It's Okay

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Totowa, New Jersey, some time ago…

“You were pretty,” the girl said to her best friend as she stood facing him while she rubbed his shoulders. He winced as her sleeve brushed up against the still-visible hand-shaped red mark on his left cheek.

“Oh…” She backed away in apology.

“Not your fault.” The boy dropped the skirt from his waist and grabbed a pair of sweat pants off of his desk chair.

Nevertheless, the girl felt guilty for her failure to protect the thirteen-year-old boy from the cruelty of his father. She vowed she would do whatever she could to help the boy prove she really was a girl; a vow destined to be thwarted for a very long time.

Several years later…

“I’m so sorry.” He said. He glanced at himself; a scan that was almost sterile and cold. She stared at him and sighed.

“You don’t have to go,” she said as she used her arm in a sweeping gesture toward the house.

“They’ll come around. They HAVE to….they just have to!”

“They might in time, but it’s just too hard... I feel hopeless. Mommy’s afraid and Daddy refuses to see me...”

“I see you,’ she argued with fading energy. It wasn’t that her argument was too weak. It was that the pain was too much for him to bear. He would never be the son they had hoped for and they might never see the daughter their child had always been.

He stepped close and hugged her. Goodbye? Maybe Adieu? Certainly an adios? Until that day.

Please? Stay?” She cried as he broke free from the embrace.

“I’m….I’m so sorry…” He said as the tears cascaded off his face. He got in his car and quickly drove off; leaving her in a mood that was an odd mixture of resignation and hope.

Her love for that person he was becoming might not sustain any trust that the future might engender but it was all she had. It had to conquer, hadn’t it? It wasn’t a perfect love, but maybe it would succeed in at least beginning to dispel all fears?

The day approaches… years later…

Lonnie sat cross-legged on her bed; wistfully smiling at her image on the closet door mirror. She had an especially fruitful conversation with her thirteen-year-old self. It was, of course, an exercise designed to invite that part of her into her heart space.

So we’re okay?” Lonnie asked.

“I already forgave you. If you had told anybody but Cee, Daddy would have killed us. I’m still sad that it took so long for you to talk to me. You talked to little Lonnie ‘cause she cries a lot, I guess I didn’t cry enough?”

“And I stopped crying, period. At least until last year. I’m… I’m so sorry I let you down!” Lonnie gasped.

“You didn’t let me down or Little Lonnie. Daddy let all of us down.”

That afternoon, thirteen-year-old Lonnie melded into her adult self as every bit of Lonnie cried herself to sleep; no wracking sobs but instead healthy grieving mixed with relief.

The office of Jackie Delussio, LPC, Annapolis, Maryland…

“It’s a new year, Lonnie? Any resolutions?” Jackie laid her notepad aside and sidled her desk chair closer to Lonnie.

“I resolve to at least try to hope for a good outcome,” Lonnie said. She clutched a very worn Teddy Bear to her breast and gasped.

“I’m going to go home, Jackie,” Lonnie said as she stared out the window as if she could see all the way back past cities and plains and hours and days and years.

“I am so proud of the work you’ve done, Lonnie. I am confident that whatever awaits you will only serve to strengthen your resolve to face and find resolution. Jackie stood up and helped Lonnie to her feet,

“I will not say goodbye, but as my Nona used to say, “Andare con Dio.” Jackie hugged Lonnie.

“Thanks. I owe you my life.”

“I only helped you to see yourself a bit, Lonnie. You did all the work.”

“Still, I might not have gotten ready to face my choices, both bad and good, had it not been for you. Thanks for being here. I’ll let you know when I get there.”

“Resolution or destination?”

“Hopefully both will mix together. I’m scared as fuck.” Lonnie said with a shake of the head.

“I know, but you have love going for you, and love conquers all.”

“If love at least manages to tame things a bit, maybe I can manage the rest.” Lonnie shrugged her shoulders,

“Like I said, Lonnie, Andare con Dio! And remember that no matter what, it’s okay!”

I moved to California in the summertime
I changed my name, thinkin' that it would change my mind
I thought that all my problems, they would stay behind
I was a stick of dynamite and it just was a matter of time, yeah

It’s Okay

Little Falls Methodist Church Parking Lot, 9:26 pm….

“Excuse me,” Lonnie heard as she reached her car, she turned around to face the woman.

“Hi….I’m Cassie. I noticed your quick exit after the meeting, and I just wanted to welcome you.” Lonnie smiled and held out her hand in greeting.

“Lonnie.” She smiled but glanced nervously at her car; lamenting what now had morphed into a not-so-quick exit.

“Uh…nice to meet you,” Lonnie said, but with her gaze pulled between the car and the woman.”

“I… I’m sorry to keep you, but there’s something about you that seems so familiar” Cassie said. Lonnie smiled nervously even as she was looking in her purse for her keys.

