Chapter Seven

I don't usually write much in my diary. Too busy. But in the past two weeks my life has totally changed and I have met the person I hope will be in my life forever. I know that's naive. I'm barely 18 years old. If I'm lucky, I have many decades ahead of me. Most of the 21st century, if what everyone says about advances in longevity is true. Decades with Jami, what a lovely thought!

I know we'll both change. We won't be teenagers forever. But I do believe love can grow and change and last. People in my grandparents' generation married at my age and expected to stay together for life. Many of them did. My parents have been together for almost 30 years, Jami's parents have been together for only 21 years, but they are such wonderful people I can't imagine them not staying together. I'm becoming friends with them, too, which is incredible!

It is so awful that Jami and I can't even think about being married. How can it be wrong to be able to marry the person you love? Why am I less worthy of society's support than my sister Caitlin, just because she fell in love with Martin and I fell in love with Jami?

It doesn't make any sense, and that's a big part of why I'm not religious. I can believe in the golden rule and that one should love one's neighbor just fine without also believing all the negative things that all the religions seem to teach. I mean, look at the world! There is religion-based war and hatred and killing everywhere. I don't need someone to tell me how to be good, and I will not listen to people telling me to be evil.

I still have a lot to learn about Jami. We haven't yet talked about her body. We need to, soon. Our kissing is going further and further. I want to make love with her, whatever that means. Jami is so scared. I wish I could make her believe that nothing will turn me off, or make me not love her. I guess it's something she has to learn with time. That's okay. She's way too important to me to rush anything.

I think, in a way, people have made way too big a thing out of sex, the act itself. There is so much joy in simply holding the person you love, so much trust in sharing everything, even if your body is different. What is love if it isn't joy and trust?

Which is not to say I don't want to follow to its conclusion the incredible excitement I feel when we're touching each other. I know from my reading that some intersex people...

The rest of the previous page is blank because it's too wet to write on after I bawled my eyes out. How can anyone do that to a baby? How can it be so important what someone looks like in a totally private part of their body that it seems right to take a knife to them? How can anyone convince themselves that is the right thing to do? How?

When are we going to stop convincing ourselves it's right to hurt people instead of accepting them as they are? Everywhere you look, that seems to be the answer. Kill people, blow them up, put them in death camps, build walls, scream propaganda, preach hatred, and use knives on little babies. So much energy goes into not accepting people as they are. What if we put that much effort into learning how to live and love? Why don't we? Why are we the way we are?

Maybe this is why I don't write much in my journal. The world is too damned depressing.

* * *

At lunch Wednesday Carys had just tossed her trash and put her tray in the rack when she saw a friend with a group of girls by the exit to the almost empty cafeteria. "Hey, Linda! Wait up," yelled Carys.

Linda turned to look at her, then said a few words to the other girls in her group. They exchanged looks and moved back a few steps into the hall, where they stood watching.

Carys walked over, puzzled. "Hi, Linda. I haven't seen much of you lately. How's Brian?"

"I hear you're a practicing lesbian now," said Linda, pointedly looking her up and down.

A chill ran along Carys's spine. "Oh? What do you hear?"

"I hear that you hooked up with a girl at that Arts Camp thing during break. That you've been spending all your time with her. As in holding hands and kissing and who knows what else."

"I didn't realize I was such a hot topic, but yes, Jami's my girlfriend."

Linda looked disgusted. "Jami's your lover, you mean."

"Yes, she is," said Carys, defiantly.

"So, let's see. Jami's a girl, you're a girl. QED. You're a dyke, she's a dyke."

"Why is this a big surprise, Linda? You know I'm in the GSA."

"It's not quite the same, I guess. Theory versus practice, you know? People have seen you around town, with her. At least you recruited someone from outside the school."

"At least I did what?" said Carys, slowly.

"It's so disgusting. I don't want anything more to do with you." Linda took a measured step backwards.

"I don't get it, Linda. What's changed?"

"You've changed, Carys. I know what lesbians do. It's enough to make me want to throw up."

