Chapter Six

Tam came to the apartment after her last class on Friday. Carys let her in, but needed to continue working. "I have a dozen bookkeeping clients. This is the time of year when I start putting things in order for them so I can pass their records on to their accountants to do taxes."

Tam sat on the window seat. "Sounds complicated and, I must say, tedious and boring."

"It's more tedious than complicated, but there are methods and tools that make it easier. I kind of like it, actually."

"Really?"

"I know it sounds dull compared to studying philosophy, but I like to organize things, and it is practical. I can make a little money working for myself. Record-keeping and taxes are not going to go away."

"That's true," said Tam. "Even after we enter a post-human existence and download our intelligence into deathless cyborg bodies to vanquish death, there will still be taxes."

"Now you're sounding like Sandy."

"There are people who say it will happen in this century," said Tam.

"I haven't figured out how to deal with this body yet. I don't think I'm ready to become a cyborg," said Carys.

"It's not going to happen soon enough to solve our problems. Unlike Sandy, I'm not willing to wait to do something so I can be on better terms with my body."

"There, that finishes that for a while." Carys closed out the program she'd been using and copied her files to a backup disk for safety. Then she stretched her arms in the air, moving her head from side to side to work out kinks.

Tam came over from the window and put her hands on Carys's neck. "Massage?"

"Please. My shoulders are stiff. I think we need to figure out how to make the monitor higher when I use it, or something."

"Just relax."

"Gladly. So what, if I may be so bold in asking, does one do with a degree in philosophy?"

"The stock answer used to be pump gas, but that isn't really a job any more, and certainly not one I would like. The begging the question kind of answer is go to graduate school. Which is basically an admission that I don't know what I eventually will do to support myself."

"So philosophy is a passion?"

"Yes, as much so as being an artist, I think. That it's not practical or necessarily remunerative does not make it less worth doing."

"Oh, no, I wasn't implying that. It's just that Jami and I have begun talking about how we're going to support ourselves long term. We were wondering about your thoughts on that, seeing as how you're a college sophomore and all."

"I'm afraid I'm not a very practical person."

"Do you have some kind of ultimate goal?"

"We were talking about Sandy and post-humanism. One of my major interests is bio-ethics. The kind of body modification that trans people do is just the tip of an iceberg. A lot of thought needs to go into the future of humanity, now that we're on the threshold of being able to manipulate so many things."

"That's for damn sure." Carys wriggled her shoulders. "That is much better. Thanks, Tam."

She stood up and turned, and was face to face with Tam. "Want a hug?"

"Uh, sure," said Tam, hesitantly.

"I'm not going to kiss you or anything. Just a hug."

"Okay."

They hugged for a moment, then sat on the widow seat.

"I wonder if we're all becoming more isolated as we become better connected," mused Tam.

"Huh?"

"You know, we all have cell phones and email and blogs, but it seems like we've become more fearful of actual physical contact with other humans. People bare their souls online, but in a lot of schools a teacher can be fired for hugging a crying child.

"No one trusts anyone. Everything is locked down. There are surveillance cameras everywhere. I'm scared to death of flying. Not because of safety, but because of what it means to go through airport security with my body."

They heard the stairway door open. Jami called up, "Anybody home, I hope?"

"No!" yelled Carys and Tam in unison. Carys whispered to Tam, "She sounds like she's in a good mood. A big improvement on yesterday."

Jami ran the rest of the way up the stairs, tossed her things in a chair and continued on into the bedroom, still taking off her coat. "Tam! Hi!" She tossed her coat on the bed. "It's too warm for December. Snow shouldn't be melting for months!"

Tam had scooted away from Carys. She said, nervously, "We were talking about philosophy and post-humanism."

Jami and Carys looked at each other and started laughing.

"Sorry, Tam," said Jami, "but Carys and I used to talk about queer theory and post-post-modernism at lunch at the arts camp when we first met."

Tam smiled. "Freaks like us have to talk about things that most people make assumptions about."

"Possibly unwarranted assumptions," said Carys. "I think we're much better off for talking about these things."

"Definitely," said Jami. She sat in the space Tam had freed up, hugged and kissed Carys, then turned and gave Tam a hug.

"Some day I'll give you a kiss," said Jami. "It's a logical progression, which is not the same thing as a slippery slope. Right?"

Tam glanced at Carys and mouthed a silent, "Meow." Carys chuckled.

