Compared to some of my other stories, this four-part story seemed to require a longer lead in before the ‘good parts.’ Please be a patient reader through the first part of this chapter as it sets the stage for the later (and more fun) parts of Joyce’s story. And even in this opening segment there are the mandatory sex scenes, tastefully done I hope. (My thanks to Jeriscol for his editing.)
I knew Joyce many years ago before she started her transition. If she hadn’t of made the transition, I think she would have given up life, for she believed she didn’t have much to live for. Today, Joyce is a healthy, outgoing mature woman, mother, and grandmother, whom I hope will think kindly of my fictionalization of her transformation. Many events happened just as I’ve written about them. Joyce did lead the unconventional life style that is the core of this story and that I was pleased to be a part of for a time. Since her transformation, we have always shared the same philosophy about relationships and life.
So Joyce, accept this story with all the love and fondness in my heart. I’ll always love you. / Romantic1
I jumped as I suddenly became aware of the guy standing next to me. He appeared out of nowhere, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be talked to. He just said “Hello” and leaned against the wall next to me. I continued to nurse my second beer as I looked at him and decided whether to answer him or not. He was good looking, probably in his mid thirties. He seemed patient and didn’t speak further. We both looked across the large living room at the animated crowd at Jay’s birthday party. There must have been fifty or sixty people in the small one-story home.
“Sarah,” I finally said, somewhat in embarrassment that the two of us were next to each other but not talking. “I work with Sarah,” I offered, “That’s Jay’s wife.” I blurted out the statements as I did computer data at work then chided myself for the lack of detail or invitation to chat further. Why can’t I be a good conversationalist? Why am I so scared of guys? Nothing in my past would give rise to my irrational fear and shyness, but that’s how I’ve always been; and yet, here I was initiating a conversation; what a rare event this was – very rare.
“Oh,” he said by way of a wordy reply. He studied me carefully. I wondered what he saw. What was he thinking? Did I look all right? He sipped his long neck then looked at me again. “I’m Ray,” he said softly. He held out his hand, and I automatically shook hands with him. His hand was firm and warm.
“Oh,” I volunteered holding up my end of the conversation. My brain was almost blank except to nurse my insecurities. Here I was, given a lead in to hold a nice conversation, and I was blowing it. Soon, he’d get bored and leave me alone. They all left me sooner or later. Oh, why couldn’t I say something witty or profound? I finally countered with “I’m Joyce. I went to Ohio State in Columbus; majored in computer science.”
“Oh,” he said carefully, studying me again. A long silent moment passed. I thought, oh my God he thinks I’m weird. He sees me as the true geek that I am. He’s a nice person from the looks of him, and here I am the nerdy girl that’ll never date and rarely even goes out.
“I’m thirty,” I replied flatly trying to think of the next area of stimulating conversation we could have. Ray stole the moment by tilting his bottle back and taking the last swallow.
I was getting the hang of this now. All I had to do was give a little more information on what I knew and perhaps that would carry the moment, and we’d launch into stimulating conversation. I felt like running for the door and fleeing the party. Sarah talked me into coming; she shamed me into it really: “Joyce, you have to come. You never go anywhere or do anything. You work most of the time and spend the rest in your apartment. Come on. Get a life. Come to our party. Besides, Jay wants to meet you and they’ll be some cute guys there.” So here I am. I realized I was actually trembling inside at the thought of talking to a guy.
I turned to Ray and said, “I grew up outside Philadelphia. My Dad was an engineer, and my Mom worked part-time as dentist’s assistant.”
Ray spoke, but I couldn’t tell whether it was a question or a statement: “You work for the same agency Sarah works for.”
“Yes, I program client web sites, the fancy ones with animation, graphics and media, and complex linkages.” I thought ‘Oh my God, I’m talking — with a guy I just met. Is it still too late to flee out the front door and speed away in my car? I looked at him with a worried expression. Was I saying too much? Was I boring? Was he going to leave or, worse, laugh at me?’
Ray studied me for a full minute when neither of us said a word. My mind was going wild worrying about what he was thinking about our conversation and me – conversation that was so difficult for me.
