Martin Sanford was nearing 26, and was doing reasonably well financially. After having grown up with virtually nothing, he now enjoyed having a decent income, and job security.
His alcoholic father had wasted most of the family's money on booze, and his long-suffering, religious mother had refused to divorce him despite the advice of her relatives.
Marty, notwithstanding his life of deprivation, had done well in school. Books had always been his escape. His teachers saw his potential, and often went the extra mile to make sure he had adequate clothing and enough to eat.
He'd been fortunate that a great-aunt, whom he'd never met before, had liked his high school graduation picture, and had decided to give him a chance in life by paying most of his tuition to a Christian college. With the addition of a meager scholarship and some borrowed money, he'd obtained a sound, if somewhat conservative, education without ending up deeply in debt.
He still had a few loans to pay off, so he wasn't living the American Dream just yet.
When he dwelt on it, he was relatively sure that the aspiration was out of his reach anyway. To attain the little house in the suburbs with a picket fence, pretty wife, 2.5 children, and a dog, one had to be heterosexual, or at least pretend to be.
Martin knew he was gay, though he sometimes thought he might be able to ignore his nature and function satisfactory in bed with a woman. He'd lost his virginity at 16 to a female friend who had wanted to experiment. By closing his eyes and pretending, it had gone okay. He'd filled the condom to the limit, but getting laid by a girl wasn't something he desired on a regular basis.
Growing up in a small community had its benefits and disadvantages. It was relatively safe, but there were too many eyes and ears. Those were attached to mouths which divulged everything that came in, without the benefit of a filter. So, any misdeed would soon become public. Marty was lucky that the girl had never told anyone about their tryst.
He often longed to experiment with another boy, but that would have been far too dangerous. Someone would have seen, or known, or heard about it, and life as he knew it would have ended.
If his father had found out about the girl, he would probably have shared a celebratory beer with his son, but had it been a boy, Marty would probably have been beaten.
A religious college was no place to pursue a same-sex experience either. He didn't even know where to begin, now that he was on his own. He figured he would probably grow old, alone and unloved.
To make matters worse, he had been ostracized by his family after he came out of the closet at the end of his senior year in college. They may have been a dysfunctional lot, but they were the only people he'd ever been close to.
Amazingly, Great-aunt Mary had stood up for him when they finally met at his graduation ceremony. He had become like the son she never had, but now she was in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. He still visited her, and she seemed pleased to have company, but she had long-since forgotten who he was.
Marty didn't have a social life apart from work. He had given up on the church after his family rejected him, and he'd never joined any fraternal organizations, not even the "honors-club" in college. That had been the domain of socially-connected rich boys.
The gay club scene didn't appeal to him either. On his few visits, he found that the music was too loud and the cute boys tended to be stuck on themselves. Some of the other men pawed at him, making him feel like a piece of meat. It just wasn't his scene.
He did enjoy jazz concerts, and would occasionally attend one. However, it wasn't all that much fun without someone else to experience them with. Lots of things felt hollow doing them alone.
In the midst of his feelings of downheartedness, in the chilly gray days of February, there came a slight ray of hope in the form of a new coworker. Taylor Lawson was a sweet person, with an androgynous, almost boyish look. She was a widow with a three-year-old son, Tyler.
Taylor had feelings of detachment and loneliness too. Being a single parent cut down on the possibility of even finding someone to date, let alone forging a new relationship. It seemed that any number of prospects didn't want to be saddled with a kid, especially one that wasn't their own. Stepfathers had a bad rep, and Tyler's welfare came ahead of her own needs.
Besides that, there were other issues she was sorting through. She had a major decision to make within the next nine months before she could allow herself to move on. Even then, it might be a rough road.
And so, it was, that two lonely people, who carried their lunch to work, began to look forward to sharing their noon breaks. Many of their colleagues went to one or another of the little eateries which dotted the downtown area. But these two were careful with their money. It was one of the things they initially found they had in common.
