The Real Life Test

Chapter Twelve
Go West!

September 1994


Chapter One: 1993
Chapter Two: November 30-December 16
Chapter Three: December 17-January 1
Chapter Four: January 1994
Chapter Five: February 1994
Chapter Six: March 1994
Chapter Seven: April 1994
Chapter Eight: May 1994
Chapter Nine: June 1994
Chapter Ten: July 1994
Chapter Eleven: August 1994
Chapter Twelve: September 1994
Chapter Thirteen: October 1994
Chapter Fourteen: November 1994

Thursday, September 1

Our first full day in Phoenix dawned clear and warm. The afternoon temperatures were still in the 105 degree range, but the morning was pleasant. Margaux arranged an appointment in the Tempe area for mid afternoon, and made several other phone calls.

At noon we met Wanda and Chris in the lobby of the Crescent Hotel, which was only a few blocks away on Black Canyon. I wore my linen vest and shorts over a silk tee. "You look so cool and comfortable," Wanda said.

We had lunch in the hotel dining room and enjoyed their fresh salads. It's always interesting to me to connect people who have occupied different roles in my life. Margaux had heard me speak of Wanda and Chris (and vice versa); now they could connect a name with a face. All four of us enjoyed the hour, and I was so glad my roommate fit comfortably into my work environment.

Margaux's appointment in Tempe went fairly well. Even if it doesn't result in a job offer, she has made good early contacts and a beginning network. While she interviewed, I did a drive-by of the other listed apartments in East Phoenix and the surrounding neighborhoods of Scottsdale. I was unimpressed, after seeing the much nicer places in the North Central area last night.

We continued exploring, driving north to Shea and east to Scottsdale Road. Everything we saw made us more enchanted with the area. We concluded by having a light supper at one of the restaurants in the Borgata, Scottsdale's outdoor mall built to resemble a Renaissance Italian town. The plants were being watered with a gentle mist just after sunset.

Margaux was sold. "Becky, I want to be here. This is going to work out." I also believe it will work out. This can be a fresh start for us both. I am very pleased that she can turn her fortunes around too.

After we returned to the motel, we relaxed in the pool and Jacuzzi. I enjoyed doing my T'ai Chi routine at poolside. The night temperature was in the low 70's and a slight breeze made it heavenly.

And I get to live here.

Friday, September 2

I telephoned the Central Credentialing office to see if it would be helpful to answer their questions in person. They were very pleased to hear that I was in town. I drove the short distance to their office down streets lined with palm and eucalyptus trees.

The questions related to my previous practice experience and on the "sabbatical" time after I left Mississippi. I answered them forthrightly; they already were aware of my change of name and gender, and were very satisfied with my answers. I think they were also surprised to see how normal I appeared.

I returned to pick up Margaux and we drove back to Arizona Insights. On the way, I left her at the office of another design firm for today's appointment. I then met with Ellen, the leasing specialist for Arizona Insights. She and I discussed the apartment complexes I had preferred in North Central Phoenix. She had added one more apartment to the list; it was a new complex, too new to be in the books I reviewed.

Margaux joined us after another good, promising appointment. We rode in Ellen's Mercedes to the first apartments: Las Brisas, the newest complex. As we toured the model apartment, I wondered how anything could be better for us.

Las Brisas is located on North Seventh Street, just six miles from my office. The buildings are Santa Fe style, with stucco and tile roofs. The two bedroom, two bath apartment which would be available for us is on the second story, with a view from my bedroom and balcony of the Arizona Canal and Squaw Peak in the background. The layout of the living area, dining room, and kitchen is spacious and it is so easy to move from one room to another. The price is affordable and I can sign a six months' lease in case I want to buy a home later.

I was tempted to take it on the spot, but we needed to see the other possibilities. There were no available apartments at The Preserve. Our other two choices were La Esplanada and Promontory Pointe. Both Margaux and I tried to keep an open mind, but the other units just didn't measure up to Las Brisas. One was a ground floor unit, with outdated colors and carpeting. The other had a wonderful view of Squaw Peak Preserve, but it was a three bedroom, much more expensive, with tiny bedrooms that were not nearly as nice.

"Let's revisit Las Brisas," we told Ellen. She knew we would say so. Sue, the leasing representative from Las Brisas, was likewise unsurprised to see us again.

After a second walkthrough, thinking where our furniture would fit, we were ready. "We'll take it," I told Sue, "starting October 3." A few signatures followed, and our names were on the line for Apartment 2051 at Las Brisas. I was so glad to have this settled. Margaux seemed very happy with the apartment. She knew how she could put the computer equipment in her bedroom and have her home office. I really don't think she expected a place this nice.

It was late afternoon when Ellen returned us to the office, and I drove the rental car back to the Residence Inn. We were hungry and tired. We stopped at the mall for fast food, then napped at the motel room.

