Book Three:

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Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part One: Innocence Lost

Chapter 47

First Blood

December 7, 1994

For years - ever since I can remember, in fact - I have been obsessed with the desire to document my thoughts in a journal. Previous to this evening, I had made many abortive attempts. My first recorded efforts can be found in a small red diary I was given in 1962 at the age of nine. That effort lasted only a few days, yet I knew even at that time that chronicling my adventures held an almost mystical attraction to me.

I imagine that in my words I secure some form of immortality. I admit to having, at the heart of my soul, a deep fear of having my point of view lost, stripped of power, made inconsequential. This is the consideration that gives rise to the terror I feel when I contemplate a potential future in which I have had a stroke, and lay helplessly unmoving, unable to impact the real world ever again.

And yet, the converse is also true. With every word I write, every thought I publish, my fear of helplessness lessens, my joy at having lived increases.

For decades, I felt confined because I could document my point of view as much as I liked, yet I had no way of distributing my words so that they might spread and become living, dynamic, processes of change. I struggled for fame, I worked toward recognition so that my notoriety might lead others to seek out my musings and ensure their public exposure.

But, alas, though I flirted with the edges of fame, the big break never came, and I found myself having accomplished nothing and running out of time. This is when I shifted gears, gave up on the big dream and sought instead to at least lead a life that brought me peace. I embarked on the journey that ultimately led me to change my sex.

At the time, I had no plans beyond this. Yet in retrospect, it is clear that this choice eliminated the internal undercurrents that had prevented my success in earlier incarnation. I began to write of my experiences, penning the most insightful notions I had yet entertained. In addition I began work on the story theory and saw right to the heart of the essence of self-awareness itself.

Through this I am finding the fame I sought for the purpose of exposure. My ideas are no longer my own. They are repeated and strengthened by scores of others who have adopted them as their own.

My writings are now spreading across the internet, published in books and manuals, and on audio and video tapes. Very shortly, I know I will reach a limit line this side of which still leaves me feeling that my ideas would not continue once I was gone, the other side of which assures me that my ideas will have a life of their own.

Ah, to know that what I feel is my truly unique view of the world, will outlast me, continue to work in the world bringing fresh insight and understanding: that is the essence of bliss.

December 10, 1994

What a wonderful day it has turned out to be! Tonight was Chris' annual White Elephant party, and I went with Andy. Even in getting ready for him to arrive and pick me up I began to feel the old feelings again. My feminine nature which I feared had been lost in the demands of my business career turned out to be only in hibernation. My face, which had taken on a stern and calculating look became soft and supplicant.

Of late I have felt not masculine, but neuter I suppose. And with all the lovers I have had since Andy, I have felt my femininity fading away. I thought it was me; but it was just me without Andy.

Somehow his influence casts a spell over my emotions. My very perception of life itself is warped and shaded by his Svengali- like aura that reorders the essential fabric of my being. When I am with Andy I am as much a woman as anyone can be. And when I am separated from the warm glow of his charm, I transmute, against my will, and lose the stuff my better self is made of. Andy defines who I am. Without him, life is meaningless.

Why should this be? I have been married for almost 19 years, and through it all, only Andy brings me into the fullness of myself. I love my children, I love Mary, but Andy makes me love myself.

So, tonight we went to Chris' party. Unlike the two parties of the past that he and I had attended, THIS time I stayed by his side. I made his companionship my first priority.

When he wanted to step outside for half an hour to clear his lungs from his allergy to Chris' cats, I went with him, rather than staying at the party with my friends. When he wanted to sit on the couch rather than mingle, I joined him there. And this felt right: to place his company above the company of others.

Ever since we broke up, I had felt drained of his charm. When he asked me to attend a clay-sculpting class a month ago, the charm started to come back. It increased when he joined me at the company Christmas party last week. And tonight, it raged full force again within me.

We got "friendly" again: holding hands, arms around waists, kissing in the corner; these things are alive again - I am alive again.

