The teacher was calling the register.
And so on. Always the sexism, implicit even in the tone of voice. Fluffy, fluffy first names, then short sharp surnames. Girls, then boys. Them and us, except that Jerry was sorted, herded, penned into Them, and it wasn’t right, no, not at all, but that was the least of the daily shit storm. And the fucking pinafore…
He had tried, really tried, to claim his right to wear trousers, and the Head of Year, then the Deputy, had both said the same thing: trousers are only permitted for Ethnics Who Have a Cultural Need. Jerry had pushed it all the way to the Head, who had simply sighed and written to his mother. That evening she had sat with him, doing what she clearly considered as trying her best.
“You’ve got nice legs, love, you should show them off”
“Who to, Mum? Pervy teachers looking up my skirt when they put me in the front row? Should I flash my knickers, or what? That do you?”
Her mother had eventually left in tears, but Jerry had held his till she was gone. The room itself oppressed him, everything in it part of his parents’ conspiracy to shape him, twist him. Each day he would wake, go off to school or down the sports centre, filling the empty spaces of his life as best he could, and each afternoon or evening he would return to his bedroom to find the soft toys and other shit pulled out from under his bed and carefully arranged for his delight. The mirror… the mirror was a two-edged beast. In it he saw what he didn’t want to, had never wanted to, but it still helped him when he tried his best to see what he did want, his hopes, the dream that kept him alive. Such a shame, such fucking agony, that his body was following the script, getting with the programme that someone else had written. That arse, dear god. He could get his tits cut off, but there was absolutely nothing he could do about his bone structure…
She hadn’t found the box yet. Quietly, he collected some sheets of toilet paper from the bog. Taking off his…blouse, fucking stupid word, and the scars were there, and the blade was cool, and the blood warm as it ran into the tissue he held. Just four cuts, this time, four each side, and as always he looked down at his wrists, at the tendons and blood vessels so obviously there, and felt the pulse.
Not today. Some day. Oh most definitely some day, and soon.
“You bitch, Summers!”
The whistle went. “Penalty shot blues! Summers, do that again and you are off. This is not rugby!”
“Do what, Miss? She got in the way!”
“Elbows are not part of the game, girl! Play on!”
He got sticked across the shins two or three times later, but that was something he had expected, and the next time Yvonne trotted past him the hook of the stick went just SO on her ankles and the stupid cow went flat on her tits.
The fight in the showers was quite satisfying. The resultant lecture and suspension weren’t, and neither was the look on his mother’s face. That was always the hard thing, the painful one. So much of his life was utterly ratshit, but he still loved his mother, and…
No. All of his life was ratshit, everything except the love of his mother. And the worst part, just then…
They had gone to shower, and of course the fight had started, Yvonne’s best friend Ellie Carstairs getting the ball rolling with a big handful of his hair as he was hauled backwards, but the stamp on her instep had broken that hold, as he turned and lashed out with his right fist, leaving Yvonne sat on her arse with a bloody nose. He had stood, proper stance, feet just so, both fists cocked, chin down, as Ellie staggered back, crying.
Yvonne just sat on the floor, weeping, and something broke in Jerry just then. She simply sat there, naked, tears mingling with the spray of the shower and the blood from her nose, and with a shock it struck him exactly how pretty she was and how brutal he had been. He held out a hand to her, to help her up.
“Get away from me you fucking lezzer!”
Suit yourself, then. He turned back to his own shower, his own tears mixing with the water. Suit yourself, girl.
That night, the cuts went deeper, lower, and the hospital stay was so boring as his wrists healed that he decided the next time would start with moving his bed to block the door. Stupidly, he made the mistake of telling that to the shrink they sent round, and his stay in a bed turned into some weeks in a different sort of hospital, but that wasn’t boring because he couldn’t actually focus a lot on what went on.
“Hi, mate, drinks in the main hall, coats by the gym, yeah. Name?”
“Summers. Jerry Summers”
The receptionist looked slightly cross-eyed. “Says Geraldine here…”
Jerry did his best to make his beard bristle. “Obviously a cock-up, as you can see!”
“Yeah…here you go, name badge, yeah? You remember the way?”
