Felony Jones was more situation or state of mind than real live flesh and blood; at least that was how she felt most of the world viewed her—with the understanding, for better or worse, that it was easier for people to put her in the category of a caricature, seen as nothing more than a walking, talking side show act to be ridiculed for having the temerity to exist, rather than be seen as the functioning, mostly well-adjusted human being she actually was.
She had accepted that it was her six foot two, two hundred twenty-pound frame that generally betrayed her ability to blend into a crowd, and it was the custom made red high heels she proudly wore, hitting the ground solidly with every step, that consistently turned heads and triggered whispers. These were noticeable sights and sounds people reacted to when she entered a room, and she was keenly aware of the attention it drew. On any normal day that attention wouldn’t rattle her, on a normal day she delighted in the fact that her presence forced people to acknowledge her. This was not a normal day.
The same scene had played out in her head on a loop since her last visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles. In her mind, Felony was in control, she was focused, and she had been rehearsing in preparation for this visit. Unfortunately, when she walked through the front door, she felt her gut instantly tighten, her heart start to race, and it wouldn’t be long until the beads of sweat trickled down the small of her back, staining the silk blouse she had purchased earlier in the week.
It was the shaking Felony hated the most—a physical manifestation of her irrational fear. A noticeably stained blouse she could deal with, but an outward visible sign of weakness was something else entirely. She promised herself this time things would be different. This time, it was her intention was not to allow anybody, or anything, to stop her from exacting the revenge she felt she deserved. That promise fell apart as soon as the door closed, having been replaced by a gathering panic, minor confusion, and a cold sweat.
To most people a trip to renew their driver’s license was just a time-consuming nuisance they begrudgingly pushed through. To Felony, it had started with careful preparation and quickly devolved into a poorly executed plan. Things had gone haywire from the moment she stepped inside the building. Her mind began racing, gathering fragmented images that popped up like flashcards: obscure markers in a timeline of painful life events. Clenched in her fist was her salvation—the ticket she didn’t realize she was clinging to so tightly that her knuckles had turned pure white, the damp ticket with a number just waiting to be called—the ticket closed up in her fist, disintegrating by the second, that would free her from a room closing in on her.
“I wish they’d call my Goddamn number,” She muttered to herself. Felony was trapped in a geographical nightmare surrounded by dozens of judgmental eyes, reminding her of the many times in her life she wasn’t viewed as a woman, but as some hybrid freak of nature concocted by a doctor’s scalpel, designed to show the world what they wanted to see. Felony Jones…transsexual.
Four years of waiting to face the loathsome woman who exposed her personal business to a group of strangers came down to this moment, and she was back at the scene of the crime. Felony would never forget the face of the woman who she felt had mocked her the first time she walked in to have her license officially changed to match her true self. It was supposed to be one of the best days of her life—instead it had been another lesson in just how ignorant and cruel the world could be. Felony never regretted her decision, she felt like a whole person after years of unsorted misery, but like everything in her personal life, she wanted disclosure to be on her terms—not by a bigoted career civil servant with no sense of decency or discretion.
Knowing it went against every psychology book, therapy session and meditation class Felony had ever read or attended, her path to self-discovery, inner-peace and general happiness went out the window as soon as she walked through the front doors. Her conscious mind told her the anger was self-destructive and irrational, but her basic instinct was seeking revenge. She wanted that bitch to pay!
“You’re a man!” the loud, high pitched voice of the clerk was still clear in Felony’s head almost four years later. “Carla the cunt…where is she?” Felony said to herself as she looked around the room. Rage was a coping mechanism, tricking her mind into lessening the physical sensations her body felt. A healthy dose of anger blunted the fear. It was only a distraction and there was nothing productive or good about it, but it worked just enough for her to function at a basic level. She heard herself talking aloud, drawing the attention of a few people close to her, but at this point she didn’t care. Felony lifted her head, trying to get a better look into the area behind the counter. “Where are you, Carla?” she said, in a way that sounded like she was calling a cat in for dinner. It was a hotter than usual August day with no air conditioning to be felt, adding to Felony’s crankiness, and she was in no mood to fuck around. Maybe she no longer worked here, maybe she was on a break, Felony thought as she fanned herself with some papers she had been mercilessly squeezing in her hand. By now the papers were so crumpled, damp and worn thin, it barely made a difference.
“Excuse me…” Felony suddenly felt a tap on her arm and heard a little voice coming from behind her. She turned around to find an elderly woman smiling at her. “Yeah?” Felony blurted out. The woman didn’t seem to have a reaction to Felony’s towering presence and large features. “I think they’ve called your number, its thirty-three, right?”
