Every time Mark put on his thick leather boots or his poly-cotton uniform, every time he adjusted his dark sunglasses and helmet, he experienced a shot of sadness. It was not that it was a mistake to become a police officer: it was all that he could do really, and he was good at it. His motorcycle was like a companion to him. The first time he saw the Harley, and sat in the seat…it was right, a good fit.
But lately his deeper yearning was overwhelming him. Lately, when he saw his size 13 feet and 6’3”, 240 lb frame it almost made him weep. At the station, with headphones on, he sadly set to perfecting the abomination that was his body. Lifting weights and working out were a means of acceptance. He was an officer of the law, he had to maintain his physical strength It was his duty. His secret pierced his heart each time he saw his reflection. His secret had kept him captive ever since he saw his father’s super 8 films after the funeral.
Mark’s father was a man’s man; a photojournalist from World War II through Viet Nam.He was wild, untamed, and lawless. Mark always knew his father would die, he expected it, and was completely prepared when it happened.
When he was four years old, after one of those long dangerous trips, he sat on his father’s lap in the living room. Friends and family gathered round, listening to his father’s newest adventure of the jungle, the bullets overhead, the near death escapes through mashes with midnight boat rides. Mark’s toddler frame shook as the details of death and mayhem were described. The adults smoked, drank and laughed at the tale. Mark just ran in his room and cried in horror. At one point his father came in and told him, “Suck it up and stop acting like a little girl! Men don’t cry, and you’re my little man, aren’t you?”
His father told him that he liked chasing death, and one day death would win but that was what the game was all about. His father patted him on the back, and told him to “be a man.” With that, he closed the door and returned to his party.
So, when his father did die, Mark was more than prepared and acceptance was easy. Sadly for his father, it was not in a jungle, or distant foreign land. It was a riverbed there in the small town where they lived. It was after a drunken drag race at 3am when, his jeep-locked wheels, and tossed his old body into the air and onto the riverbed with such force that his remains were unrecognizable.
After the funeral Mark went into his father’s workroom. He looked through boxes of slides, photos, and negatives. Trunks full of equipment and lighting, shelves of souvenirs, swords, flags, and items from nations that no longer existed. Pictures of strangers: 8 X 10’s of sorrow, grief, death, and turmoil. All these images belonged to him now. Through sad fourteen year old eyes he looked through his father’s history, the world’s history, in black and white. Absorbed in a mixture of shock and revulsion, he sifted through the collection. His father also had a stash of old super 8 films. One of the reels was a glimpse of post World War II Japan. This was his undoing; here he came upon the image of his father, young - almost too young to recognize. He and other uniformed men were at a geisha house. The film took care to capture the delicate females with fams fluttering in front of their faces, shuffling, smiling shyly, and flirting. He watched the film over and over. The geishas’ glances, as they presented tea, images that filled him with a desire both vivid and unsettling.
As an adult he painfully watched his own frame sprout to six feet, his blond hair and blue eyes betraying an uncontrollable urge. Every day he slipped black leather gloves over large knuckled hands and mounted his Harley setting to the task of his profession, his obligation to protect and serve. On the lonely drives down California highways, sunlight filtering on dark sunglasses hiding his Anglo features, silence was his companion. He winced, as he in his daily duty, stopped a sports car or sport utility vehicle. Inside, a smiling Asian woman wearing eyeliner, tried to convert her beautiful almond features to round, with pink lip-gloss, and Western clothes. She would forever be unaware that he coveted her porcelain skin, tiny hands, and delicate frame. But he was disgusted at her Western ideals. He hated her American self-confidence and disregard for the gift of her body.
No one knew that he had a silk kimono at home. At day’s end he would slide into traditional garb complete with hand-made wooden slippers. The makeup he put on his face was purchased in Japan, and he felt closer to his center as he smelled its minerals and oils. Late in the evening, with trembling hands he would retrieve from high in his closet one of several black wax wigs, remembering the face of a smirking assistant in Tokyo as he questioned the authenticity of the piece. He would paint cherry lips, and commence the ceremony of tea, and then dance for an audience of none. He had memorized graceful movements, closed his eyes and danced with fan in hand. Despairing each time he touched the silk, and then removed the wig. Weeping in realization that he could never be the thing he longed for. He could only imagine; imagine and pretend. Eyes closed, he would imagine his body being small and slight, imagine shy smile behind his fan, painfully pretend, painfully hold on to this secret longing. Imagining, but knowing that this could never be.
In the morning he would ready himself in another costume. Heart broken, he would resume his duties as an officer of the law. He was a big man, not a geisha, not a shuffling adored female. He was a police officer and this was his reality. No operation could change things: nothing could reduce his size, change his skin, and hide his features. He knew in reality that he was an officer of the law, assigned to this reality and he had to accept it.
Desire and longing meant nothing to the universe. The law of nature kept him captive in a prison of his own yearning the rest of his life.