The Winter Romance of Bernice Crocetti - Part 1 of 3

990AC229CB74F7E21040AED46C90_h400_w400_m2_bblack_q100_p100_cYbeJeezW.jpgby Andrea DiMaggio

There are so many of us who find we can have faith that moves mountains, just not faith for our own sake. We see the best in others while seeing so little of worth in ourselves. Life can be hard when you’re stuck that way, but Bernice was about to find out that someone had faith in her.

Part One — Unbreakable

This room
No one ever sees the whole me
Only stronger side
But inside
This heart
There is much to know
About me
Words can not describe

Previously, from The Summer of Love of Linda Piontak...

“Sorry you had to leave. We figured you needed some cheering up, so we came over. Oh, sorry…this is my girlfriend Bernice…she’s Dave’s sister.

“Gggirl….girlfriend?” Linda stared at Bernice like she had two heads.

“Yeah…you know…a friend….who happens to be a girl.” Bernice took Linda’s comment the wrong way and Annette figured out what was going on and said….

“No, honey…I think she thought your brother was my….boyfriend.” She turned and looked at Linda with an “am I right,” expression. Linda nodded....

“Your boyfriend left you because he couldn’t handle your heart, dear.” Linda winced until she heard her next words,

“Just being you made it difficult for him to face himself. He’s got to find himself, and it can’t be with you; you’ve already realized that, and it hurts, but it’s not you, honey, no matter what.” She was right, of course.

“Listen, you’re not the first trans-woman to go through this, and you certainly won’t be the last.” Linda was startled to the point of nearly spilling her soup. Annette grabbed her free hand and held it.

“I’m sorry, honey, but you needed another friend; someone who understands what you’re going through....”

“How...what...Annette...I told that to you in confidence....” She tried to protest, but something seemed oddly good...even right about Bernice and Dave knowing her secret. She looked over at them and Dave smiled.

“Linda Piontak, you’ve met my sister the former Angelo Seraphino Crocetti.”

Community United Methodist Church, Jackson Heights, New York, New York...mid December...

“That was about as lovely a wedding as I’ve seen in my lifetime….for a ten minute service…” Dave kidded as Annette and Linda stood at the back of the church receiving the ‘guests’ for the hastily thrown together wedding; Dave and Justin his boyfriend, Linda’s mom Susan and her step-mom Laura; Tony, her best friend and now step-brother and his wife Astrid as well as several of the faculty and friends at Julliard.

Annette was glad that Bernice, Dave’s sister and Annette’s best friend (and former lover) was able to attend. Sajid Sharma was kind enough to arrive a day earlier than his projected delivery date, so Bernice was free for the service.

The ceremony was hastily arranged to coincide with the Thanksgiving break at school along with an available church. The pastor of the church was kind enough to donate her services and the use of the fellowship hall, but Dave and Bernice insisted on giving the woman a generous gift anyway.

“Who’d have thought?” Bernice kidded with her best imitation of Gilda Radner’s Rosanne Roseannadanna. “It’s always somethin…” She laughed softly and poked Annette in her left shoulder; likely the only other person besides Linda who could get away with such a personal touch in such a tender place. Annette winced only a little as the light touch sent a mixture of slight pain and ticklish energy coursing through the pinned sleeve of her wedding dress to the stump that lay underneath.

Both she and Linda had settled on buying a couple of antique gowns they found in a consignment shop. It was ‘on the cheap,’ as they say; not just to be frugal, but because they wanted to be focused on the day and the relationship and not the pomp of the circumstances, so to speak. They took the money they would have spent on a big wedding and a honeymoon and put it in the bank for a ‘rainy day.’


Annette looked at Bernice and half-frowned; tears had begun to fill up once again for the umpteenth time since the service had concluded. This time they were personal, but not for the day and certainly not for herself. Bernice nodded. Just as Linda had moved on from her relationship with Tony to find live with Annette, Annette had done the same with Bernice. But there still would be places in each other’s hearts for…forever, it would come to be. Bernice still had feelings for Annette in no small way, but it had been an established fact for perhaps too long a time that she and Annette were never ‘meant’ for each other.

“I’m going to go over and talk with Pastor Martinez, sweetie,” Linda said, kissing Annette lightly on the cheek. She stepped even closer and spoke softly.

“Go ahead…it’s okay…really.”

Linda kissed her once again before walking away. The girl had developed almost a sixth sense regarding her new bride, and the words became an unexpected permission to do and say what even Annette had failed to realize was necessary until that moment. Annette turned back to Bernice, whose eyes had been fixed on Linda as she stood with the Pastor. Jealousy and envy would never ever be a part of who Bernice was, but hopeful longing for what someone else might enjoy or experience was to be expected. She sighed and wiped more than a few tears from her eyes.

