To chase the clouds away like monsters from a far off land.

To race through trees as though I was a creature of the wild at home at last. My answer to them is no. I do not struggle with my faith.

CHAPTER TWO

The days flowed past in a numb sort of haze and soon the winter gave way to spring and finally summer. I remember being in another kind of pain during these early years of my life. Running temperatures of 104 or higher, I spent a lot of time in the hospital covered in ice packs and sleeping on an ice bed. The temperatures would come down and I would go home only to find myself back in the hospital when the fevers returned. My mother tells me that I would scream when my father would try to put me on his shoulders, and all of this had them very concerned. I remember these fevers in a sort of dream like haze. An hallucination accompanied each of them like the tone of a Salvador Dali painting. It would start with a sort of low buzz, like whispered conversations from the next room, and a field of pure whiteness obscuring my vision. The soft buzzing seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once. Then it would start to change. As the distant whispers grew in volume, a line would form itself in the all white haze. From the far left corner of this blanket of nothingness, the line seemed to vibrate. Distorting

itself like a radio wave signal. The voices would become increasing louder and the distortion would expand along the thin line at the horizon of white. Certain words would become clear, as if they were being spoken right next to my ear, while the rest grew into the cluttered conversations of an immense crowd of people. The line would lose its stability and gradually begin to break apart into dots of noise, like an empty channel on the television, spreading along the horizon from left to right until the line was effectively erased. The voices surged in volume and the visual noise would erupt into explosions of dark dots, like the expanse of the night sky in reverse, almost deafening and definitely stunning. Then, suddenly, everything would coalesce into one, or two voices, just outside of whatever room I was in. Voices of people I recognized, and some I didn't. The black and white field of dots and lines would vanish and I could see my surroundings as though my eyes had, all along, been closed. Fun times! Years would go by, with trip after trip to the hospital, until my parents, at their wits end, decided to seek out a specialist. Their search led to a doctor in Provo, Utah, which was only a few miles away. One afternoon found my mom and I in his office. We were ushered back to an examination room, and I was undressed, redressed in a paper like robe, and lying on a table covered with another sheet of paper (the table of course...not me). The doctor came in, words were exchanged, and then I was told that I would be given a little shot to numb the area they would be working with. Being told you were to be given a shot, when your nine years old, is one thing. Being told you would be given that shot in the tip of your penis...quite another. My mother held me

as the doctor numbed me. Then I watched as the doctor took a pair of medical snips and proceeded to enlarge the hole in the tip of my penis. After this, he took a very long piece of plastic tubing and threaded it through the tip and up into my bladder. Then he told me that I would feel a strong urge to pee, and to ignore it. I did my best. He filled my bladder and kidneys with a dye so that they could take clear x-rays of these areas. At last, when that was done, he pulled the tube from inside my body and I was allowed to get dressed. We were sent home and told to wait for the results. I was also told that my pee would be red for the next couple of days. I don't think I was thinking too much about that as we left his office and went home. When we got the news, it wasn't good. Apparently I had been born without a shut-off valve in my bladder. This allowed for fluids to back up into my kidneys, and the right one was bloated to twice it's size. Surgery was needed and soon. There was a fear that they would have to take the whole kidney, and I would have to spend the rest of my life with a bag attached to outside of my body. We saw another specialist further away, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and he told us that the kidney would definitely have to go. The future seemed bleak. We decided to go with the first doctor we had visited, the one in Provo, because he told us there was a chance that he could save the kidney. The surgery was scheduled and my family made preparations. My mother tells me that her and my father went to the Temple to put my name on the prayer roll. A process by which Latter Day Saints pray for special blessings for family members and close friends in need. All the way over to the Temple my mother kept telling my dad that they were going to be the proxies [witnesses?] and when they got there one

of the Temple workers asked if they would like to stand as witnesses [proxies]. My mother started to cry and, through her tears, she told him about their son and the difficult surgery in our families future. He asked if they had gotten my name on the prayer roll and my mother began to cry harder because she had forgotten to do that. The temple worker comforted my mom and dad, opened the prayer roll, and added my name to the top of the list. The day before my surgery I left my home and checked into the Provo Hospital. Before we left my father gave me a Priesthood blessing. We were hoping for a miracle. I remember they had to draw blood from me as I was admitted. It looked so odd. Dark and purplish, almost black. I was told, when I asked why it looked like that, that blood doesn't turn red until it hits the air and is oxygenated. How strange, I thought and then I was being wheeled towards the kids wing of the hospital. When we finally got checked in, it was starting to get dark outside. Night was drawing on and I found out that my parents were not going to be able to stay. I was scared, sad, and I didn't want my mom and dad to leave. Then I met the boy that would be sharing my room with me. He took me under his wing and showed me how to pop wheelies in the wheelchairs. We rode them up and down the hallway popping wheelies and laughing. I still didn't want my mom and dad to leave, but they would be back in the morning and I somehow, with the help of my new friend, made it until then. The next morning my family was there as they placed an IV in my arm and started the medicine that would drift me off to dreamland. I remember being wheeled out of my room on a stretcher and watching the florescent lights flow by overhead. They seemed to elongate and

