More than two months after Misty Connors fired me from Sisters Sportswear, I stood alongside the relief pitchers of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the bullpen area squeezed between the left field foul line and the fenced off benches of The Hot Corner Grille. We were all on our feet, cheering at the top of our lungs. This was the third and deciding game in the Class A California League Championship Series. One run down in the bottom of the ninth inning with The Quakes, the home team, at bat. A man on third and two out. The sold-out crowd in LoanMart Field rose to its feet as one in anticipation as our best hitter, shortstop Miguel Amaya, strolled calmly into the batter’s box, accompanied by his walk-up music, “25/8” by Bad Bunny.
Seeing Miguel reminded me of my “former” boyfriend, Chuck Connors, who had just signed the kid on as a client. Well, technically we still live together in his Corona Del Mar house. I had moved in the week after I was relieved of my employment at Sisters and, happily, we had enjoyed the amenities of blissful cohabitation for the first few weeks. But Ray Crawford got approval from the Dodgers’ front office to upgrade me from part-time to full-time coach and I had to accompany the team on road trips as well. At the same time, Chuck began visiting NBA teams to follow up on leads for players looking to secure new representation. Two or three days a week, Chuck would be out of town. We barely saw each other. Ultimately, we decided that it wasn’t working out and that, after the last game of the season, I’d move out. It was sad but I think we managed to part as best friends forever. Debbie and Otis were in the stands tonight, planning to pick me up and my luggage after the game. Unfortunately, Debbie quickly sublet our apartment to a co-worker at Sisters so, for the immediate future, I’d be rooming with Debbie and Otis in Otis’ apartment.
Radio play-by-play announcer: With the game and the season on the line, Miguel Amaya comes to bat. Two outs and a man on third base. Miguel led the league with 26 home runs in the regular season. He’s the last hope for The Quakes.
I could never have expected the last seven weeks to have been such a happy and successful time in my life, given the disappointments of my tenure with Sisters Sportswear and my brief, almost non-existent strike-aborted acting career. The Quakes surged in the last month of the season and qualified for the post-season, all while I was reliving my salad days as a baseball coach. Even the four-hour bus rides to places as far north as Stockton and San Jose were a joy, especially once the players and other coaches got accustomed to having a woman in their traveling group. Most of the kids played video games while I played gin rummy with the “adult” coaches. Ray Crawford, who usually came along on our road trips, would make sure I got a single room in the motels the team would stay in.
The third week I was with the team, in Stockton, the new issue of Glamour Magazine came out. I had almost forgotten that Juan had been approached by Glamour to have me do a photo spread. I didn’t know they would put me on the cover. It was an unpaid gig (I think the people at Glamour rationalized they were giving GlobalNet free publicity for Newport, when and if it ever resumed production). Plus, I was a hot commodity due to Trent’s insane attempt to conquer all media all the time.
I entered the clubhouse the next morning to almost stumble upon a carpet of towels laid out on the floor, leading straight to my locker. There was another line of towels leading from my locker to the manager’s office. The players knew my daily routine was to change in and out of my uniform in the manager’s office. After the games, I was always the last person to shower. Sometimes there’d be some grumbling because I’d hold up the bus from leaving the stadium.
Some knuckleheads started singing “There She is, Miss America,” badly and off-key. They were holding up copies of the magazine. Ray stepped out of the manager’s office with Frank Hardy, the Quakes’ skipper. Hardy raised his hands to quiet everyone.
“Okay, guys, enough already. Practice starts in ten minutes. I expect to see all of you running laps by the time I’m out on the field.”
“How could you forget doing a photo shoot, Evie?”
Ray and I were picking over our lunch at Cast Iron Trading Co., a cozy little gastropub at the east end of Lake McLeod, about a 10-minute walk from Banner Island Ballpark. I took a swig of the beer Ray had ordered for us, Allagash James Bean, a Belgian-style golden ale aged in bourbon barrels and blended with cold-brewed coffee, before answering. Arghhh!
“It happened the same day I had my first session with my therapist. I was so nervous I had to ask Chuck to drive me to the appointment that morning. And then, after lunch, he had to drive me to the photo studio for the Glamour shoot. Poor Chuck, my chauffeur for the day. Wasted his whole day just driving me around town—”
“I’m sure he didn’t have anything better to do. I mean he’d just quit Sisters, right?”
“He just got off a red eye from New York. Was talking contract for one of his clients on the Knicks. Three hours sleep later he was on the freeway. Remind me to ignore your beverage recommendations, Ray.”