Apparently we slept soundly. I later learned that while we were asleep, one of Phoenix's infrequent monsoons struck. Over an inch of rain fell in a couple of hours; a huge amount in a city that had had less than four inches all year. Some flash flooding and power outages resulted, but we were oblivious. We awoke later and watched a little local television before getting a good night's rest.

Saturday, September 3

Yesterday, in one of the strip shopping centers next to Metrocenter Mall, I had noticed a travel agency. This morning, I had my usual continental breakfast in the motel lobby, then drove back to the agency, where I bought a round trip ticket from Phoenix to Milwaukee. I will be leaving October 9 and returning October 20.

Certainly, I am trying to do a great deal in a short time. I will not be well recovered from my surgery by the time I am supposed to go to work. Perhaps my license will not be ready! Of course, then I would not begin getting paid either. There must be some happy medium.

We found ourselves in enviable circumstances: a free weekend in Arizona. Our business was concluded, and our return flight was not until Monday. What to do?

We had agreed that Sunday would be reserved for a trip to Sedona. Today, we decided to go southeast, towards Tucson and Biosphere 2. Driving through the desert was so different from driving in the Georgia farmlands. I loved the picturesque scenery. Among the saguaros and chollas, mesquite and palo verde, we saw jackrabbits and quail. Tall, rocky peaks were distantly visible in every direction. We stopped for lunch in Coolidge and continued south.

Soon we saw the Santa Catalina Mountains (or so it said on the map) ahead. In the foothills was a large glass structure, multilobed like a giant amoeba: Biosphere. We could see it for twenty miles before we arrived.

Our tickets would not, of course, allow us in the Biosphere environment itself. It is a sealed system. We did get to tour some of the experimental agricultural buildings as we listened to a guide describe how Biosphere began and what it had accomplished. Then we had a full guided tour all around the periphery of Biosphere, which allowed us to view the inside areas almost as well as being inside.

It is so exciting to know that we will be living in a place where such avant garde projects are brought to reality. Arizona is a haven for scientists and intellectuals. One thing I am eagerly anticipating in my new home is the Salon. This is an intellectual movement begun a few years ago by a few Phoenix scholars. Persons pay a small annual fee, and attend Salon sessions as they wish. Expert speakers on any subject are available. Discussions range from art history to cinematography to body piercing. Margaux and I had read about the Salon movement in Phoenix magazine. We are both eager to join. Who knows; perhaps we will even one day give a Salon presentation on our area of expertise!

Margaux drove us all the way back from Tucson, so she could get good desert driving experience. Tomorrow I'll let her do the bulk of the driving also. We have found downtown Phoenix to be much easier for drivers than downtown Atlanta.

Sunday, September 4

We are already experienced in taking the essentials for a drive in the country: water and sunscreen. I packed both, and we drove north on Interstate 17, the Black Canyon Freeway.

The road led past a few northern suburbs before entering the open desert and then the mountains. When we passed four thousand feet, the saguaro disappeared. We saw a different flora in the high desert, although the ubiquitous mesquite bushes remained. Margaux handled the mountain roads like a seasoned driver. She was almost caught by surprise once, by strong crosswinds, but we had warning from a highway sign. At no time did she waver in control of the wheel.

We stopped in Cottonwood for lunch at a Sizzler restaurant. The drive from Cottonwood to Sedona was progressively more breathtaking as we neared the red rock country. At one point the cliffs and canyons of the Mogollon Rim burst into full view, and it was all we could do to concentrate on the road.

I had made advance reservations for a Pink Jeep tour up the canyon rim. We stopped to confirm the reservations, then shopped the craft houses while waiting. I could have bought several souvenirs, but decided to save them for my next trip.

The sky was cloudy but not raining; a perfect day for an outdoor tour. I bought a disposable Kodak camera. We set out on city streets which soon turned into dirt roads as we made our way to the top of the canyon. Our guide knew where to stop for photo opportunities. I had heard that the light is different in Sedona; colors are more vivid. It's true. I've never seen redder rocks. When the late evening sun finally broke through the clouds, it made the cliffs glow like gold and copper.

"Look," said our guide. "There's a tarantula crossing the road."

"Yuck," said five of the six people in our Jeep.

"Cool," said Margaux. "Can we stop and get out for a minute?"

I now have photos of Margaux holding a not-very-happy tarantula. She didn't really take a big risk, and put him down promptly. But two other tourist couples will not soon forget the spider woman from Georgia.

We reached the top of the Mogollon Rim and looked out over the valleys to the west. Our guide volunteered to take our picture on the rim. I put my acrophobia to rest for a while, and stood with Margaux on a ledge not too far from the end of the world.    I did not fall off.

The tour was unforgettable. We were both convinced more than ever: this place is paradise. We are so fortunate to live here. We had a gourmet pizza at an outdoor restaurant under the sunset reflected on the red rocks, before returning to Phoenix.

On the interstate Margaux asked a strange question. "Becky, are there deer in this area?"

"Well... I'm sure there are. Why, did you see one?"

