My wakefulness slipped into the murky waters of sleep and dreams as my mind turned rampant with all the information it had received. Damien’s confession sent shock-waves of uncertainty through me and just as those thoughts bounced through my head while awake, they manifested in my dreams too.
All the what ifs and the what nows, I wondered where will this go or will it go anywhere? I felt so unsure of him and me and us, whether or not there would ever be an us. That tiny little voice in the back of my head that had been whispering defiantly all along that maybe, just maybe, Freckles had feelings for me, now roared in victory when he validated that he was unsure about how he felt towards me. It was clear to me that he had at least been thinking about what our friendship could become.
But was it different now? Now that I knew the biggest secret of his entire life? I wanted so badly to see him exactly the same way I did when I met him the very first time so long ago. However, to deny the truth that I no longer saw him the same way was naive; he was no longer the same person I thought he was.
I tried to think about how he must have felt, what he must have been going through all those years, the pain and turmoil of living each day, trapped in a life he never believed to be his own. How immensely difficult that must have been, and probably still was.
When he was young, waking up every morning and seeing a face in the mirror that he didn’t recognize as his, a body that he didn’t perceive as the one he was meant to be born into. To live out each day forced to be someone he never felt he was, to be treated like someone he didn’t acknowledge as himself. I couldn’t imagine the struggles he went through, even when compared to my own youth and the terrible perception I had of myself, I at least felt like the body I was in was my own.
No wonder he was so emotional and struggled so much to tell me, no wonder he was so eager for me to accept him as who he was, it wasn’t just about accepting himself, but to have others see him in the way he wanted to be seen and understood, to be treated as the person he felt he was trapped inside for all those years, now living through himself – for the first time in his life.
When I finally awoke, I could hear the birds chirping outside the tent, just like the morning before. The sun shown down through the tent and beamed through the opening. The morning air blew in and the flaps of the opening gently swayed side to side. I took a few deep breaths and stretched.
I sat up and looked around, Freckles once again had already awoken and was no longer in the tent. I wiped my eyes, retrieved my bag from the corner and started preparing myself for our last morning on the farm.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to Damien when I saw him. He was the first trans guy I had ever met, I had no experience to draw upon. I became concerned that I may accidentally insult him, say something derogatory and not even realize it. And then I started thinking about whether I had already said something stupid in the time that we had been hanging out. I hoped that I hadn’t, hurting him was the last thing I ever wanted to do.
To me, it seemed as though we had grown very close, in a relatively short amount of time. He meant a lot to me and being able to understand him, all the aspects of him, was very important. I decided that no matter what gender he was physically born as, inside he felt male – saw himself as male – and that was how he wanted to live his life. If I was going to be his friend, then I needed to continue to see him as male and nothing else.
In the time that we spent together, he never behaved any other way than as a guy. If that wasn’t enough validation for me that he truly was male, then my problem wasn’t with Damien, but with my own negative perception and ill-judgement, my preconceived notions that would have done nothing but destroy what I had spent years seeking.
I made my way out of the tent and the full morning sun greeted me on my face and in my eyes, glaring through the leaves above. Despite the occasional gust of air that carried the scent of livestock manure, the open country air was usually fresh and cleaner than the pollution in town. I took a few more deep breaths as I scanned the area for Freckles.
Eventually I found him on the other end of the campsite, standing along the treeline with his back towards me. I realized, based on the positioning of his arms that he was taking a leak. Then I remembered that he had female parts and started thinking how he was peeing standing up. I knew next to nothing about how female parts function, but I knew that female bathrooms didn’t have urinals for a reason. So how was he peeing like that?
I remembered that night we went to the movie theater, when those punks outside told him he must have had a small dick for driving a jacked up truck. Or when we both took a piss at the same time, him just one urinal down from me, how was that possible? Or later that night when we got into a fight with those same guys and when he got kicked in the “balls.” If he didn’t have any, did it not hurt as bad? Or when I threw his ball cap at his crotch and he acted like it could have hurt as he called it a “sensitive area”… but now I knew that he didn’t have any. All of those situations now seemed so much more awkward.
