Turning, Touts Pout

Caution:  Some readers may find some of the content below objectionable.

Hung from the upper sill of broad, open windows, a row of prodigiously faceted prisms gloriously refracted sunbeams one crisp early spring evening. The dining room of a restored nineteenth century craftsman bungalow flaunted the host of prolific rainbows cast by forty-eight sided quasi-spherical polygons that cascaded over every surface. A gentle breeze slowly rotated the shimmering celebration. Color invaded every cranny and corner harbored by the man- made objects and geometry of the room. An imaginative child would immediately have seen that the human world had been invaded by beings of pure light, and had been summarily overrun and conquered. So intent upon each other were the two people seated at the table that neither of them noticed, even as the hues and tones dancing over their faces gleefully mocked human intensity, as beings of pure light so enjoy doing.

First glance revealed the two people seated at the table were a man and a woman. The house belonged to the man, Dr. Lionel Heflin, Professor Emeritus of Romantic Studies at Alpine State University, at the edge of the nation's deepest mountain range, in the heart of the continent. Seated across from him was a young lady who had been invited under the unseemliest of pretenses, and who yet thrived on the occasion even more for it. For the time being the young lady must must remain anonymous, like a silhouette on the stage before the theater lights come on. As important and unique as she may be at any other time, men in the audience only took an interest in the curves of her shadow; that was what sparked imagination and whetted appetites. Unlike an aloof and inanimate stage silhouette, in Dr. Heflin's dining room her vivacious presence commanded unconditional and unadulterated attention from the myriad of twirling rainbows, and her beauty demanded at least a marginal physical description.

Carefully curled light brown locks and a high starched collar of an anachronistic and conservative housekeeper's dress in the Victorian style hid almost all of Heflin's guest above the shoulders. The student was a very attractive nineteen year old woman, and she had nothing to hide. The professor asked her to dress that way, a request she welcomed, and carried out bursting at the seems with giddiness and excitement. Any discussion of her beyond that would spoil the fun.

As for her host, Lionel Heflin, much could be said without anything of real meatiness and substance every finding its way into the discussion. He achieved great stature at Alpine State at the age of 41, and in so doing made history as the youngest educator in the state's history to become Professor Emeritus. Completely devoid of the ravaging effects of old age, Lionel's features remained handsome and Patrician, as they had been for the entirety of his adult life. No reason existed for a man of 46, who had lived well and comfortably since birth, to bear such blemishes as wrinkles and liver spots, nor paleness nor sunken eyes, and he did not. In the glint of his eyes, however, there lurked a wariness and a weariness that could not possibly have anything to do with his chosen career.

Beyond conjecture concerning the occasional dark circles under the doctor's eyes, Dr. Heflin's appearance was quite the opposite of most professors with tenure and sterling academic credentials of the sort that usually earned a seat at the Regents' table. Lionel Heflin literally glowed with youthful vigor, almost always rosy and slightly tanned from being in the sun. He looked much younger than his actual age, but his exterior appearance cloaked the experiential age of his persona. The depths and heights of the lecturer's life would have been startling were they revealed.

The good doctor delved deeply into the lore of taboo pleasure and occult sexual practices from an early age. Were his inner self ever to see the light of day it would be a startling contrast to the suave, well dressed man that put everyone he came in contact with well at ease. The doting old wives of the members of the Board of Regents, with all their bubbling talk of Episcopalian and Catholic fundraisers, of Anglican and Presbyterian charity events, and so on and so forth, would positively swoon, to the accompaniment of great theatrics and hysterics, were they to find out The Lionel Heflin spent more than two decades working his way up through the ranks of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn. University President Calvin Archibald Tuttle would no doubt have his personal assistant dial the campus police on his cell phone immediately upon discovering Dr. Lionel Heflin had written a three volume treatise on the subject of dominance and submission, especially with reference to desire and denial, meant to usher in an era of guiltless erotic exploration. But enough of the digression.

Before any dinner involving a professor and an attractive young lady, before any wild speculation about their private lives, before any other curiosity and innuendo, there had been an incident on the campus of Alpine State University. As far as incidents go it barely made the radar, and did not register at all on the seismograph. The incident involved a young phenom attending school there, partially under the good doctor's tutelage.

In an office down the hall from the College of Arts and Sciences, Julian Spencer scheduled a meeting with Dr. Lionel Heflin. He did so for two very important reasons. The first and most pressing reason he needed a private consultation with the professor involved his grade in the man's class. On the morning of April 16, 2012, Lionel Heflin returned to Julian Spencer his halfway point examination, as Heflin called it; nobody else called their mid-semester tests “halfway point examinations.” On the front page there was a red “D+” so large it could have been seen from outer space, or so Julian thought humorlessly.

Julian never worried about grades. He tested in the top one quarter of one percentile nationally in scholastic aptitude. He graduated from high school shortly before his sixteenth birthday. It had not been an easy feat in a school full of conservative “3-R” schoolmarms, with a principal who “would rather be fishing,” according to a prominently displayed bumper sticker on the man's car He mastered so many first year university subjects before enrollment that he only needed five semesters to graduate, before he ever began. For all that, the ongoing nature of the learning process persists in perpetuity. A lifetime worth of trophies would not assuage the pain of failure to graduate due to a lackluster performance in his studies so close to the finish line for his bachelor's degree.

The course summary, prepared by a technical writer, loosely defined technical writing as precise, brief, goal oriented descriptive summaries of tools, methods, processes and objects. The invisible nature of the author in such manuals and treatises was one of the key points of the trade. Writing with no flair at all, with absolute, succinct objectivity, had long been troublesome for Spencer simply because he found it so boring. The language of technical writing proffered no challenge at all.

Julian had difficulty accepting the underlying hierarchical authoritarianism of the world, the one that relegated talented writers to joyless careers writing the most lifeless pieces imaginable. He loved learning for the pure intellectualism of it; he loved writing for the beauty of it, although it was not his strongest subject. He detested the market economy that made scullery maids of gifted cooks and doomed artists touched by the hand of God to making campaign posters in sign shops. The more a subject merged with authoritarianism the more he rebelled against it. He also had no patience with those who blindly accepted the power structure of the world, conformed and did as they were told. In the past he had condescendingly called people who thrived on technical writings “the brain-washed and reprogrammed automatons of the language world”

He needed seventy-eight percent or higher in graduate level technical writing in order to receive his baccalaureate. Raw genius with mathematics and computer languages was not enough to satisfy the requirements for a computer science degree. Cursing, stomping his feet and generally throwing a tantrum would not change that mandate. Dreading the inevitable encounter with a course outside of his comfort zone, Julian put the class off until his last semester.

Julian Spencer neither hailed from a long line of renowned scholars, nor a family in which he was the first child to attend college. The ancestral background he brought to the table would have been stamped “Average,” if such a stamp existed, and if there had ever been any need to state the glaringly obvious. Everything about his life but his own educational achievements reeked of mediocrity. Beginning at a very early age Julian became determined to change that, so that he could categorically condemn any attempt to minimize his passion for erudition.