"No. But I just had this premonition that I would have to slow down quickly. I don't know what else could cause it except a deer."

About ten minutes later, we saw brake lights flash ahead. Margaux slowed as a fresh accident scene came into view. We actually had to come to a stop to avoid debris in our lane, then move over to the left shoulder to get around. No one seemed seriously hurt. The driver of the single vehicle involved was out gathering up his beer cans. Several other cars were stopping to offer aid, so I didn't think it was necessary for us to do so.

"How did you know?" I demanded.

"I have no idea. These things just happen to me sometimes. I don't think I am psychic, but sometimes I have a good idea of what is going to happen soon."

Extrasensory perception can be a mixed gift. I wonder if I would welcome it or be afraid of it. I don't seem to possess it, but I think my roommate does.

Monday, September 5

Neither of us wanted to return to Atlanta. After checking out of the Residence Inn, we drove around a little more before we returned the rental car to the airport. Of course we had to stop by Las Brisas again. As I looked at our backyard with the view of the canal, jogging trails, eucalyptus trees, and the mountains in the distance, I knew I had made a good choice.

We drove the rental car back to Sky Harbor Airport and had time for a snack before boarding our plane. Eastbound flights are always harder on me than westbound ones, with the time change.

We dreaded returning to the condominium. I knew Theresa would have made lots of plans for her moving to Phoenix, but it just isn't going to work out. But Theresa also knows I can't be confrontational. She sat outside and talked to me for two hours or more after we returned home. Her tone was bitter. At one point she even said to me, "Becky, what will you do with your thirty pieces of silver?" Implying, of course, that I had betrayed her Judas-style.

Back inside Margaux was a nervous wreck. Theresa went after her verbally: "How dare you steal my opportunity to make a new life? I wanted this too." Finally I just had to make it plain that Margaux was going with me and Theresa was not. Harsh words led to even some physical contact between the two of them before I pried them apart.

This deciding between two friends is the hardest part of the move. It had to be done; time has proven to me that they cannot coexist in the same household. But it still hurts.

Tuesday, September 6

I felt terrible all day, and not just from lack of sleep. Part of me says, "How can you do this to such a good friend as Theresa?" But another part says, "Listen. This is someone whose life revolves around guns, cars, and conspiracy theories. She's an interesting friend. But you can't have a decent professional life in Phoenix with roommates like her."

Margaux, on the other hand, will fit right into the urban life of the Southwest. I am always proud to go places with her, just as we did in Phoenix. I can't imagine Theresa at the dining room of the Crescent Hotel. Margaux is a good cook and a clean housekeeper, similar to me. She is not cynical like Theresa. Her spiritual life is more similar to mine.

There are a hundred reasons why the choice I made is the right one. But it still is painful.

Margaux felt awful too. She hurt her back in the scuffle with Theresa, and had to take extra pain medication. She doesn't seem to be seriously injured.

Theresa came home just long enough to get a change of clothes, then she drove down to Sheldon's for the night. She did mention that she couldn't work well because she was crying all day. I'm sure she made me and Margaux sound like the evil villains.

But we aren't. Are we?

Wednesday, September 7

I was glad for a break today to go to electrolysis. I told Barbara all my woes, and she made me feel better. "You had no reason to invite Theresa to go with you," she said. "This is your life and your future. Invite anyone you choose, or no one if you choose. But I think Margaux will be a good roommate for you."

We discussed lips and eyes. I am going to get the permanent lip liner next week, and probably the eye liner the week after that. Margaux is going to barter with Barbara and redesign her logo and corporate identity, in return for the same permanent cosmetics. I've seen Margaux's work; Barbara is getting a good deal.

Thursday, September 8

At least someone is taking our news well. Gail is very happy for Margaux in her chance for a fresh start. Gail herself may eventually try life in Phoenix, but it's understood that we will not share a living situation again. She is going to stay in Atlanta long enough to complete her training at Roffler as a hairdresser, then she may see what the possibilities are out West. For now, she is going to begin looking for another place to stay.

I am relieved. Gail is a friend. It's been hard not to think of her as a daughter, since she is the same age as Mark. Unfortunately, she still has so much wildness about her, as a remnant of her days in the gay community. Besides, she has never paid me a nickel for rent. Occasionally she will give me a little grocery money, but overall it's been a financial drain.

Theresa and Margaux still aren't speaking, and Margaux is getting so many stomach pains. I think she is on the verge of developing an ulcer. I called and got her some Tagamet, and after the first couple of doses she already started feeling better.

Friday, September 9

Today was my last appointment with Dr. Brown. He has been a good endocrinologist for me, and I consider him a friend. But today I needed two things: refill prescriptions for Phoenix, and a letter for Dr. Schrang.

Dr. Brown was interested in my plans. "So, you have a practice opportunity in Phoenix. How did you get it?"

"Well, I answered an advertisement in a medical journal..."

"No, I mean how did you get it, as male or female?"