I was confused looking back at those experiences. There were several situations and different things that he said in the past that now, suddenly that I knew his secret, that to me just felt weird and it just didn’t add up how he could have done some of those things and had been speaking the truth if he truly had female parts. What about that time he said he enjoyed having sex with his ex-fiance Megan? How did they do that? Did I want to know? I didn’t have any lesbian friends, I never took the time to think about how two girls do it, or in Damien’s situation, how a trans guy and biological female do it.
Freckles made his way back to the campsite and out of curiosity, I felt compelled to ask him how he just peed like that, at the same time I didn’t really know if it was my business and that maybe asking would somehow be insulting to him.
“How did you just do that?” I asked with child-like wonder and confusion.
“How did I do what?” Damien asked blankly.
“Pee standing up.” I said, rephrasing my question.
“You do know that girls can pee standing up too, right? It’s not easy, but it can be done.” Damien educated me.
“Seems kinda risky to me, I’d worry I would piss all over myself.” I reasoned.
“That is a risk, which is why I use a device that lets me pee without having to pop a squat, haha!” Freckles said with a laugh.
“For real? What is it?” I inquired.
“Do you really wanna know that?” He asked.
“I feel like it’s part of understanding you and I wanna be able to understand you.” I told him.
“Okay, fair enough,” Damien said, while reaching into his pocket and pulling something out, “Here, see? This is what I use, it’s called a STP.”
In his hand was a flesh colored object, not much longer than my thumb, but one side of it was cupped and on the other it had a narrow opening. Based on the way it looked, I had an idea of how it worked.
“STP? Does that work well?” I asked innocently.
“The abbreviation is for Stand-to-Pee device, some companies call them packers. It does the job, just gotta make sure I’m holding it right or pee can go in directions I don’t want it to. They make all different kinds of these things, different sizes too, some are actually shaped like dicks and even have balls molded into them.” He explained.
“Really? How come you didn’t get one of those?” I asked half jokingly.
“I don’t know, I guess cause I would feel weird if I dropped it in the bathroom or if it fell out of my pocket, some guys use straps for them, but I just don’t feel comfortable having one of those things strapped to me or my underwear. Seems like too much work.” He justified.
“I see, makes sense.” I said, understanding his logic.
“But that doesn’t mean I didn’t think about getting one, I mean I spent years of my childhood and teenage years wondering why I didn’t have the same parts as Evan and to be brutally honest, wishing that I had a dick too. As if that would somehow make me feel more like a man.” Damien admitted.
“But you don’t think or feel that way anymore?” I wondered aloud.
“You mean wishing I had male parts down there?” He asked, seeking clarification.
“Yeah man, does it not matter to you anymore?” I inquired more precisely.
“Not anymore. I feel like being a man isn’t about what I have down there, but what I have in my head and in my heart.” Damien spoke wisely.
He continued, “Besides, I don’t go walking around naked anyway, the only people who are going to be seeing me naked are my doctor and the person I’m dating. The parts of my body the world can see is one thing, but the rest of me – that’s for the most part hidden. To me it’s not necessary to use or have artificial devices to make me feel better… that’s got to come from my own self-acceptance.”
“Have you considered having surgery down there?” I asked bravely.
“Haha, I thought about it when I was younger, but no man, not anymore. It’s not worth the cost and to me it still wouldn’t be the same as actually being born with one, it wouldn’t be functional. It’s taken a long time and some surgeries, but I’ve come to love and accept the body I have. It’s me, with or without male parts down there, I’m still a man.” He proclaimed proudly.
“You know, you didn’t have to tell me about all of this, you could have kept it a secret.” I said sincerely.
“No dude, I had to tell you.” Freckles asserted.
“Why?” I asked.
Damien replied, “Because we’re getting close to one another, too close for there to be secrets, especially one that big. After that first night in the tent, I realized that you were getting so close to me that one day you may have figured it out or accidentally and unintentionally saw me naked, which would have shocked the hell out of you and you would have felt like I lied to you the whole time. I didn’t want that. I needed you to know.”