Since shortly before his fourteenth birthday Spencer's greatest role model had been Dr. Lionel Heflin, who earned a PhD in education at the age of twenty-three. Julian was enthralled by the doctor's dizzying climb to historical status among the faculty of Alpine State, but that original snippet of information about the PhD had been but the catalyst that piqued the teenager's curiosity. It was just a footnote clinging to a tiny foothold on a cliff face footpath in mountains of other thoughts and information gathered since that moment. Julian Spencer worshiped Lionel Heflin from afar. Had his parents known the extent of his infatuation the course of history might have been drastically altered, but they had no idea.

After two years at Alpine State University Julian could finally no longer avoid technical writing. A broad smile brightened Julian's features, a hint that perhaps he knew more than he let on about the class, in fact had always known. Dr. Lionel Heflin taught the technical writing course Julian needed to graduate.

If all Spencer's metaphorical references to rapid scholastic advancement over the years had been dragged into the light and studied under a microscope, then the examiner may well have felt like the victim of a farce. Some of the young man's drive had been a genuine desire to do his mind justice. A larger part of the rhetoric merely cloaked Julian's more personal drive.

Though Spencer's grade in technical writing six weeks before the end of the semester and graduation looked very worrisome on the surface, the young man felt no pressure whatsoever. The obscurity of the truth neared an end as the youthful adult's flickering synapses became like flashes of lightning in a thunderhead, plans and ideas the sound of leviathan rumbling in the distance. His grade and graduation were to him mere mundane trivialities which had already sewn anxiousness and undue extra effort for months and years, months and years too many. A vastly more important affair charged the air around him with tingling electricity, and it had nothing to do with books. The excitement was not altogether new to him, but it was new enough that he craved more of it, to the umpteenth power

On the morning of his appointment with Heflin, the student posed a silent question as to whether his subconscious mind flubbed the examination in order to have a reason to meet privately with the professor. Julian sighed and decided not to play such games anymore; he put off all airs and confronted reality head-on. Julian discarded feigned naiveté. He consciously and intentionally turned in an effort not worthy of a hunchback raised by pigs in a faraway land where two legs were “baahed.” How was he to know such hunchbacks happened to be quite deft at penning treatises on industrial

He had not enjoyed the prolonged dishonesty of his spurious efforts to convey ineptitude. He didn't like playing dumb, especially when it came to such a simple task as writing about tangible objects and processes. He made a mental note to later scold the few people that comprised his private life for believing it possible he could fail to even get a satisfactory grade. His relatives should know him better. He would not be able to tell them anything about it immediately, but he looked forward to the time when he could.

His brow furrowed momentarily thinking about what his “peers” thought of him throughout his grade school years, how they treated him like dirt, how in their eyes there was nothing more loathsome than the quiet, fat, insecure teacher's pet. That was only because those kids had not known the whole truth of the matter. He had no social circle. Two friends from childhood who had long since moved away had been his only social contacts. Prone to deep melancholies, his parents and grandparents often sought to succor him out of that dreadful state of hopeless depression. In a very real way Julian Spencer was a social outcast from the very beginning.

Even after Julian lost weight and word spread that he was “off the charts intelligent,” even after a few doors opened to social networking and he found himself invited to extracurricular functions only open to honors students, Julian did not change. The possibility of making new friends did not appeal to him. He had been the same person the entire time. None of the people who suddenly deigned to open their arms to embrace him ever considered doing so before he was officially sanctioned by the administration.

His social standing did change slightly. He went from a ridiculed, pushed around and unwanted loner, to a loner other students were willing to awkwardly accept because the mass mentality had shifted in that direction. The more ignorant, testosterone addled males switched from sadistically reminding him of his weaknesses and shortcomings, to passive aggressively sabotaging his life at every possible opportunity out of jealousy. Julian wasn't positive, but he thought the jocks were more aggressive and hostile after they became jealous than when they tortured him for the pleasure of it. Even if Julian had known how to become happy and integrated and highly social he would not have. He wanted no part of the sickening social environment he had become familiar with. He was substantially different from the average person. He did not lie to himself to make things seem better.

Julian thought about those things in the blink of an eye. He did that effortlessly since he had been over it all in his mind thousands of times. Julian focused instead on something he found intriguing, his meeting with Heflin. He kept his motivations so secret he rarely even thought about the subject. When he did it was like a piece of desert he saved from dinner, because it was the best part/

The second reason Spencer wanted the meeting was really the only reason. He very much loved the man, or at least was in love with his idea of the man. It was a deadly serious condition, though anyone who thought they knew Julian Spencer would immediately have considered the revelation a practical joke. Julian was not delusional, and he was not imbalanced. He knew the doctor did not even know him, much less have feelings for him. He knew that the odds against making a connection with the professor were astronomical. But he felt he needed to take the chance, or he would forever regret it and feel like a coward for having done nothing.

As it has been mentioned, Julian Spencer never fit in with his fellow students; not even once. He remembered with great alacrity his sense of relief when pulled out of normal classes and given a cubicle in the library, a “fortress of solitude,” as part of his advancement from the fourth grade to the sixth. Julian had already been much younger than most students in his grade; so the alienation he felt had nothing to do with age difference. Other students respected him for the first tine in his life during the two years he spent in high school, but he could not escape the shadow of his own insecurity. The reasons for that were deeper than his weight or his grades or his shyness

Sexual thoughts involving men began to reoccur in Julian's dreams and prepubescent fantasies around the age of twelve; that is to say, the idea of a man making love to him. The thoughts did not begin because of something in real life. He knew very little about it. Warnings about strangers from his parents and grandparents, and condemnation of homosexuality in church, constituted all his sources of information on the subject. The thoughts he found most burdensome came from somewhere inside of him He calmed his own fears and reassured himself with his true objective standpoint, that he would never in a million years act upon such inclinations.

When he reached puberty his feminine outlook on sexuality became a part of his conscious autoeroticism, but he also found himself aroused by such thoughts time and again through no conscious decision on his part. He felt dirty and embarrassed when he became aroused without attempting to, but nothing compared to the shame he felt when he sought to be aroused in that fashion intentionally. He had no fantasies involving women. He had no sexual desires involving women. All of his desires and fantasies revolved around his own femininity. The fantasies only varied in the depth to which he diminished his own ego in favor of the model female psyche he created, which through a lack of knowledge and experience lacked many similarities to the female psyche in reality. That being said, theere was no variance that included heterosexuality.

He bottled up the fantasies deep inside himself. Everything about his thoughts and urges frightened him, but they wouldn't go away. His mother took him to churches from one religious denomination to another, his father always to Catholic church. All of them said the same thing: What he wanted was wrong. Of course nothing the church had to say on the subject was ever said directly to him. He spoke not a word of it his entire life, and so was never able to get any sort of counseling or guidance on the subject.

Sometimes Julian cried late at night. He lamented his own perceived abnormality in terms which painted him as the victim of some failed experiment God began and forgot about. His mantra contained nothing insightful about his condition nor any method to alleviate his emotional turmoil, but he clung tight to it nevertheless.

