Reality is the truth, but sometimes a person can have multiple truths.
By Angela Rasch
Austin and Kayla scrambled over and around the park’s slides and climbing bars searching for pleasures I had long ago forgotten. Their blue eyes and straw hair favored Carl. He claimed they looked like their father, but their deep dimples came from the Jorgenson’s gene pool. My heart had soared the first time I heard him call those two “our” grandchildren. On days like this, with a soft spring breeze gently rustling the chartreuse skirt I had worn especially for him, I could almost accept “our” grandchildren as a reality.
I had approached a point in my “experiment” Robin had warned me about.
“Bob, m’boy,” he had said, attacking his Caesar salad, in one of those places where you go to forge movie deals, “reality is just a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs.”
Robin had signed with 20th Century Fox to star in the long-awaited sequel to “Mrs. Doubtfire.” He had stipulated I would be the head writer. His agent had forced the studio to sign in blood granting Robin “deal-breaker” refusal rights on the script.
“MD the first was a real shithole,” Robin had said, through a mouthful of romaine lettuce. “They should have handed out pooper-scoopers at the box office. Pierce and Sally took one up the ass for moviedom. Their roles amounted to standing around looking like fucking dumb-asses. ‘Hi! I used to be a flying, fucking, dumb-ass nun and now I’m a cunt who can’t decide whether I want to fuck hunky Pierce Brosnan or chunky Robin Williams.’ Oh please! ‘You like me, you really fucking like me.’ ”
My thoughts of that meeting with Robin evaporated, as Carl came back with ice cream for the four of us. He sat on the bench; and I automatically leaned into him to smell the sun in his flannel shirt. Life had been good to his face. Every line revealed the character that made him so . . . lovable. Yes, lovable. Love. L-O-V-E. Despite “everything” -- I had fallen for him. No one could fault me. Nothing I could have done could have prevented my deep feelings for him.
Carl got up and gave ice cream cones to two children playing by us - leaving me with the memories of my meeting with Mork.
Robin had charmed me into skirts. He had a hard-on toward the studio for putting him in so many fucked-up movies. He wanted to deliver a poignant picture exploring gender. “No more fucking ‘Birdcage,’ ” he had shouted, as if the crowded restaurant around us was a figment of my imagination. “I’m a very tolerant man, except when it comes to holding a grudge. Those numb-nuts who run Fox need a brain-douche. Just call me Massengill, Sparky. Seriously, no matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
During much of our conversation, Robin might as well have been speaking Greek. He spoke too fast; and his obscure references whizzed through my brain without making an impression.
“Are you chilled?” Carl asked, yanking me back to the present. The light breeze had strengthened into more of a freezing wind. I hadn’t worn stockings, so as to show off my tanned legs, legs that had become covered in goose bumps. He took off his jacket and placed it across my shoulders. It seemed to me I had a similar manly jacket, in a box somewhere, in storage waiting for me to put aside my softer, frillier things.
He took my hands into his with practiced familiarity. The sweet scent from the body wash I had used floated around us. Carl circled me with his arm to comfort me, making it easier to slide into the past once again.
Robin had prepared for his role as Euphegenia Doubtfire by going out into the real world dressed in his movie make-up and costumes. By presenting himself to San Francisco as an elderly British woman, he had gained background for the movie. “I even went into an adult bookstore and bought a book. Nobody ever said shit about it. I did Mrs. Doubtfire the first time at Carnegie Hall, when I pretended to be Andy Kaufman’s grandmother.”
“Should we go home?” Carl asked. I sighed, as I yo-yo’d back in forth between a pleasant afternoon with Carl and my memories of lunch with a Hollywood icon.
Home? Carl had asked if I wanted to go “home.” Although we had been seeing each other for what seemed like years, I couldn’t remember ever spending time alone with him. The idea of a “home” with Carl slipped in and out of my certainty. I smiled to gain a moment, while I thought. I found it easier to slide again, into the past, and leave my misgivings of the temptations sure to arise at Carl’s place.
