The Back of the Bus
A Tribute to Southern Comfort Conference 2002
By Renee Reyes
For "passing" first grade, they made him return
How’s that for success, and some luck?
Thus, early to bed – a peck on his head
He waited outside for the truck.
Climbing on board, grabbing a seat
Eyes chasing each minor fuss,
Spying in verso – a dark-skinned young lady
– Alone...in the back of the bus.
A child asked his mother – what person is this
... the same, yet so different from me?
Those eyes shined like fire, she shared with her sire
exactly as I will tell thee:
“The back of the bus – is really the front
A place where the angels do tend,
The gateway to heaven - it opens forever
– When the girl in the back is your friend."
A football team captain, class president was he
Not bad - for a boy from the back,
No gender to hinder – his race made him tender
His future looked sharp as a tack.
Fast-forward a score - add a few years
Now comes dishonor and shock,
For under all that - a transsexual female
– Complete with her closets and frocks.
What might Lincoln do – if he saw his son now
Would he offer a pillow as rack?
Never mind those who died - to crush such deep scars
His world – just screamed: “please use the back”.
He’d been there before, he knew this terrain
But somehow it felt extra low,
You know the difference – he understood too…
– He’d never been forced - there to go.
He grasped for support – none he could find
A cancer had taken his tree,
Cold hearted in anger, he cried to the heavens
“No angels avail there for me?”
A head bowed in sorrow – a heart filled with shame
Gravity tugging at knees,
From deep in his soul, he tasted that spirit
– And suddenly there was a “she”.
He cried as she held him, dabbing mascara
Clearing those eyes filled with foam,
She smiled at her baby – and said only these words
– "I knew you could find your way home".
This poem, it was started – one year ago
The words somehow lost in the midst,
It took SCC – one thousand good sisters
For me to discover its gist.
It’s really quite simple, His son made it clear
A camel and eye to be free,
Today he might mention, the back of the bus
– The best way to walk - with Thee.
going home 4/22/03
I hesitated to include this entry in my public journal for a couple of reasons. One, it's a very painful account reconstructed from my personal journal: simply rewriting it caused me to shed another bucket of tears after I was certain my body could lose no more. I know some of you worry when you read about my bad moments. This one's the worst - or best: depending upon your perspective. Two, I didn't want a certain person to feel this event had anything to do with them: it didn't - not even remotely. This was a volcano that was going to eventually erupt. It could've just as easily happened during my next work-trip. It's about my life - not anyone in it.
I include this record for a couple of important reasons. For anyone contemplating gender transition and relishing that euphoric feeling of finally becoming "you" - know this path is fraught with dangers and often not filled with pleasure. It's lonely & usually isolating. Two, I want others presently on my path to know they're not alone when they reach moments of utter despair.
We all have them: present company obviously included....
excerpt reconstructed from my personal journal - dated 4/21/03
...here I am in fucking San Diego and all I want to do is simply "go home". What's my problem? I no longer have a home to go to: it's all packed up into some sort of modular existence I've come to know as "my life". What kind of life is that for a 40+ year-old individual with some degree of success? You tell me?
Home...that word always sounds so simple when we have one to "go to". A home, a job, a family...many people treat those words like a ball-and chain versus crucial components of their existence. Can't begin to tell you the number of tranny's that bemoan their families - pisses me off. "Well whose fault is that, sweetie?" I'd trade all that I own for one brief additional visit - with mine.
Funny...came to San Diego thinking I'd discovered a home "for my heart". Met a wonderful person headed in the same direction. Alas, we're on decidedly different paths. That's so typical for me - guess that's why it didn't affect me much.
Home...it's all I can think about right now. I'm not a good traveler - at least not when I'm alone. I function best in my routines: those rituals I call my life. I'm safer there. Get me away from them too long? I'm left with too much time to more seriously consider all that I am, and not. Never got on west coast-time during this trip: arose each AM around 4:00 & spent my mornings thinking. Turned out, I probably thought a bit too much.
