I suppose the first time I tasted my tears was the day I escaped from my mama’s womb.
Naturally, I have no recollection of that precise moment in time. I’m not even certain that I commenced to caterwaulin’. If I did cry, I can’t say why for certain. Perhaps it was ’cause the man who brought me into this here world gave me a stingin’ slap on the backside. I can’t imagine why he’d haul off and hit me, but I’m told that’s what they did back in the day. You know, just to make sure you were breathin’.
Lord knows why he couldn’t have taken my pulse to see if I was breathin’. I mean, they take an old person’s pulse to see if he or she’s breathin’, don’t they? Doctors don’t spank old folk just to see if they’re breathin’. Spankin’ someone just for being born is somethin’ I surely don’t take sides with.
It could be, of course, that the doctor didn’t spank me. If not, my daddy surely made up for that oversight. I felt the bite of his belt too many times to count. I still have the scars, if you’d care to see them. I cried plenty ’cause of that.
Maybe I cried that first time I was born ’cause I didn’t want to leave my mama’s womb. Maybe I knew what was in store for me. Maybe that’s why I cried. If I cried that first time I was born.
But that’s all I have to say about that first time I was born.
I can tell you this much about cryin’—it’s wet. I discovered that when Trixie died one day that was damp, dark and dreary. That sweet, ol’ girl came a-limpin’ home down the back alley, her coat wet and blood-soaked and stinkin’ of hurt and imminent death. She didn’t look so much like Lassie anymore. Trixie must have lost an argument to another dog’s teeth, which surprised me ’cause she was a Collie and she could outrun rain. Trixie was my granddaddy’s dog. But she was really my dog. At least that was my five-year-old way of thinkin’.
I surely cried that day Trixie died at 429 Melbourne Ave., not more than two days after she had wobbled home with matted blood wedged into the corners of her sad, gradually closing eyes. That was the first time I took a notion that I had tear ducts. At least that’s how I recollect it. I recollect thinkin’ that if Trixie had been a cat, I wouldn’t have cried, ’cause I don’t cry over cats or their graves or their spilled milk. But Trixie wasn’t a cat. She was a dog. So I cried and realized for the first time that my wet eyes needed a hanky.
But that’s all I have to say about that day Trixie died.
I know I cried my first day of schoolin’. My mama and daddy took me there and told me I had to go into that there school with all of them other children. I didn’t know a single one of them other children. They didn’t know me from Eve, either, and I was of a mind that none of them other children liked me much. I noticed that all of them other children were wearin’ better shoes than the pair that my tiny feet didn’t fit, and none of them other children were lookin’ towards me. That’s why I don’t think they liked me. They were all a-smilin’ and a-gigglin’ and havin’ themselves a fine, ol’ time, but not with me.
Then I heard the clanging of a loud bell and a lady wearin’ a black robe with a big white bib came out of the big front doors of that there school and she stood on the step. Her head was covered with a hood. It was black. The only skin I could see on that lady was her face and her hands. She told all of them other children to stop a-frolickin’ and get themselves into a lineup. My mama and daddy ordered me to join all of them other children in that lineup and get myself into that there school. I didn’t want to go into that there school any more than a hound dog wants two frisky fleas flittin’ about in his left ear, so I just stood there on the sidewalk a-bawlin’ my eyes out. I was petrified, save for the tears crawlin’ down my chubby cheeks and droppin’ on my scuffed, second-hand shoes that my tiny feet didn’t fit.
I didn’t want to wear them scuffed, second-hand shoes that first day of schoolin’ when I cried. I wanted to be in my sneakers, just like on the playground. But my daddy said young gentlemen didn’t wear ratty, ol’ sneakers the first day of school. I surely don’t know why my daddy told me young gentlemen didn’t wear ratty, ol’ runnin’ shoes to school, ’cause I was a young lady. Why couldn’t my daddy see that?
But that’s all I have to say about cryin’ on that first day of schoolin’ at St. Alphonsus on Munroe Avenue.
I also cried the day my granddaddy Pop died and I didn’t bother to rake the leaves that day. That’s what I did for Pop. I raked the leaves that had fallen in autumn. I did that once a week in the back yard of Pop’s house on Redfern Avenue that had an A&W drive-in on the corner. Sometimes he would buy a big, ol’ jug of A&W root beer as a treat after I had raked the leaves that had fallen. I was paid 25 cents each time I raked the leaves that had fallen in his back yard, no matter how meany leaves were still on the trees.
My tears didn’t taste very good, but I supposed that was what tears of sorrow were supposed to taste like. I don’t know how to describe the flavor. It wasn’t bitter, tangy or sour. It was blah, I suppose. I supposed a lot of things back then ’cause, until you know somethin’ for certain, surely you have to suppose things.
But that’s all I have to say about that day Pop died.
I surely cried the day Sister Superior marched us kids to St. Patrick’s Church and told all of us children that someone had shot that nice man President John F. Kennedy.
I truly did like that nice man President John F. Kennedy. I didn’t really understand why I cried ’cause I didn’t know him, but I think it was ’cause that nice man wasn’t gonna let that nasty man Nikita Khruschev blow us up with a nuclear bomb. Other kids cried, too, but not all of them. Sister Superior ran up and down the aisle in the middle of the church, and I truly thought that odd. I had never seen a nun run before. I had only seen them walk slowly with beads in their hands, like they was a-prayin’. Sister Superior told all of us kids to get on our knees and pray for that nice man President John F. Kennedy so he wouldn’t die. I found out later that he was already dead. I wasn’t mad at Sister Superior for lyin’ to all of us children, though.
But that’s all I have to say about that nice man President John F. Kennedy dyin’.
I did a whole lot of sorrowful cryin’ for 59 years less two days of my life. I never truly tasted the tears of my joy until 10:03 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2009. That’s when I awoke from the gender reassignment surgery at Centre Metropolitain de Chiraugie Plastique in Montreal. That’s the day I was truly born, and Dr. Pierre Brassard didn’t swat me on the backside to see if I was breathin’. He knew I was alive ’cause he saw my tears of joy that didn’t taste blah at all. They were sweet. A man in green hospital clothing told me, “The surgery is complete, madame.” I told that man in the green hospital clothing, “No. I am complete,” and then I spilled more tears of female joy.
I have plenty of happy things to say about my sex change.
Would you care to listen?