When we returned home, Andy and I joined Mary in the back room to chat. Then, as is his way, he played a game, kidding Mary and finally tickling her as he jokingly looked for "nooks and crannies". At his urging, I followed his instructions to "look for nooks" while he looked for crannies. We tickled Mary and she protested playfully. What does it mean when you change your sex, arrive back home with your boyfriend and the two of you tickle your wife? Is there any precedent appropriate enough to give this context?

Andy and I spoke of moving in together, as the evening progressed. I truly think we will. For years now I have harbored the desire to live with a man as his mate. But not just any man, as I have had ample opportunity with Mr. K. and Dave [another friend with whom I had a brief relationship]. No, I needed someone like Andy to make the reality approach the dream.

When Andy had left, I discussed this with Mary; my feelings suddenly clear to me for the first time in months. I explained that I wanted to move in with Andy, but I still wanted THIS to be my home. This is not a contradiction: one CAN have two homes. Just as one might live with a lover yet still have a room with her parents, so too I shall have my room here in this house, even while I live with another, elsewhere.

I shall care for this house, providing money for the family's security and attending to the necessary repairs and improvements. I shall keep my room, control its decorations, and be welcome at any time for as long as I want. It will be MY house, along with Mary.

But, for a time I shall live with Andy. We shall be as man and wife, though not married. We shall share bed and board, and I will experience what it is to belong to a man.

How have I come to be so lucky: to have my cake and eat it too; to change my sex, keep my family, find financial success, fame, true love living with my male lover, and STILL not lose any of what I had before. When did I sign up for total and complete fulfillment? Why did "they" let me have it?

I don't know. And aside from a passing curiosity, I really don't care. What is important now is that I am free completely of the bonds of the ordinary world. The consequences others pay daily seem to have made an exception in my case. I cannot explain the mechanism, but I can allude to the experience. What to know what it feels like to be different, isolated yet part of it all, powerful, special, alone but not lonely and privy to a side of life few have ever seen? Read "The Vampire, Lestat" by Anne Rice. I am two thirds finished with the book, and it speaks to my experiences at this point in my life as well as "Stranger in a Strange Land" spoke to the transition years.

Sleep well.

December 13, 1994

What purpose, these entries? Who might care? Yet, somehow I take my pleasure in the writing, not the reading. My thoughts get out and I am still again. Nevertheless, I consider who might read.

The words sound like those I read in the novels and stories I enjoy the most. These same sounds and thoughts are read by millions of others. Do mine have such wide appeal as well? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Those stories are fictions, set in exotic places with fantastical events, whereas my life is ordinary except for the way in which I look at it. At least to me it is. But then again, if I strive to capture a more objective view, my life might seem anything but ordinary to others.

In the end, I suppose, we are all unique, but none of us can ever really feel it for ourselves.

It is late now: I must go to bed. Tomorrow, I shall write of vampires and how I see their life to be analogous to my own.

December 16, 1994

Well, I didn't get to the vampire stuff. Just too much going on to concentrate. As usual, I'm going through a whole mess of emotional crud. Here's what it is this time:

To set the scene - a Windows version of the story development software is out, as of December 1st. Now we are finished with what we set out to do four years ago. That kind of clears the docket in one respect. It does, however, open a whole new can of worms.

Yes, I am about to become financially secure in just about 30 days, when I get my first large royalty check. But I am not emotionally secure at all.

I have a lot of dreams and plans to use the money for "good". On the other hand, as satisfying as that is, it does not fulfill me. I don't know where I"m headed emotionally. Its all dark. I went into this sex-change thing with my eyes absolutely closed. How I might wish to have sex; how it might change my DESIRE for relationships, I had no idea: it never entered my mind.

Now that I'm here, I sometimes realize how much I've changed. I don't see it all the time. Sometimes I feel like nothing has changed at all. But that comes from the consistent environment I've managed to maintain.

My biggest fear during transition was of losing my family. I worked so hard to keep them. And I did, but at what cost? The strain during transition was incredible. The lack of completion when I was finished, draining. Often I feel as if I've run in a circle, struggling against all odds to get nowhere: right where I am now.

Of course, this is just an emotional appraisal. Certainly, I can see that I have changed considerably and my situation has altered in many way, from an intellectual perspective. But I'm sick of intellectualizing everything. I'm especially sick of intellectualizing emotions.