“I never chose to be the person I am. If I had been able to choose I would be the opposite of this. But I am the person I am, and that type of person has been nearly universally condemned by Christianity. For virtually two thousand years Christian thinkers, students, parishioners, priests, church leaders and mass congregations, people with a sexual or gender based difference from the mainstream have been reviled, harangued and judged despicable. Yet we too are the children of God, created by God and entitled to the same quality of life as all the rest of God's children.”

Julian was an intelligent little boy, but he was still a little boy. Of course he reserved a special place in his own imaginary hell for anyone who dared to refer to him in such terms. Even if his defense mechanism was something he stumbled across in a role playing game, at least he had a defense mechanism.

For a long time Julian prayed that he would grow out of the such thoughts and desires. He hoped beyond hope that one day he would wake up and suddenly girls would be the only thing he wanted. He had reached and passed puberty by the time he started praying to wake up heterosexual. Something inside of him told him he was far too rational to believe such a thing would miraculously take place. His vocabulary at the age of thirteen could not produce the words he needed to classify and categorize all the thoughts he had on the subject, but his intellect provided him with more than enough focused awareness to know that he had been born differently than most boys. He did not like it, but it was the truth.

As it to top off all the guilt and discomfort he felt about himself with a cherry, and then stuff the whole sticky sundae in a paper bag and wrap it up with a bow, he happened to like girls, a lot. Most girls just did not appeal to him, he felt no attraction to them, most of them. That meant he could not point to his own highly self-analyzed feelings on the subject and say, “You just dislike them because you're afraid of them, because they're different.'' He identified with them.

One part of his growing self awareness he found particularly unnerving was the feminine angle from which he had to describe his secret desires. He felt he had been born a girl inside a boy's body. Te describe that condition meant thinking like a woman. All of his indoctrination told him that was wrong. It was as if he had been crippled since birth, but nobody knew, and part of the disability was being unable to tell anyone of the condition without making it worse.

Julian thought about this problem a lot. He did not want to go to hell, the existence of which had been hammered into the core of his being. Unfortunately very few members of any church thought about the effect “fear of God” rhetoric would have on an innocent young person. Those who did not fit the mold painstakingly created over the centuries of a “good” son or daughter did not receive any consideration at all. Anyone with even a minimal capacity for analytical thought could see the self-contradiction in dogma. Babies and children are innocents and to be cherished as close to holiness, except for those who weren't normal; they were condemned to an eternity in a lake of fire. Religion never held much comfort for those outside the boundaries of accepted norms

By the summer of 2007 Julian had yet to find anything about women sexually arousing. Then one day his father “accidentally” left a Playboy on a coffee table one day. Julian found it in short order; he was a “clean freak,” constantly straightening, organizing and cleaning should he find something out of place or dirty. After reassuring himself he was the only person in the house he sat down to take a look at what all the fuss was about,

Julian became so aroused he nearly hyperventilated. Every fiber of his being felt like it had been supercharged with electricity. No part of him did not want to be in the image touching the “playmate.”. Later on he labeled that event and it's circumstances as part of the growing proof that his very existence was part of a cosmic joke that amused God from time to time. Julian had changed his outlook drastically. He suddenly found himself a fully functional and capable male lesbian. The humorousness of the idea lasted for less than a second, because by and large it was true.

Other difficulties and abnormalities presented themselves to Julian as he slowly but surely aged into an adult. Although his penis did protrude from his body when he was excited, all his reproductive organs withdrew up into his body almost entirely when he was flaccid. No other boy he ever encountered had such a trait.

The characteristic made Julian feel so much like part of a circus sideshow that he made the mistake of mentioning it to his mother. She took him to see the doctor. Until the day he died that experience remained one of the most embarrassing of his life.

Julian fidgeted nervously in the waiting room at the doctor's office. He conjectured about what reason his mother had given for his visit. Very now and then he looked up and noticed the receptionist glancing at them. He thought he may have caught a smirk at least once, and he was convinced the head nurse winked at him, the sort of wink nobody would ever want to get. Once the doctor literally took a look at him the episode became even worse.

The moment the doctor laid a finger on him he became erect. As if that wasn't bad enough, the doctor asked him if he was any bigger when he became erect, evidently not realizing that he was fully erect at the time the question was asked. Julian wasn't certain what the visit was supposed to accomplish, because the only thing that happened was that he got felt up.

In much later years, when he was nearly over the hill, Julian would keep a bottle of Scotch handy in case that memory ever attempted to surface. He would pour a small amount in a glass. After that he would hand the glass to whoever was closest and drink what was left in the bottle.

Julian had other characteristics which adhered to that trend, the trend in which he was the world's most humiliated human being. In later years, after he was over the hill, he lumped all of those traits into one package, called The Julian Curse. When his voice changed it did not become more masculine. It changed pitch, but it became more lilting and falsetto sounding. Before his voice changed he was just another boy with a child's pitch. After his voice changed he was the only boy in the school whose voice did not become more manly.

Instead of growing deeper his voice was highly reminiscent of a contralto drag queen performer. At least he did not have to make an effort to sound like a deep voiced female. He understood it took a lot of practice for some people to be able to do that. The first thought he ever had on the subject was, “Aren't I the lucky one.”

Throughout elementary school, before he was taken out of normal classes and placed with students called “gifted,” other students bullied Spencer every day, or at least every day when his parents shoved him out the door into the world. Boys ran up to him on the playground and kicked him and ran away, They shoved him to the ground. They put things in his hair whenever the found a reason to walk past his chair. At lunch they would distract him and then ruin his food and his milk, with gobs of salt or barbecue sauce or kechup. They spit on him, teased him and did everything in their power to make him miserable, and they were quite successful in their endeavors.

The girls were not much better than the boys. The nicest of the girls did not say anything nice, they just didn't say anything mean. Mean girls ridiculed him for being fat. Julian talked little or not at all. The cliques of fad fashion wearing, popular girls called him “Quiet Weirdo,” or just “Weirdo”. Being silent was a cardinal sin in their little world. One could not gossip if one were silent, and gossip consistently ranked as the most popular hobby/occupation among popular girls all grown up.

Julian took it all in nearly total silence. Even after he became an adult he never stood up for himself. He never fought back, and he considered his passive nature an absence of masculinity. He never grew angry. He never had a pivotal moment in which he suddenly felt the power of his ancestors take hold of his being and unleash all the bottled up testosterone and rage to forever free him from being bullied. He hated his own person over that tidbit. There was no man inside him waiting to be unleashed. There was no turning point at which he became a man, as society defined a man. He was just quiet, gentle and passive, far beyond the point of no return.

Blissfully Julian never had to find out what sort of abuse he would have suffered at the hands of his classmates in normal high school. The accelerated learning program evacuated him from the midst of the laughing hyenas normal students demonstrated a striking resemblance to. Twenty four months after beginning his preparatory education Julian finished it and moved on to college.

