Once upon a time in the early eighties, I went to Seattle to defend a civil rights trial. Seems a black employee of ours claimed his supervisor had discriminated against him, made racial slurs, failed to promote him, then terminated him, that sorta thing. Fairly typical, huh?
Well, the trial was a hoot. Downtown Seattle, federal court, all the formal procedures. You’d have thought this was serious stuff indeed.
Two weeks this trial took. Plaintiff’s case absorbed almost all of it. Plaintiff claimed his supervisor had called him a “coon” and forced him to listen to musical depravity which slurred his race. He’d suffered so greatly that he’d been absent from work for psychological reasons for half the year, and he wanted reinstatement plus a bundle.
The judge was black, there was no jury.
For two days we listened to plaintiff testify as to his humiliation, his inability to concentrate, his induced heavy drinking, his marital problems caused by an inability to cope. My god, his stress had been so great, he’d been forced to see a psychologist! Worst of all, he’d been made a laughing stock among his fellow employees, who all gathered around at lunch to listen to this racial music. How could anyone be expected to work under these circumstances? He admitted that his supervisor had never said much that could be construed as a racial slur — at least in front of anybody, but, he said, that music was so demeaning and his fellow workers’ laughter so clear that the racial hatred could not be denied. He also said that once or twice his supervisor had called him “boy” but under cross he admitted that no one else had heard it and he’d never complained about it.
Much of the rest of plaintiff’s case was absorbed with testimony from his psychologist about how this music had traumatized plaintiff’s sensibilities; from his wife about her husband no longer being able to perform his husbandly duties, either sexually or with the kids; from the kids how they missed daddy’s gentle and wise guidance and attention. Plaintiff’s aunts and uncles testified, bolstering these claims in a general fashion, although deferring to the wife on the manliness issue. Plaintiff seemed subdued, they said, and in all aspects of his life, as if his self-confidence had been drained like motor oil. Following these witnesses, counsel produced experts to document plaintiff’s financial plight, how his continued medical care would break the bank of such a dedicated blue collar laborer, how much income plaintiff would lose over the next five years since he’d been dismissed and most likely wouldn’t be able to seek alternative employment, the quantification of lost employment benefits during this period. These experts estimated his damages in the millions of dollars.
My god, should I cry? How could anybody do something so horrible to another human being? Why was I even defending this sadistic son of a bitch? Was I gonna be Sleepless in Seattle?
I called two witnesses. One was a Visa representative, who testified that during the period plaintiff had absented himself from work, he’d made two trips to Vegas, run up charges of $25,000. Maybe the visit to the Chicken Ranch had been for self esteem. Next, I called the supervisor. His name was Billy Jim Plauché, a Cajun good ole boy from the bayous of Louisiana. I’d had him bring in his records, all of them. The judge graciously agreed to have the plaintiff listen to them outside the courtroom and advise which ones contained the racial slurs. The one plaintiff picked we played. It was entitled “Me and My Coon Dog.” Cajun music.
The judge ruled from the bench…
Who says lawyers don’t have fun?
Well, that’s not the point of this tale. The real story took place outside of the courtroom.
You see, I’d been staying in the Olympic Hotel, way before the renovations that robbed it of much of its culture. At the time, the Olympic was not only the finest hotel in Seattle, but one of the most fun. In the basement, along with shops and an oyster bar — which is still there — they had a nightclub. First class stuff there, Johnny Carson quality, a small intimate room headlined by bands or comedy routines, and the fare varied almost every night. It was a place to hang out especially when one didn’t have to do much to prepare for trial.
So Wednesday night of the first trial week, I was hanging out in the nightclub, checking out the action and the very good comedian on stage. Recently divorced, you could also say I was on the prowl. About an hour into the performance, I noticed a petite blond with a killer figure sitting in the back all by herself. Sensing hooker, I watched for awhile, but noticed that she turned several men away, not usual hooker behavior. Then, during a break, she rose and made her way to the restroom, and my hungry eyes followed her.
She had an easy, confident stroll, a sway that lingered in the mind, her hips, shoulders and chest all moving in time and in tune. As she passed under the lights, I saw the flash of highlights in her shoulder length locks, all golden, silver and reddish.
