the narrow entryway carved from a former suite, cockeyed, dim, the two of us stood hugging and crying.
When they were gone, I got my suitcase from the closet. Then, looking at the turquoise flowers, I exchanged it for my father’s suitcase, a gray Samsonite. I left my skirts and my Fair Isle sweater in the dresser drawers. I packed only the darker garments, a blue crew neck, the alligator shirts, and my corduroys. The brassiere I abandoned, too. For the time being, I held on to my socks and panties, and I tossed in my toiletry case entire. When I was finished, I searched in Milton’s garment bag for the cash he’d hidden there. The wad was fairly large and came to nearly three hundred dollars.
It wasn’t all Dr. Luce’s fault. I had lied to him about many things. His decision was based on false data. But he had been false in turn.
On a piece of stationery, I left a note for my parents.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I know you’re only trying to do what’s best for me, but I don’t think anyone knows for sure what’s best. I love you and don’t want to be a problem, so I’ve decided to go away. I know you’ll say I’m not a problem, but I know I am. If you want to know why I’m doing this, you should ask Dr. Luce,who is a big liar ! I amnot a girl. I’m aboy . That’s what I found out today. So I’m going where no one knows me. Everyone in Grosse Pointe will talk when they find out.
Sorry I took your money, Dad, but I promise to pay you back someday, with interest.
Please don’t worry about me. I will beALL RIGHT !
Despite its content, I signed this declaration to my parents: “Callie.”
It was the last time I was ever their daughter.
GO WEST, YOUNG MAN