blend into one another. Voices were muffled and distant. Suddenly I was in a room where a chalkboard seemed to fill up the wall next to me. On it were names, and I seem to recall the nurse pointing to one of those names and saying: “See that? That's you.” He then grabbed a piece of chalk and slowly drew a line through my name. Then blackness enveloped me and I was gone. Blurred images. Floating faces, some recognizable, some not. Voices distant and indistinct. Sunlight. Machine sounds, and movement. Drifting, dreaming, floating, soft and warm. Whispers of concern and sighs of relief. I am disconnected and unclear. Am I dreaming? Am I awake? In an instant all this happens and then I drift away. Falling into welcome blackness. The next time I wake up, my mom is sitting by my bedside and I am hooked up to more tubes and wires than I can count. Her face is drawn and weary with emotion but somehow bright with hope and love. Confused, I ask where dad is. She says he's at work, and I tell her dad doesn't work on Sunday. She lets me know that today is Monday. I have missed a day. I would spend the next eighteen days in bed, unable to move. Shortly after my surgery I awoke to a flurry of activity surrounding the bed that lay across the room from mine. I remembered that in that bed was my friend from a few nights ago. The boy that helped me forget about being alone in a strange place my first night in the hospital. I was told to go back to sleep and, being heavily sedated, that wasn't difficult. I awoke the next morning to find that my

friend was gone. I don't recall ever being told exactly what happened to him. He just wasn't there anymore. Nights in a hospital are especially long when you are a child. Sleep eludes you and the steady thrum of nurses, doctors, carts, and machines invade what dreams may come when at last you do find a sort of slumber. I had new roommates, as was often the case during my stay, but no one stayed long enough for me to get to know. Besides I was confined to my bed so making friends with those who were more mobile....? Alone in the hospital, at the ripe old age of nine, and missing my mom and dad; I remember hiding my head under the sheets and crying as quietly as I could, so as not to disturb the other tenants in my room. During the days my mother would visit me, joined by other family members in the afternoon, but eventually the evening would come, far too quickly, and I was alone again. Being completely bed ridden, in and out of pain, it made for very long and lonely nights. One day, as my mother visited with me, she taught me something that I have never been able to forget and have used often since. My body was rebelling from isolation. I ached to move, to sit up, or stand, walk, run, but I couldn't and so I was going crazy with pain and the feeling that creatures were crawling beneath my skin. My mom told me to close my eyes. She asked me to imagine that I was laying in field of deep lush grass. That the sun was bright and warm and the breeze was fresh and cool. She told me to imagine that the sun touched just my toes, concentrating the heat there. Warming between, over and under the toes. As the sun bathed my toes in heat, I would feel them begin to relax. Every bit of tension seeping out of them as the heat swirled around them. Then the

sun began to move, spreading from toes to cover the whole of my feet. The warmth moving with it, my feet would lose their itch to move and run. The suns rays would continue to bath my feet in soothing light and warmth as they moved up my legs from calf to thigh. Soon my entire lower body was enveloped in warmth, relaxed and tension free. My mothers soothing voice guiding me through the rest of the exercise. By the time the sun had reached my chest, I would be slipping into a deep slumber. Completely relaxed, and filled with a sense of safety and comfort, I slept. This meditation is something I have used many times since then, and it has worked every time. With this skill, and the regular visits from family, I made it through my seemingly endless stay at the hospital. Soon it was my last days at the hospital. The first thing they had to do was remove the catheters from my bladder and kidney. As they prepared to do this, the nurse told me to squeeze her hand really hard and that it would be over soon. Other people were there. My family, and some male nurses and of course the doctor. The male nurses held me down while I gripped the female nurses hand. The doctor to me he would be removing one of the tubes, and then the pain hit...and it hit hard. It felt like someone was tugging at my insides with a very hot rope. Burning with an intense heat, I could feel every inch...every centimeter....of the thick tubing as it left my body. It felt as thought it would go on forever and, at the end of it, would be my guts as they raced out of me along with the tube that had fed me for some 18 days or more. Then, mercifully, it was over. The nurse congratulated me on such a good job. I think about that now and wonder what on earth it was that I did, other than scream and crush her hand. After the “congratulations”, the nurse informed me that there were only a few more to go.