"What?" demanded Jami.

"Promise not to be upset?" asked Carys.

"Me? Upset?"

Carys said, "At the last group meeting, you went upstairs right after we closed, so quietly that Zoe didn't realize you were gone. Tam made a comment about you being like a cat. You're noticed when you want to be, unnoticed when you don't want to be. And here you come home and rub up against everyone, looking for attention."

Jami smiled and was quiet for a second. "That's true," she said. She turned back to Tam and gave her a quick kiss. "You're very observant." She turned to Carys and stared into her eyes. "You have confirmed the existence of feline genetic material in my mutant makeup." She purred and made pawing motions in the air.

"You just kissed me!" said Tam.

"It was a geometrical feline necessity."

"Carys, did you know she was going to do that?" asked Tam.

"Not exactly, but it didn't surprise me."

"Now we're all even and balanced," said Jami. "I'm hungry."

"Can you wait long enough for lasagna, like we planned?" asked Carys.

"Yes, if we fix a salad so I can have something to nibble on sooner," said Jami. "I will wash my face and change into something more feline, then join you two in the kitchen."

They fixed salad, lasagna and garlic bread. The three of them sat around the small kitchen table to talk and eat. Carys remarked, "Cats seem to be on your mind of late, Jami."

"In looking for ways to change my appearance, a cat motif does seem to fit my personality. So long as we're talking about hip gothic cats."

"I can see that," smiled Tam.

Jami smiled back and tried unsuccessfully to lick her own nose. "Okay, this cat thing goes only so far."

"That's a relief," said Carys. "Cats have some habits I would prefer to not see you take up."

"True. How about we go shopping tomorrow for cat stuff?"

"Like what?"

"I dunno. Black and cat-like."

"Where does one shop for such items?" asked Carys, who was never much into shopping.

"Crystal would know," said Tam, "but I think the week after Christmas would be a better time to go. There will be sales."

"Makes sense," agreed Carys. "Can you wait a week, Jami?"

"Sure, so long as I know it's going to happen. Oh, that reminds me! I had lunch with Alyssa today."

"Who's Alyssa?" asked Tam.

"She works in the record store at the mall. I outed myself to her yesterday, on a whim, and she said she wanted to talk with me. Turns out she wants me to take some photos of her so she can put together a portfolio for acting and modeling."

"You outed yourself? Why? Is she queer, or what?" asked Tam.

"We were talking about a CD, and Michfest came up and I just blurted out that I'm intersex and have a genderqueer partner and our best friend is trans. The truth will out, remember? Anyway, I don't know about Alyssa, actually. We didn't get around to talking about that. Is it important?"

"I'm not sure whether you're a black cat or a loose cannon, Jami," said Tam.

"Say, Tam," said Jami. "You said you've always known you were female. When did you first tell people? About being trans?"

"My mom says it was almost as soon as I could talk. But I've never been femme. I didn't demand Barbie and pink dresses. I was okay in a T-shirt and jeans. I played with the blocks and trucks my parents bought me. So people assumed I was a boy, even though my sisters played with my toys, too. But if anyone asked, I said I was a girl. Then they either assumed I was confused because I had sisters, or that I actually was a girl, but a tomboy. From the way my mom tells it, I had a lot of people really confused."

"Wow," said Carys. "I think that's what would have happened with me, sort of, if my mom hadn't stuffed me in girl clothes every chance she had, until I was big enough to refuse. I have an older sister, but no brothers, so I had dolls and no trucks. I don't know if I ever said I was a boy, though. I probably got smacked if I did."

"That's one thing that kind of confuses me," said Jami. "I know that if I had ever said I felt like a boy," my parents would have gone along with it. So I'm sure I didn't. But I don't like a lot of the social role things about being a girl or a woman."

"That's not unusual," said Carys.

"Right, but as soon as I start thinking that way, I have to wonder whether I'm rebelling against the culture, or against my body. I can't stand up and scream, 'I am woman!' because, well, I'm not."

"But a lot of people will consider you to really be a woman, who won't consider me to really be a woman, no matter what I do to my body," said Tam.

"Even though you both maybe feel more like women than I do," added Carys. "This is so fucked up."

Jami nodded. "We don't fit any of the usual boxes. We aren't allowed to have legal relationships. We're outlaws. We'll do whatever we feel like doing, literally."

"Yes," sighed Carys. "Now all we need to do is steal a starship and head out to the frontier."