The School Board relished holding his case up as a fine example of their prowess in readying students for the future. Julian viewed it as an abysmal failure. All their expertise and intercession gained him only an eighteen month head start on college, and at no point during his grade school career had any teacher stood up for him when he was being bullied.

One time he worked up enough nerve to ask one of the teachers he did not dislike why bullies were allowed to run rough shod over the rules, when quiet studious children were severely punished if they acted out. The teacher answered, “We're preparing you for the real world, and the real world is not fair.” That teacher was no longer one of the ones Julian did not dislike after that day.

Julian wasn't thinking about any of those things when he marched to Heflin's office to schedule an emergency meeting with the professor. The secretary, Ms. Cartwright, asked for his name, and brightened when he told her. She knew who he was.

“Julian, I just want to tell you how impressive everyone thinks you are. It's a shame there isn't some sort of process to publicly reward students of your caliber. I have a daughter, and she has been positively inspired by your achievements. I think if more children --” Julian hated that word. “ – knew how far they could go outside the normal boundaries of classical classroom learning, our schools would be filled with young maestros and junior doctors.”

Julian rather doubted it. He was reaching for the appointment book to initial it when he noticed Ms. Cartwright was taking a picture out of her purse. “Oh God, please, no,” he thought to himself as she handed it to him.

As he expected, it was a picture of the secretary's daughter, “Little Miss Cartwright.” Julian laughed to himself at the thought, but then stopped. He really liked the young lady's hair. He was still working out the angle of cuts the stylist used to effectuate the classy but carefree presentation when the secretary reached for the picture. He resisted the impulse to tell the secretary her daughter's hair was a masterpiece.

“What do you think? Is she adorable? I mean, listen to me. I sound like I'm trying to fix you up, but I'm just curious what you think.”

“Her beauty is.. haunting. And highly memorable,” Julian responded. He hadn't the slightest notion what she looked like. He hadn't looked at the girl's face at all.

In a subsequent visit to that office Ms. Cartwright mentioned her daughter. Julian could not put a face to the reference, and eventually he would ask if he could see the picture again. When finally he saw it a second time he understood why he slighted Ms. Cartwright and the photograph. The young lady was one hundred percent stunning, and while that made him feel insecure it was only part of the story.

“Okay, Spence. Do you mind if I call you Spence?” the secretary did not give him time to respond before unleashing a torrent of words, “Dr. Heflin is busy most of the week, but I worked you in tomorrow at 3 p.m. Is that good for you?”

Julian cleared his throat, but again did not have time to speak. The phone rang and he lost Ms. Cartwright's attention. He was almost out the door when she clasped her hand over the receiver and said, “Don't forget, honey. Don't miss the appointment. It will be next to impossible to get you in the same room with Dr. Heflin some other time this week, unless you don't mind sitting around and waiting for hours. Also --” Spencer closed the door on her last statement. He would never know what it was.

Julian walked home from the campus the same way every day. He descended down stairs cut into a titanic sheet of granite continental crust, one gargantuan uninterrupted stone face. It had been forced nearly vertical from its original position flat beneath the sediment of an ancient ocean millions of years ago. The stairs intimidated almost everyone who set foot on them.

Nobody in recent memory died taking the shortcut from the university high on mountain ridges to the town hundreds of feet below, but it had happened more than one time. Residents spoke out against closing the stairs every time it did, “Nobody forced them to take the stairs.” To be fair to those who defended the stairs, there was a plethora of warning signs. Warning: Steep angle! Cuidado! Alto! Ice in winter! Wet after rain!

Julian felt like his life should have come with signs. “Caution! Nonconformity increases risk of random conversations! Eating can make you an outcast! Passivity leads to victimization! Secretaries have pictures of their families!” He laughed as he reached the bottom of the stairs. “At least you can find yourself funny, Quiet Weirdo,” he thought as he slapped his stomach hard.

Julian more often than not hated himself too much to understand other people saw greatness in him. He was almost always preoccupied, too busy thinking to perpend the weight of his own intellect. The region he grew up in was known for an abysmal high school dropout rate. The median income of the white households was above the national average, but here were a lot of immigrant families. The opportunities for work and betterment were certainly more common than south of the border, but much of the immigrant populace still struggled to survive. Many of their kids left school to help their families by working.

Looking at standardized test scores, completion of the secondary school curriculum, the percentage of students who went on to college, and other numbers related to education in that area, Julian's record stood out like a beacon. Across the board administrators saw the potential to use his case, and others similar to his, as leverage to better the district, secure more funding, rethink the curriculum and streamline the existing approach to education in order to help those that needed it most.

When educators and people in educational administration at every level, referred to him as a great student, they were not being the least bit facetious. They might have known that their praise only further alienated Julian, if they had looked into it more carefully, but nobody did. Everything that made Julian feel different only added to the gulf of separation between he and other kids his age; social isolation persisted impervious to qualifying factors.

As another example of Julian Spencer's inability to revel in personal accomplishments, he gave himself a present for his sixteenth birthday. He vowed to lose all his excess weight and never be fat again. He lost eighty-five pounds. He reached normal weight a mere two days before his sixteenth birthday on June 8, 2009, after being obese for the duration of his years in grade school.

Instead of taking pride in the monumental deed that is losing eighty-five pounds, he unearthed a hitherto unknown and horrifying fact. Losing a lot of weight leaves behind a bit of stretched skin around and below the belly button . He did not congratulate himself about becoming a lean, handsome man. He obsessed over the unsightly folds of flesh where once was fat.

As was often the case Julian became self-conscious about the emphasis he placed on his physical appearance. In his mind it was highly effeminate to be overly concerned about what one looked like to other people. He found himself worrying about his hair, a lot, about whether his outfit matched or clashed, or whether he could get it to clash just the right amount for it to be perfect. And then he hated himself, because the masculine myth was that men should be concerned only about what women wear, not what they wear themselves.

Generally Julian Spencer was neither self-pitying nor prone to irrational depressions. Granted, every now and then he might be described as both, because nobody knew the truth behind his feelings. He was unable to enjoy life as the male he was, nor did he have any way to enjoy life as a female, which he also was, as plain as the milky way on a clear night. There was no living soul he could talk to as he progressed through his torturous teenage years and into college.

As the intensity of his internal conflict grew, so did the outward manifestations of its existence. His parents were at wit's end for an explanation of his increasingly withdrawn personality and unhappy demeanor, concerned about his well being. When Julian's internal conflict in relation to his gender crisis converged with unrelated (if that was possible) problems of self acceptance, his thoughts turned to suicide. In the throes of profound despair Julian did open up once and speak, to his father, but only about his suicidal thoughts.

John Spencer did not press Julian for the reason he wanted to kill himself when it became clear his son did not want to talk about it. Rather than asking any questions he instead talked about some of the more difficult times in his life. He repeatedly emphasized the impermanent nature of all things, especially troubles and difficulties.

“Son, if I had given up when the national government branded me as sympathetic to enemies of the state, then I would never have met your mother. That would have been okay, but it would have meant not having you around, and you're the greatest joy of my life.”