“Tell me to fuck off,” he said flatly, “But you need a social mentor don’t you?”
“Huh?” ankara escort I responded, slightly dumbstruck by his sudden profanity. “What do you mean — a social mentor?”
Ray said, “I don’t know why, but you’re very uncomfortable with me. Somehow I feel that’s the case with everyone, else you wouldn’t be trying to hide over here in this corner of the room. I bet this conversation is almost paralyzing you and that you’ve thought about leaving ever since you arrived — right?”
I nodded slowly as his words sunk in. The thought of leaving still had appeal, but Ray had just changed the rules of the conversation game.
Ray spoke, “You’re thirty. You should be at the peak of your social game. You’re certainly attractive, but you hide it behind your drab bulky clothing. I think you need not only a social mentor, but also a fashion makeover too.”
I felt anger rise up. I glared at him but didn’t say anything.
“Good,” he said. “You’re mad. I can see the color rising in your neck and face. As I said before, tell me to fuck off when you want.” He paused then reached and took my hand; “Come and dance with me. I like this song.”
I went on autopilot and allowed Ray to lead me outside toward the back patio of the spacious house. I remained miffed at his remarks, but was all too aware that they were on target. On the deck, a boom box with iPod attached was providing endless dance music. I recognized a Bon Jovi song and turned and started the awkward gyrations that passed for my dancing. Ray laughed and matched my machinations, but joined in. Pretty soon I felt a little better, and I got into the rhythm of the rock. I tried not to think about the fool I appeared to be by dancing.
Bon Jovi gave way to some Sugarland and the two of us kept dancing with a dozen or so other couples. Then the music changed again. A soft love song by Eva Cassidy floated out across the deck. The dozen or so gyrating couples slowed to the soft chords and blended into each other in the kind of contact I’d never shared before in my life.
Ray held his arms out to me in a gesture to dance closely. I gulped and looked with horror at him. He wasn’t the problem; I was. I ran from the deck out into darkness of the back yard, the damp grass anointing my sandaled feet with the night dew as I ran from the dance Ray had offered.
I found a stone bench in the shadows and sat alone. My head fell to my hands. I felt so inadequate in situations like this. I’d managed to avoid so many of them — first in junior high school then high school and then college — by being a brilliant and nerdy female that hid her feminine side behind sweat shirts and bib overalls. I’d always carried a laptop. After graduation, it was relatively easy to just ‘be busy’ for the few social offers that came my way. I realized there was a price to pay and this was it; social comfort at a simple house party eluded me. A couple of tears clouded my vision.
Suddenly, a voice spoke right next to me in the darkness. “I would guess that you don’t like intimate contact – or that my very presence turns your stomach so much that the thought of physical contact with me in a slow dance is totally revolting.”
I looked up at Ray’s shadow in the dim light. I hesitated while he stood there. Finally, I said quietly, “No, it’s not you. It’s me. I’ve just never …”
Ray’s hands found mine, and he pulled me up from the bench and into his arms. He forced my right hand into his and wrapped his left arm firmly around me in formal dance position. I was stiff as a board. He reached up with his right hand and gently pulled my body and head even closer to him in a more intimate slow-dance. He said, “Relax. Loosen up. Go with the flow, just a little.”
He swayed in time with the music forcing my stiff body to bend with his motion. I imagined I was like dancing with a board. Oh my God, I am terrible at this. I am not a dancer, and certainly not someone you’d want to dance so close to.
“Joyce,” he said, “you smell good. I like this. Just loosen up a little more.” I tried.
“More,” he said. I tried harder.
Ray talked to me as we swayed, “What are you afraid of Joyce? Me? Intimate contact? Love? Friendship? Life? I think you’ve been hiding too long. It’s time to come out of your shell. There’s nothing here to be afraid of.”
He didn’t say anything for a few moments as we swayed to the rhythm of the rest of the song. I looked at him at one point, and it was clear he was waiting for me to say something in response to his comment. I started talking haltingly; “I’m so unsure of myself. I was never popular. I never went to dances or proms … or even on dates. This is the first time I’ve danced with someone in more than a decade.”
Ray looked at me and asked, “Are you afraid of yourself? Do you like yourself? Love yourself?”