I looked at him in humor and amazement. "Do you really think I spend one minute of any day as male? I got this job as Rebecca Allison, and that's who I will always be for them."

He grinned and shook his head. "Well, this was obviously a good move for you. I know you will do well."

Back home I had a call from Angela. She will be here this weekend and wanted to get the payment books from me for the condominium. Angela is staying at the Marque Hotel, and it's the second weekend of the month... Sig Ep weekend. Hmm... I think she is dating a crossdresser.

Saturday, September 10

I was right. After T'ai Chi class I went to the Marque and knocked on the door of Angela's hotel room. She introduced me to "Bobby". Oh my goodness, not another Rob, I thought. I did recognize this person from Sig Ep meetings in the past.

We went over to Ruby Tuesday's at Perimeter Mall, where we had gone last year several times. This time, I was more aware of my own discomfort at being seen in my hometown with Angela. She still is not passing, bless her heart. I asked her about Bobby. She said, "If crossdressing is the worst thing he does, I think I'm pretty fortunate." I suppose that's true.

We handled our business in a very formal manner. I drove her back to her hotel. She asked about Margaux, and I'm sure she was wondering about our relationship.

The truth is, I don't know what kind of relationship we will have when I am postoperative. We may or may not be attracted to each other. But I didn't tell Angela that. I just looked straight ahead, and said, "Margaux and I decided very early in our friendship: the best way to ruin a good friendship is to try and make it more than a friendship."

She didn't reply.

Sunday, September 11

Theresa is spending almost all her time away from the condo now. It's just as well. She deeply resents our decision to exclude her from our living situation in Phoenix.

But there's no way I am going to feel comfortable inviting friends, doctors, or church members over, when Theresa has her guns and gun magazines sitting out in plain view. I enjoy going anywhere with Margaux, but I honestly can't say that about Theresa. So be it.

Margaux has some goodbyes of her own these last few weeks: her friend and physician, Dr. Henry; her former roommate, Joe; and her former lover, Vickie. Vickie will be the most difficult. She and "Michael" were engaged, but when she found out Margaux's plans, she threw the ring back and said, "I hope you die on the operating table." From that point, she has progressed to wanting to see Margaux and be friends with her again. Moving is difficult under any circumstance.

Monday, September 12

I tried not to think about the tattooed lady in the circus as I drove to Barbara's office. She carried me to the office of the physician who gives local anesthesia for her lip liner procedures. Dr. Lott was younger than I, and was not aware I am a physician. He went into some detail regarding possible side effects of a lidocaine injection, as I listened patiently. I'm getting to know how the other half lives in more ways than one: patients/physicians, women/men, unemployed/affluent.

He gave four injections, in the right and left sides of the upper and lower lips. I didn't flinch. "You have a very good tolerance for pain," he commented. "Do you use self hypnosis?"

"Of a sort," I answered. I just imagine I'm somewhere else, and this is not me getting this injection. It works for electrolysis. We'll see if it works for the pigment machine.

I was mostly numb when she began work. The scarifier was still painful, but after she had broken the skin, it was easy to apply more topical anesthetic. She worked for over three hours. When she was finished, my lips were quite swollen. "I wish I could keep a little bit of this swelling, " I thought. The overalll appearance of the liner is going to work nicely to smooth out the rough place that Dr. Silver's procedure left.

I may yet decide to have the eyeliner done too.

Back home, I had a call from Dale's law partner in Jackson. "Becky, can you come over this week and finish our chart review and examine three more patients?" she asked. I agreed and called Uniglobe for a plane ticket to Jackson.

Tuesday, September 13

I returned to Snellville after only one day. Barbara was very pleased with the appearance of my lips as she gave my regular electrolysis treatment. "I think Margaux will want this done too," I mentioned. Margaux is revising Barbara's corporate identity and logo, and wants to barter for lips and eyelids. I think Barbara is getting a good deal out of that. Margaux's work could sell for well over what Barbara charges for the permanent cosmetics.

My plane ticket was waiting for me by courier when I returned. I will fly to Jackson early tomorrow, rent a car, take care of business, and fly straight back to Atlanta. No time to see anyone.

Wednesday, September 14

Atlanta has some of the worst traffic congestion in the South. I left very early to get across town to Hartsfield International Airport. My flight to Jackson was on time and uneventful.

I've been to these law offices so many times, everyone knows me now. "Hi, Dr. Allison," said Linda, the receptionist. "We are setting you up in the conference room." We reviewed my dictation from the last trip, then I had my last three patients to examine.

I really don't think many of these patients have illness related to their implants. A few of them do have capsular contractures, but this is a recognized possibility. I saw only one person during all my visits who developed definite rheumatic disease after the implants. I will word my examinations to be as general as possible, in hopes of helping them; but I certainly am not dissuaded from getting my own implants.

Dale met with me briefly before I left for Atlanta. "You won't have to worry about anything from this case until after your surgery," he promised. "Even then, if they have to serve papers, I have told them to serve me with them instead of you." I thanked him sincerely and left the matter in his hands.

