Chapter 2: Nicke
The building had appeared much larger from the outside. Either that or the windowless rooms made Nicke feel claustrophobic for the first time in his life. Not to mention the pressure he was feeling just to be in a building of psychiatrists, a pressure provided by the condescension permeating the room. Most of the people he saw had a demeanor like they shouldn’t be spoken to unless they spoke to him first. His presence, in his ugly, plastic chair, was hardly acknowledged.
A gangly, blonde woman walked into the waiting room from the hallway. She made eye contact with Nicke, as he was the only person in the waiting room. “Nicke Anderson,” she said with a welcoming smile, as if they had met before.
Nicke stood without saying a word. As he ambled toward the woman, he realized she was a few inches taller than him. She extended her hand to introduce herself. “I’m Dr. Morgan Bluff, it’s nice to meet you. And is it Nick-EE or is the e silent?”
“Nick-EE,” he responded. Shaking her hand, Nicke wondered if it would have been better to have a man or a woman as his psychiatrist, considering his personal predicament. They never gave him an option and said Dr. Bluff was a proper fit for this particular situation. So, he figured he might as well take a chance.
Dr. Bluff gestured toward him as she turned, “Follow me.”
The two marched in tandem and passed three doors with doctors’ names on them before making it to the end of the hall. Four doctors in a practice like this was small compared to most facilities. The latest statistic suggested over half the population was now meeting with a psychologist or psychiatrist on a regular basis. In the next decade, it might even be required to meet with one for the year following assignment therapy.
Nicke did not expect to feel more comfortable when he walked into the office, but that’s exactly what happened. It was much larger than he had anticipated, and his claustrophobia dissipated.
“Have a seat wherever you’d like,” Dr. Bluff said. Three chairs of various sizes and comfort levels to choose from filled the room. Reminiscent of Goldilocks, Nicke chose to seat himself in the one he deemed to fall in the proverbial middle. As he made himself comfortable, his doctor grabbed an e-tab and continued. “The first thing I want to do is open up a discussion on our expectations for our relationship. I understand this is the first time you’re seeing a professional, so I want to make sure you know what to expect and feel comfortable taking on this process with me.”
“Makes sense,” Nicke said.
“I don’t have any expectations in particular,” Dr. Bluff said as she made her way toward her own chair. She sat directly in front of Nicke, not behind a desk or at a higher angle staring down at him. “But I would like for you to know the more honest and open you are with me, the smoother this will be for us. I know it will take time, I’m sure, but I guess I’d hope you may trust me within a month or so. I also hope by then you’ll feel comfortable asking any questions you have for me. And please keep in mind doctor-patient confidentiality will be protected for as long as you’re my patient and beyond.”
“Alright,” Nicke said. He was usually a bit more talkative than this, but was inhibited with his words in this new environment.
“Do you have any expectations of me?”
Staring into her eyes now, Nicke realized she had the same cloudy, sky blue eyes he could see in his wife. In fact, that paired with the translucent blonde hair could have made the two of them sisters; only Eclid would be the younger, prettier of the two.
“No, nothing I can think of at the moment. Obviously, I’d expect some help. No wastes of time. And no asking about my childhood.”
“No,” Morgan said with a chuckle. “You won’t have to worry about any psychodynamics here. Although I must admit a good understanding of past experiences and relationships can help in a lot of situations. But we can save your past for another time. So, if you’re ready, I’d like to hear from you about what’s going on. What brought you into the office today?”
“Well,” Nicke said. He was about to continue, then paused to smile. “I guess it does kind of start back in my childhood. I was young when I met Eclid. We were just two young teens who fell in love. I’m sure nobody, including us, thought it would go anywhere. I mean how do you truly know who you’re in love with when you’re that age? But we did. I knew I was in love with her the moment I saw her. And she… well, she came around. But after three years of being together, we realized we both wanted to be women. All the issues we were trying to ignore came back to bite us. When we were andies, it wasn’t about male or female. It wasn’t about sex… intercourse, I mean. So, when Eclid’s seventeenth birthday was coming up faster than we realized, we didn’t know anything besides that we were in love and we had a decision to make.”
“Whether to break up and both become females, or to stay together and have one of you masculate,” Morgan interjected.
“Correct,” Nicke said, “but then what? Who feminated was only the first decision we had to make. We knew the ramifications of breaking up and both feminating. Legally we couldn’t get married. But if we stayed together, who would become the man so we could get married?”
“I understand,” Morgan said. “And I can see you drew the short straw in that regard.”
“Not initially. We decided to break up, without any expectation of getting back together. On Eclid’s seventeenth birthday, she began femination assignment therapy. I still had a year before I needed to decide. In truth, that’s the only reason we made that decision. We hoped in a year I’d know how I would declare. But it didn’t take long. Three months, two battles with depression, and one contemplation of suicide later I declared masculation. To this day, I stand by my decision. I’d rather live with Eclid as a man, than without her as a woman.”