As the days grew into weeks, and the weeks grew into months, they found many other similar interests. Marty became more social, inviting Taylor to an art opening to which he'd been given a pair of tickets. Taylor's neighbor offered to babysit so she would be free to attend. The two of them enjoyed it very much.
When one of his favorite jazz groups was in town, Marty made a date with her to see them. She loved that as well. Of all their shared interests, jazz seemed to be the strongest.
As the chilly spring weather gave way to the warmth of summer, Marty planned a picnic in a little park which had a splash-pad and playground equipment where little Tyler could have the chance to run free. Taylor was touched that this handsome, caring man would include her child, but feared that Tyler would be too shy to make it worth his while. She also found that his unselfish nature wasn't helping her with the decision she would ultimately have to make.
In Marty's presence, Tyler's timidity evaporated like a raindrop in the desert. Once strapped into his car seat in the back of the SUV, he chattered away, commenting on every detail in his unfamiliar surroundings.
The minute his feet touched the ground in the park, the energetic toddler grabbed Marty's hand, pulling him toward the swing set. Man, and boy bonded at that moment. Marty was so attentive to the child that he nearly forgot that the outing had been an excuse to be with Taylor.
Tyler sat on his lap while they ate, and was heartbroken to find that the splash-pad was for children only.
Later, the three of them lay on a blanket in the shade, and Tyler fell asleep snuggled between the adults. A lady passing by with her own toddler remarked at how much Tyler looked like his daddy. Taylor and Marty smiled, and didn't correct her assumption.
By the time autumn had arrived, Marty and Taylor were seeing each other every weekend. On most of those occasions, they did things that involved her little son. Tyler looked forward to it as much as the adults.
Marty began to feel blue again. He felt that his relationship with Taylor should have progressed to a higher plateau of closeness. They often held hands, and they would exchange a chaste kiss upon saying goodnight, but Taylor stiffened up if their kisses became more intimate. Marty wasn't looking to get laid. In fact, he almost dreaded having that happen. If he got her in bed, he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to carry through. Awkward sex might lead to the undoing of their friendship.
He didn't want to get hurt, and he certainly didn't want to hurt anyone else. He would have to content himself with what he had. Perhaps things would change during the holidays.
Their break from work in November was only a four-day weekend, not that it mattered to Marty because he had nowhere to go. Taylor invited Marty and Martha, the neighbor who sometimes babysat, over for Thanksgiving. She had found a bargain on turkeys, so she'd purchased a larger one than necessary, so she could have leftovers for future meals. She went all out, making fresh cranberry relish, baking sweet potatoes as well as preparing mashed potatoes from scratch.
Marty brought a pecan pie that he'd made, and a bottle of white wine. Martha provided the traditional green bean casserole with French-fried onions on top.
They all had a great time, including Tyler who dug in with gusto.
It was one of those moments of contentment when Marty felt he might be getting closer to the life he'd like to live. He thought he might be able to deny himself some of the pleasures of the flesh for the sake of having a family.
With Christmas, came another feeling of bleakness for Marty. Taylor went back to her hometown to be with her mother and sister a few days prior to the holiday, and wouldn't return until New Year's Eve. Marty was alone.
He broke with his recent routine, and went to church on Christmas Eve. It wasn't anything like the denomination his mother was involved with. The singing and readings actually gave him a degree of comfort. During the time of silent meditation, he found himself asking for guidance in what he was thinking of doing.
Christmas dinner for Marty consisted of a Marie Callender's® frozen entrée which he prepared in the oven. It was surprisingly good, and the comfort food brightened his spirits a little.
On December 30th, he received a call from Taylor saying she was home. He immediately asked her to come over for dinner on New Year's Eve. He would make something special.
She sounded a bit distant and preoccupied, but did agree to come. Marty would be thankful for the company.