A flush of anger ran through Carys, but she forced herself to smile and say, "Then why don't you stick your head in a trash can so someone else doesn't have to clean up your puke."

"You don't have to be so rude, Carys."

"Rude? Excuse me? Who's being rude? You're the one discussing my private life."

"It's not very private when you slobber all over that girl in public."

"Slobber? And what do you call those passionate lip-locks you and Brian have every chance you get?"

"I'm not queer, Carys. Girls kissing boys is normal and healthy. Girls kissing girls is sick."

Carys clenched her teeth and said nothing.

"It was noble and brave and PC of you to help with the GSA, Carys. But some of us were wondering when you'd take the plunge yourself. You always were a little bit, well, butch. Now I know why."

"I thought you were one of my friends, Linda."

"So did I. I'm just glad you didn't try to get too friendly."

"I don't believe this, Linda. When you and Brian started going together, you were all over the school crowing about it. I haven't said a thing about me and Jami and you come and dump on me."

"I just want to make real sure that you know that I'm not one of your kind, girlfriend." The last word was a sneer.

"My kind? That would be a person who understands and values other people, regardless of their differences?"

"That would be a sicko dyke," snarled Linda. "Stay away from me, you fucking pervert." She stalked off to join the group of girls, who moved on down the hallway. Carys heard laughter echoing back.

Carys just stood there, too numb to move.

"Hello?" said a meek voice behind her.

Carys whirled around, ready to pounce, to find a small girl standing there, wide-eyed and trembling. She'd evidently been around the corner and had heard what just took place. Carys didn't know her, but had seen her around. "What do you want?" she said as gently as she could.

"Just to say that not everyone thinks it's wrong. I wish I was as strong as you are. I'm sorry people are being mean to you." She lowered her eyes and turned to leave.

"Wait! What's your name?"

The girl turned back, but her eyes were looking everywhere. "Kathy. I can't talk to you. My parents would kill me, I mean really kill me. They are such 'phobes. I can't even be in the GSA. All I can do is hide, at least until I get to college. But I just had to say something. Knowing that strong people like you exist is so great. I can't talk. I'm sorry." She turned and ran out of the cafeteria through another exit.

Carys remained standing for a few moments, then she crumpled into a chair at the nearest table, put her head on her hands, and cried.

"Carys?" said a deep voice, a few moments later.

She looked up, saw through blurry eyes that a teacher had pulled out the chair across from her. She wiped a sleeve across her face so she could see better. "Mr. Smithson?" Her lit teacher.

"That's me. What's going on Carys? Anything I can help with?"

"Why do things have to suck when they should be wonderful?"

"Ah. I take it that, in your case, not everyone loves a lover?"

"You know? Is everyone talking about me and Jami?"

"A lot of people know you, Carys, because of your work in drama, your clowning, and of course being in the GSA. This is not a huge school. News, or perhaps I should say gossip or slander, travels fast."

"Why does the way I love inspire hate, and fear? Everyone wants love, and there doesn't seem to be enough to go around. But there's never a shortage of hate, is there?"

"How do you feel about the people who've been mean to you?"

"I'm sorry for them, I guess. Sorry for the other people they hurt. Sorry they hate instead of understand. I don't think you can understand what you hate. It's a different kind of thinking."

Mr. Smithson nodded and sighed. "You speak with the wisdom of the persecuted, Carys. That's the real trick, to get people to stop hating long enough to be able to think."

"How?"

"By hanging in there. By not lowering yourself to their level."

"You mean turn the other cheek and keep on loving them, in spite of what they do to me?"

"People say it worked for Jesus, for Ghandi and others."

"Did it work for Brandon Teena? For Matthew Shepard? They killed Jesus, and Ghandi and Martin Luther King, too, didn't they? The bigots, the people who hate?"

"Yes. And my wife's grandparents, and so many others."

"What?"

"At Treblinka. One of the death camps."

"I'm sorry."

He nodded. "All those people you named, Carys. You know who they were, and what they believed. Those beliefs live on. I bet you can't name their killers, or what they believed in."

"No. No I can't. But I don't want to be a martyr."