Know what I think of when I consider the word home? The home of my grandparents - that pillar of family love that stood for generations - now gone...in the hands of some farming entrepreneur. My home where I grew up? Gone. My home in Atlanta? Packed-up. My home in my mother's arms. Buried - along with so many other arms I love: arms I called home.
I was flying home today to something...but it's not "home". Awaiting me there - is a week's worth of problems. Remember that trepidation we all felt on Sunday night during our high school years when a test & a quiz awaited our Monday AM? Recollect that depression from the ending of a weekend? I'm sure there's a clinical name for it - it always felt dismal to me. That's how I felt.
I realized I didn't want to "fly" home - I wanted to "go" home. But how could I go home - when there's no place to "go" to? It then occurred to me I "had" a home of which to go - via death. I could "see" my grandmother at some entrance, looked like a dirt road. Her arms were open - beckoning me home to my family - to all those loving arms I once called "home". A place where I'd be "me" - be beautiful - as I was loved, forever.
The logic seemed strong - that made this fearful, in retrospect. I "live" in the left - both in thought & lifestyle. Put them together - my course tends to become rigid - difficult to alter. I now felt trance-like - knew what I must do. Strangely, I didn't shed a single tear - was neither remorseful or fearful. Pulled the sheets & pillows from the hotel beds - made a place for myself upon the floor - my cradle - to "go" home. This was all very unplanned and that was very unlike me. Decided to slit my wrists - was a bit concerned. Heard of a number of people that tried that - "failed". I think I heard that blood can clot - takes a good bit of time "alone" for everything to work out. Was slightly frustrated I didn't bring my laptop where I could've easily "hopped on-line" & confirmed or denied my suspicions. Another problem? Only had one item available with a sharp enough "blade" - my pocketknife - feared I'd lose control with this single instrument.
Put my plan into action. Went to the hotel rooftop and the breakfast buffet - all butter knives. Trekked to 7-11 across the street - acquired a second knife, a pack of razors for "insurance" & a cup of coffee. Called my ride to the airport - told them I'd made other plans - no reason to "pick me up". Called the front desk - arranged to stay another day - but told them to cancel room service - I needed sleep. Chained the room door for additional security. Considered "Princess" - knew who'd care for her - and that she'd be "ok". Thought of my possessions...my "estate". Could be better organized for "this" - but decided fuck it - I could just as easily have crashed during my "flight" home and those remaining would face the same challenges sorting things out. Tried writing a detailed "note" to leave behind - only words I could muster? "I'm going home" - signed Renee - even included a "smiley face" below my name. Decided to check phone messages - make certain to deal with any issues that might cause someone to "track" me before my time was up - before I'd gone home. God, I was so pragmatic in my actions - that scares me "now".
Anyway...my dear friend and future roommate had left me a pair of messages on Friday & Saturday. In the process of retrieving them through the weekend - I'd failed to delete the most recent. His voice was loud & booming - playful. But his final words were my saving grace. - "Get your ass back to Atlanta - and then come home, damnit".
Tears streaked down my face. My brief taste of logic had been tested - and destroyed. Broke down into sobs - humiliated by all I'd become. Somehow crawled into the shower - holding "myself" like a straight-jacket constructed from my own arms - wailing as I hit the tub floor, water trickling over my shaking body. Funny - I "quieted myself" - for fear I'd attract attention from another guest or the housekeeping staff - still wasn't 100% sure I wasn't going through with my original plan to "go home".
Pulled myself from the shower - didn't bother to towel off. Grabbed my cell phone again - listened to John's words - "come home". Hugged the phone - fell asleep in my planned cradle of my new life - awoke about 30 minutes later. No logic remained to my initial plan. Decided to fly home - versus "go" home. Canceled my extended stay - accepted a few calls from friends - but kept my prior agendas to myself. Ended up confessing my actions to Darleen - she helped me though my shame & tears...