As he was preparing the stew for dinner, Marty listened to the Branford Marsalis album, Upward Spiral, he'd purchased a while back but had never found the time to hear all the songs. He'd been so hooked on the last one, The Return (Upward Spiral), that he'd neglected the rest. He hummed along with the music as best as he could, not being familiar with the first several songs. He loved Kurt Elling's voice.
He was cutting up vegetables when the fourth track, A Practical Arrangement, began, but he stopped chopping about a minute into it. The lyrics spoke to him like no other song had since he was a teen. With tears streaming down his face, he listened to the rest.
"Am I asking for the moon? Is it really so implausible, that you and I could soon come to some kind of arrangement? I'm not asking for the moon; I have always been a realist. Would it really be more than a simple rearrangement? With one roof over our heads; a warm house to return to. We could start with separate beds. I could sleep alone or learn to. I'm not suggesting that we'd find some earthly paradise, forever. I mean how often does that happen now? The answer's probably never. But we could come to an arrangement, a practical arrangement and perhaps you could learn to love me, given time." (Musical interlude) "I'm not promising the moon; I'm not promising a rainbow; just a practical solution to a solitary life. I'd be a father to your boy, a shoulder you could lean on. How bad could it be to be my wife? With one roof above our heads; a warm house to return to. You wouldn't have to cook for me; you wouldn't have to learn too. I'm not suggesting that this proposition here could last forever. I've no intention of deceiving you. You're far too clever. But we could come to an arrangement, a practical arrangement, and you could learn to love me, given time. It may not be the romance that you had in mind, but I think that you could learn to love me, given time." (composed by Robert Mathes/Sting)
It expressed his deepest feelings almost perfectly. He decided he would use it to let Taylor know how much he cared.
Taylor and her son arrived about a half-hour before they were to eat. She barely got Tyler out of his coat and boots before he made a beeline across the room to be scooped up in Marty's arms. The two of them giggled and play-wrestled on the floor for a couple of minutes.
"I brought a bottle of Wisconsin Red to drink with dinner. The clerk assured me it would pair well with beef stew," she said, bringing him back to reality.
"It sounds great, Marty smiled as he got up. "Let me open it to breathe while I take the bread out of the oven," he greeted her with a kiss on the cheek.
"The aroma is like walking into a county kitchen. I'll probably gain a few pounds from simply inhaling!" Taylor joked.
"I hope it's fit to eat," Marty demurred. "It's from a recipe I found on the 'net. You'll be the guinea pig."
Dinner was delicious, and served to style. Marty had used a linen tablecloth along with the china and sterling Great-aunt Mary had given him before she went into the nursing home. The major illumination came from four tapers in the center of the little table.
Tyler had cranberry juice in his glass so it looked a little like what the adults were drinking. It was a classic domestic scene.
Not long after they'd eaten, Tyler became drowsy and Marty put him in the guest bed with a couple of pillows by his side to prevent him from rolling onto the floor in his sleep.
Taylor had cleared the table in his absence, and together they filled the dishwasher. Then they sat side by side on the sofa to watch New Year's celebrations from other parts of the world. Marty took Taylor's hand in his.
"There's something I want to say to you, but I think it's better said in a piece of music. It's nearly 10 minutes long, but the center is a nice instrumental interlude. Please pretend the words are mine.
Then, Marty muted the TV and played the track from his CD while Taylor listened carefully to the words. Her eyes were only misty until Marty sang along in his clear, baritone voice for the second part. Taylor's tears flowed freely when it got to the lyrics, "would it be so bad being my wife?"
When the song ended, Taylor was quite aware of Marty's imploring gaze, so standing up, she removed her blouse and padded bra, revealing a well-developed but hairless male chest.
"I'm sorry, I didn't intend to lead you on, he said in a deeper voice. "I'm not who you think I am. I'm a widower, not a widow. Please don't say anything until I'm finished. On January 2nd, I'll transfer back to the other branch of the company, so you don't have to see me every day.
"Please believe me; I never meant to hurt you. I needed a best friend, and you fulfilled that role. You have been a shoulder to lean on, like it said in the song.