Julian did not like the last part. He never liked it when anyone said anything good about him. He was filled with self-loathing, and compliments only made him think about why. Julian had been unable to contain his emotions at the onset of the conversation, and hearing his father refer to him with such love set him off again. He wept, “I don't understand why anyone finds anything good about me. It's not right. I am not right. I should never have been born.”

The conversation sounds fake. It sounds contrived, like something actors rehearsed for a play that is performed five times a day to an almost empty theater. Maybe it sounded clichė because it has happened so many times in so many places, but those words originated in genuine internal suffering. Anyone who would mock such a scene as trite or overdone could not possibly be deep enough for their opinion to matter.

Father and son only had that talk one time. The outcome of the conversation: Julian wound up promising never to commit suicide. He may not have anyway, but for the rest of his life he had the promise as a good excuse not to. Another outcome, a hidden one: John Spencer decided his son must be gay, which was unfortunate, considering that was right around the time Julian determined he was a lesbian. It was closer to heterosexuality in the same way as Mr. Pibb was closer to Coca-Coa than it was to root beer. Sometimes life made no fucking sense at all.

It may be difficult for some to understand how gender dysphoria translated into Julian's unhappiness on so many other levels. In order for that to be clear one must first look at the unhappiness surrounding an identity dissociative complex. Doubts, uncertainties and unhappiness surrounding variant self-perceptions would not exist without external social pressures. Regardless of how pressures regarding conformity and the norm are introduced or perpetuated, whether it be by religion, government, school or families, on a smaller scale, and even pop culture, without that external influence on an individual's perceptions of reality, there would be no predisposition to have positive or negative associations when certain experiences occurred, and self-perceptions are an experience

At the base of nearly everything Julian disliked about himself religion played a prominent role. Had it not been for religious indoctrination against personal gender expression that deviated from the accepted norm, he would never have felt there was something wrong with him in the first place. Having already been taught, before he ever had any inkling what sexuality was, that people such as himself were to be shunned, he could not shake the horror and misery full self-awareness brought along with it.

Fear and hatred inculcated by religion also prevented open confrontation of the issue. The core principles of Christianity rejected hatred and sought to lead people out of ignorance and fear, but often bigoted, hateful men twisted the original principles to become more powerful, wealthier and even more attractive to the opposite sex. The messages such men preached invariably voiced harsh intolerance of anyone involved with same sex interaction at a romantic level. They provided a faux holiness upon which violent intolerance could be based. Homophobes scared Julian more than anything he ever learned in Sunday school. Afraid of what they saw in themselves they sought to prove their own masculinity untarnished by lashing out at innocent third parties. The distinctions between differing reactions to people facing the world with a predisposition to same sex relationships or with personal gender challenges may seem unnecessary or repetitive, but something insignificant to a mature adult may seem colossal to a teenager.

Unable to speak the truth, and at times unable to admit the truth even to himself, Julian instead transferred his unhappiness to things that did not frighten him out of his wits. Self criticism became the only outlet he had to express his gender related unhappiness. The intimate details of how Julian ultimately came to terms with his internal conflicts could fill thousands of pages. This is just the brief tale of a meeting he had with his technical writing instructor.

The Spencer house, formerly the Sierich house, occupied the west side of a cul de sac a mere seven hundred meters from the base of the University Stairs, as they were known. A local architect, Alfonse Mayu Villanueva designed the home. Julian loved it with a precocious weightiness. He always thought it unfair his mother kept the home when she and his father got divorced. He knew she only demanded it in the settlement because his father loved it almost as much as he did. She didn't even like it, she just wanted to make John Spencer suffer.

The Frank Lloyd Wright influenced design made it one of the more magnetic properties in the town of Cremlech, which was already known for it's comely residences. It looked much larger on the outside than it felt on the inside. Villanueva exploited the right angles of outward facing corners to maximize the impact of occupied space. He also created the illusion the structure crowded the property by placing second story reading nooks atop futuristic flying buttresses extended out from the main body of the second floor. In short, it looked like a 1950's space station with blocky wings. Julian's room occupied one half of the second floor and the flying cubicle on the north side.

Once settled into the safety and security of the Math Lair, as he called it, Julian pulled up a corner of the rug covering his floor and used a butter knife to pry up two short boards near the intersection of the protruding reading nook and the hardwood flooring of the main room. Beneath the boards was a hiding place one third of a meter deep, thirty-five centimeters wide and 40 centimeters long. His father made him aware of its existence before he and Carol Anne split up, probably hoping he would use it to hide pornography. That was not exactly what he had done with it.

Julian reached into the cubbyhole and pulled out a thick composition pad. The front of it sported a hand drawn “dragon” that looked more like a four year old's interpretation of the Loch Ness monster, and the title “My Stalker Memories.” Two years after its creation the sight of it still forced a giggle out of him. From cover to cover the notebook contained only hastily scribbled notes and ruminations. There were no pictures, nor locks of hair, nor anything else creepy; the title on the cover had been simply ironic. Julian turned to the last page and wrote: “Tomorrow, April 17, 2012 – appointment with Lionel at 3 p.m.”

Julian felt more excited and alive than he had in months. He thumbed through the notes and read at random, but his eyes glazed over and instead of reading he thought about the origins of the notebook. During one of his marathon study sessions to finish the eighth grade he had procrastinated by reading Lionel Heflin's first graduate thesis, for his Master of Arts in English Literature. Something about the cadence of the clauses and the choice of words captured Spencer's attention. He could not quite put his finger on what it reminded him of. It bothered Julian so much he made uncovering the original source of the familiar rhythm and verbiage a high priority. Disappointment came when he figured it out before the day ended; he had hoped it would take more thought and research to find the answer. His disappointment did not last long

Having ascertained that he had encountered a heavily veiled allusion to a sequence from “Leaves of Grass” within the thesis, Julian could not accept any of the easy answers for its placement in such an important text. Literature snobs had been trading thinly veiled insults linked to “Leaves of Grass” for a hundred years, but it was obvious from the placement of the clues that it was no insult, nor some sort of quiet confession of latent scholarly homoerotic fascination. The hidden nature of the message ruled it out as a similarly themed public announcement, and he could find no way to link the message to anyone in the scholarly world. Julian even checked out whether the thesis contained any cryptography, all to no avail.

Julian studied the thesis from a variety of angles, and decided to give up, that there really was nothing hidden in the text at all. That conclusion was both true and not true. After setting it down he was looking at himself in the mirror. All the usual feelings of deficiency and inadequacy he had grown to associate with self inspection flooded over him. In that moment it hit him. What he perceived in Heflin's thesis was not a hidden message, it was just the way the man wrote, and it had struck Julian because of its familiarity. Lionel Heflin felt the same way about himself as he did. Julian would have bet his life on it.

Julian set out to gather everything Heflin had ever written that was available for reading. The further he read the more certain he became. The professor's public face exuded confidence and self-assuredness, but the undercurrents of his theorems and postulates suggested a long withstanding unhappiness with his own person at an early age. That internal struggle had unintentionally leaked out into his scholastic works, and only somebody deeply familiar with the slings and barbs of personal dysphoria could glean its existence betwixt the pedantic formulations of pure genius.