“I like my beer like I like my women: robust and bittersweet. Sort of why I like you—”
“I’ll ignore that remark as well. Chuck’s been so wonderful to me, Ray.”
“So, he’s ahead of Trent Foster in your book of numbers?”
“Way, way ahead. I sent him a long text basically ghosting him. At least his mom stopped calling me about wedding gown fittings.”
“Well, then, it’s mano a mano. Me and Chuck.”
“Ray, please don’t go there. We’re old friends—”
“I’ll change the subject. So, how did it go with the therapist? I don’t see you carrying bottles of pills around with you…”
“You’re the second movie star I’ve had in my office. It’s exciting!”
“Really? Well, I’m no movie star. I haven’t even acted in anything yet. Tell me, Doctor, who’s the other movie star?”
“No, I can’t tell you that. Confidentiality, you know. Now, let’s start at the beginning. How long have you had these feelings, this sense that you are not the gender you were assigned at birth?”
I told Dr. Zhao about the time when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. We were waiting for Mom near the restrooms in Six Flags out in Jackson Township. Daddy’s arms were full of all the tchotchkes, plush animals, and assorted bags we had accumulated during the day. I was cradling my toddler sister Debbie in my tiny arms. I enjoyed treating Debbie as my dolly since I didn’t have any of my own, being a boy. An older couple passed by us on the way to the restrooms, stopped, and the lady addressed my father with a bright smile.
“Such a pair of beautiful little girls! You must be one proud father. What’s your name, cutie pie?”
I quickly answered the lady, telling her my name was Evie and my sister’s was Debbie.
Daddy put some of his burden down, brushed my long hair away from my face, and corrected the woman. “Oh, Evie’s a boy. He’s my son. People make that mistake all the time.”
After the couple walked away, the lady shaking her head in disbelief, I angrily responded to my father’s seemingly factual statement. “'Why do you have to tell! Why do you have to say anything!'"
When Mom returned from the restroom, she tried to calm me down as my father acted confused by my vehement reaction. I think my mother knew there was something unusual about me from the earliest days.
Around the age of 7 or 8, I started “borrowing” Mom’s clothing. I would take a long T-shirt and belt, and fashion it into a dress. This went on for months until one day, Mom found me crying inconsolably. I tearfully explained to her that I simply could not get the T-shirt to look right.
Mom surprised me when she simply asked, 'You really want a dress to wear, don't you?' My face lit up, and I practically shouted, 'Yes!'" That afternoon, Mom piled me and Debbie into the family car and drove us to the Target store in Bridgewater. I thought I was going to hyperventilate and faint because I was so incredibly happy, knowing that we were going to Target that day to pick out my dress.
Mom allowed me to get two dresses (Debbie got two as well, the little crybaby). When we got home and I modeled the dresses for Daddy, he was initially angry but ultimately demurred when he saw how ecstatic I was, twirling and posing in my new dresses. Even so, he wouldn’t allow Mom to buy any more dresses for a year afterward, so I had to wear those two dresses every day when I wasn’t in school or out in public until I got sick of looking at them. I remember him insisting to Mom that I would gradually grow out of my “obsession.”
“I don't mind him being a little effeminate, as long as he's not gay.'"
As I progressed through elementary school and then entered middle school, the pressure to conform to boyhood norms and behavior ramped up and, much to my father’s relief, I seemed to be adjusting to being Evelyn in male mode instead of Evie, the pixie strawberry blonde with the giggly demeanor. I discovered baseball and, unexpectedly, was athletic enough to make varsity teams from 9th grade onward. Of course, I was still acutely body-conscious and would routinely be “shy” about changing and showering with the other boys. My coaches would chide me about always being the last to leave the locker room before and after games and practices.
When I was twelve, Mom died in an auto accident. Some drunk driver crashed into my parents’ car on John F. Kennedy Boulevard coming back home from the Somerset Diner. It left dad in a wheelchair. From that day going forward, my personality seemed to be split in two. For my father, I was the academically smart, sports-playing son he hoped for. For Debbie, I had to be a second mother, exhibiting the maternal instincts that have always been a fundamental part of my being. Seeing how I “raised” my sister and knowing the stress I was under to live up to my male persona, Daddy began to slowly realize that he really had two daughters, not just one. He and Debbie, along with my stepmother Consuela, are even more convinced than I that I am and have always been a girl and now a woman.
Dr. Zhao said little as I recounted these incidents in my life, furiously taking notes on her tablet, occasionally nodding or uttering a soft “uh-uh.” Finally, as I took a long break in my soliloquy, she twirled the stylus in her right hand.