I'm always analyzing how I feel, what the feelings are, how they relate, what causes them, how they change, where they are going. Wouldn't it be nice just once in a while to just feel something without the "mind" kicking in at all? I truly wonder if that's ever going to happen. I think that happens if you are truly aware. But if you are SELF-aware, you keep looking inward, watching the mechanism of your thoughts at work, and losing any standard by which you can simply evaluate your surroundings.

This same trait has made it possible for me to see so deeply into myself that I could dredge up Mental Relativity and haul it all the way back to the surface. I don't think I'll ever lose that capacity, as long as my mind is healthy, but I also don't think I want to exercise it anymore - at least not for a while. The potential will remain, but perhaps I need to let the skill get a little rusty. Maybe I just need a vacation from self- analysis. But here I am, doing it again as I write these very words.

Well, that's why I decided yesterday to write a novel next year, beginning any time now that I want. And I'm going to write it in first person. Obviously, I have a knack for talking about myself. But if I can talk about myself when I'm not really myself in a fictional form as a different character, perhaps that will rid me of my fixation with myself, even while exercising the very same abilities.

It's only ten o'clock in the evening, but I have had much to little sleep this week. So, I'll close for today and try to be more myself tomorrow.

December 23, 1994

It is six forty-two in the evening, and I am all alone in the living room. Mary is out with her bowling league, Mindi is out with a friend to McDonalds's, and Keith is in back on the computer. I have the sound track from "Prince of Tides" playing on the CD. It is a somber score, full of depth and majesty, yet carrying an undertone of something bitter; something lost.

It is two days since I have gone off my progesterone for this cycle, so I am vulnerable emotionally as well. The deep rolling rhythms of the music undulate slowly across my heart and make my mind turn inward toward memories of my mother, of the children as babies, and of the dreams I used to believe in.

It is so close to Christmas - the end of another year. This year has seen so many new directions in my life. These last six years have been nothing short of impossible, and yet they have happened. What will the new year bring? Will it lead me to the one thing I have not yet achieved? The one thing that is more important to me than all the rest combined? Will I truly find love?

I'm seeing Andy more and more with each passing week now. We go to movies together, we talk seriously, we snuggle in the reclining seats of my car for hours, laughing, reminiscing, petting, and snuggling. But its different this time. He still makes me feel like he always has, feminine and desirable. Yet somehow the tables have turned. No longer am I under his spell but rather he seems to be under mine.

I can say "no" to Andy now, if he makes requests that I find too costly. And a relationship with him is no longer worth any sacrifice to me. Still, I want love more than I ever have; the need is even stronger now. Why then am I less inclined to suffer a price to fill that need? Perhaps, because the need is not really filled by Andy, but only anesthetized as he goes through the motions of something he truly doesn't feel. Having been hurt by deceiving myself that what I felt for him was mutual, I can no longer give myself over to the fantasy, no matter how real he makes it seem.

There is no heart in Andy for me. He sees me as a warm body to keep him from being lonely; as a time-filler while he looks for true love. I am also a meal ticket and a stepping stone. But he does not love me. I only love him. And love it not enough. Love must flow in both directions to fill the need. If it does not, one can fool themselves by doing all the work single- handedly, but only until they are forced to face the truth. When finally the bubble bursts, the hurt, greater than any other pain the heart can suffer, wounds so deeply that a scab forms on the soul. The trick, I suppose, is to make that scab case-specific, so that it only affects the relationship that generated it without making one gun-shy in any other intimacies that life may offer.

So, now I see that Andy is not for me. If he has not come to love me in the five years I have known him, I must let him go. Yes, he might grow to love me if he could drop his protections far enough to love anyone. But he must grow for that to happen, and I cannot wait around for him to grow.

I may move in with him yet. But it will only happen if the costs are so minimal that even knowing the ersatz nature of our "romance", just living the experience would still be worth the price. We shall see. If Andy grows enough, or the costs are low enough, we might be together for a while. If not, it is better to be lonely than lonely and under the thumb.