He grinned, hauling back the aggression that seemed to come so easily ever since…
The scars had healed nicely, even if he did feel a bit vain at times. Next year the hysterectomy, but the abs and pecs were coming along nicely, and the more work he did on the lats and deltoids the smaller they made his hips look. Nothing he could do about the bone structure, but at least the gym work let him shed some of the rage that had boiled in him all his life. Dump the coat, keep the jacket to enhance his shoulders, a glass of wine and a plate of nibbles, and mingle…
Which didn’t happen. There were people he recognised, people he had detested, people he had loved, but they were all dancing attendance on each other and not on him. It was like being in a goldfish bowl, separate and apart but still visible.
He looked up, groping for a name for a few seconds…”Mr Stopher!”
“Alan, please, at a do like this. You have clearly…followed your star, yes?”
Alan had taught maths, one subject Jerry had actually delighted in, something so absorbing he had almost been able to ignore the shittier side of life, especially when that horrible monthly visit was in progress. He looked Jerry up and down.
“Want to talk?”
Jerry sipped his wine. “Long story, Mr… Alan”
The older man smiled, and that was when everything almost fell apart for Jerry. Everything from leaving school had been a matter of tension, pulling back, wrapping and hiding, and suddenly there he was, on the same ground, with the same people, invisible in their midst except for one clearly sympathetic ear.
“Very long story, mate. You know I had that accident, yeah?”
“When you accidentally cut your wrists? My wife works at that hospital… Jerry?”
He pointed to his name badge. “Yeah. Easy to remember”
“Jerry. Fine. Yes, I know about that”
“Well, they decided to commit me for a while, right? Healthy young girl, fights, cuts herself, must be barking, yeah? Spent a while on planet Valium while they tried to work it out. Got lucky in the end”
“Got a visiting shrink in, doing locum work, yeah? Asian guy, absolutely neat as a neat thing. Asked me a few questions, and I’m trying to talk, and it’s all cotton wool and fluffy kittens in my mouth, and he gets them to stop doping me so I can talk, and bugger me if he doesn’t actually want to talk, yeah? TALK, listen, ask questions, not just fucking ASSUME…sorry. I get a bit, well, the hormones make me sharper than I used to be, spikier”
Alan grinned. “Not according to what Sandra Collins used to say about you with a hockey stick, Jerry!”
Jerry grinned. “Well, all right, I’ll give you that, but then I always wanted to play rugby!”
“So carry on?”
“Well, all rather obvious after that. Dr Raj sorted me out with a proper therapy plan, got me out of the loony bin they’d stuck me in. Came round home, even…”
Jerry felt so grateful afterwards, as without a word Alan steered him into the gents’, without a thought into the men’s toilets, or perhaps with all the thought in the world, and waited till he could man the fuck up again and lose the tears. Alan held out some toilet paper.
“It’s not unmanly to cry, Jerry. Not at all. Shows you’re human, which is more important than being macho”
“Sorry, mate, was just memories. Mum went batshit crazy. Took a long time to talk her down. Never did, really, and after, well…after I told her about the hysterectomy we had a bit of a falling out. No grandkids, yeah? No longer possible, mummy bits are leaving the building and good fucking riddance. Along with, well…”
He gestured vaguely at his chest. Alan nodded. "I had noticed. You were a big…girl”
Jerry sighed. “Don’t I remember. Horrible things, never should’ve had the sods. Never wanted them”
Alan started to laugh. “Look, don’t tell anyone, yes? But Mr Mynott, stinks, remember him?”
“Chemistry bloke? I never did Chemistry”
“Bloody good job you didn’t! He had the hots for your tits, most emphatically!”
“My tits? Just my tits?”
“Oh yes. Dirty old bugger. Used to talk about them all the time. ‘Summers’ tits’ he’d say. Never spoke about you, just your tits... you are straight, aren’t you? The look on your face when I mention a man. Dear god, showers, after PE... no, I don’t want to know. Enough. Look, are you still living locally?”
“Five miles away. Had to move out after…after Mum went”
“Well, look, I’ll give you my mobile. Can always do with another mate for a pint every now and again, and I have someone I think you need to meet. Come on, let’s get back in and move and shake”
They returned to the main hall, but Jerry felt better staying at the edge of things, out of the flow. Alan had been a surprise, but all these others, they carried so much history. Perhaps the reunion had been a mistake. Alan was at his shoulder again.
“Jerry, I dragged over an old friend”
He turned to the blonde standing next to Alan, and there was no need for a name badge, her face having lived in his memory ever since that day in the showers. ‘Lezzer’...