“Very interesting, Evie. These are all quite definitive signs of gender dysphoria. I will recommend to Dr. Petry that she start you on a regimen of HRT immediately. And I would like to continue our sessions. Both to monitor your transitional progress and for us to delve further into your gender issues. I’d like to schedule bi-weekly sessions for you.”
Before I could answer positively to her suggestion, Dr. Zhao initiated her own soliloquy.
“You know, you’re exceptionally fortunate, Evie. You already conform to the physical attributes of a beautiful cis woman. My own journey was much more tortuous. I had to undergo a whole litany of feminization processes: laser hair removal, plastic surgery to reshape my forehead, brows, nose, cheeks and jaw, tracheal shave to minimize my Adam’s Apple. Phew! My mother almost didn’t recognize me! I even had the fat grafting procedure to augment my breasts…”
Fortunately, our hour was up before my eyes lost focus.
Radio play-by-play announcer: Swing and a miss! Amaya is behind in the count 1-2. The Quakes could be a strike away from ending their season one win short of a championship. Or they could be a big swing away from celebrating on their home field. Here’s the 1-2 pitch…
As the crowd roared, electrifying the atmosphere in LoanMart Field, the pitch clock counted down and I could see Miguel’s hands tightening their grip on his bat handle. As the tension escalated, my mind turned to the events of the past week.
Sunday night, as I picked up Chuck at LAX, returning from a client recruiting trip to Miami, I was on top of the world. The Quakes had just won the Division Series against The Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino and were slated to play for the championship starting Tuesday night against The San Jose Giants. I was packed and ready to take the bus ride to San Jose on Monday morning.
Additionally, and most importantly, I was well into my transition process, having already received my first two monthly injections of estrogen and anti-androgens. Sessions with Dr. Zhao were helpful in clearing the fog from the years after my mother’s death that effectively split my personality in two. Things were humming smoothly both professionally and medically. But the drive home from the airport was silent and Chuck’s sullen demeanor burst my pretty balloon. Although there had been warning signs in recent weeks, I was not prepared for Chuck’s sour mood when we settled into his living room in Corona Del Mar.
Chuck poured three fingers of Maker’s Mark bourbon into a Glencairn glass and took two quick swigs. He stared into space.
“I take it, your recruiting trip didn’t go well—”
“It was a shitshow, Evie. I’m hitting a wall. The word’s gotten around that I’m a failure.”
“How could that be? What have you failed at? I don’t get it.”
“Clark’s gotten in everyone’s ear. The league thinks I’m a fuck-up and he fired me for incompetence. One of the players I met with told me the word was I only got the job at Sisters because Misty and Christy took pity on their idiot brother.” Chuck took a long gulp of his bourbon. “Maybe they’re right. I am a fuck-up. At this rate, I’m never going to get into CAA. I’ve got three mid-tier clients, not counting Eliot.”
“It’s early days yet, Chuck. You’re not a fuck-up. Clark’s just being a spiteful loser.”
“It’s up for debate who’s the loser. Evie, we need to talk about where we are and where we’re headed.”
“What are you saying?”
“It’s not working out. We barely see each other. You’re on the road with The Quakes half the time and in October you’re going to be starting six weeks in Arizona—”
“Well, speak for yourself. You’ve been away half the week every week on recruiting trips.”
“I can’t take coming home to an empty house. Especially when I’m going through rough times with this agenting shit. I don’t want to sound whiny and needy but…I just wish you’d be here to support me more. I’m sorry—”
“You don’t support me, Chuck. How many games have you gone to? I know you had meetings scheduled but we just played three games in the Division Series, and you didn’t show up to a single one. Maybe we’re not meant to be—”
“Together? Hardly if we’re not even geographically in proximity to each other. You deserve more. I deserve more.” Chuck finished his glass and poured another three fingers of bourbon, his face obscured by his left hand, fingers raking his wavy, light brown hair.
“It’s late, Chuck. I’ve got an early bus ride to San Jose in the morning. We’ll talk when I get back on Wednesday.”
“I’ll be in Boston. Probably until Saturday.” Without another word or glance, I walked away toward our bedroom, stifling a yawn.
Radio play-by-play announcer: A long fly ball pulled to left field! And it’s foul! Bucky, I think everyone in the park thought that one was gone. The count remains full. Amaya takes a short stroll behind the batter’s box before climbing back in. Mumphrey looks in for the sign and sets.