December 29, 1994

Such an odd day. A turning point in the path I have begun over two months ago when I first told Mary I wished to leave her bed and sleep alone in the living room. Why I did this is not motivated by reason, but by emotion only. It felt the direction I must move. So I did.

For several weeks before my decision, I had suffered in bed each night, torn between my twenty-year habit of having Mary next to me in sleep and my growing uneasiness of sleeping next to someone who was no longer my lover.

There we times her arm would fall against me with all the sharp agony of an electric wire; my body would convulse but for sheer force of will. This I could not explain, nor could I tolerate it for much longer.

I thought perhaps it was a sign that I was truly only interested in men, and felt uncomfortable cast in the role of lesbian, though we were no longer intimate. I supposed it might be a selfish desire for freedom made manifest in a manner my consciousness could accept and act upon. But no reasons are behind this feeling. It is that it is. It comes from the sum total and mean average of all the drives that might be individually described as portions of my being. More precisely, it is a sense of direction chosen by my holistic self.

And so it was that I told Mary I no longer wished to sleep with her.

The first week was very hard. I felt like a deserter. I felt like a fool. I felt like something inside myself demanded that I challenge and throw away any human meaning I might aspire to in relationship to another.

Still, my reason struggled to comprehend... Was it for appearances to increase the chances that potential lovers would find me unentwined? Was it simply the culmination of decades of frustration, living in the disorderly mess that Mary perpetrated in our room?

A month ago, I realized I wanted Mary's things out of the living room: MY room. I wanted to decorate a space that would be conducive to my own cycles, my own resonance.

And so, I set about accomplishing just that. Daily, I would remove something of Mary's from the living room and replace it with something of mine. I took video tapes from the shelf, stuffed animals, books: anything that was not mine, separated it, segregated it from what had been "ours" until hers was with her and mine was with me. It was not unlike dividing property during a divorce, and that comparison did not escape me. Yet, still, I did not know why I did these things.

Even with all the changes, the family stayed with me in the living room; we spent all our evenings together, and for one reason alone: the television. From my grandfather, I had inherited a big screen television that had dominated the living room for the five years we have lived here and long before. We grouped about it every night, not unlike a prehistoric clan, huddled 'round a campfire.

It was then that I knew I must eliminate this magnet that drew us together. I took charge of my new room, turning off the television at 9pm for an early bedtime, even though Mary and the kids wished to watch special programs much later. Mary had a barely functioning old set in the back room, "her" room, that could only pick up broadcast stations, unlike the cable endowed monster in "my" room. She was vanquished to that technological slum, while the shining eye to the world lay shut and unused in my room.

This prepared her for my suggestion that we trade televisions, as I did not want to constrain her. Or so I said. In fact, I just wanted to be left alone in my room.

In the meantime, Christmas was upon us. In addition to the usual gifts, it come to me to buy each of the kids their own color television with remote control. And so I did. One day after Christmas we could be found separated, each to their own room, four single souls instead of a family. I had accomplished the first step of my emotional plan that has no name and no description. I had done what poverty and sex change had not been able to accomplish: I had split up my family.

Why? I do not know. But it was what I had to do.

The final step was tonight. I ordered cable for each of the other three rooms and it was installed this evening. Mary and Mindi went off to a square dancing class and I moved the big TV to the back room, along with the cable decoder.

Now I have split us up completely. There is no more reason for us to gather together for external reasons. And that is when I realized what my heart was doing. I am struggling between the desire to find a man and be his mate and start a new life as a total woman, and the sense of obligation and responsibility that seals me here with Mary and the kids.

These conflicting drives tear me apart, as they are perfectly balanced both in reason and emotion. The inequity simply weighs more heavily upon my soul each day as it rubs my sense of contentment raw.

So this is what I need to break the deadlock: proof that we are only held together as a family through habit and convenience, or proof that there is real love beneath it all.

Now, here I sit, just an hour into the grand experiment. I have weakened the fabric of my relationship, the fabric of the family itself so that no traditions or routines or common needs unite us. I wait to see what is left, if anything. And when I know, then I will know what to do next.

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