A Bonnie Lass

Do you go through life wondering what people know about you?

A Bonnie Lass
by Angela Rasch

“Is she really going out with him?” The not-so-subtle whispers echoed through the locker room while grinning boys were exchanging jockey shorts for jockstraps in anticipation of hotly contested dodgeball on the gym floor. The comment sounded like the beginning of that song that was #1 a few months back, The Leader of the Pack. Instead of the Shangri-Las singing about a motorcycle hoodlum, the other boys in the gymnasium dressing room were questioning the validity of my love life.

Bonnie Berg and I were going on our second date that following Friday to see Goldfinger, a new James Bond movie. All of us guys had read all the Ian Fleming books. I’d seen Dr. No and From Russia with Love with my buddies and laughed at all the double entendres, but taking a girl to see a spy thriller like that would be a new experience.

Almost everything I did with Bonnie was a “new experience”.

I hadn’t dated many girls because I had broken my leg in a fight, with a sophomore, during my freshmen year. I had taken his position as fullback on our JV football team, and he couldn’t handle the humiliation of someone younger than him being a better athlete.

There were a lot of boys in the class above me, Bonnie's classmates, who disliked me. I didn’t know why and elected to think it was because word had gotten out that I had scored in the top one percentile on a national scholastics test. Only one other person in our small, Catholic high school had scored above ninety-five percentile, and she was deemed okay because a girl could be smart.

I was bigger, faster, and stronger than most of the boys in my class, or the class above mine, but that didn’t stop the older guys from calling me names like “wimp” or “dickhead”.

And now, it looks like I’m going to be going steady with Bonnie. It’s easy to tell she really likes me, and I’m nuts about her. I haven’t gone steady with anyone before because the priests and nuns say it’s a sin, which I question. Teddy O’Hearn told me “Bonnie” means pretty in Ireland. As far as I’m concerned Bonnie Berg is the prettiest girl in our high school. . .and the nicest.

“Why’s Bonnie going out with you, whistledick?” one truly obnoxious Neanderthal asked derisively.

“Up yours!” I yelled for everyone to hear. “If you weren’t such an incredible loser, maybe you could get a date, with something.”

A year before when I had gotten into that playground fight during the first week of December I had slipped on loose gravel on top of the cement slab where we played outdoor basketball. I had hit my head and knocked myself out. The boy who had just called me “whistledick” had jumped up and down on my leg and broken both my tibia and fibula in two places. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t kick his butt if I had to prove my masculinity.

“I suppose she’s going out with me because she likes me. Is that too hard for a moron like you to figure out on your own?”

After the movie we were going over to her friend’s house and make Chef Boyardee pizza out of a box. I’d never had pizza and really looked forward to seeing what everyone was so excited about.

“Bonnie’s sort of weird, but even she will figure out you’re an asshole.” The guy who said that had one enduring quality. Because of him you never had to worry that anyone would claim you had the worst breath in school. His personal odor rated somewhere between putrid and horse manure.

Do they hate me because I’m smarter than them and better at sports? Or, is it possible I’ve somehow slipped up and given away my secret.

I had a keen interest in girls and loved almost everything about them. I couldn’t imagine anything better than the way they smelled, which was what I imagined would be the aroma of heaven. I spent hours admiring the glistening skin on their hairless legs -- poking out from below billowing skirts, that made much the same sound as the slashing against your legs when you ran through a field of fully-grown wheat.

I dreamed of girls for hours on end -- dreamed of dating them, kissing them, slow dancing with them, and pressing against their soft bodies.

Oddly, I also dreamed of being one of them.

That was my innermost secret, a desire I told no one, but my urge was incredibly strong. I had dressed in my older sister’s clothing on the sly as often as I could. I went to bed every night wishing, dreaming that I would wake the next day -- not as the rough and tumble boy I had been born, but as the delicate female I was on the inside.

No. It’s impossible for them to know how I feel. I’ve been very careful to show only my male side to the world. As far as those pricks know, I’m 100% boy. No one knows I’m really this freak. I’m one of a kind. . .the only guy in the world who thinks he should have been born a girl.

“She’s going out with him because she thinks he’s fun.” Bonnie’s brother, Charlie, had offered his two cents from across the room. A classmate, Charlie was almost a non-entity — strictly from dullsville. He was on the smaller side and didn’t play sports. His claim to fame was riding a unicycle he had built for himself out of old bicycle parts. “Bonnie told me she thinks he’s the cutest boy in school.”

***

“We’ve been dating for over four months now,” she said.

I looked into her beautiful grey eyes and felt the lust that lurked barely below the surface whenever I was with her. Some nights, after our dates, my balls ached from having a raging hard-on for hours on end. It was still the mid-sixties, and I was as button-downed as required by the ethics of the day. It would be several more years before the sexual revolution.

Probably the most wonderful thing about Bonnie was that she seemed to really “get” me. It was as if she could see into my soul and understand what I was all about. She appreciated me for the person I truly was.

Not that our relationship wasn’t hard. Dating Bonnie was like painting a house on a tall stepladder. Every stepladder has a warning label. “The top or top step shall not be used as a step.” A stepladder uses the power of the triangle to establish a strong base below. When you go beyond the safety standards and use the top step, all of the advantages of a triangle are lost and the ladder becomes extremely unstable, both in strength and in the ability to remain upright.