"In June, I had screwed up my courage to tell you everything, but then you became like a father to my child. He loves you so much that I didn't want to break two hearts. So, I thought maybe I should have the operation and hope you'd love me, but that would have been dishonest too because I'm really not a female, and I've decided I don't want to be after all."
"Please let me get this all off my chest before I lose my nerve.
"As a little kid, I lived in a fantasy world to block out my father's abuse. I used to dress up in my sister's clothes. When he caught me, he said that God made a mistake by giving me a dick; I should have been a girl, and he used me like one.
"I always tried so hard to please him, but nothing worked. He didn't even come to the wedding when Gina and I got married.
"Gina knew from the beginning that I had a bisexual side, but she was okay with it as long as I didn't sleep around. She even offered to let me have a boyfriend if I kept it discreet.
"After Tyler was born, I went through a very rough period, emotionally. I told Gina I might be transsexual. I guess that was the breaking point. After about six months of bleak despair, she took her own life. Our doctor said it was post-partem depression, but I've always felt guilty. Her parents also said she'd had emotional problems for years, and I wasn't to blame.
"When she died, I thought it might be best to go ahead and transition to female. Maybe I could be the mother Tyler would need.
"My doctor advised me to live as a woman for a year before he would agree to do reassignment surgery. He didn't want any 'buyer's remorse.' Once your dick's been cut off, there's no going back.
"So, uncle Maurice transferred me to his office here and passed me off as female. Now, I no longer want the surgery, so you can see why WE can never be. You probably wouldn't have wanted me as a tranny, but much less as a homosexual. Please forgive me."
Taylor turned on his heel to go to the bedroom to wake up Tyler and get him ready to go home, but Marty embraced him from behind to stop him, his hands caressing Taylor's pecs.
"I love you, Taylor! I didn't fall in love with a lovely lady. I fell in love with a beautiful person - with what's inside of you. I'll admit that Tyler is an unexpected bonus.
"Now it's my turn to be totally honest. I've been hiding in the closet, at least at work. I've always been attracted to sweet, gentle guys like you've turned out to be. I'll love you even more with all your parts intact. If you can't be my wife, how bad would it be to be my husband? Given time, you could learn to love me too."
"I do love you," Taylor sobbed. "That's why it's all been so difficult. If you're gay, I can see us under one roof forever."
"Then I'm formally asking you to marry me," Marty smiled as he got down on one knee. "Sorry, I didn't buy a ring because I wasn't sure of your taste. Given your gender, I don't suppose the solitaires I was considering would be appropriate anyway. Maybe we can find matching bands."
"Yes, I'll marry you," Taylor agreed, "but you need to be aware that I still have some baggage, even though my father's dead and buried."
"Burdens are lighter when two people carry them," Marty stated.
"Look at the banner running across the screen. The storm is arriving more quickly than predicted. You will sleep over, won't you? I changed both beds today, in case it got bad. If you don't want to share with Tyler, we can make him comfortable on the sofa."
"Would it be okay not to disturb him, and sleep with you?"
"Oh God, yes!"
"We should probably shower first. I know I've sweat a lot tonight."
"Yeah, me too."
"I'm, um, not a virgin in any sense of the term, but it's been a long time since…."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to push you to do anything you don't feel comfortable with. We can cuddle skin to skin and see where it leads."
"I trust you! Eventually, I want us to go the whole way together."
And so, Marty and Taylor began the New Year with a new life – in a practical arrangement.
Taylor's decision was his own. It doesn't reflect the author's view on transitioning. What is right for some, isn't for others. We are individual human beings. One size doesn't fit everyone.
This was a departure from my usual subject matter. I hope you enjoyed it, whatever your feelings are on the matter. Feel free to contact me at: David Lee I love hearing from you.
I think the November issue of Playboy will feature its first cisgender male as the centerfold. I've seen some preview photos, and she's quite lovely.
Thanks to David for editing.
Love and peace,