The Crossing

>> > The chair felt cold through the paper hospital gown. Not much coverage I thought feeling my almost exposed behind on the cold plastic. The doctor asked me to put my chin up as he stared directly at me only not ‘at’ me. He leaned forward holding my face firmly in his left hand as he began drawing with the sharpie marker. The Anesthesiologist looked on over his shoulder as he drew on my forehead, across my brow line, down my nose, along my lips and finally under my chin. I knew what each line represented as his hand traveled over my face. We had just met 18 hours before for the pre-op discussion. I had decided on Katherine Ross’ nose since then. That and how high my eyebrows should arch were aesthetic questions we had discussed along with the more practical matters like when to stop eating and drinking before the surgery. My girlfriend and I had celebrated my last night as a man in our hotel room the night before, toasting Jerry and all he had been. The father, artist, entrepreneur and athlete.
>> > So few had known of my journey before a few months ago. Ex girlfriends, my ex-wife, my kids and a couple of my 6 siblings had known, but the rest had been like fast forward in preparation for today. I’d known in my first conscious moment that something wasn’t ‘right.’ People who’ve never experienced it can’t grasp it, but I knew in every moment of every day. I’d made enormous efforts to forget or change my thinking, but that had never worked. I always found myself back in the mirror trying to make myself up or get the right clothes that would allow me to live as I felt inside. Sometimes there would be days in between those efforts, sometimes months, sometimes years depending on how successful my latest effort at delusion had been.
>> > Unfortunately I wasn’t the only person convinced I was just this tall athletic, creative man they knew. My ex-wife had felt so betrayed. Wonderful women I had loved with all my heart had left me or been lost to me when I shared. My precious children shocked and dis-oriented. Plenty of pain in heaping spoonfuls for all. Delusion was no gift for me or anyone else involved. I’d finally had to own it. Best to change the exterior to match before someone else got close to me.
>> > ‘Ready?’ The doctor asked handing me a pill. ‘This will make you drowsy.’ It seemed like the moment in the’ Matrix’. ‘Take this pill and the truth will be revealed.’ Take the other and you will wake up remembering none of this.’ Last chance to escape I thought as I swallowed the Valium. ‘This is it. No turning back.’ My girlfriend kissed me and said ‘I’ll see you after.’ I felt a surge of love as she walked out the door along with a sudden fear. The Anesthesiologist helped me onto the gurney and I lay down on the crisp paper lined surface. She wheeled me down the hall past a few doors and into the well lit surgery room. But things were dimming, dimming quickly – Darkness.
>> > “Ready champ?” Seth asked as we stared out across the black water? “Yep.” I replied adjusting my cap and goggles making sure the glow stick was firmly secured. Seth massaged my shoulders as we listened for the signal from inside the cabin. Seth had put the team together composed of myself, Scott Reed, John Bishop, Felipe Rivera, and Cory Hiro. Most wouldn’t argue that we were favored to win. 6 teams in 6 boats with 6 lead off swimmers at the ready. ‘Swimmers Ready” came the call from he Walkie Talkie.” John called it out to us. I moved onto the transom from the stern of the 35′ Cruiser. The cold of the water rocketed through me as I stepped. out sending chills along my exposed skin. Only the cap and a slim racing Speedo to keep me warm in the 57 degree water for the next 40 minutes I thought. I began breathing deeply oxygenating my blood and calming my nerves.
>> > The water was rough. The wind had blown all night. I could see Jane the paddler off the stern fighting to keep position. 2-3’ wind chop. Ugly. “Go Jerry!” She called. I had become something of an Underdog and an Anti-hero in the swim world in the last year or so. Jane was one of the most celebrated female ocean swimmers and paddlers in Southern California and had watched me win race after race recently beating much younger and more experienced swimmers. She helped run one of the regular events and she was no pushover, but my rapid domination of the local ocean races had been shocking even to her. Now I stood lead-off swimmer with current college swimmers, Olympic trialists, former All-Americans and young elite triatheletes. I was their ringer, their anchor in a 26 mile race across this open ocean channel.
>> > Booop! Off went the air horn – I jumped from the deck into the water towards Jane. Whack!! The cold hit my nervous system sucking the air from my lungs and gripping my head in an ice-cold vice. It was dark, so dark, unfeeling  and icy.
>> > “Genivieve” I heard from somewhere in the cold depth. I sensed warmth and a glow above. I could see the surface. I took in a breath and opened my eyes. The Anesthesiologist looked down. She smiled. “Hello” she said. “Hi.” I croaked through a mouth that felt like a stranger’s. “Everything went perfectly” she said. “Oh, good.” I mouthed. My throat burning and painful. “I’ve got her” the assistant said wheeling my gurney out of the room. I drifted out, blackness again, soft, warm.
>> > Cold, Air!! My body screamed as I launched through the surface. Instantly I was buried in another wave, submerged halfway through a stroke. Then whoosh out the back into the air. I choked a half salt water breath as I dropped into the trough and went under again. There was no pattern or timing to these I realized. Every stroke was a fight to move and breathe. Sometimes falling sometimes rising or catching a swell blind side. ‘How will I make it” I wondered. And, “where is Jane??” Only a glow stick on my cap for her to see me and only glow sticks along the rails of her board for me to spot somehow as I heaved up and down in the darkness. “Jerry – Here!” I heard a faint voice. “Jerry.”
>> > “Genivieve? – Gen? You awake?” It was the nurse. She appeared above me as I opened my eyes. “Yes.” I whispered. I could barely keep my eyes open. “You did great.” She cooed. “Oh? Good” I gasped feeling my throat again. “Just rest” she said “we’re taking you to the recovery center.” I closed my eyes and felt unconsciousness swirl over me.
>> > “Jerry” she called again suddenly I was almost on her board. She took a stroke moving away. I followed, keeping her on my breathing side. We rose and fell together lurching forward. Sometimes she was there and then I would catch a train of 3-4 chops in a row and lose her. Now 8’ away, now 6″. No rhythm, no pattern, just moving thrashing, fighting through the cold and dark. It seemed impossible that this could go on, but it did. Each breath a gift and then into the cold, over and over. Seconds became minutes, swimmers rotated, the seas began to calm The horizon began to appear. An island. I thought. I could just make out a silhouette.
>> > “Ok, we’re moving you into your room” the young nurse said. “Do you want Avalon?” She asked. ” Yes, yes please.” I hoarsely gagged as I saw Avalon’s smile like a sunrise peek at me from behind the nurses pitching shoulder “Yes, Avalon, my sanctuary.” I said feeling suddenly calmed as she came around grasping my hand in a safe, warm grip.. “You made it honey” she whispered. ” You’re safe.’Now just relax. I’ve got you.”

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