“Thanks for coming, guys,” I said. “It means so much.”
Susan shoved the salt and pepper shakers aside, dove across the table, clasped my hand. “Sweetie – we exist to support you. You mean the world to us.”
“Thank you,” I sighed, fanning myself with my hand.
“It’s hard, isn’t it?” said Gary, grinning.
“Yes!” I squealed. I was so happy to have my two best friends and bestest support group ever with me for this special moment. This magical, scary, special moment.
“So,” said Susan, smiling, twisting her shoulder towards me. “What is it you wanted to tell us?”
I took a deep breath. They leaned in as if sucked forward.
“Well,” I whispered. “I’m GAY!” I screamed.
Susan erupted from her chair shouting YAY! and jolted the table and reached over to hug me. Water glasses pitched and yawed and rolled over the side and ice and glass exploded on the sidewalk and a man wearing flip-flops jumped out of the way. Gary leaned back in his chair and beamed and clapped his hands and shook his head with gay pride. “We are SO PROUD of you!” he said.
“Thank you,” I said, and sighed, relieved. I let the moment wash over me. It felt so good to be getting started.
Gary said, “But…?”
“So…,” I said.
Susan put her hand to her heart and all but stopped breathing.
“I’m going to have a procedure,” I whispered.
Gary’s head rocked back and his eyes went wide. Susan glanced at Gary, then turned back to me.
I tickled the red and white checkered tablecloth with my fingertips thinking about how best to say this.
The waiter walked up and pulled out his pad.
“I’ve always despised my junk,” I said, waggling my fingers at Susan’s privates. “I want what you have.”
The waiter blinked, spun, walked away.
Susan brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and said, “You know, Walt, I think that’s brave. I’m proud of you.”
Gary made a fist and pounded his chest. “Right on, man. Right on.”
“Wow,” said Susan, crossing her arms. “Just…wow. Big news.” She scratched her nose. “Big big.”
“Hi! I’m Kurt!”
It was the waiter. He’d regrouped.
“Hi, Kurt,” said Gary.
“I’ll be taking care of ya today. Can I get ya started with -”
“Kurt,” I said. “Can you give us a minute?”
“Great!” said Kurt, and left.
Susan’s eyes clicked back to me; her head was frozen in a perhaps permanent turn towards Kurt.
“I’m also black,” I said.
For a moment, there was only the hum of conversation and the clack of silverware from other tables.
“Come again?” said Gary, protecting his mustache with his fingertips.
“I can’t explain it, but I’ve always felt like a black man – I mean a black woman – trapped in a white man’s body.”
Gary said, “I see.”
“Do you?” I said.
“Of course,” said Gary.
“Will that be part of – ” Susan swallowed uncomfortably ” – the procedure?”
I nodded. “Next time you see me, I will be a black woman.”
They both just stared. I could feel them not accepting me for who I was telling them I was.
“This is just a little…surprising, Walt,” said Susan.
“Well, I think what’s surprising is your reaction,” I said. “I would have thought you would be a bit more supportive.”
“We support you, man,” said Gary, pulling out his phone. “Totally,” he said, swiping his thumb across the screen.
“I hope so. Because…”
Gary’s thumb froze, pointing towards the sky. His eyes flicked up towards me.
“You guys look at me and think I’m tall.”
Susan was sitting bolt upright with her hands clasped in her lap.
I shook my head. “I’m not tall. I look tall when you look at me, but I’m not. Not inside.”
Susan crossed her arms and said, “What do you mean you’re not tall? You are tall. It’s who you are.”
“That’s what I’m trying to say,” I said. “I don’t identify as tall. I may look tall to you, but you don’t see me when you see tall. You think that’s who I am but it’s not. That’s just who you people want me to be.”
“Walt, said Gary, placing his phone on the table and leaning forward. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about how I look tall physically, but I’m not tall in here,” I said, tapping my chest. “I am not a tall man – I mean a tall black woman.”
This wasn’t going how I thought it would.
“Walt…” said Susan.
“I’m a little person,” I said.
Susan looked at Gary. Gary looked at Susan. Gary looked at me.
“What do you mean, little person?” he said.
“You…you mean,” said Susan. “You mean a midget?”
“I mean a little person. That’s what we like to be called.”
“What do you mean we?” said Gary.
“I don’t understand,” said Susan.
“Are you telling me,” said Gary, getting a little angry. “Are you telling me that you are telling me you are not a tall white gay man who wants to be a woman, but a tall white gay man who wants to be a black female midget?”
“NO!” I said. “I am telling you that I am a short black little person and you are seeing a tall white gay man because that’s what you want to see.”
“Walt,” said Susan. “That’s kind of…I mean that’s…”
“That’s fucked up, Walt,” said Gary.
It was Kurt.
No one spoke.
Kurt flapped his pen against his pad a few times.
“Okay!” he said, turning to go.