For the last time for many months, I left the Jackson Airport heading home.

Thursday, September 15

My lips are looking better every day. The swelling is almost gone. Gina was envious. "I'd love to have my lips and eyelids done," she said as she thinned hair where Sun had added it. While she worked, I visited with her daughter Cathy, who is at Emory working toward a combined M.D./Ph.D. program. It was so natural to be able to offer advice and experience to a medical student. Finally my second hairpiece was ready to wear again. I made arrangements to meet Gina and Charles next Wednesday for lunch.

I drove Margaux to her prospective client's salon. Warren specializes in high end hair replacement in addition to styling. Margaux was negotiating for a major logo identity and advertising program, hoping to get back into her design work. She was asking to barter for a custom hair integration in addition to the financial cost.

Margaux was nervous. "What if Warren cancels on me? I was really counting on this contract to give me enough money for moving expense. I just know he's going to want to modify it or back out."

"There's no reason for you to think that way. The anti-Magoo factor is not operational any more. Things are going right for you."

I finally lifted her spirits. Before we arrived at Warren's she grabbed an imaginary microphone and pretended we were concluding a session of the McLaughlin Group. "Allison: final summary."

"Total success," I replied in clipped tones. "Four grand. Including integration. Schaffer?"

"Disaster," she laughingly predicted.

I just smiled and changed television shows. "Don't make me smack you, Beavis."

In the neighborhood of Warren's are a Borders bookstore, a branch bank, and a music store. I spent time in all of them while waiting on Margaux to page me. In the music store I bought us tickets for Dan Fogelberg tomorrow night.

Finally the page came, and I found her waiting with a smile. "He agreed to my terms. He will pay me in weekly installments for the next eight weeks, plus I'm getting fitted for my hair integration tomorrow. Oh, Becky, this is working out after all."

We celebrated with hamburgers and Cokes at Taco Mac before returning home.

Friday, September 16

I definitely have a cold. Today, therefore, is a good day for vegging out. "Take two Tylenol and call me in time for the concert." I took Margaux to her fitting at Warren's and napped until she was finished.

On the way home we noted a milestone: my Maxima turned over 100,000 miles. Over half those miles have been in the last year! I must slow down; and I will once we move to Phoenix. This car needs to last me several more years.

Back home, I cooked a puffy omelet with ham and cheese sauce for late lunch. It's one of our favorite dishes. Margaux cleaned the kitchen. Then it was time for her nap while I worked on my journal.

At 6:45 we left for the concert. The weather was fine in Roswell, but became cloudy and threatening as we drove south. By the time we reached Chastain Park, the rain was steady. We, of course, had brought no umbrellas.

We waited as long as we could, then improvised rain bonnets out of plastic bags. Once inside the park, we found a stack of larger bags in the ladies' room. Our "ponchos" kept us reasonably dry above the knees. Dan Fogelberg performed many of his greatest hits. The evening was enjoyable, but our legs and feet were soaked.

Afterwards, back at the condo, we stripped out of our jeans and lit a fire in the gas logs as Margaux prepared hot chocolate. I was reminded of years past, when Sheryl and I would come home after one of Mark's football games and warm up in similar fashion.

Saturday, September 17

I slept late, avoiding the congestion and sore throat I knew would manifest when I awoke. My guess was correct. After ibuprofen, Tylenol, Tavist, and several peppermint lozenges, I was finally able to attempt social interaction.

After learning only two more movements, I should be able to complete the entire T'ai Chi sequence. I am actually going to complete this course before I move. I'll have one more week.

After group therapy I went with Jerry and Lynn Montgomery to The Old Spaghetti Factory. We had a good meal at very low prices, and I really enjoyed their company. The evening was rainy again. Jerry took his umbrella to his car, and returned to pick me up. I went home with them and stayed for several hours.

I returned to find that Gail had moved her belongings out. She is going to stay temporarily with our friend Elena. This is a good idea; Gail and Elena are close in age, and have so much in common. Elena is getting her surgery in November, and Gail is going to accompany her on the trip. We will be seeing Gail several times before we move, so it wasn't a tearful parting - yet.

Sunday, September 18

In medical school we used to have a humorous saying to describe why we overslept. "The rack monster got me last night," we would say. Today that monster had me in his clutches until nine, so I only made the second church service. I returned home for lunch, rather than eat with the class; next week I know I will go to lunch with them.

This afternoon Gail and Elena joined me and Margaux; we drove to a MARTA rapid transit station and rode the train downtown, then took a shuttle bus to Piedmont Park for the Atlanta Arts Festival. It was a huge affair, with many food and entertainment vendors. We strolled the whole area before going back to spend money.

I found a wonderful artwork to give me good memories. The artist specialized in "heart" cartoons. For example, one showed a group of valentine-style hearts bursting through a door, wearing police hats and badges. The caption? "Cardiac arrest," of course.