If you look
If you really read between the lines
You will see
This is just a disguise
A disguise

“Hey…kiddo…?” Annette said with a laugh, but it wasn’t a tease. More over, it was as personal a connection as the two still maintained now that Annette had found another love. Bernice would harbor no doubts or regrets about their decision to part, but instead felt more alone than she had ever felt before; even in a crowded room with her best friend in front of her. It was time to let go; she knew that. And while it was time, it wasn’t comfortable at all.

“I’m sorry, but I always cry at my former lovers’ weddings.” She looked away; feeling more than a little small and petty.

“It’s okay, Niecy…really.” Annette put her hand on Bernice’s arm, which the woman pulled away.

“I’ll never stop loving you.” Annette regretted the choice of words even as they left her mouth. Bernice smiled through the tears and grabbed Annette’s other hand, facing her.

“I know….I’ll always love you, too. And of course, we’ll always have Staten Island.” She joked once more, but the pain of knowing that it never would have worked out was almost too much to bear. Annette was the most beautiful human being Bernice had ever known, and it was a grief almost too much to bear knowing that she would never be with her. She was thrilled for Annette and Linda; just very sad and feeling so hopeless for herself. Annette compounded the emotion of the moment by drawing the woman into one last kiss. Kissing the bride on a reception line is an acceptable practice, but no one ever said it was always the best idea. Bernice pulled away and pulled out her cell phone.

“I….I’ve got to go. The Feingold baby is early,” she lied. No text or call; just a quickly devised fib to aid a quick retreat. She gave Annette a semi-air kiss before waving while backing out the front door of the church. She walked to her car quickly; barely able to see in front of her as the tears clouded her eyes. She hit the ‘unlock’ on her remote and got into the car and practically slammed the door; not out of anger but out of shame and frustration.

Taking a look beyond these eyes
It'll take you right around my heart
I feel
You should know
That I'm not unbreakable
It's hard for me to show the other side
Telling you but it isn't lie You
You know
That I'm not unbreakable

She was about to start the car when a tapping came at the passenger side front door. She looked over to see a very sympathetic face; Dave had followed her down the block to her car. She nodded and hit the ‘unlock’ a second time and he got in.
“I…” She went to speak but choked up. He smiled an understanding smile and sidled as close as the center console would allow and put his head against hers. He reached over with his right hand and pulled her into his left shoulder as she began to sob.

“I know, Niecy…I know. It’s going to be okay.” As okay as it could be; assurances from brother who has lost the ability to play violin to a sister who felt inauthentic on a nearly every-other-day basis tend to ring truer than most.

“When will…Davey…it hurts so much.” She shook in his arms. Despite her encouragement to others about bright and hopeful futures, Bernice could see nothing but lonliness and heartache in her own tomorrows. Every single person at the wedding besides her had someone to go home with. Other than her cat, there would be no one at home to cuddle with or hold or even argue with or frown at. Life seemed to be one big disappointment lately, and there seemed also to be no change in that routine on the horizon.

“I’m so sorry, honey.” That one word…’honey.’ Dave had called her that even before she had even thought to reassess her gender perception years ago. Big brothers never call little brothers ‘honey,’ do they? Dave seemed to know even before she did that the former Angelo Crocetti was destined from before birth to be a woman, and that life would never be ‘common-place’ for either of them. At that long-cherished term of endearment, Bernice disolved even more into her brother’s arms as she wept uncontrollably.

“Shhhh….shhhh. It’s okay, honey….and it will be okay,” he said as he stroked her hair. He noticed movement out of the corner of his eye and looked up to see Linda and Annette standing by the car door, silent; Annette’s face etched with the tracks of tears. He smiled at her and nodded as if to say, ‘don’t worry, I’ve got this. It’s okay.’ She nodded back and the two walked away.

It really wasn’t okay at the moment, but as he said, it would be.

I'm scared and frightened
Who will give this soul asylum
Protect me beyond these walls
Can't stand this breaking and falling
All of these mistakes I'm making
Finally crystalise

Hope Women's Medical Center, Jackson Heights...later that week...

“Dr. C? Inez called and said she’s running behind. Should I just go ahead and reschedule her; it’s pretty late, and there aren’t any other patients.” Liz called from down the hall. Bernice looked once at her watch. No plans meant no urgent need to go home.Dave and Justin were house hunting in North Arlington, so dinner would consist of marginally satisfying pizza and a bottle of wine to go along with whatever was available at the Red Box at the Stop and Shop.