“Er, hello, Yvonne”
What else could he say?
“Um, Jerry, hi. Mr Stopher—“
“Alan tonight, love”
“Thank you. Alan gave me a sort of... oh shit, it suits you. It makes sense, yeah? So…so you weren’t a dyke then?”
Jerry did his best to drag out a rakish grin. “Nope, straight as any other bloke, that’s me! Well, as long as he’s not gay, that is”
Alan had drifted away, with a little smile. Jerry kept the grin going.
“The other guy, of course. Glass of wine? Long story…”
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to commit the body of our friend and colleague Alan Raymond Stopher to his eternal rest with our beloved Saviour…”
Jerry was doing his best, but the last few months had been a nightmare. How Joyce had coped he would never understand. The cancer had bitten so quickly, the decay and demolition of Alan’s body had been so atrociously rapid, that neither he nor the broken widow had been given anywhere near enough time to come to terms with his impending death. They had been like car passengers trapped on a level crossing before an oncoming express train. Things had happened at their own speed, and that speed had been no respecter of human emotions.
He helped her away from the grave, and in his grief-driven blindness he didn’t see whose arm it was that linked with his until he had delivered Joyce to the car, but it was Yvonne, and there were no words, just arms, and warmth, and comfort.
“Are you free tomorrow evening, mate?”
“What you got, Sal?”
“I am in a bit of a state. You’ll know about…”
“I know, love. You don’t need to explain. I understand. Look, we’re having a proper dinner Sunday, and She Who Must Be Obeyed is doing a beef joint, all the wotsits. You’d be welcome”
“Sounds good,. You be up for tomorrow, round a friend’s? Got something to talk through and some people to meet”
“Just give me a time, Sal”
She came round the following evening, and he gave his wife a peck before climbing into the car with Sally. She drove in silence for a minute.
“Jerry, You know she was no longer a patient?”
He took her left hand. “I know she was more than that, Sal. I know what this is doing to you”
“Well, these people, yeah, one of them is the same. We... sod it, you’ll understand”
They parked on a gravel driveway between two quite large houses, and his egalitarian sentiments twitched a bit as they walked to one of the front doors, where she rang the bell. It was opened by a very fit-looking dark-haired man.
“Geoff, this is Jerry. Steph decent?”
Jerry was amused to see a faint blush hit the man’s cheeks, and had a sudden suspicion of their pre-visit activities. Geoff led the way into the conservatory, where a tall woman with auburn hair was sitting with a violin in front of a music stand.
“Hi Steph. This is…”
He stepped forward, hand out, shoulders braced as he manned the etc up.
“Jerry Summers. I’m the sort of coordinator, organiser thingy of Young T. It’s a sort of support group for transgendered folk, primarily for the younger ones. We do sessions on self harm, cutting, identity, that sort of thing”
She was staring, and he knew the look, just as he knew his arse would never get smaller nor his height increase.
“Yes, it was once Geraldine. Easier to get along if you don’t have to keep remembering a new name, if you can understand that”
The tall redhead nodded. “Yup. That’s why I changed from Steve”
Bloody hell. He started to stare at her properly, as Sally giggled and made a remark about patient confidentiality, and then it was down to business.
One murdered transwoman, one group of human beings determined to make a difference. He smiled to himself: in more ways than the obvious one, these were his sort of folk. Drag queen pallbearers, ye gods. He thought for a while before he summed it up.
“Yet again we have to educate people about the difference between gender and sexuality, you’d think they’d know by now. Anyway, this is not the first of these events I have had to suffer, so here’s my take. Sally tells me that Melanie was a devout atheist—no, Sally, those were her words, you said---so we are looking at a humanist ceremony, a ‘Speaker for the Dead’ sort of thing. We put the word out to all the various groups and clubs, perhaps the London and Brighton Pride organisers, and we have as much colour as we can, but as a centrepiece we have a dark core to emphasise that this is not a party for the sake of it.”
Sally looked drawn. “Will you play for her, Steph?”
Geoff nodded. “I think we can do better than that”
He explained his plan, and Jerry grinned. He picked up his mobile.
“Love: We have some work to do. Worst of reasons, best of results, I hope. Back in about an hour, I think. Yes, I’ll get a Chinese on the way, if you want. Love you, Yvonne”
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudo!
Click the Good Story! button above to leave the author a kudo:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.