I had to have it. I selected a trio of cartoons to hang in my new office. This alone made the afternoon a success. We bought Arts Festival T-shirts and ate pizza and gyros before catching the train back to my car. It was a fun weekend and a good way to say goodbye to downtown Atlanta.

Monday, September 19

Margaux accompanied me to Barbara's today and showed Barbara her ideas for Barbara's new logo. "Permanent Image Cosmetics" has a wonderful design incorporating the phases of the moon. Margaux said it was inspired by her trip to Arizona. Barbara loved the idea. In return for a business identity and logo for stationery, envelopes, and business cards, Barbara will give Margaux lip liner and eyelid liner.

I had been reluctant to have the eyeliner done, for reasons of discomfort and expense. But seeing pictures of her work, I decided to have it done also. It will save me so much time in getting ready for work in the mornings. I think it will be worth the expense. We made appointments for eyeliner next Monday, the day of the week Barbara leaves open for extra work such as this. Her lip liner will be tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, September 20

Margaux was concerned about the pain of the local anesthetic, but tolerated Dr. Lott's injections well. She took a long time back at Barbara's drawing her own liner, since she had definite ideas about how she wanted her lips. Finally Barbara was able to get to work. Unfortunately, by that time the local had started wearing off. I was prepared, however. I brought Ambien and Lortab for Margaux and loaded her up. She slept the rest of the way through the procedure, while Barbara and I chatted.

Barbara does excellent work. Margaux's lips will look as good as mine. It's going to be so easy to apply minimal makeup when we get up in the mornings.

Wednesday, September 21

For lunch today I met Gina in one of Atlanta's popular new restaurants, South City Kitchen. We enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the view of the Midtown area through the windows of the restored house. Our wine was a California chenin blanc, and we had a grilled flatbread for an appetizer. Our gourmet sandwiches contained beef tenderloin and portobello mushrooms.

Charles had a business commitment and could not attend. Gina's daughter Cathy, the medical student, had hoped to come, but had to cancel on short notice. Gina and I had a wonderful visit, just the two of us. She was so happy for me as we toasted my new life. I'll probably see Gina and Cathy once more before I leave.

Thursday, September 22

Around 6:00 Theresa called: "Becky, if you can drive up and meet me at the pawnshop, I'll take you to supper at Houck's steakhouse. Larry can go with us." I liked the idea; Margaux was concerned about Theresa having the time to work on my mind. I assured her nothing would influence me at this point.

I met Theresa and Larry and laughed as I listened to their stories of customers' and employees' strange happenings. Sometimes a small town gives the best opportunities for humor.

Theresa was the perfect hostess tonight, and never mentioned Phoenix. I still have hopes for her to have a successful life here in Atlanta, with or without Sheldon. She promised to retrieve her belongings in a few days before we needed to pack and move. I returned home and reassured Margaux our evening was uneventful.

Friday, September 23

The complexities of an interstate move may be overwhelming, but I will not let them conquer me. Having the help of my company really makes a difference. I called the movers at our local North American office and confirmed our moving dates. We are still scheduled to pack on Thursday and move on Friday of next week. In between the appointment for electrolysis and eyeliner, and the speaking engagements for Southern Comfort, I will decide which of my belongings will make the auto trip with us. These things may be all I have for two or three days until the van arrives.

Housecleaning is becoming a daily chore, getting a little done daily in one room or another. Our ever present ants present an additional challenge. I suspect we will need to get an exterminator to spray after we move.

Saturday, September 24

I knew today and tomorrow would be days of putting closure on my Atlanta life and friends. This morning I rehearsed T'ai Chi rather extensively prior to my class. I felt I could learn the final movements in the 24-movement form in this last hour.

The only movement with which I was uncomfortable was "turn around, ward off, and punch", occurring towards the end of the form. Jim walked me through this movement and the final closure movements. With my elderly friend, Ruby, I practiced them over and over. Finally we performed the entire form together for the first time. After seven months, I was finally able to do an entire routine. I hope to continue my T'ai Chi study in Phoenix. It has taught me so much about poise, balance, and coordination.

I said my goodbyes to Ruby and Jim (with whom I was still infatuated; he's so cute) and returned to the condo briefly before driving to Windy Hill for my last group therapy meeting. The session began on an interesting note, with a visit from someone who had been in the group for a few months, then disappeared. We heard no more from "her," until today when "he" stopped in to let us know he had given up his ideas of transition. For this person, obviously happy to be male, the choice was correct.

After this, the rest of the meeting was anticlimactic. I was surprisingly calm and tearless as I said my goodbyes to my friends, until it was time to deal with Dr. Powell.

"I love you," I sniffled as I hugged my therapist.

He smiled. "I love you too, and I really like the person you have become."

I gave my new address and telephone number to him and to Jerry Montgomery. Although I will see Jerry at the convention, today was a good time for private goodbyes. "I'm going to cry," I warned him.

