I was glad I had the day off Friday, so I could go shopping as a girl before hanging out at the Seedy Eye. I spent a lot of time on my makeup, and it paid off: only one “sir” and four “ma’am”s. I found a nice full skirt that balanced out my shoulders, and decided to wear it to the bar to show off.
As I was relaxing with Eddie and Kyle and Lisa over my first beer, the door swung open wide and a man barreled in, with several shopping bags. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with collar-length salt-and-pepper hair and a long shaggy beard, wearing what looked like they might once have been elegant silk robes, but they were dusty and torn. He waved at Gina and squeezed himself and his shopping bags into the bathroom.
“New gal?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s right, you don’t usually come on Fridays. That’s Sissy,” said Lisa.
“Let me guess, she’s going to come out in some frilly little-girl dress with petticoats?”
“What? Oh, yeah, that’s what I thought too when I heard that name.”
“Like the other Sissy who comes on Thursdays,” said Kyle.
“But no, she says she’s had that name for a very long time. Isn’t she going by a different name now, Eddie?”
“Yeah, um… Anna, I think.” He stared at my legs. “So, Traci, new skirt?”
Eventually the door opened and she came out. She had shaved and done a pretty good job with the makeup, but if you ask me the sundress she had on drew too much attention to her big muscular arms. Eddie got up and bought her a beer, and they came back and sat with us. Anna settled wearily on a barstool and smiled at me.
“Hi, I’m Anastasia, Ana for short. I’ve been coming here for a year, but I haven’t seen you.” She had an elegant European accent of some kind, maybe Spanish or Slavic.
“Hi Ana, I’m Traci. I usually come on Saturdays, but I got the day off today, and I bought this new skirt!” I stood up and gave it a twirl. Eddie and Kyle and Lisa clapped politely.
“Very nice, it balances your shoulders. And your nail polish matches.”
“I had some time before this place opened, and I liked the skirt so much I stopped in Walgreen’s and picked up this nail polish.” I dug it out of my purse and waved it around. “Plum pomegranate.”
“Plum pomegranate!” Ana made a face. “So are you transitioning?”
“Me, nope. I just do this on weekends. Blow off steam.”
“Your wife lets you walk around with plum pomegranate nail polish?”
“Nah, I’m going to wipe it off before I go home. She doesn’t mind a little residue.”
“She’s the best.” I looked down at my hands. “This time I got it on smoothly in two coats. Only got a little on this pinky.”
“Very good.” She looked me up and down. “So tell me something, Traci. If you are only out for three hours, why put on nail polish at all?”
“Good question. Sometimes I don’t feel like putting on nail polish. But it’s good practice.”
“Good practice, yes. But if you are not transitioning, why are you practicing how to put on nail polish?”
“Hm. Well, it will probably come in handy for SuperFemmeCon in August.”
“Are you planning to spend the whole time en femme at SuperFemmeCon?”
“I hope so, if I can get the lady to give the okay. Why do you ask?”
“Because everyone who goes to SuperFemmeCon tells me they go, spend the whole time en femme, and at the end of the weekend they feel tremendously let down and wish they could transition. Why go, if you will feel horrible afterwards?”
“Why go? I take it you’ve never gone?”
“No,” said Ana, sadly. “I’ve never gone. I cannot leave the greater New York area.”
“Wow. Old ball and chain really weighing heavily on you.”
Her eyes widened. “What did you say?”
“You know, the metaphor. Your wife, she’s like a ball and chain around your ankle.” I pantomimed dragging around a ball and chain.
“Ah, a metaphor.” She stared bitterly at her wine.
“Yeah. Well, SuperFemmeCon is fun. It’s a welcome change from the same old thing. Who wants to get dressed up in the same old clothes every Saturday night, same makeup, drink the same beers and have the same conversations with the same people?”
“I mean, doing the same thing over and over again is really boring! A gal needs a sense of progress. Improve the makeup, improve the clothes, take a voice lesson, maybe save up for a little laser.”
“And yet you said you were not transitioning.”
“Nope. Not for me. Uh-uh.”
“So why invest time and money into things that you will use maybe once a week?”
“Well… Maybe if I had laser I would go out more than once a week. Maybe I could swing a Friday every couple of weeks.”
“Would your wife like that? Would she want to spend that money on laser?”
“Well, no. Um…”
Suddenly a voice crackled from Ana’s purse. “Sisyphus, your time is up!” All of a sudden, her beard started to grow. We all just stared, and within thirty seconds it was the length it had been when she came in. She sighed and stood up. “Well, good night, guys.”
“Wait, your name is really Sisyphus?” I cried. “Someone named you after that guy…” She gathered her shopping bags, turned her back on me, and walked into the bathroom. After a few minutes she emerged in her old robes, with her face pretty cleaned up considering, waved sadly and went out into the night.
I looked at Eddie and Kyle and Lisa. “Someone actually named her after the guy who rolled the big rock up the hill forever?”
Lisa looked at me. “Here’s the deal, Traci. Last year, Olympus passed a package of transgender protections and benefits.”
“Olympus. You mean Mount Olympus where the Greek gods live, not the camera company. I think they’re out of business anyway… Never mind.”
“So one of the first to claim benefits was Sisyphus. After all, he was cursed to roll the rock up the hill because he was clever and deceitful. Everyone figured he was faking it.”
“Fucking transtrender,” mumbled Kyle.
“Maybe he was hoping the hormones would make him too weak to handle the rock. But Hermaphroditus looked deep in his soul and found-“
“-that he had the soul of a woman?” I asked.
“No, silly. You know there’s no such thing as the soul of a woman. Souls have no gender. Hermaphroditus found that Sisyphus did not have strong enough dysphoria to qualify for hormones.”
“But Hermaphroditus did find evidence of mild transgender desire. So Sisyphus was given three hours off every Friday.”
“Just enough time to come in here, shave and have a glass of wine,” said Kyle.
“And then start all over again next week,” said Eddie.
Lisa shook her head. “Poor cursed soul.”
“Yup.” I looked down at my nail polish and my freshly shaved legs. “Poor cursed soul.”