“I greatly appreciate your willingness to be open and honest with me, I’m honored that you felt it necessary to share this stuff with me and I agree with you one-hundred percent that we are getting closer. An opportunity that I’m grateful for.” I confessed.
“Yeah bud, me too.” He replied, echoing my thoughts.
“I guess we should start getting this stuff packed up,” I said looking around the campsite.
Freckles agreed and we started collecting our belongings and packing them back into his truck. The tent was so much easier to take down in the daylight than it was setting up in the dark and once we had the fire out completely, it was time to say goodbye to that beautiful hillside sanctuary.
The things that happened there and the moments of pouring out our hearts was something bittersweet to leave behind us. I wanted to stay there forever, never leave that spot on the hill, overlooking the lake below. All of those little things that made it memorable, I was sad to be leaving it all behind.
As we climbed into the truck and closed the door, I looked out the window for one last glimpse. I thought about how the leaves of the trees rustled in the wind, about how they drifted slowly in the breeze and tumbled down the hill. I thought about how the birds greeted us every morning, about how the crickets sang us to sleep every night. I thought about how the sunlight danced across the lake at dusk and how it flickered between the tree limbs as it warmed me in the tent at dawn.
I thought about how Freckles struggled to light the campfire both nights, about how he wanted me to think he knew exactly what he was doing, when it was obvious he really didn’t and was just trying to impress me. I thought about the night we stood fishing down at the lake and for the second time since I had known him, he let me see just how much the past made him hurt.
And I thought about the nights in the tent, when we slept less than a foot apart. I would never forget the sound of him sleeping by my side, the deep breaths he would take or the faint vocal sounds he made while dreaming. That had been one of the best weekends of my life and I cherished every last moment, even the sad moments.
We pulled out and made our way back down the tunnel of trees, the hidden pathway that led us to the haven on the hill behind us. The trees growing up over the road seemed less scary in the daylight, they almost seemed like something from a fairy-tale or from a movie. The way they grew up over top the road, making it hard for the sun to shine down through them.
I looked over at Damien, still looking the same way he always did, his hat pulled down on his head, the tip of the bill just above his eyebrows. He had on a red flannel button shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, a pair of jeans with little holes at the knees and those roper boots on his feet. He was the same Freckles I fell head-over-feet for those years ago, nothing about him changed. I knew in that moment for sure, that he was still the same man.
As we slowly rolled down the hill, I reached over and with a smirk on my face I punched Damien in the shoulder.
“Ow,” He shouted, “What the fuck was that for!?!?”
Rubbing his shoulder he looked over at me, first in angered confusion until he saw the smirk on my face, then he cracked his own smile.
“You’ll get yours dude, just you wait, when you least expect it.” Damien threatened.
We sat there in silence for a moment, as the sunlight filtered between the tiny openings of the trees overhead, the windows rolled down and the slight breeze passing through the cab of the truck as it rumbled down the hill.
“Hey.” Damien said, requesting my attention.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Check it out,” He replied, reaching for the picture of Megan sitting in front of his gauges on the dash.
He took a hold of her picture, paused for a second as if to reflect on the things that used to be, the memories that they created and the pain she brought into his life. As if in slow motion, perhaps due to my disbelief, Damien tossed her photo out his window.
“Holy shit!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah.” Damien said in response.
“Are you sure about that?” I asked.
“No doubts about it.” He replied.
“Wow, good for you man.” I said reassuringly.
“It’s time to move on.” Freckles said, justifying his actions.
“You deserve someone better, someone who understands and accepts you for who you are and appreciates you.” I told him.
I rested my head against my hand as I stared out the window as we reached the edge of the woods and met the full sun in the clearing of the farm valley.
“Ouch!” I yelled, feeling the effects of Damien punching my shoulder, having got me back for my earlier angst.
“I already did.” He said calmly.
“Huh?” I asked, looking over at him.
Freckles had the most adorable grin on his face and a look in his eyes that unmistakably sought a response from me. I took a second to gather what he meant by his statement and then it hit me like another punch, except this time to my head.