He laughed. "It's just the hormones," he teased. But he hugged me tight too. "I am really going to miss you, Becky." I do think I have been a special friend to the Montgomerys this year. We must continue to keep in touch.

When I returned home, Margaux was very pleased. "Gail called and wants to come over and spend the night." I was glad to have her over also. We bought some pasta and breadsticks so I could have supper for the three of us. Then we went to Blockbuster and rented "Blue Velvet," which Gail and I had not previously seen. I thought the movie was much better than its reputation, in its exposure of the strangeness just under the surface of small town life.

I went to bed around 12:00, since I was getting up early for communion service.

Sunday, September 25

6:30 was much too early, but I rose and went right to work on my morning toilet and makeup. I arrived at church just before the service began. The small chapel was perfect for the very personal nature of communion, and I felt very close to the Lord. In Sunday School my class had a special prayer for me in my journey and my new job. Mary, Nancy, JoAnn, Vivian, Judith, Mike, Jack... all were so kind to me. We had brunch at the Brookwood Grill after class; then with more tears and goodbyes, I was on my way.

If I were staying in Atlanta, I would be much more active in my church this year. I would be involved in the discipleship class, the Billy Graham crusade, and much more of the singles department activities. Now I will find a new church in Phoenix and spend months becoming acquainted with my new friends.

Tonight an even more intimate goodbye left me in tears on the way home. I met Jerry and Jill at their house, and they took me to Jade of China for supper. We had a wonderful time, bringing each other up to date on family news. They assured me of their support and prayers in my changes.

Jerry and Jill are my only relatives to fully accept me and keep in touch. Although we did not visit each other often, it's been comforting to know they are only a few blocks away. I wonder how long it will be before I see them again.

Monday, September 26

I'm really glad I decided to get the permanent cosmetics before I move. Early this morning I drove to Snellville, took a Darvocet and some Advil, and stayed with Barbara for over three hours while she applied my permanent eyeliner.

There was some discomfort; after all, she is working on the most sensitive area of my face. I couldn't have a good local anesthesia as I had for the lip liner. But the topical anesthetic worked well. After she had nicked the skin, the next application of lidocaine was quickly absorbed. I tolerated it fairly well. Now I can save so much time in the mornings.

Margaux, meanwhile, had had two productive meetings with her clients from Mikon systems and Warren's hair. I picked her up at Warren's and we returned to Barbara's for the same treatment for her.

The combination of Ambien and Lortab again proved effective, and now we both have great looking eyes and lips! Barbara asked us to come back by the office Thursday night so she could touch up anything she missed today.

Tuesday, September 27

The telephone rang early, and I found myself speaking to someone I had never met; or so I thought. "Dr. Allison? My name is Paula, and I'm from Tupelo, Mississippi. I apologize for calling you here. I talked to your ex-wife last night and she suggested I call you."

I knew this was a legitimate call. Sheryl would never give out my number unless she was certain of its seriousness. "Yes, Paula, what can I help you with?"

It's a small world: "Paula" was around forty and was facing gender transition in the near future. I could tell from our conversation that she could postpone it no longer. What really surprised me was when she asked, "Did you practice medicine in Amory about ten years ago?"

"Well, yes, I did."

"You were my father's doctor." Paula mentioned her father's name, and I instantly recognized one of my favorite elderly patients. He used to come in at least twice a month with minor complaints, but I knew he was just lonely and needed someone to pay attention to him. When he finally did develop serious physical illness, I was attentive to him and his family. I'm sure I had had dealings with Paula, as Paul, many years ago.

We had a long talk. I told Paula about Southern Comfort and the Montgomery Support Group, and urged her to get to Atlanta this weekend if possible. Even at the end of my stay in Atlanta, I'm having opportunities to reach out to others like me.

I went to BankSouth and picked up my cashier's check for the first month's rent at Las Brisas, as well as a small amount of trip money. Now we are ready to load up and head West.

Wednesday, September 28

Poor Margaux, with everything she had to do for her clients including Warren and Barbara; and I was asking her to do my slides for the hormone lecture also! She was up most of the night. My efforts to help her had been very productive, and she used the diagrams of the different hormones to good effect.

We found the location of the service bureau, TR graphics, and left the slides to be done on 24 hour notice. I returned Margaux to the condo, and met Gina and Cathy at Cathy's apartment near Emory Medical School. We went to a small Southwestern restaurant, Cafe Elena, near Emory. I enjoyed my visit with them. Cathy is so intelligent and yet such fun to be around. I am appreciating more and more how wonderful it is to participate as a woman in the company of women.

Maybe it's true: a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.

Thursday, September 29

As I knew it would, time ran short on meeting all my obligations today. I was at the Ramada by 9:00, dressed in my Maggy London cream linen dress, and sat on three panels. The morning panel, "Building Your Team," featured Jerry Montgomery and others in addition to me. I was able to make some good points in favor of the Standards of Care, and trusting one's family physician.