"Of course not." He leaned forward. "But what would you loose if you stopped loving this other girl, and did what everyone seems to want you to do?"

Carys thought about not having Jami. About what the scared girl, Kathy, had just said. About not being who and what Carys knew she was. She looked at her teacher. "I'd loose my life that way, too, wouldn't I? Everything I am, everything I believe in."

He nodded again. "I'm afraid you're in for hard times, no matter what. Remember why you're in the GSA; so people like you don't have to go it alone."

She reached out and squeezed his hand. "Thank you. And yes, I think I need to go call a meeting."

"Good luck," said Mr. Smithson, as Carys pushed back her chair and left the cafeteria. He remained sitting for a while, letting himself be hopeful. I think, he mused, I will try to sneak The Laramie Project onto the reading list for next year.

* * *

For the first rehearsal the cast met again in the rehearsal hall where the auditions had been held. Mandy had new scripts for everyone, tailored to their parts and broken up by act, so they didn't have too many pages to deal with all at once. Carys and Jami checked in, took scripts and joined the other cast members sitting in a circle on the rehearsal floor.

In a few minutes Derick walked in, talked briefly with Mandy, and walked over to the cast circle. "Hi, folks. We're all here, so let's get started. To remind you, I'm Derick and this is Mandy, my assistant director and stage manager. If I'm busy and you have a question, ask Mandy. I'm going to be focused on directing, on seeing and realizing the performance I want from you all. Mandy's job is to keep track of the details.

"Let's go around the circle and do short introductions, like this. I'm Derick. I've been doing school and community theater all my life, but this is my first go at directing. My day job is working with computers for the State of Michigan. It pays the bills and doesn't interfere with my theater and personal life. Next." He looked to his left.

"I'm Rachel, as Francois. I'm a Sophomore at Albion College, majoring in women's and gender studies. I've been in a few plays in high school and one in college. I'm a long time volunteer at the Michigan Women's Music Festival. I realize Albion is an hour's drive away, but my parents live in Lansing, and weather shouldn't be a problem at this time of year. I'll drive in on Thursday or Friday and stay the weekend, so it's not going to be that much driving. I think this is an important thing to do." She looked to her left.

"Luis, playing D'Aiguines. Sometimes student at Community, with various jobs."

"Emily, playing Gisele. I'm actually her age, 17. I'm a Junior this year, at Eastern. I've been in some school plays."

"Tina, playing Mademoiselle Marchand. I'll graduate from State this term, still trying to figure out the big picture."

"Melissa, Josephine. I'm finishing my freshman year at State. I've never really done any theater, so this is a good role for me. I'm excited about the whole thing."

"Liam, Georges. I'm a dancer, mainly, but this sounded like a fun way to get involved here. I'm taking courses in commercial art at Community."

"Elena, lights. I'm a Junior at Everett, done some theater in school. I'm happy for a chance to be involved here and learn the light board." She nudged Shay.

"Shay, sound. I'm at Everett, with Elena, and done some theater there. Doing sound is cool. Derick? Are we going to need period pre-show and intermission music?"

"That would be great. Go for it!" Derick looked at the next person in the circle to keep the introductions going.

"David, Montcel. I'm a senior at East Lansing. I'm going to college somewhere next year, probably out of town, but I wanted to be involved in this. Dramatic arts is my future, I hope."

"I'm Jacques, I mean Carys. Also a senior at East Lansing, my future is a little unclear at this point. I've been a clown for two years, and a drama geek for longer. I'm in our GSA." She looked at Jami.

"Jami. Somewhat surprised to be playing Irene. Home-schooled for life, not certain what's next. I'm a serious photographer, do some writing and I'm handy with computers. This is my first time on stage." She smiled back at Carys.

Mandy spoke up to finish off the introductions. "I'm Mandy, a third year theater student at State, trying to do everything I can that has anything to do with theater. Now, a little more business." She held up a piece of paper.