I knew I was destined to meet this woman.
While she was gone, I rose and moved to the bar, asking the barkeep what she was drinking. Singapore Sling, my kind of woman. There would be a sweetness on her lips that could cause diabetes. Since I was at the bar, I ordered one for her and asked for a vodka martini myself. About the same time my drinks were ready, she returned, and I watched as she made her way back to her table. As she passed me, she gave me a glance and then the bartender and pointed to her table. I couldn’t help but notice her blue, blue eyes, and I thought she smiled as the man behind the bar pointed to the drink in my hand.
I followed her back to her table, watching every movement of those shapely calves which were attached to slim ankles and hips that looked carved. I’ve always loved women in black, and the ebony skirt, stretched tight from a narrow waist across a firm derrière did not disappoint. The allure of what was inside that skirt was only surpassed by her loose plum colored silk blouse tucked loosely inside, and by the leading edge of that blouse which I had seen swaying as she’d passed me. My fingers tingled from the thought of brushing plush across those ripe melons pointing the way to her table.
Woo hoo, who cared about tomorrow?
Do I dare tell you what happened after this? Or would you prefer I return to the trial?
Ah…that’s what I thought…
I followed this vision back to her table and introduced myself, told her why I was there and said I was taking a much needed break from trial prep. Did she mind if I joined her for a drink? I’ve always found the straight-forward, mostly honest approach provides the best opening line, and it worked this time too.
Her name was Shelly, she was a design engineer for Microsoft, a small company located in nearby Redmond. She was single, had a good sense of humor and seemed to like my stuff. And she was interested in my trial. Afterall, what guy doesn’t like talking about himself, huh?
But we also talked about her, her likes and dislikes, how stressful her job was, how she hoped Bill and Company could pull everything together and own the future. We talked a lot about computers, about how Apple was onto something with the personal computer, how Microsoft hoped to profit from the deal they’d just cut with IBM. Frankly, I didn’t know much about computers, but I found our discussion fascinating and I couldn’t stop staring at those glorious eyes, that shimmering, taut silk across her chest and the pearly skin of her neck. As if this picture wasn’t sufficient to birth lust, she compounded her felonies by tossing in a sultry Peggy Lee tone.
I had to have this woman…
I don’t remember if the comedian was any good. Frankly, I wasn’t paying any attention to the stage. For all I know, there were naked dancing pygmies up there.
We closed the bar down despite my better judgment and the early hour of the next day’s session, and I didn’t get her anywhere close to my room. But I did wrangle a date for a Saturday trip to the mountains, something which had been on my agenda anyway, so the night wasn’t a total loss. Besides, I knew I was in like Flynn. What woman can resist the rainbow colors of a mountain meadow and the music of birds? My only problem was getting to Saturday. Every time I thought of this woman, my underwear stretched and walking became painful.
Oh, I was Sleepless in Seattle all right…
Come Saturday, Shelly picked me up around ten and we headed east. She was dressed for the occasion in mountain boots, jeans and a white cotton shirt, which did nothing to hide those bountiful melons. A purple windbreaker was loosely tied around her waist. Me, I was dressed in what passed for Dockers in those days along with a blue dress shirt and sockless loafers. Hell, I was on trial; I’d brought no stud-duds.
Now I had seen the Rockies and expected I’d see more of the same thing except maybe less high and a little more green. Hah. The Cascades make the Rockies look like foothills. Yes, they both top out at fourteen thousand feet, but the Cascades start at sea level, while many of the soaring Rockies peaks begin at nine or ten thousand feet. Whoa baby, these were real mountains, not the pretenders of Colorado.
We drove for several hours, through narrow gorges, up steep passes, to lofty vistas worthy of the postcard Hall of Fame. Somewhere along the way, we began holding hands and sucking lips at nearly every opportunity. Altitude and exercise makes one hungry, you know, even when one’s exertions are limited to tongue thrusts and body lunges. And a full belly provides energy for a night full of passion. Shelly said she knew a romantic restaurant, Snoqualmie Falls Lodge (now Salish Lodge) some thirty miles west of the city. Now if you’ve never been to Snoqualmie Falls, you have no idea what you’re missing, unless maybe you happened to see Twin Peaks, the 80s television show. The Falls drop some four hundred sixty feet in a mad rush of roiling froth, second in volume only to Niagara in this country. And perched on top, leaning over the cascading waters sits the Lodge, a gourmet restaurant with an unparalleled but spooky view, where wooden window booths form separate rooms.