“I get that a lot. You’re probably only a bit younger than me, so maybe I resemble a college classmate?” Lonnie regretted her words even as they escaped her mouth. Nothing of what she said betrayed what had been a secret up to that point. Lonnie hoped she would have the courage to face Cassie before her resolve faltered.

“I… I suppose you’re right. I hope we’ll see you soon,” Cassie said, pointing to the other ‘members’ who were leaving the church. Lonnie smiled again even as she hit the unlock button on her key fob; evoking a brief if intrusive beep.

“Nice meeting you…sorry… I forgot your name…Miss?”

“Mrs…. Lonnie.” She fibbed. Lonnie had long considered herself a wife of sorts; if only in spirit. She got into her car and quickly opened the driver’s side window.

“I’m so sorry. I hadn’t meant to be rude. Cassie?” Lonnie was poised to add the woman’s surname but thought better of it.

“Yes,” Cassie answered. “It’s okay. I’m…I was once married sort of but I lost them. But it’s all okay now.”

Lonnie nodded and spoke.

“I’m sure we’ll see each other,” Lonnie pointed to the church. She noticed the “All Are Welcome” blurb on the church sign.

“Ah, Cassie said. ”Generic Methodist Nice; of course, they don’t advertise our meetings for our sake, though I come here on Sundays, too.” Lonnie nodded and smiled.

“Great to meet you!” Cassie, smiled back even as Lonnie started the car and drove off quickly. She followed the lights of the car as it left the parking lot

And only after a block away, Lonnie’s smile had turned into a tearful frown as she sighed,

“Same old Cassie.”

Oh dang, oh my, now I can't hide
Said I knew myself, but I guess I lied

Cassie walked to her own car and paused.

“Same old Jimmy,” she said with a near grin as she rubbed her left hand, fidgeting with her wedding band.

It's okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay
If you're lost
We're all a little lost and it's alright
It's okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay
If you're lost
We're all a little lost and it's alright

Little Falls Methodist Church, a few weeks later after another meeting…

“Hey… Lonnie, right?” Cassie said as the hall was emptying out.

“I haven’t seen you in a bit. Everything okay?”

“Uh… I was fighting a viral thing,” Lonnie said, hoping her “transparency” would lead Cassie to assume it was a dodge about AA instead of her fear of being found out and of her fear about facing the past.

“Sorry to hear that,” Cassie said. She was also dreading facing the real reason Lonnie had returned. Not the reconciliation that was hoped for, but her fear of failing to bridge whatever gap Jimmy/Lonnie feared to cross. She would never fail to try.

“I’m doing better,” Lonnie replied. She hoped that her mere presence would spark some inner strength to stare down what held her back; her biggest fear almost hiding behind everything else. And she didn’t want mere friendship; whatever that meant, but the pain of her own decisions left her wondering if making peace was all that was fated.

“You want to get a coffee at Falls Kitchen?” Cassie said as she put her keys in her coat pocket; glancing at the diner across the street.

“Su…sure. I missed dinner. I read in New Jersey Monthly that The Falls has a great menu.” Lonnie fibbed. She had been dreading the evening with its inevitable re-acquaintance with Cassie; including several swigs of Mylanta straight from the bottle.

“Tell you what, Cassie began.

“My treat. I skipped dinner and all I’ve had were some cheese crackers from the vending machine at the hospital.” She hadn’t meant to, but Cassie mentioned her work.

“Same old Cassie,” Lonnie thought. “She’s probably the Montclair State NICU Head by now.”

“Okay, but I pick up the check next time,” Lonnie said. Cassie smiled to herself.

“Alright…She must want there to be a next time,” Cassie thought. Their meal was uneventful, generic, and non-threatening with the expected pledge to see each other the following week after the meeting.

I, I wrote a hundred pages but I burned 'em all (Ooh, I, I burned 'em all)
I blow through yellow lights and don't look back at all (Ooh, I don't look back at all)
Yeah, you can call me reckless, I'm a cannonball (Ooh, I'm a cannonball)
Don't know why I take the tightrope and cry when I fall

Cedar Grove at Lonnie’s apartment, two Saturdays later …

Lonnie stared at a old photo she had laminated years ago to preserve it; two teens looking somewhat happy but a wee bit nervous, if that makes sense. It was as if their contentment rested on the edge of a very sharp knife. Lonnie sighed as she looked at her watch.

“I THINK I CAN… I Think I can… I think….” Her voice trailed off. It was the mantra from the old story; updated to The Little Trans Woman Who Could.

The two women had made a very cautious decision to get together outside of meetings. Nothing more than new friends expanding social connection; at least Lonnie hoped that would fly. Lonnie sighed again as she stared at the photograph. She could not turn back time; but could the friendship she had with Cassie be redeemed once she revealed who she was? Was she being reckless?