Felony looked at her ticket, now a wet and distorted version of what it used to be. She had completely missed the announcement. “Oh yeah—I guess so.” Felony stared at the woman for a moment, getting a big smile in return. “You can move forward now,” the woman said, gesturing toward the counter. Felony looked at her curiously, thinking it was a strange choice of words. Her first instinct was to dismiss the comment, but she couldn’t. After all, Felony’s mission was to find the woman who had wronged her, and not just face her, but destroy her publicly for the insensitive and humiliating comment she made during their last encounter. Now out of nowhere her anger had been interrupted and replaced with a bewildering calm by a complete stranger. There was something in the woman’s eyes that relaxed her, even relieved her, making it clear to Felony that she had carried this moment too far, and held on to it too long. She studied the woman’s face and felt a real serenity. Felony knew she had to let this moment go, it was time. She took a deep breath and relaxed her shoulders.
“You know what? When you’re right, you’re goddamn right.” Felony said, looking the woman straight in the eyes. “I mean really, what the fuck am I doing?” Felony didn’t always filter her words. Most people would have taken their surroundings, and the person they were talking to into consideration. Not Felony, it could be a sweet little old lady, or the most grizzled old, longshoreman, it was all the same to her. There were only two exceptions, two people she watched herself, and her language around, and this little old lady wasn’t one of them. “Now you have yourself a nice day.” she said, patting the lady on the head, “It’s Carla the cunts lucky day.” Felony turned toward the counter and walked away with a spring in her step like she had been instantly cured of every affliction in her body by one of those loud-mouthed minister’s on TV who heals a cripple by shouting at them as they’re flopping around on the floor. The elderly woman stood silently, quickly glancing at several people near her with a confused look on her face, as if to ask if they found the interaction as odd as she did.
About fifteen minutes later Felony was sitting in her car staring straight ahead, trying to come down from the adrenaline rush she had put her body through. She wasn’t happy about her behavior and how she had allowed herself to obsess, and be distracted by one interaction for so long. It wasn’t as if Carla had been the first, or the only person to insult her in such a deeply hurtful way.
“I should have let it go…I did this to myself...let it go, just let it go, it’s not important.” Felony sat back in the seat, slowly closed her eyes and started her breathing exercises. She could feel her muscles tightening, almost shrinking as she breathed in through her nose, and exhaling through her mouth. Every part of her body felt like it was on fire. After several deep inhales and long exhales, she opened her eyes and noticed the elderly woman making her way to her car. She watched her for a moment, still puzzled by how the woman phrased the sentence.
“You can move forward now...” Felony said it slowly several times. She shook her head as she watched the woman struggle to get into her car. “God, I never want to be like that.” She was reminded of her own mother, Ruby. Toward the end of her life, her mother’s arthritis was so bad she could barely move, but it was the liver disease that eventually took her. Felony didn’t like to think about her mother. Actually, it was her relationship with her mother she didn’t like to dwell on. Felony generally saved that subject for therapy sessions, keeping it contained in a structured environment. She learned to compartmentalize her life for the most part, but painful memories had a way of surfacing when she let her guard down. Luckily, that didn’t happen often. The relationship between Felony and her mother, for the most part could be described in one word, strained. It had been one-sided, mostly inconvenient, and generally arm’s-length. They rarely shared feelings, they mostly just shared space. Felony rolled down her window and lit a cigarette. She started the car, then turned it off immediately, dropping her head back. She was really angry with herself for regressing. She may have walked away in the end, but it didn’t count. She had wasted time and energy on a situation that nobody remembered but her. It was a personal failure and those were the worst kind of failures as far as she was concerned. She had always prided herself on having self-control in her worst moments. She took a few more deep breaths, deciding to accept what she was feeling instead of fighting it so she could come out the other side a stronger and more enlightened person. That’s what she had been told would happen, but she just wanted to feel normal, more than anything right now. She imagined the words coming out of her therapist’s mouth. “Don’t fight it, walk into what you’re feeling,” Felony repeated several times. Her instinct was to fight, but if she was going to make any progress she’d have to compromise. Besides, she knew it would be a topic of conversation that would excite her new therapist, Elizabeth. “Elizabeth…Elizabeth...” Felony said it slowly and sarcastically to herself. “Bony bitch!”
Felony lurched forward suddenly, looking around to see if anybody had been watching her. She quickly tried to remember if she had been using wild hand gestures while talking to herself. No matter how often she tried to convince herself she didn’t care what people thought, she still never wanted to look like she had been recently released from a nut house. As usual, she had strategically parked on the outer edges of the parking lot, next to some trees, obscuring a perfect view of her. Being on the fringes had always been a familiar feeling for her. Felony was all about obscurity and fringes. She had been raised on the edges of mainstream society. A life lived in the shadows, as she put it, was nothing new to her.