I saw Dr. Seghers in the audience, and Jerry introduced me to him after the panel. We had lunch together. I mentioned Margaux to him, and he seemed most interested in seeing her again. I told him we would arrange to meet him later tonight.

After lunch I participated on a panel called "Fitting Into the Social Scene." My heart wasn't in that panel, because I knew the next hour was mine alone. I had a large group in attendance as I spoke on health concerns. The topic of hormones was not even discussed, since I had an entire formal lecture Friday on that subject. I did talk about several topics: being an informed consumer of health care; stress related illness; hazards of injectable silicone; and sexually transmitted diseases. I paid particular emphasis on AIDS and safe sex.

My talk was well received. Afterward I had the opportunity to visit with my friends Robyn and Carol, and especially Janet, my old friend from Indiana, who had driven down for the convention. Janet is not transsexual, but has had the greatest respect for me during my transition. I wished for more time to visit with her.

Someone else spoke to me, someone I did not recognize. "Becky? I'm Paula, from Mississippi." The person Sheryl had referred to me. I was so glad she made it here. I talked with Paula briefly and got her pointed in Jerry Montgomery's direction, to see how she can get started with the support group.

Finally I finished at the motel and made it home, where Margaux and the packers were close to finishing up. Everything was boxed and ready to load on the van tomorrow. I knew Margaux was exhausted, so I took her to supper. We picked up my slides from the service bureau, then drove back to Barbara's one last time. She did a little touch-up activity on my upper lids, but decided Margaux's were just fine.

We hugged Barbara and took a long time to say goodbye, but knew we would see her again, especially with Margaux working on her logos. Then we drove back to the Ramada. Dr. Seghers was waiting on us in the lobby. We had a wonderful visit with this brilliant, witty surgeon who had made such a difference in Margaux's life.

Friday, September 30

For the last time, I entered the morning traffic on Georgia 400 at Holcomb Bridge Road. By now I knew just how much time to allow to go from my condominium to the Ramada Dunwoody. I entered the conference area by the side door. The collection of interesting persons spread before me included crossdressers, transsexuals, spouses, friends, and some who defied categorization.

I am accepted as a leader here; an expert health professional, who happens to be transsexual herself. A part of me wants to remain available to these persons who have such needs. But how can I have my own normal life, if I remain part of their world?

The question did not demand an immediate answer. The nine o'clock hour was mine. I adjusted my slide carousel on the projector, straightened my green silk dress, and waited for the hour to begin.

"Good morning," I greeted the capacity audience. "This is the seminar on endocrine management - hormone therapy. I'm Doctor Rebecca Allison; I am a board certified internist, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians." Then I put the crowd at ease. "Yes, for someone who has spent most of her life trying not to be a 'fellow', I can't seem to escape it." I let the laughter subside.

I launched into a discussion of who should take hormones; the Standards of Care of the Harry Benjamin Association; the psychological and medical evaluations. I was careful to consider first the treatment of the female to male transsexual, since they usually get less attention in our meetings. There were at least fifteen guys at this seminar, and I could tell they appreciated my comments. Then I moved into the discussion of estrogens and antiandrogens.

Margaux and I had designed a slide for its humor content. We found a stock photo from an old television commercial: two women in a kitchen, one ironing, with slight expressions of surprise on their faces. Margaux put a thought balloon over the woman not doing the ironing. The caption in the balloon said, "Has he been taking my hormones again?" It was the perfect bit of humor for the lecture, and it illustrated some people's unrealistic expectations.

After the talk, it was time for final goodbyes to Jerry and Lynn, Michelle, Rick, Robyn, Janet, Carol, Jeanne, and Robert. I returned to the condo to find the movers had not yet arrived. I changed to jeans and a T-shirt to help clean and pick up. Soon Mr. Mullinix, our driver, arrived and parked the huge van out front.

While the loaders worked, Margaux felt very sad. No one had come to see her off. Then, out of nowhere, our friend Joyce Rush appeared. Margaux was so glad to see Joyce. They spent a couple of hours together, and finally everyone was ready to leave. I called Sheryl and thanked her for referring Paula to me. Sheryl asked us to drop by when we reached Jackson.

I agreed to Margaux's request to drive us out of Georgia. For our exit music, I selected Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries". It was perfect as we left Atlanta behind.

We finally reached Jackson around 11:00 P.M. Sheryl was gracious as always, and made Margaux feel right at home. We sat and talked until nearly 1:00. She had baked cookies and muffins to take up to Ole Miss for the ball game tomorrow, and had prepared a sample package for us.

For the first time, Sheryl referred to me repeatedly as "Becky". She and I shared a long, firm hug, and she finished by telling Margaux, "Take good care of her."

I know, in my own way, I will always love Sheryl Parker Anderson.

We were quite exhausted and couldn't wait to fall into bed at the Hampton Inn a few minutes later.


© 1996 Rebecca Anne Allison

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