Julian hoped he had not crossed the boundary from a simple curious student into the realm of paranoid delusion, and there really was no way for him to be certain he had not, except to ask the professor. Doing so became something of an obsession for him, unhealthy as it may have been. Julian recognized that, but decided it really was worth it. After all, it was only a part-time obsession.

Julian placed the notebook back in the hiding spot, fitted the boards back in place and covered it with the rug. He only had a few hours to figure out what he would wear to the appointment; there wouldn't be any time to give it much thought the next day. Julian didn't lie to himself and pretend there would be some sort of instant bond between he and the professor. The more he thought about it, the more every possible scenario he envisioned ended badly, with indignant outrage or, worse, authoritarian concern for his own mental state.

Expecting the worst Julian decided to at least create an image worthy of a disastrous end to the long charade. He settled on a loose fitting silk batik tunic in earth tones and whites, and a bright blue dhoti over black, shin length tights. Birkenstocks would have been the comfortable choice of footwear, but the ensemble would have looked contrived and inauthentic with yuppie sandals. Instead he dragged an old pair of huaraches from the far reaches under his bed. Few people would see the clash between the Eastern garb and the Mexican footwear, and though it bugged him somewhat Julian did not have a very wide array of choices when it came to shoes and sandals.

On top of the small pile of clothing he placed a necklace an old Indian woman, a practitioner of brujería, gave his mother and father when he was still a baby, to pass on to him when he grew old enough to understand such a gift. His father bestowed upon him the power of the turtle totem on the occasion of his thirteenth birthday, in a ceremony that Julian found hollow and embarrassing at the time. After a lot of maturing and just as much thought, Julian's disdain for the totem necklace changed into deep appreciation. The turtle had been hand carved from a large lodestone the bruja said had been found in the foothills of the Sangre De Cristos mountains. The totem fit his personality so well he simply could not ignore what it said about the tiny, ancient woman who had given it to him. It was almost as if she knew his future before she briefly put it around his neck. Julian did not believe in such things, but he believed it would look good with what he had decided to wear.

To accentuate the impression of the clothing, Julian procured a small medicine dropper bottle from Carol Anne's bathroom and mixed patchouli, sandalwood, a tiny bit of pine nut oil and a slight smattering of Chanel No. 5. For the thousandth time he wished that he had come up with the mixture. It smelled so good, like something Bedouins from the time of Christ may have found in a cave full of treasure on the outskirts of the Sahara.

Julian could never claim he came up with the essential oil formula. An exquisite, elfin faced girl instructed him in the creation of the fantastic scent. She claimed to have just moved to Cremlech from the west coast. He thought that she may have been attracted to him. She was the first girl he ever really wanted; he woke up humping his pillow with her name on his lips the first night.

He went to see her the next day and found her en flagrante with one of the jocks who made his life hell. He put that memory out of his mind, not wanting to sully the marvelous odor with bad memories. Julian carefully placed the small stack of garments on top of his dresser, with the dropper bottle on tops, and pulled out his books to study until it was time to go to sleep. Right before he drifted off he pictured her face in his mind as clearly as if she had been there.

When he awakened with the dawn he thought about how the previous day had gone by without the slightest inkling of where his mother might be. Her name was Carol Anne Flores (her maiden name); what she did with her time was utterly unknown to the young man. It had been a couple of years since she took any interest in his life, and he unceasingly attempted to convince himself that he did not care.. Carol Anne ignored his existence, and the truth of the matter was that it hurt, a lot.

Julian approached the issue as reasonably as he could, but over time he blamed himself. He blamed the fact that he was not a normal boy. His rational ideas about the estranged nature of his maternal relationship gave way to a more emotional response. He was not immune to normal human doubts and fears, if anything he was more prone to them than the average person. He blamed himself in ways only somebody with similar problems could understand. He concluded his mother ignored him because he was deficient as a son, and that made his self loathing exponentially more acute. For once though he did not dwell on the matter, because that afternoon he would finally speak with the man that had so greatly influenced his thinking and his motivations.

The school day went by at a snail's pace. Normally Julian immersed himself in his classes so thoroughly he had no perception of the passing time at all. With something to look forward to everything slowed down, and he marked the passing seconds anxiously. At the conclusion of his last class, which lately had been focused on Fourier analysis on the real line and integers and finite cyclic groups, Julian sprinted to the stairs and threw himself down the incline at an alarming and heady pace.

Halfway to the bottom he missed a step with his right foot and pitched forward. He was airborne for almost fifteen feet. His hands had no grip on the rail, his feet had no surface upon which to check his forward momentum, and his body tilted forward so that his face would be the first part of his body to make contact with the granite when gravity pulled him back down to earth.

A heart stopping burst of adrenaline cascaded through his veins at lightning speed and his mind braced for an impact that would surely leave him seriously injured. At the last moment he hooked his right arm around the end of one flight's railing and his body whipped back one hundred eighty degrees. His legs continued out into space, but his upper body halted in mid fall. He came down hard on his coccyx with all his weight; his dignity almost hurt worse, almost. Blood pounded in his ears, the capillaries of his eyes slightly visible, from the stunning realization of how near death he had been a moment before. He finished the descent down the stairs more slowly than ever before in his life.

Back at Casa Spencer, Julian showered and got ready for his appointment with Dr. Heflin. He really did not have a clue how he planned to change the topic of the meeting from his technical writing grade to something more personal. He worried he had been setting himself up for a huge disappointment all along. It suddenly struck him that he was really and truly insane. Julian could not understand how it was possible for one human being to have so many things wrong with their mind, and yet be described as gifted and brilliant. As he toweled himself dry he weighed the benefits of running away and never coming back. He could live with other sideshow performers, travel from town to town and see the world, perhaps have a charming love affair with the bearded lady, with another bearded lady. Running away was not his style though. Julian dressed and made himself as presentable as possible in what, by that time, he silently denounced as a circus costume, a circus costume fit for someone who was by all standards (standards he created at that moment) a circus freak.

Outside Dr. Heflin's office with Ms. Cartwright, a good fifteen minutes early, Julian could not bring himself to sit down. He was too nervous. That condition seemed to be catching. Ms. Cartwright made several tiny mistakes as she wrote a note to someone. Her normally perfect penmanship had been marred by the gypsy looking boy pacing to and fro a few feet away from her desk. She opted to break one of her unspoken rules and address the boy.

Well, Julian, you certainly smell good. I could swear I have smelled that before. It is awfully familiar. If you don't mind me asking, what is it?”

It's a secret blend of essential oils. A... somebody from the west coast taught me how to make it.” he answered absentmindedly. Something that had nagged at him a few times since the first time he met Ms. Cartwright wiggled its way into the forefront of his awareness. He had to rectify the situation lest he chew off all his fingernails from letting it bug him.

“Ms. Cartwright... can I see the picture of your daughter again?” he asked innocently. The secretary gave a little laugh of relief. For a brief moment she had worried he was about to ask her out.