Can you imagine a more romantic setting?
The to-die-for food, which surely has caused some suicides after the realization set in that there is nothing left in life to experience, consists of about seven or eight courses, at least three of which are courtesy of the chef, who must be the fattest person on earth.
I was in love before the escargot cooled.
At some point during our royal repast, I realized that some of the dots far below us were moving. Visibility wasn’t clear, we were looking at twinkling spots through a cloud of vapor, but I was sure these specks were human, probably salmon fisherpeople, although I’d love to see the fish that could jump those falls…
It’s a good thing I’m a multi-tasker, but I admit I was having trouble keeping up with the demands of staring at Shelly’s charms, maintaining a witty repartee, savoring each bite of whatever we were being served and gawking at the human ants far below us.
The meal lasted three hours and as the courses piled up, I found my appetite switching channels, and the swelling in my underwear wasn’t just in the waistband. We were staring in each other’s eyes and pawing at each other’s hands. We sucked down our wine and asked for the check.
My expense account today was gonna be worthy of a prize for creative fiction.
Shelly suggested we move to her place, a houseboat on Lake Union, just blocks from downtown. Can you believe it? I just wondered how much rocking a houseboat could withstand.
She let me drive and scootched over close to me, so close that my elbow was rubbing against her breast, which caused the expected reaction in my pants. Shelly noticed and said, “Well, I see we have company.”
“Yes,” I said. “I have a friend who wants to meet you.”
She laughed and patted my friend. “Well, I have a surprise for you, little friend.”
“Hah,” I said. “I think you’ll find he’s not so little.”
I am so so clever, huh?
We arrived at her boat and I parked in the lot. I was surprised to see that the houseboat was so large, two bedrooms, she said. I’d only seen houseboats on Lake Monroe, you know, those floating trailers. This was a two story house resting on what looked like a raft. Again, I wondered how much rocking this thing could take.
We stayed in the car and turned up the heat, no engine required. We had our own ignition source and I had the key. But as I moved to free the beast, Shelly put a hand on my arm and shook her head. “Not here. Let’s go inside.” I nodded my agreement, then Shelly followed with the words no man wants to hear: “We need to talk.”
I tried to hide my disappointment, but I’d heard those words before. She made me feel better, however, when she sensed my deflation and said, “I’m not saying no, but we need to talk.”
I followed Shelly into the house…or boat…or houseboat…or boathouse — whatever. Terminology didn’t bother me, just the side-to-side motion of the raft as it responded to our footfalls and the memory of all that food. Never having thrown up during a blow job, I sure as hell didn’t want to start now.
“We’ll have to be quiet,” Shelly said. “Sounds carry on the lake and they really cram these things in here. There are forty boats just on this pier.”
Frankly, I hadn’t been counting, but I’d noticed the close proximity of other water-houses.
As soon as we were inside, in her living room actually, which in the dim light looked just like a living room in a normal house, I reached for Shelly and pulled her into me. As I kissed her long and deep, she pulled away and put her hand on my chest. “Not yet,” she said. “I said we have to talk.”
Wanting to get a running start and maybe cut the discussion short, I said, “Can’t we fool around a little first?”
Shelly laughed and threw her arms around me, pressing herself tight. As we kissed again, I ground my groin into hers, imagining how wet I was making her.
For a strange moment, I imagined something pushing back, not the hammer like I was packing, just a fleeting sensation.
Oh hell, maybe it was just the wine...
Shelly pushed away and breathless, she steered me to the couch. As I plopped into the soft cushions, I tried to pull her down with me, but she broke free and stepped back. “In a minute,” she said, hesitation showing in her tone. Her brows were knitted, her face was tight. “I really like you…”
“And I really like you,” I said, dreading the “where is this going” conversation I knew was coming.
“Well, you see that’s the problem.”
“I don’t see any problem. C’mere.” I patted the cushion next to me.
“No. We need to talk.” Shelly was kneading her hands now and pacing across the tan indoor/outdoor carpeting.