“You’ll need in-depth understanding of femininity to write the sequel,” Robin had said. “You need to experience the softer side -- like I did. You’re small enough to do the research right, if you’re man enough to do it.” He cackled at his own gag, as I gauged just how deeply Robin enjoyed his own wit. “Get into what you write. Convince yourself that you’re a woman. Make yourself forget you’ve ever been a man. You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
“Austin has that stormy look in his eye,” Carl whispered, gaining my attention once more. We huddled close together, his warmth seducing me. “If we don’t leave pretty soon, he and Kayla will be at each other.”
At each other? Carl had tipped his hand. We had kissed a number of times, and he wanted more - much more. His daughter, Carl said, had gone out of town for the day. He would get me to his lair, quickly put Austin and . . . what’s her name . . . Austin and his sister. . . . He would put them down for a nap, and then make his move. Deep inside I could almost imagine what sex with him would feel like; his . . . thing . . . pulsating inside of my . . . vagina.
There were moments -- days even, when I would forget my real identity.
Robin had warned me about stepping over the line. “You become who people think you are,” he had said. “It was exciting when I did it. Sometimes I felt like Adam when he said to Eve, ‘Back up, I don’t know how big this thing gets.’ ”
I had to be careful not to fool myself so much that I would actually allow Carl to take advantage of me. Not that him “taking advantage of me” was all that possible. I had, errrmmm . . . plumbing problems.
For as long as I had been doing this, I had disciplined myself not to touch my . . . down there, below my waist. I averted my eyes when I put on my undergarments, and carefully bathed, using an enormous amount of bubble bath so as not to remind myself of what lurked beneath the water.
The doctors have been giving me estrogen. Their every action suggests I had been born a woman. When I went to my salon, they treated me with kindness, never saying a word about . . . . It had become easier to float along on a pink cloud. I would start writing the screenplay, just as soon as I had gathered my thoughts.
“Let’s go home, Angela.”
Angela. I had taken my mother’s middle name and added the middle name “Marie” to reflect my Catholic upbringing. Angela Marie Hoemburg. The last name reflected pure writer’s crap, out of the old blue. I had made a Victoria out of a Victor.
Kayla and that little boy with her took my hands and helped me from the bench. They chirped like little magpies about cookies and milk. M’gosh, they had just finished ice cream, and two seconds later actually squealed about their starvation. The little girl tugged at my wedding ring. I had told Carl a flimsy story about marriage years ago, adding a vague notion of having lost my spouse to cancer. Carl hadn’t pried, which was good, because it felt creepy talking about my beloved, departed wife under such surreal circumstances.
Carl had painted his house a lovely shade of teal. I had owned a car that color once. Ohhh . . . not a car. How silly of me. It had been a set of china with a teal imprint.
“It’s time for your Exelon, Angela.” He handed me a pill and a glass of water. We had moved to -- no surprise -- his bedroom.
I sat in a chair a lot like something I would buy -- waiting -- for something.
“We won’t let Mr. ‘Alzh’ get the best of you,” he said, grinning away a look of concern from his handsome face.
I committed his face to memory, knowing such things could be fleeting.
His eyes locked into mine. They were the kind of eyes that drew you in and in and in. I could love those eyes. I felt as if I had loved those eyes for a long, long time.
I looked over his shoulder with more intent than maybe I should have, at a framed movie poster on his wall. They had made the main color black, not a very attractive color. Huge red lips, and then the greenish mustache made to look like a movie marquee’s lights caught my attention. “Victor / Victoria” the poster blared.
Carl had turned to follow my gaze. “You did a wonderful job writing that screenplay, Angela. The work you did to prep yourself . . . I don’t know how you ever did it. You’re the most feminine woman I ever met, yet you passed yourself off as a man for six bearded weeks.”
Me . . . a writer? Once again the present became too hard to grasp; and the past beckoned me with open arm.
“Carpe per diem,” Robin said, “seize the check.” He had laughed and laughed at his own joke as he shoved the tab toward me. I chuckled, loving his humor. He and I were so much alike, at times.
Thank you to Geoff and Jenny for your usual great help.
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