Certainly, Mr. Spencer. You're not going to start stalking my daughter though, are you?” She quipped as she pulled her pocketbook from her purse and located the picture.

She held the photo out but would not let him grab it at first. She was just playing with him, but she noticed he took everything very seriously. Ms. Cartwright extended the photograph with great earnestness, tickled by his reactions but not revealing it

No, ma'am,” Julian answered as he delicately took the picture from her. “ It's just that the first time I saw it I was struck by how nice her hair was, and I was so distracted by it I really didn't get a chance to look at her face. I felt it was less than gentlemanly to act as though I saw her, since I had not gotten an accurate idea of what she looked like.”

Julian looked at the girl in the picture with his deep green and gray eyes. He did not think he had ever seen a more beautiful girl in his life, but he had seen her before. It was the girl from the west coast, or so she claimed, the only girl he ever felt an attraction to, the one who taught him how to mix up the essential oils. He could not fathom how he had failed to notice it was her the first time he saw the photograph. He was truly speechless, flabbergasted by the coincidence. A tumult of questions welled up inside him, but he could not ask her mother. Long seconds went by before he handed the picture back to Ms. Cartwright.

She seems... very familiar,” Julian finally managed to say.

The young man's reaction caught the always poised Stella Cartwright quite off guard. She stood there with the picture in her hand at a loss for something to say, her mind too busy weighing all the possible scenarios that could be at the heart of young Julian Spencer's sudden shift in mien. She continued thinking as she fumbled with her pocketbook to put the picture away.

The intercom buzzed and Dr. Lionel Heflin asked, “Ms. Cartwright, could you send in Mr. Spencer?”

It was extremely uncharacteristic for the secretary not to respond to her employer, but at that moment she had a mental image of her daughter, Elise, entwined with the young Spencer, in her bed, while she carried out the most trivial of tasks for her obsessive compulsive boss. Ms. Cartwright pointed at the office door. Julian took a deep breath and showed himself into the office, closing the door behind him.

Nothing could have prepared Julian for the tableau he encountered upon stepping into Heflin's office. All four walls were lined with bookshelves, two rows high, the bottom row being on the floor. There was a short-legged table in the center of the room, a chabudai, with zabutons and zafus on either side. The western wall boasted a magnificent sumi-e of a kingfisher amid three bamboo culm and a delicate minim of stems and leaves. A large double window filled the eastern wall with a breathtaking view of Cremlech and the valley far below. A sultan of the windswept Panjshir Valley would have demanded a man's weight in gold for the privilege of witnessing sunrise from that window. The wall opposite the door, the first thing one saw when entering the room, housed two wall mounted swords, a katana and tantō set; the two swords were notably anachronistic, a point not lost on Julian, but he hardly considered it the time to debate the history of Japanese weaponry. The door to the office sat squarely in the center of the southern wall, but Heflin had been unable to restrain himself from using the space on either side of the door to balance the rest of the room and maintain the harmony of the décor. On one side of the door a rice paper calligraphy “moon,” and on the other “sun.”

Julian, I am glad you could make it,” Dr. Heflin said comfortably, immediately making Julian feel more at ease.

The young man's garb fit agreeably with the decor of the room, notwithstanding the immense geographical difference between the birthplace of Gaudiya Vaishnava and the majestic mountainous islands that were once home to the samurai. Heflin wore a plain beige Irish linen button-up shirt and fatigue green cotton pants. Julian immediately noticed he was barefoot, although beige socks tucked into Sperry Topsiders were placed carefully beside the door, a detail not lost on him; he shed his sandals before entering. He smelled of sea salt and a cold northern wind; how he achieved that effect was a consummate mystery. Dr. Heflin's only notably ornate accoutrement was the watch on his right wrist, a Rolex Submariner handed down to him by his father.

“Please, make yourself comfortable,” the professor gestured to the cushions on the guest side of the chabudai, the one closest the door. Julian easily folded himself into cross legged meditational sitting position, back arched, the soles of both his feet facing upward. The professor did the same.

Julian broke the silence first. It was unclear, though likely, whether the doctor had refrained from speaking in order for his student to do so. The nervousness returned as the young man began reciting the words he had prepared.

“I hope you understand that I flubbed the exam on purpose. It was the only way I could think of to get your attention. I --”

“Why did you feel as though you needed to prepare a statement to me in advance? Because it's obvious that you did. Do I intimidate you? I try very hard not to be intimidating, but I can't think of a reason why you would have rehearsed our meeting other than that.”

“I – no, I don't find you intimidating. It's just that I really did not want to mess this up.”

“Yes, I knew that you intentionally turned in an exam that wasn't as advanced as the work you were doing in the fourth grade. But you must understand, I can't grade you based on what you are capable of, only on what I have.”

“I realize that, but I so wanted to meet with you.”

“Julian, you can meet with me any time. My door is always open. Well, I mean, I have an open door policy. My students are always welcome to come here and talk to me.” Heflin smiled at the distinction between literal and figurative.

“I've been a fan of yours since before I was fourteen years old. I literally can't believe I am sitting here talking to you. I just didn't think about meeting you without having some reason. And...” Julian blushed and trailed off.

“Oh, I see,” Dr. Heflin said with a sigh and gazed out the window at the immeasurable ocean of blue sky that looked as if it might swallow Earth at any moment.

Julian felt all his thoughts and ideas about the two of them slipping away with each passing millisecond. He couldn't let his dream die wordlessly. He had to find something to say. He had to find the rationale behind all his years of moronic admiration. He had to.

“Did you look in the mirror as a child and see a boy, but on the inside feel you were a girl?” Julian blurted out, and immediately wanted to die.

Years of pent up despair finally burst free. Nineteen years of life, and he finally gave voice to the one thing that he could never bring himself to speak of. He couldn't believe he had just asked his professor that, but worse, his reaction made it absolutely obvious that he was the person who actually felt that. It was too much for him to handle. He didn't move or make a sound, but the tears in his eyes blinded him. A great sorrow washed over him, and his whole body shook from the depth of it.

Dr. Heflin snapped back into focus and studied the features of the brilliant young man seated before him. His hard gaze softened instantly. The sight of the suffering, painfully mortal human creature opposite him touched strings in his heart, loosing tones of sadness and sympathy no ear could hear. All he saw was a bristling bundle of nerves and apprehension and insecurity, a sight so raw emotion welled up in him, heedless of all the walls and stoicism he placed between himself and the cold, cruel world.

“It has to have been real. I can't have imagined it. I can't be the only freak like this.” Julian started weeping, tears running down his cheeks, ragged breath taking the place of sobs.

Lionel Heflin reached across the chabudai and placed his hands palm up on the table. He said softly, “Julian, I want you to give me your hands.”

Julian sniffed and wiped his eyes on his silk shirt before he complied. Dr. Heflin held his hands in his and said nothing for a long time. Julian stopped crying and somehow found the strength to meet the professor's gaze. He saw nothing but compassion and sharp intelligence in them, but they were so beautiful. They were blue flecked with gold, and for a moment Julian felt as though he were lost in them, until Lionel spoke.