“Look, Shelly,” I said, trying to cut this discussion off. “I don’t know where this is going. I’m along for the ride just as you are. We’ll worry about that later.”
A real diplomat, huh?
She shook her head. “But you don’t understand. That’s not it. I’m not worried about that now.”
Now I was the one with the knitted brows. “Huh? Then what’s bothering you?”
“Well, it’s just that… um… uh…well… maybe…”
That dreaded “maybe”, the preface to the “we don’t know each other well enough, maybe we should wait” stall. I’d heard ‘em all.
“Shelly,” I said, “I just know that we have something special going on here. I don’t know where it will lead any more than you do, but if we don’t explore it, we risk chasing it away.” I patted the couch again.
Shelly stopped pacing and peered deep into my eyes. A tear ran down her cheek. I stood up and reached out to her. She hesitated, then came into my arms but dodged my lips and put hers to my ear. “I had a sexual re-assignment six months ago and it’s not complete yet,” she whispered.
I held her while I tried to make sense of what she’d said, or what I thought I’d heard. All I could manage was, “Huh?”
“A sexual re-assignment…”
So my hearing wasn’t defective. “What’s that, some kinda disease?”
“No, I… uh… used to be a boy.”
“Well, I sorta still am… almost.”
I sat back down. I’m not sure what fell further, my ass or my jaw.
“You see, I began hormone therapy six months ago, but the doctors refuse to operate until I’ve had a full year to think about the consequences. So I’ve got six months to go.”
My full-moon eyes musta been big as saucers; I’m surprised they didn’t roll out of their sockets. For a moment I sat, not saying a word, as I examined her visually for any hint of manliness and found none. “You can’t be a guy,” I said, my voice low, sure Shelly was going to say at any second that she’d been putting me on. I thought about the firm breasts I’d been feeling in the car, that milky soft skin, the way her nipples rose when I touched them. I thought about all those kisses… I was starting to feel sick, and I didn’t think it was the gentle swaying of the houseboat or something I’d eaten that was causing my discomfort.
No way. Guys don’t kiss like that, do they?
Uh… How would I know?
Shelly was crying now, her mascara was running down her cheek, but her head was nodding all the while. Doubt crept into my head.
“M-my name… sob…sob…It used to be…um… It was Rick.”
I thought I was in a dream. A myriad of thoughts were roaring through my head, conflicting emotions, absolute confusion. Was I on acid? Was this real? Was I really sitting in a house on a lake in front of a beautiful woman who claimed she was a man? Was I gonna blow escargot all over the couch?
Hell, and this wasn’t even San Francisco…
I stood up, then sat back down. I thought about bolting, just running to the door and out.
Shelly must have read my mind. “Please stay. I know you’re upset, let me explain...”
“How can you possibly explain anything?” I said, my anger building. Either this was a dirty rotten trick or I had been duped almost as badly as Samson.
Shelly spent the next two hours explaining her situation. She had been born with both sets of gonads, so to speak; she was a hermaphrodite. It had caused her tremendous trauma throughout her life and she’d finally decided to do something about it. The female sex was the stronger one, but male sex organs were also present, just not developed fully. So she had begun hormone therapy six months ago to give dominance to the female and ready the male for amputation — Ouch!. The only thing holding her back was the year long wait, imposed to protect the doctors from malpractice claims.
Now it still coulda been a story, right?
It wasn’t. She/he had pictures to prove it. I didn’t ask to see the goods, thank God, but the pictures of Shelly/Rick in her/his little boy clothes, letters to her/him from his/her parents, begging her/him to change his/her mind, they were convincing enough.
And surprising enough, I lost my anger. The whole story was fascinating enough, her/his pain real enough, the emotions he/she was feeling so conflicting that anger made me feel cheap, shallow really. Instead of anger, I found myself offering solace and advice.
But there were no more kisses, or any physical contact for that matter, other than a polite hug upon leaving, thank you very much.
Shelly/Rick wanted me to call upon my next trip, and especially sometime after six months had passed, and of course I assured her/him that I would, but you know how that goes…
When I returned to the hotel that night, I washed out my mouth with soap, then with just about a whole tube of toothpaste, and I took a very long, very hot shower.