"With your script is a roster of names and phone numbers. The rehearsal schedule was in the packet you received Tuesday. Also there are two diagrams of the stage you can use to make blocking notes. In case you're new to the boards, blocking is where you are and how and when you move. My cell phone number is on the calendar. If you have questions or problems, call me, not Derick."

"Thank you, Mandy. One other thing. I noticed that Carys said she's in the GSA at her school. That's the Gay/Straight Alliance for any who don't know." Derick slowly looked at each person. "That's a great thing. I wish my high school had had one. I'm gay and I was afraid to come out in high school because there was no support. That's part of why I chose this play. I'm not asking anyone else to volunteer anything about their sexuality, but I do want you all to know that this is a safe space, and I will keep it that way."

Carys and David had their hands up. Derick nodded at them.

"I'm in the GSA, too. I'm gay," said David.

"Just to be clear," added Carys, "because straight allies are an important part of GSAs, and that's great, but I'm as queer as the proverbial three dollar bill. Though I'm still working on exactly what that means for me." Carys did not look at Jami and Jami did not speak up.

"Okay. Thanks, both of you; it's important work. As I said last night, this play has historic importance because it was one of the first major plays to treat the subject of lesbianism. After about three months of sold-out performances it and a couple of other plays were shut down by the vice squad because a politician in New York City wanted to grab some headlines.

"The play was written in France, where it opened earlier that year, and was quickly adapted for this country. It is set in France and the names of the characters are French. Please do not attempt French accents, but I will help you pronounce the names correctly.

"Act One takes place in Irene's room. We have a table and chair, but I don't think we'll bother with other furniture. I have marked on the Act One diagram where the doors are.

"Acts Two and Three take place in Jacques' study. Act Two takes place about one month after Act One. Act Three about eleven months after Act Two, some time after Jacques and Irene have returned from a long honeymoon trip. We'll need a desk, chair and small divan for these acts. Again, doors are marked on the diagram.

"I've gathered some props to get us going, but if you have access to anything closer to period, please bring it in, after you talk with Melissa, who'll be keeping track of our props. We'll talk about costumes as we go along. We don't have the time, budget or assistance to have actual costumes, but we need to achieve some kind of 'look' for the cast. I'm open to ideas and suggestions about that.

"These staged readings fill in the holes in the regular performance schedule. That means we have to fit in around the regular productions and their rehearsal schedules. We'll have only a few days to rehearse on the actual stage. We won't be able to be in the rehearsal hall on all the other dates, even on the weird schedule I've put together.

"Today we're going to read through the entire play from start to finish, and I'll give you lots of things to write down. After today, we'll rehearse smaller chunks. I would like all of you to come to every rehearsal, though, even if your character isn't on the schedule for that day. Some of you are doing props and moving the set, so you need to be here. If the others are here it means we can get work done when someone is missing or things go well and we decide to work on another chunk of the play.

"What we're doing is a staged reading. You will always have a script in hand, even if you do mostly learn your lines. Well, with the exception of Josephine and Georges, who have so few lines they really can learn them. But you still have to learn your blocking and develop your characters. You are not simply going to stand on stage and woodenly read your lines. Mandy, let's demonstrate. Act One, page eight, after Montcel's long line, begin with Irene's line, 'No, father."'

Derick and Mandy took their scripts and stood up. They read about two pages of the angry dialog between Irene and her father, then stopped.

"That's a staged reading. We don't know the lines, but we do know the characters and their emotions. We used body language, cheated out so the audience could see us, and incorporated the scripts in our gestures.

"Okay. Let's stay seated for the first read-through. You need to be able to make notes. Begin!"

* * *

After the rehearsal David asked Carys and Jami if they'd like to go to Pizza Hut and split a pizza. They agreed, and began walking to David's car.

"So what do you think, Jami? Irene is a pretty big part for someone who's never done theater."

"I think it will be okay," said Jami, "but I don't think I would have agreed to it if I had to actually learn all those lines."

"I hear you. I was so scared the first show I was in where I had a lot of lines. I did okay, but I sure wouldn't want to dive right in with the kind of lines Irene has."

"This should be a blast, though," put in Carys.