“Julian, I know how incredibly hard the world can be. Life is just an unbelievable bitch. There is almost nothing about this miserable condition that we have been thrust into that can be considered fair. I want you to know that you are far, far from being the only person who looks in the mirror and does not like what they see . All these people you see that look as though they have it made, they all have their own problems. Some of them are blessed enough to know what their problems are, are blessed with the intelligence to see things as they really are, and others are just woefully ignorant, of themselves, of life, of the world, of everything besides what they want to know.

“You are blessed, Julian. You have one of the most beautiful minds on God's green earth. And there's nothing wrong with you. Nothing. From now on when you look in the mirror I want you to remember what I said. There's nothing wrong with you. Are you with me?”

“Yes,” Julian said tentatively.

“I don't think you're with me. I want you to focus. Now, when you look in the mirror, I want you to remember what I said. Let's try this again, when you look in the mirror, what is wrong with you?”

“Nothing,” Julian answered with more feeling.

“I think you're starting to get it, but you're still just repeating what I said. What I said was very important. I told you the truth. You should trust me. I have a lifetime's more experience than you. I've dedicated my life to teaching young people. If you can truly learn what I'm trying to teach you, right now, then I will feel I have made a big difference in the world, that I have been true to my calling. I can be humbled and thankful that I was able to do this, but first you must learn what I am trying to teach you. You are blessed. You have a beautiful mind, and you're a beautiful person, and there is nothing wrong with you.

“Let's try this one more time. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?”

“There's nothing wrong with me.”

“That's close, but you forgot two very important things. I'm not going to ask you again, because it may be too much for you to believe since you have just learned there's absolutely nothing wrong with you, but you are a beautiful person, and you have a beautiful mind. This is not something I am making up. Everywhere you go people will think the same thing about you. It's just baffling to me that you managed to convince yourself of something else. You are a fantastic human being, incredibly gifted and exceptionally handsome. Do you believe what I'm telling you.”

“I believe you.”

“I hope you believe it, because it may be the most important thing I have ever taught anyone. Do you believe it? Do you believe me?”


“I hope so.”

The two of them released each other's hands. They sat in silence for a long time, looking out the window. The sky was a blue so deep it was like they could set sail on it and ride the waves forever without ever finding land, without ever needing to find land, without ever needing to turn back. Their reverie was only broken by an eagle, hovering on the wind within a stone's throw of the window, gazing directly at both of them.

They turned and looked at each other. The young man still had sadness in his eyes, but that was to be expected. Sometimes his life changed with every breath, and the experience was very humbling. The older man found it in himself to speak. He was a professor, after all.

“You're going to retake my examination. You're going to give it the best effort you have ever given an exam, or I promise that I will fail you, even if you deserve to pass. I hope you understand.”

“I understand.”

“Now get out of my office,” Dr. Heflin said gruffly.

Julian unfolded his legs, which had grown somewhat stiff from being in the same position so long. Upon standing the only thing he could think to do that wouldn't seem awkward and out of place was give a half bow, his best impression of a bow between competing martial artists. It wasn't a bad impression, but he didn't know to keep his eyes on his opponent at all times, and so his eyes were downcast. Lionel Heflin noted that, but chose not to correct him. He reckoned that the first time the boy heard the right way to do it he would remember forever because of this moment in his office.
Julian was almost to the door when Dr. Heflin said one more thing: “When I was a lad I looked in the mirror and saw a man trapped in a woman's body. I don't expect you to understand that now. You may never understand it, but I'm telling you the truth. And it hurt worse than anything else in my life has ever hurt, except losing my father.”

Julian said, “That I do understand.” And then he scooted through the door and was gone.


Dr. Lionel Heflin sat at the table in his dining room as hundreds of tiny glowing souls danced on the walls and the floor and the ceiling. Given a chance to dance once more by the prisms hanging from the upper sills of the massive windows looking out at the peaks and ridges of the mountain range, they danced for all they were worth, like there were no tomorrows and the world ended when the sun went down. Seated across from him a woman of extraordinary beauty sipped the tea he had made for them; she looked at him with predatory eyes. Her name was Elise.

The young lady was wearing a nineteenth century maid's outfit, with a high collar and long sleeves and a long skirt. He had demanded she wear it as a joke, something of an inside joke. He did not laugh or smile about it, but it always tickled him when he had the opportunity to witness something like it. The fact that she sat there wearing something so uncomfortable and so unflattering and feeling so sexy because she had it on struck him as one of the truly humorous things in life. And it was a reaction 99/100 people would have in the same circumstance.

The professor suddenly felt a deep compassion for his secretary, as he thought to himself, “To have raised such a creature as this must have taken eight of her nine lives.” He almost hated to burst Elise' bubble, but he was worried if he delayed getting down to business she might launch herself over the table and attempt to force him into sex, which would not have taken much doing, but which would have been highly unprofessional.

“Elise, I want you to do something for me. I spoke to your mother --” at the mention of her mother a dark and stormy look passed over her face, but it was quickly dispelled “-- and so I believe you have made the acquaintance of a young man named Julian Spencer. I do not want to be rude nor crass, but I need to make myself clear. I want you to take his virginity and stomp it into the dirt. I have no doubt he will feel like dying after you are gone, and I am assuming you don't have the good sense to stay with such a sure bet as he is, since you are still young and stupid. I don't feel I should have to offer you money to do this thing. But if it's money you need to make yourself feel as though you have been compelled to deflower him, then money you shall have. I don't have much else to offer you, except maybe good recommendations from a couple of faculty members at Alpine State University, in case you change your mind about going back to school.

He did not give her time to respond before he continued, “What I am saying is this. That young man needs a woman, maybe worse than any other young man in history has needed one. You know he is not unpleasant to look at. You know he is not poor, nor dirty, nor unsophisticated. You know he is brilliant. I can't believe you did not do this already, but since you didn't I asked you here to urge you to rectify that mistake. Do this thing and I will be indebted to you, if you feel that you are owed for the endeavor. But do this, or I promise I will find ways to maneuver your mother into making your life a living hell.

“Don't even try to look bewildered and shocked and innocent. I have seen the lady panther behind your eyes. It's not like I'm asking you to bed a leper. Now, do we have an understanding?”

“Yes,” Elise answered softly.

“That's good. Now off with you. And do not disappoint me,” Dr. Heflin said gruffly and with a down-to-business tone. She turned her upper body, cocking her hips, arching her back and presenting her best asset as prominently as possible, then gave a little pout and a tiny snort of indignation and walked out. It was quite the scene.

After Elise was gone Lionel Heflin sat looking at the mountains and thinking. After a while he found a few tears running down his cheek, though he made no noise; quite an uncommon occurrence. Sometimes life was just more than he could bear. Oh, how he wished he could have taken Julian into his arms and comforted him. He didn't know what the future had in store for the young man. He dried his eyes and smiled.  He never knew what to expect next.  What a grand and mysterious show...

- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
May 9, 2013
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Related written works at Angelfire, Sex Symbols, Cymbals of Silence.Repent or Die