“Wait, you mean like to what I said earlier?” I asked, cautiously.
“Yeah genius.” He smart-mouthed.
“Who?” I asked insecurely.
“Batman?!?! Who do you think?!?!” He shouted.
“Me?” I asked, genuinely unsure.
“Duh!” He proclaimed.
“That’s awesome, you have no idea how glad I am to hear that, but are you sure about it, what made you decide to pursue this?” I asked, wanting clarity.
“This whole weekend bud, the things we’ve shared, the way you’ve handled those awkward situations with me, you’ve shown me what it would be like if we were more than just friends.” Freckles answered.
“So then you do like guys too, not just girls?” I asked.
“I don’t know, to be brutally honest, I’ve never been involved with a guy, I’ve always chased after girls. I mean, there was always that part of me that paid attention to guys so I could figure out how to behave like a gentleman, I looked up to certain guys as role models, but I’ve never had feelings for one before.” Damien admitted.
“And you have feelings for me?” I quickly responded.
“Oh damn, just throw it right out there why don’t you, haha!” He replied with an awkward laugh.
He continued, “I mean yeah, I’ve grown attached to you these past couple months. You’re so different from everyone I’ve ever met. You’re a guy, but you understand me emotionally like a girl. So that helps, but you’re also fun to chill with and hang out with and really, I do trust you a lot, as if you were one of my buddies from my high school days.”
Freckles, readjusted in the seat as we passed by the old farmhouse. He stared out the window as we passed by, either reflecting on old memories or collecting his thoughts to continue what he was telling me.
“It’s weird dude, the way that I connect with you. It’s like you’re my best female friend and best male friend rolled into one person.” He explained.
“Oh gee thanks, you just called me a girl.” I pointed out.
“No, no, no, haha!” Damien replied laughing, “I don’t mean it like that, you don’t look or behave girly, I told you that when you first told me you were gay, I just mean you have some serious emotional depth, you say things that matter… things that have meaning to me and really get to me.”
“Yeah, like what?” I inquired.
“Well, there are a few times, but the one that stands out the most happened the first night we spent here on the farm. I have to confess that you thought I was asleep, but I wasn’t, those things you said to me in the belief that I was sleeping, those words got to me man, they went deep and I have to admit that you made me tear up that night.” Damien informed me.
“Holy hell, you were awake when I said those things? Yikes, that makes me feel really sappy.” I admitted.
“No, don’t feel that way at all, that stuff you said to me was unlike anything anyone has ever said to me before, it touched me man, like seriously got to me and it made me realize just how incredible you really are.” He proclaimed.
I sat there stunned by Damien’s words, I couldn’t believe the things coming out of his mouth, or the fact that he had just called me incredible. I felt like I was dreaming, that none of it was really being said, none of it was real. I considered pinching or slapping myself just to make sure I was awake.
Did he really feel that way? Did simple words from my heart really mean so much? Could they be so powerful as to alter the way that Freckles saw me?
He continued, “When you said “My biggest fear is that you will never be loved the way I wholeheartedly believe you deserve to be.” Oh man, that got to me the most. In that moment I realized just how much you cared for me. No one outside my family has ever made me feel so accepted, so wanted and appreciated. Dude, you’ve won me over.”
Still dumbfounded, I sat there unable to speak. My brain didn’t know how to respond to him. I wanted him to say that so badly for so long, to tell me that he had feelings for me that he and I together could actually be a possibility. All those years of wondering and yearning, they all culminated to this moment when Freckles and I could actually date and move beyond just friendship.
I looked over at him and he looked over at me with that unforgettable smile on his face. I couldn’t do or say anything except just smile back at him. I felt limitless, a kind of joy that I hadn’t felt in so long, as though anything were possible, that our lives would never again be the same.
“Cow!!!” I screamed.
I had glanced out the windshield just in time to see a small black calf wandering out onto the gravel road in front of us. I reached out my left hand to catch myself on the dash and reached up for the handle above the passenger side window as Freckles instinctively slammed on the breaks.