I'm ashamed of what almost happened yesterday. I'm now more aware of how fragile I am at this moment. I'm back to focusing on the most fundamental of feelings - the most solid of support. I'm wary of any "place" - any "one" I don't know is a stalwart in my life. It's not much of a life at times - but it's what I have. I intend to build upon it.
I often wonder why I'm the one still "above ground" when I consider all those graves. Dying is natural - birth is a wonder. Living? It can be a real bitch at times. Why am I the one that's still "here"? I could go insane considering that. There must be a reason... I've survived too many "close calls" for there not to be.
I'm home now - in Atlanta...safe & sound. Played with & hugged on "Princess" - read the snail mail - reviewed the electronic media - prepared for my "tough" week. I'd prefer not to fret over this little nightmare for another moment. So..."Kevin" - "Tammy", etc. etc...please - don't start "calling" me today - checking on me - it's over. I did not include this entry to reflect upon it with friends. Besides - I had to cancel my cell phone - having 'lost" it - and I think I'm going to just get a new number. My home phone goes on "answer only" this week in prep for my move. I'll update my close friends with my new "numbers" soon. ((hugs))
That's funny - probably the strangest part of of this whole trip "home"? When I first arrived back in Atlanta - stopped off to smoke a cigarette...called in for messages via my cell. Guess what? I "lost" that damn phone - suppose I left it in the smoking "room". The instrument that saved my life - slipped from it, only hours later.
Did that mean something? I've no clue. Honestly - I'm through "thinking" about life and all its damn hidden meanings & mysteries - I'm just 'gonna try living it for awhile.
Works for me...
a "good" bad night 7-30-02
"You know what?"
Let's not mince words...."Fuck you!"
There - I feel better already.
If you're a reader that's taking estrogen & have ever been stood-up for a date after spending two hours getting ready, you already know exactly where this journal entry is going...
I was in a somewhat celebratory mood due to a long awaited accomplishment from a work-related project. Alas, nobody from my usual clan was available to celebrate with me. Thus, I decided to take a chance and meet a guy whom I'd been corresponding with on-line. Honestly, I was pretty excited about meeting him and worked extra hard to look my best.
At first, I waited 30 minutes before finally being seated at the restaurant. You know the drill....I'm sorry "Miss Hostess of the Mostest" - but my party hasn't yet arrived. Then - I waited another 30 minutes to order food out of courtesy. Finally - I embraced the fact I'd be eating & celebrating alone - so I had at it.
That hurt - more than I wanted to admit. I developed playful conversations with people sitting adjacent to me to take the edge off. I even confessed my dilemma and laughed at myself and my life a bit. However, upon becoming fully nourished and retrieving my car from the valet, I became overwhelmed by a rush of emotions.
The girl in my heart was hurt. The lady in my head was embarrassed. The DRAG Queen in my spirit was ready to go "make a scene" and take absolutely no prisoners. *Laugh*. However, the woman - in my soul? She just wanted to cry.
Alas, the woman won out.
I pulled over to a fairly safe-looking yet secluded location and shed some heart-felt tears in order to release that pain from deep inside my chest. (Not that I can afford to lose even a speck of anything in that department).
Upon re-collecting myself, I checked myself in the rearview mirror & simply had to laugh at the natural disaster staring back at me. Sixty-minutes of concentrated effort creating bedroom eyes now reduced to rubble befitting of a rape crisis victim. Thank God for my experience as a can-do DRAG Queen. She reworked the river of mascara and eyeliner into sort of a "Jean Harlow on-crack" look that would work for the balance of my evening.
I pointed my car in the direction of "Joe's" for a zesty slice of key lime & soothing cup of coffee in a defiant effort to not let some loser get the best of me.
I had a fun time there: made some new friends & wore-out my cell phone battery garnering support and psychological analysis from cronies around the USA as I officially regrouped.
Alas, this - is the life of a transsexual.
Know what's the scariest part?
I still love...my life. *Smile*