Tears came to my eyes — tears of sorrow and despair. “Noooooo,” I shuddered as I answered his question. I looked down, avoiding eye ankara escort bayan contact with him.
Ray pulled me into his body and wrapped his arms around me tightly. I sobbed a few times into his chest trying to regain my self-control. I was always in control. Perhaps it was the beer. I’d let myself slip into that dark place I seldom went.
I steeled myself and pulled away from Ray. He produced a Kleenex from his pocket and offered it to me.
“Joyce, if you want to make your life something other than what it is, I can help you. I’m not going to force myself on you. We’ve only just met and spent about fifteen minutes together. In fact, I’ve given you a lot to think about. Think about the questions I’ve asked you and how you answered them. Call me when you’re ready. There are no strings, no charge, and no obligation. I’m a friend.”
He went on, “Whether you realize it or not, you are at a major crossroad in your life with many options before you. You have to make some tough choices, and you have to take action — now — if you don’t like where you are in your life. Don’t focus on what you believe are limitations and blocks to making some of those choices and actions; I assure you, there are many, many fewer limitations than what you are imposing on yourself. Instead, think about what kind of person you want to be.” He paused, looked deeply into my eyes, smiled, and added for emphasis, “Think about what kind of person you really want to be.”
Ray pushed a card into my hands and motioned for me to sit on the garden bench again. I sat on the bench and tried to read the card. When I looked up, he’d vanished. I wondered how he could completely disappear when only a few seconds had passed.
I looked at the card he’d given me; holding it up to the light so I could read it.
Ray Summer Your Life Coach 941-555-1566
I looked back at the house. Prophetically, Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow vibrated across the deck, and the couples were deftly matching each other’s dance steps in time with the strong beat of the song. I sat and listened to the words of the song as they wafted across the lawn to me. They carried a personal message.
What kind of person did I want to be? Certainly not the wallflower I’d become over the past twenty years; certainly not someone that could barely stand their own company. Maybe I would call him.
It took me four days to screw up enough courage to call Ray. I’d practically thought about nothing else and finally after my lonely morning coffee break at work, I dialed the number on his business card; he answered on the second ring.
“Hello Joyce,” he said slowly.
“Errr, hello Ray, how’d you know who it was?”
“Because I know you want to change. You just don’t know how. You had to work up some courage to call me, and I appreciate that you did. I think you will too.”
I hesitated and said, “You’re right … and yes, I want to change. I don’t like myself like this.”
Ray spoke, “Meet me at Long Beach this evening at eight o’clock; straight out towards the water from the first parking area. You’ll find me.”
Before I had a chance to acknowledge his instructions, the line went dead. How presumptive of him. Maybe I wouldn’t show up just to put him in his place. My anger flared again. A minute later I knew I’d be there.
Ten hours later, I walked across the sand at Long Beach looking for Ray. I wore my black oxford shoes and my standard white long sleeve men’s shirt with men’s dark long pants although the temperature was in the high eighties.
Ray was easy to find. He was in swimsuit sitting on a towel staring out at the setting sun, his muscular shoulders evident even in the dim light. Before I even reached him, he gestured for me to sit beside him. I couldn’t believe he’d seen me for he’d never turned around. Further, he couldn’t possibly have heard me approach over the sound of the surf.
I plopped down beside him Indian style and immediately asked, “Are we going to talk here? How do we start?” I was preparing a third question when he firmly held up his hand to command silence. He still had not taken his eyes off the glorious sunset. He gestured with his hand to the western sky, and I too turned to watch the golden and gray hues of the sunset as the sky above us deepened and darkened from blue to midnight towards black.
We sat for a long time this way. At first, I was uncomfortable with the silence between us. Then I thought about the things I could be doing with these lost moments. If I weren’t getting taught something then these moments were wasted. Then I silently tried to get Ray’s attention by changing my posture — first to match his erect and alert posture and then in the more comfortable slouch I’d first adopted when I sat. I switched back and forth a few times and realized that his good posture was actually easier to maintain.