The gravel beneath the tires prevented us from stopping, there was nothing we could do. As the truck lost traction and began to slide, the rear end of the truck began to come around to the front and the back tires slid off the side of the road onto the shoulder.
On either side of the road were wide ditches and as the back tires slipped down into the ditch it made the truck flip and roll. I don’t remember much after feeling the truck turn over. Up to that point it all happened in slow motion and then I just blacked out.
When I awoke I was upside down in the truck, still strapped to the seat. The adrenaline pumping through me kept me from feeling much of anything, I just felt a little dizzy and my hands and body were shaking.
I looked over at the driver side and Damien was gone. I had no idea how long I had been hanging upside down in the truck. There were rocks, clumps of dirt and grass all over the place. Busted glass laid all over inside the cab and I realized the windshield was gone.
To my horror there was blood all over the dash and some of the cloth inside the cab. Fear over took me and I yelled out Damien’s name, but I received no answer.
I reached for the buckle at my side and fought aggressively to get it to release, but under the pressure of my weight it wouldn’t. I used one hand to push against the cab of the truck and the other to continue to fight with the button on the seat belt.
Finally, it released and I fell shoulder first onto the cab. I turned myself around and realized that I had just pressed my hands into the broken glass. I shook them, trying to get the pieces off and out of my skin. On my knees in the truck I crawled over to the door and tried pushing it open, but it wouldn’t budge.
I crawled over to the driver’s side and it wouldn’t budge either. The window had been rolled down, so I drug myself out through it. I tried to regain my footing as I stood up. Stumbling in a circle I tried to find Damien.
Further down the ditch ahead of the truck I saw the cow laying next to the fence that ran along the road. Bloody and motionless, it was clear to me the cow did not survive the impact.
It was a winding gravel road, Damien and I were not going that fast for obvious reasons, the thought that this would happen never crossed our minds. It didn’t completely feel real, I struggled to regain my bearings. I needed to find Damien, I needed to know where he was at and to know that he was okay.
I stepped back from the truck and realized that it had stopped rolling because it landed against an old thick tree that was used as part of the fence line.
Walking around the other side of the truck, I continued to call out Damien’s name, frantically trying to find him. Once I cleared the bed of the truck, I saw him laying on the other side of the fence.
He had not been wearing a seat belt, something he almost always never failed to put on, but this one time he didn’t and was waiting until we got to the highway. Because he didn’t have it on, Damien had been thrown from the truck and landed in the field on the other side of the barbed wire fence that ran along the road.
I ran to the fence and quickly clambered over it, cutting my hands and snagging my jeans in the process, but I didn’t care, nothing was going to stop me from getting to him.
I fell to the ground on the other side of the fence and stumbled to my feet, making my way to Freckles.
He laid there motionless, as I approached I quickly realized he was covered in blood. His shirt was torn, possibly from the glass of the windshield or possibly from being flung into and over the fence, I had no idea.
I knelt down beside him saying his name, trying to see if he would wake up. I was afraid to move him in case his back or neck had been broken, I didn’t want to cause more injuries than he had obviously already sustained.
Touching his arm I yelled his name again, but he didn’t respond. I was so shook up, I couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not, I reached up and checked for a pulse, but I couldn’t find it with my fingers.
I reached into my pocket for my cell phone, which I hadn’t used all weekend. The screen wasn’t broken so I tried to make the screen come on, but it wouldn’t light up, either it got messed up from the wreck or the battery was dead.
“God damn it!!!” I screamed, “Fuck!!!” I continued yelling profanity at the horrible situation I awoke to. I decided to run back to the road to see where we were, if there were nearby farms or maybe if I was lucky a passing vehicle. I kept thinking about how desolate this road was, how few people traveled down it.
I feared no one would come save us, that Damien would die there in that field, if he hadn’t already. The thought made me flood with horror and anger and I collapsed to my knees on the gravel road, feeling completely defeated and helpless.
Between my crying I heard an engine and gravel popping in the distance. I sprung to my feet and rushed off running in the direction it was coming from. Further ahead on the gravel road I saw a man on an ATV. I began waving my arms wildly in his direction as he approached.
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