Meanwhile, Little Falls, at Cassie’s Home…

“She loves me…she loves me not…” Cassie almost sounded like the hopeful teen she had been.

“Why Lonnie and not Jamie,” she mused aloud. “Jimmy was…IS a nice name. Where did Lonnie come from?” A harmless question to ask or too close to home? Time enough to ponder as she grabbed her car keys and headed out.

The parking lot of Falls Kitchen, a few minutes later…

Cassie stood by her car as Lonnie drove up. She pointed to the darkened restaurant as Lonnie exited her own car.

“’Closed For Renovations.’ Sort of like a New Year’s Resolution for a Diner, right?” Cassie laughed. Lonnie, on the other hand, looked nervous.

“Say. I have a killer meatloaf at home that I can heat up, and my place is just around the corner. You can follow me and that way you can drive home from there.” Cassie tilted her head in question.

“Uh…uh okay…” Lonnie said with a slow if reluctant nod. She had that feeling we sometimes get when we make a decision, like a tightrope walker choosing to work without a safety net. But life had maneuvered both of them into a relatively safe place. And that now-or-never fear shoved Lonnie into repeating herself with at least the beginning of confidence,

“Okay,” she said as she walked back and got into her car. In a few moments, both of them were on the way to a mini-date with destiny.

It's okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay
If you're lost
We're all a little lost and it's alright
It's okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay
If you're lost
We're all a little lost and it's alright

Cassie’s apartment, between the entrée and dessert…

“The Meatloaf was great… You’re a great cook… Any secret to your recipe?” Lonnie asked as Cassie cleared the table.

“Mogen & David Blackberry Wine…just like Mrs. Kahn used to make it.” She turned her back and grinned; but not before spying Lonnie’s blush at the all-too-familiar name of Bubbeh Esther from their old neighborhood.

“Here’s a question for you, ‘kay?” Lonnie nodded almost absent-mindedly until Cassie added,”

“Why Lonnie? Wasn’t Jamie a good fit?” She might have sounded a bit sarcastic but for the small grin and teary eyes. Nevertheless, Lonnie gasped.

“Uh... Alonsa after my Nonnie…” Lonnie’s face grew redder and her voice trailed off. Cassie continued.

“Relax. You didn’t out yourself. But do you really think…did you think I wouldn’t know the only person I ever loved? My eighteen-year-old self has been crying ever since you left.”

Lonnie went to speak, but Cassie held up her hand in caution.

“Hear me out for a sec, okay? I’m not mad at you…anymore. I was so angry but… Hell, Jimmy!” Lonnie winced at the name.

“Sorry. Lonnie…. Every part of me came to a frustrating truth…with my therapist’s help. I realized that your Dad drove you away. That my love couldn’t heal that pain.” Cassie was tearful but controlled. Lonnie was sobbing.

“My big problem now is that a lot of my selves want to pick things up where we…where you left off. But my older but wiser Cassie is telling me to slow down.”

She and Lonnie gasped at the same time. Cassie resumed talking while Lonnie’s crying began to ebb.

“It has to be like we never met, since I don’t know the you that you’ve become….And you don’t know the me I became!”

“I am so sorry,” Lonnie gasped as tears began to all once again.

“I know you’re sorry. We're good as far as that goes. But that doesn’t narrow the space between the Cassie and Jimmy we were and who we are now.” Lonnie shuddered at the thought; as if a cold breeze chilled her neck. Cassie noticed and stepped close.

“We can’t finish what we started ’cause that’s already over and done with.” Lonnie looked up with pleading eyes before laying her head on the table as she cried; this time softly as if in surrender.

“Jim…Lonnie?” Cassie put her hand on the back of Lonnie’s neck; evoking a wince that relaxed into a recollection that Cassie put into words for them both.

“Nothing has changed about what I feel for you, but I have to figure out...we have to figure out how to feel for each other.” Cassie leaned closer and kissed the top of Lonnie’s head.

“I decided that I would love you if you came home…home, Lonnie. The New Year has further solidified that resolution, okay? Can we just agree that however long it takes; whatever it takes, that you and I discover each other?”

“Yeh…yes.” Lonnie said.

“And that no matter what has gone on before, that we can resolve that you and I will get where we’re going together? Is that okay?” Cassie backed up and touched Lonnie’s face softly.

“And don’t worry about the tears. You always were the one to cry. I’m just glad that you’ll be around from now on to use my shoulder to cry on. If that’s okay.”

Lonnie raised her head and took a deep breath and spoke,

“It’s okay.” She put her head back on the table and cried softly. Cassie looked at her and smiled; thinking to herself.

“Same old…Lonnie.”

And Lonnie’s cries grew softer and sweeter as she smiled to herself,

“Same old Cassie.”

It’s Okay
Words and Music by the Artist
Jane Kristen Marczewski (Nightbirde)
(edited to include the music, as is my wont)

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