"I'll say. There's some really intense interaction between characters. Plus a très intense kissing scene between Jacques and Françoise. How are you going to handle that, Carys?"

She glared at him. "As a stage kiss between our characters, David."

"Hey! I thought you were past wanting to bite my head off?"

"Sorry. I'm just a little bit touchy on the subject of me and Jami."

"You two are okay, aren't you? Is it that crap at school, Car, or parent problems?"

"That...," began Carys.

"...and," finished Jami, "we have some issues to work through."

"Issues to work through?" said David. "You've known each other, what, less than two weeks, and you have issues to work through?"

"We just have a lot to talk about," said Jami, "because..."

Carys put a hand on Jami's arm, stopping her. "Jami?"

"David is your friend, isn't he? I mean, a good friend?"

"Yes, he is. We've been through a lot together. I trust him."

David remained silent, looking back and forth from Carys to Jami, trying to figure out what was going on.

"Then I'd like for him to know, if that's okay with you?"

Carys nodded and stood next to Jami, taking her hand.

Jami took a breath and spoke. "David, I didn't speak up during the introduction in there because what I am is intersexed. I didn't want to have to explain that to everyone. Do you know what that means?"

"Intersexed? Jesus." David ran a hand through his hair. "Yeh, sort of. Wow, issues. Oh, my God." He looked at Carys and Jami, then moved forward and put his arms around both of them. "You two are awesome. Anything I can do, just ask. I mean it."

"Thanks, David," said Carys. Jami smiled and nodded.

"Let's go get some food."

They drove to the Pizza Hut on Saginaw without talking, just listening to the radio. David had the college student station, WDBM, tuned in. Jami leaned against Carys in the back seat. At the restaurant they took a booth, ordered large drinks and a pizza to split.

When the drinks came, David took a huge gulp. "Rehearsal is thirsty business."

Carys and Jami echoed his sentiments, lifting their cups for a mock toast.

"Do you know what you're doing after graduation yet, Car? And Jami, you do graduate from homeschooling, right?"

Jami answered first. "Yes, in June. I know I'm not going to college immediately, if at all. I have ideas for photography and writing and web projects buzzing around in my head. I want to do some of those first. I figure so long as I don't do something stupid, I can go to college any time, if I want."

"Something stupid, like what, robbing a bank?"

"Oh, getting tied up supporting a car for example." She remembered they drove over in David's car. "No offense."

"No, I understand. The job I have to have because of the car does really cut into what I can do with my time. I can only do this play because it takes so much less time than a full production. So, yeh, the simpler you live, the more options you leave open."

David took another big gulp of his drink. "How about you, Car? I know your parents are set on college."

Carys stared at her drink for a moment. "If you hear a nuclear explosion soon, you'll know what's going on with that."

"You don't want to go?"

"I've never been that enthusiastic, because I don't see how it would get me any nearer to doing what I want to do. And now everything has changed." She looked at Jami.

"Are you guys that serious?"

"Yes. I'm staying with Jami."

"Would I be right in assuming your parents don't realize this? Hence the magnitude of the impending explosion?"

"Check."

"Oh, wow. Good luck. If you, you know, need help picking your stuff up off the front yard, give me a call."

"You always look on the bright side, don't you, David? They aren't going to kick me out. I've been the weird child all along. This is just another increment."

"Good luck, anyway."

"So what are you doing? About college?"

At that point the pizza arrived, so they stopped talking for a few moments.

When David resumed talking, he said, "I am definitely going to college. I wish I was going to be around to give you two whatever help I can, but I'll be in Ann Arbor, at the closest. I should know within a week or two. It's decision time."

"I know," said Carys, looking glum.

The conversation shifted to talk of plays that David and Carys had been in. They finished off with ice cream, then headed home.

The weather had turned colder. It was starting to drizzle as they went to the car. David dropped Jami off at her house, then Carys at hers.

As she got out of the car, David said, "You may have some rough times ahead, Car, seriously. I mean it about calling me if you need help, any kind of help, okay?"

"Thanks, David. Knowing I have a friend as good as you is a big help."