When it was all done, I slept. Things at this point begin to run together again, and soon it became time for me to re-learn how to walk. When I first heard the nurse tell me this, I laughed. I had been walking for many years now. Why on earth did she think that I would need to learn how to do something that came so naturally to me. When that day arrived, she came to help me out of bed. I brazenly told her I didn't need any help, and so I pushed myself off the edge of the bed and fell immediately to the floor. After some very embarrassing seconds passed by, the nurse helped to the wheelchair and took me into physical therapy. It was there that I truly did learn to walk again. It's a funny feeling, not being able to walk. There is a sort of disconnect between your brain and your legs. You know that you know how to walk, but your legs just don't seem to be there. It's as though your legs are on an island somewhere, basking in the sun, instead of where they need to be. Supporting your eager body, and brain, with forward momentum. I did eventually learn how to walk again. The end of my stay at the hospital came, and I took the obligatory wheelchair ride to my mom and dad's car. I said goodbye to my second home, and all the people there that had made my stay tolerable, and walked the last few steps to the car. It was sad in a way. I had come to know most everyone in there, and I was going to miss a lot of them. But, I was eager to get home, and I didn't miss it enough to want to stay. So, I slipped into my parent's car and said goodbye to the hospital and to the staff that I had come to know so well. Recovery continued on in the comfort of my own home. Where I caught up on missed homework from school. Got many visits from friends and family. Treated my young body with

great care as it healed and strengthened itself. And, enjoyed the attention I was getting. To a child in Fourth Grade it was a sort of celebrity. But, one that I wouldn't wish to achieve again anytime soon. The years of fever were gone. Eventually my urine returned to a healthy shade of yellow...instead of blood red. My life slowly got back to normal. And somehow, while all of this was happening, my relationships changed and my life became infinitely more complex, and a different kind of pain began to set in.

CHAPTER 2a

How to tell this next section of my life. A question I pondered over for months. My first official “crush”. I have tried to maintain a constant air of truth as I have related the events that make up who I am. Hence one half of the title of this book. But, how does one continue this trend when it might put the life of someone I care about in a kind of jeopardy they would neither desire, nor deserve. To omit this section of my history would be, I believe, a HUGE mistake. It shaped my being for years to come, and would be pivotal to understanding a part of me that would take 29 years for me to come to terms with. I think I finally stumbled upon a solution. And so, dear reader, allow me to introduce you to a “fairytale” laced with truth.

The Legend of The Girl to Be
Once upon a time, because that's how all fairy-tales must begin, there lived a girl who was so different from all other girls that she had learned to hide her true identity in the guise of a man. It was easier for her to be excepted this way, as those around her were of a particular mindset that made it impossible for her to be seen as otherwise. She was still young enough that her relationships were of a truly innocent nature. No hardships in this part of her young life had yet to find her. There were of course hardships, as every life must have them, but love...romantic love...had not occurred to her...yet. She would have been happy to go on living this way but life, so often, has other plans. And, in this way at least, she was no different. While she had spent most of her life surrounded by friends, running and playing as most children do, she had also lived with a deep pain that troubled her at times. Some of the pain was understandable, as she had an illness that the doctors frantically worked to find a cure for. But, the other part of this pain perplexed her. An ache to belong to that group of society that had barred her from entry because of the idea of womanhood. This ache was tolerable, and most times forgotten, because no real need presented itself in which she felt her femininity was required. Children are not thinking about such things. But, men and women...do. She had a particular friend, this girl to be, that always seemed to protect her, or extol her virtues to others, or was simply more kind than most. He was of course oblivious to her true identity, as she had become quite good at keeping it hidden, and so all this attention was given with an air of boyhood chumminess. Which was fine with her...until one night in the summer of

her tenth, or perhaps it was her twelfth, year. It was then, that languid, sultry, special summer that all things changed, and her pain would become unbearable. She was going to spend the night with this boy at his grandmother's house deep in the woods, so far away from her home, and they would most probably share a bed. Which was perfectly fine as she was seen to be, by all the villagers, both near and far, a proper boy. And so, nothing promiscuous was implied or even suspected. She herself felt perfectly fine with the arrangements, as she had done it many times before. Nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes. The journey through the woods was a fascinating trek. The light playfully wrapped itself around the ever stretching branches of the forest. Coming to rest upon the lush ground beneath and turning the dark green floor a brilliant Harlequin...or perhaps closer to Chartreuse. The wizened trunks of regal trees whirred past the openings on both sides of the carriage as they made their way. Quietly she began to feel the stirrings of something, new and strange, warm her from within. She gazed with a profound sense of wonder, disturbed only by the occasional elbow to her ribs. A manly gesture she readily returned. She knew this exchange well. It seemed to be a man's way of connecting physically without being too brutal, or too gentle. A way for men to share a bond while remaining men. And then, again deep within her, a stirring. What was it, she wondered, and why was it coming suddenly at the sight of this young boy, her childhood friend of many years.