Sometimes you just have to ignore that warning, not only in the use of stepladders, but in personal relationships. Sometimes you need to reach heights that are beyond safe. Even though it had been scary dating her, like that night I stayed out until 4:30 AM because I didn’t want to be the first one who said it was too late, I enjoyed immensely every minute — every second of our dating.

“Four months,” I echoed. We were sitting on the front porch of her house. We’d just gone to a school hootenanny and had our usual great time. People had become accepting of us as a couple.

We kissed, and then she pulled away to arm’s-length. The look on her face was as if I had spit on her mother.

“I’ve been testing you all night.”

“Huh?” I asked stupidly.

“I read this test in a magazine, and I’ve been giving it to you all night.”

This doesn’t sound good.

“You flunked,” she said, as if I was a peace of gum on the bottom of her shoe. “That kiss was the last straw.”

“What do you mean, ‘last straw’?”

“The boy is supposed to kiss the girl,” she said. “I had to kiss you. You’re not the boy who’s right for me.”

And that was it. We were over. On the way home from her house, struggling for answers, I wondered if there was any way she could have known about my urges. No . . . it has to be something else. I wear my lettermen’s jacket everywhere I go. No one has any idea. I was dumbfounded.

We remained friends. That’s how pathetic I was. I slowly moved on and found what I thought was the love of my life, picking a freshman, when I was a junior, as my new girlfriend. She was pretty and a cheerleader. I fell head over heels in love.

When junior prom rolled around I took Bonnie’s best friend. My girlfriend couldn’t go because she was too young, and Bonnie asked me to take her friend -- because she hadn’t been asked. I didn’t have it in me to say “no”. I’m sure Bonnie had counted on that.

At the time I thought Bonnie should've had her brother Charlie take her friend. One time Bonnie had asked me if I liked Charlie. When I said he was an okay guy, she smiled and answered, "I was afraid you thought he was weird. A lot of poeple do."

***

During college I would line Bonnie up with dates when she came to Brookings, where I was enrolled at South Dakota State University. She would line me up with dates when I went to Vermillion, where she attended the University of South Dakota.

On one occasion she set me up with one of her best friends, a girl who might have been Madonna, a few decades later: funny, cute, and very with it. We dated quite a number of times, but she was too avant garde for me. Bonnie called when she heard I didn’t want to go out with her friend anymore.

“You know,” she said, “you’re not the big stud you seemingly want people to believe you are.”

The way she said it caused me to wonder again if my slip was showing. But that was impossible. I had joined the most masculine fraternity on our campus and had become one of the hardest drinking, women-chasing BMOC’s imaginable. I had also taken every psychology course I could, eager -- and yet fearful -- to find out what was wrong with me. In all those courses I found one paragraph, in one textbook, which discussed the “abnormal” desire some men have to dress in women’s clothing. At least I knew there were more like me, abnormal as I was.

***

The last time I saw Bonnie was at her wedding. All I remember of it was that for some reason fate dealt me one last opportunity when her husband walked into the same bar I was drinking at -- about an hour before the ceremony. Out of spite, and a sense of justice, I kept him there, pouring scotch into him until five minutes before he was scheduled to meet her at the altar. He made it, slightly the worse for wear, and then I had to watch her float down the aisle to a life with him.

In truth, he most likely could have been the better man. He was so darned cute I probably would have screwed him, even though I’ve never swung from that side of the plate. Noted as one of the nicest people in our high school, but not for his brains, he graduated from college with a pharmacy degree . . . an extremely demanding curriculum.

***

In my early sixties I finally went to an all-school reunion. I hadn’t thought of Bonnie in years. Memory of her had faded when other loves were lost and found, including my current wife of over thirty-five years.

One of my classmates came up to me. "Have you seen Bonnie? She's the best-looking woman at the reunion. She's here with her sister."

He's drunk. Bonnie doesn't have a sister. But . . . I have to see her. I searched for her for about ten minutes, and when I finally did locate her I thought I was seeing double. From thirty feet way it looked like Bonnie had somehow split into two incredibly elegant women.

My mind shifted into overdrive and poured doubts into those crevices that had eroded in my brain from years of guilt and shame. Somehow she had to have known. Way back then she had to have realized I’m transgendered, even though no one knew that word at that time. But how? How did she know? Even now, I maintain a masculine persona.

I found the courage to walk up to her. When I got close I could tell which one was Bonnie. The fact that she had her arm hooked through her husband’s arm tipped the scale. Both women are gorgeous. The other one must be a cousin, because Bonnie only had the two brothers: Charlie and. . . .

A smile split Bonnie’s face. “It’s so good to see you. I was hoping you would come to the reunion. It’s been too long.” She hugged me warmly.

I accepted her husband’s handshake and wished I hadn’t been such a jerk before their wedding.

“Have you and Charlene had a chance to catch up?” Bonnie turned me toward the other woman. “You remember my sister, don’t you?”

Sister???? I looked to the girl I had thought was Bonnie’s cousin and suddenly realized I had been Charlene’s classmate many, many years before.

The End



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