“No, that’s okay. Let her know it’s fine. I’ve got nowhere to go tonight since baby girl Schmidt came a day early…I believe her name is Heidi, of all things.” She laughed; wondering if the first word out of the baby’s mouth would be ‘grandfather!’

“Do you want me to stay? I’m in the same boat as you. Maybe we could send out for dinner, though. I worked through lunch thinking I’d be going out with Stevie tonight, but he got called into the Firehouse at the last minute to cover for one of the guys.

“Yeah…whatever you’d like; you fly, I’ll buy!” Liz didn’t need to ‘fly,’ since most of the places the girls at the practice like delivered.

“Your wish is my command, Madame!” Liz laughed at her own take on a French accent. Her parents actually grew up speaking both Lao and French. She spoke the language fluently, but her playful nature lapsed occasionally into what her parents considered almost profane; fake French.

“Doctor C? Bernice? Come quick.” Liz shouted from the reception area. Bernice ran quickly down the hall and into the waiting area to find Inez Cristobal doubled over in one of the chairs. Her blue scrub pants were darkened by a rapidly growing stain of blood.

“No time for 911. I’ll get my car up front and you help her to the curb,” Bernice said hastily as she ran out the front door.

Taking a look beyond these eyes
It'll take you right around my heart
I feel
You should know
That I'm not unbreakable
It's hard for me to show the other side
Telling you that it isn't lie You
Do you know
That I'm not unbreakable

New York City Hospital, Flushing, Queens, New York....

“I’m sorry Inez. I am so very sorry.” Bernice had lost babies before, but none as tragic as the little girl who would never see the light of day. Hope Cristobal was lost as Inez suffered a ruptured uterus; something that no one could have foreseen. Some things happen for no apparent reason in first pregnancies, much less one that was nearly seven months along. It was triply tragic since Inez lost the only baby she would ever have. But the saddest part of it was that her boyfriend, the little girl’s father, had been killed in action when his helo crashed just outside Kabul two days after he returned to Afghanistan for his second tour.

Bernice looked out the window and sighed deeply. It had started to snow and the white flurries swept past her view like so many lost opportunities in her life. While she had felt the need to be ‘herself’ since childhood, part of her was angry that she had never saved any ‘material’ from her old life; a just in case of a snowy day. But she never really did want to sire a child. Bernice never despised her body before she transitioned from Angelo; it was more of a mutual understanding between her and her gender that they just didn’t suit each other.

But wanting children was ingrained in her from the start; baby dolls and stuffed animals when all the other little boys played with ‘action figures’ and toy guns. Well, mostly, since Jimmy Carpentiere had joined Angelo in a quickly disbanded girls club when at five the two were discovered in Jimmy’s mother’s closet trying on shoes. The idea of being a mother once was just a tease to her; the odd looks she’d get followed by resignation when Angelo was the only one available to babysit his cousin’s kids. The interesting thing is that like nearly every woman the boy ever knew, there was a resolve and strength usually reserved (in misconceptions at least) for men.

She had never found any thing attractive about men; again, nothing but an understanding that she and guys didn’t suit each other; neither before coming out when Angelo’s friends kept pushing him into relationships with the boys they knew. And not afterwards, when Bernice’s tastes leaned decidedly toward the femme population. She promised she would be ‘married’ before thirty, barring another idiot appeal against same-sex marriage. But nothing worked out. The closest she came was with Annette, which ended amiably but with more disappointment than she would admit to anyone; even herself.

She looked at the woman and both envied and pitied her, since she at least had life grow inside of her; no cruel taunting by a misfit body even if she lost the baby. But Bernice looked again. Even in her narcotic stupor, there was nothing that the medication would be able to do to ever remove the heartache.

Bernice shook her head, feeling so small and petty. Who was she to complain? Maybe she had it better, since she’d never feel the heartache of a miscarriage. She’d likely never have a child, so she’d never ever worry about losing that love as well. Guilt spent a great deal of time living in Bernice’s world, and it slapped her hard; the old doubts and shame about being false and inauthentic and perpetually barren. Her patient stirred enough to moan, gaining her briefly distracted attention from her self-loathing. She gazed down at the woman. Inez was almost completely under from the sedation, and didn’t see Bernice step into the hallway where she put her hand to her face and wept silently.

There's no where else to hide
Nothing more to fight
Being alive

That I'm not unbreakable
It's hard for me to show the other side
I'm telling that it isn't lie
Read me you'll know
That I'm not unbreakable
You read me you'll know
That I'm not unbreakable
You read me you'll know
That I'm not unbreakable

Next: I Will Love Again…


Words and music by
Wayne Hector, Tim Woodcock,
And the performer, Lara Fabian

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