Another quick elbow shot to her ribs and, as she turned to return the favor, she felt a longing that so surprised her that she turned back quickly to avoid having the flush, that was quickly rising in her cheeks, observed. What was happening to her? She had learned, not so very long ago, that certain things could never be. This world in which she lived had certain rules. A force called gravity kept all things in place. Boys and girls grew up to become men and women. It was safe to be considered normal, and God forbid that you should find yourself otherwise. Hence her condition and the desperate need for a disguise. Yes. These were the rules, laws truly, by which all things were governed. And yet... She forced herself to concentrate on the woods as they sped further on towards their destination. The light, that had so dazzled her, seemed to be changing. Becoming a darker, and more sinister color of red. Tainting everything with its touch and causing the trees to transform into twisted beings reaching out to carry her off into their suffocating embrace. The day was slipping away and night was closing in as they arrived at his grandmother's home. She suddenly longed to be in the safety of her own surroundings. Away from the strangeness of this place and her feelings. They moved from the carriage into the warmth of the home. The boy made all the proper introductions and they were off to play...as boys do. The unfamiliar feelings were soon forgotten as she fell easily into the patterns of permitted play. Her self trained disguise firmly in place. She even forgot the pains of being alone in a new place. She wasn't alone...really. She was with him. Their adventures soon moved indoors as the air began to cool. Night was now upon them.

Once inside, their antics resumed. They explored together and played along the length of the house. Soon, it was time to eat. They seated themselves in front of the evenings entertainment, feasting upon meats and breads, sipping cool fizzy drinks of various sweet flavors. After the meal, the magical box, through which they enjoyed story after story, kept them entertained until it was time to retire. It seemed that all was well...until she climbed into the bed that wasn't hers. Laying next to him, she began to weep. Silently so as not to disturb him. For she feared that he had already slipped off into slumber, or would be embarrassed at her “girly” nature. There was nothing to fear here, she told herself. It was just a house. Same as hers...but different...yet still safe. She was surrounded by sturdy walls and warm blankets. Nothing could get at her here. And yet...she wept. Lonely...and afraid. She cursed herself under her breath. Why couldn't she be more like what the world expected of her. “Man up!” she shouted silently. “Stop being such a girl.” Then it happened. Without warning he placed a hand upon her shoulder. He wasn't asleep after all. And, worse, he had heard her weeping! She cursed silently again. Until, she heard his voice. “What's wrong?” he asked. The touch of his hand had stirred, once again, a deep heat that threatened to overcome her entire being. But, when his voice reached out to her in the darkness, was when she understood how much she wanted him to pull her into his arms and comfort her. “No!” she shook at the thought. She knew that was forbidden. Men could not embrace in such a way, or they would be cast out from everyone to live a shunned and torturous life. The only thing she could bring herself to say was, “I miss my home.”

It was then that he surprised her and took her breath away. Slowly he began to stroke the back of her head, and started to sing. He sang her a song of deep remorse. A song about a man gone off to war. He leaves behind a family and girl he loves. The woman begs him not to go. Not to become a hero at the cost of never coming back. Of course, he leaves and the song relates his heroic efforts in the service of his country...and his fellow soldiers. He doesn't return and she is left alone to mourn beside his grave. The song itself was beautiful, and haunting, but the combination of his touch and his soothing voice was what finally sent her off to sleep. She passed through the night without so much as a twitch. The next morning it was as if the sun has burned away the magic of that night. Everything was back as it should be. She was firmly placed within her disguise and he was always the faithful friend. But, she could not forget. They would leave behind that night in the woods, and life would continue on. She remembered the song, of course, and would find herself singing it often. So often in fact, that others would ask her to sing for them. And praise her upon it's completion. Never would they suspect the origin of how she learned the song. Nor would she ever tell. It would be her secret, and the feelings that she had for the boy, that would eventually become a man, would be hers as well. She would never tell him. Even when he began to move away from her, as maturity would steal away his innocence, in the pursuit of a union that she could never have. She, of course, would grow older as well. Attempting to continue on in her deception, as they had yet to discover a “cure” for her most secret condition. She would pass from relationship to relationship, growing from girl to woman, and always in the form of a man. Yet,

that song would remain with her till the day she died. She could never forget the story of a man lost in a war. Of the woman he left behind, and her sorrow. Of the night she felt so alone and afraid. And, of the safety she discovered in the innocent arms of a boy.

....
There you have it. The moment in my life when I discovered that my feelings of alienation extended beyond my physical appearance and into my heart. Where did it go from here? Well, as the story goes, I moved from adolescence into puberty and began my private descent into depressions and my public pursuit of normalcy. I found it became very important to have a girlfriend. That seemed fundamental to achieving acceptance and a form of peace. So, began the next chapter of my life.