Just ten hours ago, Debbie and Otis dropped by the house in Corona Del Mar to pick me up and take me to LoanMart Field. Practice for tonight’s finale was slated for 2:30 in the afternoon. The plan was to drive to Rancho Cucamonga, have lunch in Victoria Gardens, deliver me to the park, and then, while I carried out my coaching duties, Otis and Debbie wander through town until the game tonight. After the game, they would take me and my luggage back to their apartment. After Chuck hadn’t bothered to return my text during the week, I had decided to move out of his house. I wouldn’t let this speed bump in my love life stall my personal progress.
“Evie, you have to watch this! Trent released a new music video yesterday. Where’s your laptop? It’s better on a bigger screen…”
“Debbie, I’m not interested. It’s been weeks since I broke off my non-existent relationship with him. And his mom finally stopped calling me. Thank God!”
“But the video’s all about you.”
“Really? Is it like a Taylor Swift revenge song? I don’t need to hear Trent running me down—”
“Chuck’s got a Roku stick, Debbie. Here’s the remote.” Otis tossed the remote to Debbie, who fumbled it and had to pick it up off the floor. “I forgot who had the ball skills in the family.”
The three of us sat down on Chuck’s cream white sofa and waited for Trent’s YouTube video to fire.
“You’re crying, Evie.”
“Did I make a mistake, Debbie? Was I wrong about Trent?”
“That was quite a tribute to you, sis. Maybe you turned him around. You know, the power of a woman’s… Don’t say it, Otis. I warn you.”
“Nothing. I wasn’t gonna say nothing.” Otis turned the TV off.
“Men! You can’t live with them, and you can’t shoot them.”
“Well, I’m a single woman now. Totally. Despite that video, Trent’s still an immature narcissist with the attention span of a gnat. And Chuck’s a damaged case himself. I can’t be their partner and their therapist all in one.”
“I was so sure Chuck was the right guy for you, Evie.”
“I thought so too.” Debbie handed me a kleenex.
“There’s still hope. Maybe you shouldn’t move out just yet. He’s back tomorrow, isn’t he?”
“He wouldn’t even return my text, Debbie. It’s over.”
“What about Ray?”
“What about him?”
“He really likes you. Even when you were a boy—”
Otis looked up from inspecting Chuck’s framed photo of his senior year UCLA basketball team. “Huh? A boy?”
“I mean a tomboy. Tom. Boy. Tomboy?”
“Oh, yeah. It’s just I can’t imagine Evie ever looking like a boy.”
Radio play-by-play announcer: Here we go! For all the marbles. The 3-2 pitch. (loud crack of the bat) It is high, it is far, it…is gone! Miguel Amaya has just won the California League championship for The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes with a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The crowd erupts in cheers and, as Miguel steps on home plate, a dog pile forms in the infield as the celebration begins!
Everyone in the bullpen sprinted out to the infield to join the celebration. I wasn’t far behind, but I hesitated when I reached the dog pile. My bashfulness stemmed from my short tenure with the team. I was part of the team and, yet not really a part of the team. But I looked on with a broad smile.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. As I turned to see whose hand it was, Ray Crawford wrapped his arms around my waist and planted a big wet kiss on my lips.
“We did it! We did it! Evie, you’re my lucky charm!” He kissed me again. “We have to celebrate! After the trophy presentation, let’s hit the best steakhouse in San Bernardino County!”
“I’d love to, Ray. But Debbie and Otis are here to drive me home—”
“They can come with us!”
“No, Ray, I’m sorry. I’m moving into Debbie’s apartment. I’ve got my luggage with me.”
“You and Chuck broke up? Looks like tonight’s looking even better than I could’ve hoped for.”
As usual, I was the last person to shower, change, and leave the stadium. Carrying my luggage in both hands, I shouldered the push bar of the exit door and emerged into the team’s parking area. Standing there, looking cute, holding hands, were Otis and Debbie. As I walked toward them, they let go of their hands and parted to either side, revealing a figure who stepped into the light shining down from the LED towers.
It was Chuck! He held out his arms and beckoned to me with a big smile across his face.
I threw down my bags and rushed forward, literally jumping into his arms. I kissed him with everything in my soul. A long, lingering kiss. Debbie swore later that she could see sparks flashing from our lips, like sparklers on the 4th of July.
“Come home, baby. I’ve been such a child. A whiny baby having a ridiculous tantrum. Will you forgive me?”
“Yes, Chuck. I’d forgive you almost anything. But I’m going to be in Arizona for the next two months and you—”
“I’m going to Arizona with you. I can work from anywhere. All I need is a phone and the internet. I hear Glendale is really nice in the Fall.”
“You would do that for me?”
“Have I told you lately that I love you?”
“No, but a kiss would make the same point.”
Note: One more chapter to go, dear readers. See you then.
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