Terminal Happy

In the middle of my road, I found myself in a dark wood. And like Dante, in order to find my way out, I first descended.   Descended into a fetid, damp basement room on 33d street, an answering service, a legitimate business, a real job.  I even had my Virgil, my guide in the unlikely form of a six foot black transvestite named Faye.

Faye was really big.  She had big face, big hands, long red fingernails, thick pancake makeup that left stripes on the insides of her shirts.  She lived in Harlem with a man, a man-man, in a huge apartment with like a stereo in every room and like ten teevees.  

She told me how she started this answering service with this young Jewish guy named Marty and they took turns crashing on the sofa, keeping it going 24 hours a day. Unlikely duo, great friends.

Enter me into this windowless room filled with lopsided, ratty office furniture and just me and Faye.  And we would hang out and watch this old black and white teevee that only worked if you touched it, so we would take turns balancing one toe on it until it got really annoying, and then, screw it, shut it off.

And I worshipped her.  I worshipped her.  Doctors, lawyers, bankers, brokers would call for their messages and she'd say "What?  I have to do what?  No child.  All I have to do is stay black and die.  Now let me ask you something.  How big is your Johnson?  Oh, don't lie to Faye now!" and she would laugh and laugh.  

And they worshipped her, and they would call up and tell their problems.  They'd say "Faye, right on the phone, will you curse at my friend please?"

Delivery guys would come, you know, bagel, coffee light, and she'd say "You!  You see her hands there?" pointing to me, "Do you see how small her hands are? Do you know how big that would make your thing look?" and I'd be like "Faye!"

And I was always miserable, I was always complaining.  "So fat!  So poor!  Everyone is having more fun than me!"

And she would lean over the table and tap one long red fingernail and she would say "It ain't all about you Clo.  It ain't that kind of party." 

About a year after I left the job, I called Faye. I don't normally keep in touch with people from jobs because the relationships are real, but they are site specfific.

But I would call Faye.  Well, Faye had had a stroke.  She was alright, but her mouth was all skewed.

About six months later, I call again. "Hey Faye!"  "Hey Clo."  Faye had a second stroke.  Maybe it was the hormones.  And said that very ill in the hospital had a spiritual thing, so that after a lifetime of never feeling happy or satisfied "I decided to just be what I was.  A man."

"I'm Frank, now," he said, " and I am very happy.  You be happy, Clo."
-- Claudia Shear, "Blown Sideways Through Life," 1995