I fidgeted the first few minutes we were together, particularly escort ankara as I struggled with thoughts about what he would tell me or ask, and whether I looked all right. Then my mind wandered around uselessly. I focused in on a business problem, a thorny programming issue I’d been dealing with when I left work. I solved that — if I could remember the solution. Then we were just silent. Gradually the voice in my head ran out of things to think about; I focused on the dying sunset.
When darkness was nearly complete, Ray suddenly stood next to me. I stood as well. Without a word, he picked up his towel and shook the sand from it. I wondered what was to happen next, but I didn’t dare speak unless he did. He led the way towards my car, stopping behind my little six-year old Honda Civic. I wondered how he knew this was my car.
Ray said the only words he’d spoken all evening, “Tomorrow. Same time. Beach. Think about what you learned here this evening.” He turned and walked away into the darkness; barefoot with his beach towel thrown over his shoulder.
I slowly drove home thinking about what had happened. First, I went through a recitation of the facts from the evening. I’d arrived, found Ray sitting there, been commanded by a hand gesture to shut up, sat and watched the sunset until it was dark, then walked back to the car. Somehow those were unarguable, and I didn’t think that those were what Ray wanted me to think about. I couldn’t see any lessons there.
Then I started to intellectualize the possible lessons from the evening.
First, I had decided I wanted to change — enough so that I finally called Ray, a man I hardly knew and yet, someone that seemed able to peer deeply into my soul in the few minutes we’d met at Jay and Sarah’s party. Somehow I knew he was on my side and I trusted him.
Second, I had realized that it was hard to silence the voice in my head. It kept talking to me and trying to stop me from really thinking about changing myself — doing a makeover. I’d have to watch that in the future and even find a way to turn it off or divert its attention.
Third, I’d figured out how to solve a tough problem at work. I still remembered the solution.
Fourth, Ray would not make this easy for me. I guess he would ask tough questions, and I’d have to think about them and figure out the answers. I suppose that if I were going to change myself, the changes and motivation couldn’t come from him anyway — it had to come from inside me.
Fifth, Ray could make me mad, but the source of my anger was ultimately me. I was frustrated with my insecurities and myself; how I’d drifted for almost twenty years neither opting for life nor oblivion. I’d allowed myself to become someone I didn’t like and couldn’t really tolerate much longer. I didn’t feel worthy to be much of anything but a workaholic, and that only because it enabled me to avoid addressing the tougher questions facing me.
I realized as I drove home that at Saturday’s party Ray had asked me to think about the kind of person I wanted to be. I hadn’t thought much about any specific answers to that question, other than the self-talk about what I didn’t want to be. I’d think about it some time soon.
I slept well that night but had vivid dreams of being chased by demons. In the morning the demons were gone, but so was half a night’s sleep. I was at work early and was the most productive I’d been in weeks, particularly since I remembered the solution to my programming problem.
At eight o’clock that evening, I trudged across the sand at Long Beach to where Ray was sitting in almost the same spot as the night before. I watched him intently as he sat on facing the water all the way from the parking area where he couldn’t see me; his back was to me the entire time. He never turned around but again gestured for me to sit beside him as I neared him. This time I sat and was quiet.
I was again wearing my work clothes, the dark khaki slacks with a men’s white work shirt. This time I was wearing a baseball cap as well. It wasn’t too feminine, but I was dressed practically, and I hadn’t had to change clothes after work.
After we’d been sitting for five minutes in silence and my mind had quieted, Ray spoke with me in a near whisper; “What did you learn yesterday?”
I repeated a short version of the five lessons I’d extracted from sitting in silence with him for an hour the evening before: I wanted to change and I’d taken the first step; I had a voice in my head stopping me from changing; I’d solved a hard work problem; he would not make this easy for me — nor should he; and the anger I expressed, was often more due to what my truth was, not what was actually said.
Ray listened intently watching me as I spoke. When I was through, I stopped and patiently waited for his reply. It did not come immediately. We went back to watching the sunset. There were more clouds this evening so everything was turning reddish-orange hues as the sun slipped from sight.
Ray spoke and said with a smile, “You did get the lessons I’d hoped for and a few others. You must not judge yourself or judge others by such a harsh yardstick. Learn to trust that things will work out well without you inserting your own measure of control.”