Nicke sat in silence for a few seconds, as did Morgan. She dropped her eyebrows in scrutiny. “Considering you’re here right now, I expected a different ending.”
Nicke’s eyes fell to Morgan’s feet. He noticed how new her shoes appeared. Meanwhile, his newest pair of shoes was at least four years old, like most of the upper-middle class. “Because that’s not the end. It’s the end of act one, if you will. Fast-forward to present day, seven years later, and we are coming up on the conception deadline. Three months ago I turned twenty-four, so we have nine more months to conceive a child. But the problem isn’t with her…it’s with me.”
Morgan silently typed on her e-tab for a few moments following Nicke’s confession. After she finished, she pinched her bottom lip and took a breath. “Are you…physically attracted to your wife?”
Nicke laughed facetiously. This woman’s comment made it obvious she had never seen his wife. “I think a blind man would find her physically attractive. That’s definitely not the problem.”
It certainly wasn’t. Eclid had the visage of an angel, or a goddess, whichever was prettier. Men would chase after her for all eternity. Only Nicke was lucky enough to snag her before anyone else could.
Nicke was quite a handsome man himself. They were maybe the most aesthetically delightful couple in the entire province of Fenicia. One could only imagine what cherubic progeny would arise from the combination of their genetics. If only it were so simple.
“The thing is: the physical part was never an issue. Like I said, we met at a young age, and our relationship wasn’t based on physical attraction. I don’t think there was a physical attraction. The attraction was more…I don’t know…magnetic…spiritual maybe. Truth be told, we only started having sex two years ago. Even then, I can count on my fingers how many times we’ve done it. Now with the added pressure of needing to have kids, it’s just damn near impossible to get it up. And we both refuse to mess with haptica, even though I figure it would help. Her family has a history of drug addiction, so she doesn’t want anything to do with that. She’d rather not take any chances.”
“I agree. As effective as haptica is, it’s dangerously addictive. Beyond that, the adverse effects are horrible. But that’s why it’s illegal for recreational use. Are you against any and all forms of medication?”
“Pretty much,” Nicke said without hesitation. “She and I both want to try the most conservative treatment first, although she doesn’t know the exact reason why I’m here.”
“And why are you here?” Morgan prompted.
“Well,” Nicke began, “according to what I told her, I’m here because of stress and anxiety. She thinks that’s why I’m having trouble in the bedroom. She thinks the stress of having to rush this whole starting-a-family thing is getting to my head. Or should I say heads? That can happen, though, can’t it?”
Morgan nodded without looking up from her e-tab. She just typed away, biting her upper lip.
“And the other thing she thinks is that I’m struggling in this body. Which is kind of true. She and I both know I wanted to feminate, even when I chose to masculate. I only masculated to get married. It was a sacrifice I had to make for her. As I said, I stand by my decision; it’s just a difficult burden. She has no idea what I’m going through, which is why she suggested I seek help. We’re thinking you see cases like this all the time and might know what to do from hearing my story. But I’m not sure it will be that easy. I feel like it’s more than me dealing with manhood. After seven years, I think I can handle it. But these last two years have been…difficult, to say the least. I mean, I can’t think of the right word for how I feel about trying to start a family. Repulsed? No, that’s too strong. But it’s close.”
“Let me ask you this,” Dr. Bluff said. “Do you think this…repulsion…could have anything to do with a fear of starting a family? Plenty of men have come in here because they are stressed out about trying to be a good father to their children.”
“No, I don’t think it’s about fatherhood,” Nicke said after a few seconds, shaking his head. “I raised my little sibling after our parents died in a fire. Nir name is Zenith, Zen for short. Zen is much younger than I am, so I’ve had plenty of practice raising a kid. I think I did pretty well, actually. Ne’s going to SFU come this fall, a year ahead of where ne should be at nir age. So, I don’t think parenting is the issue.”
“Okay,” Morgan said, shifting in her seat. “Then I have another question. I must admit you appear a little tense, more than the typical patient. So, would you say your current predicament makes you angry?”
“Angry,” Nicke said. He glanced up at the ceiling and pondered over the word as if it were some foreign food he was tasting for the first time. “I’m not much of an angry person. But I think that could be a good way to put it.”
“And when you put it that way, where exactly is your anger directed? Toward your wife, maybe? Or toward the government?”
Nicke peered at Morgan quizzically. She recognized his confusion and rotated to set her e-tab on her desk. This time, it was her turn to make herself comfortable and provide some elaboration.
“I’ll explain,” she said. “Notice I asked if your situation made you angry. The situation. That’s what a lot of people will say when they don’t want to admit what is actually making them angry. It helps to diffuse the blame. But when you get down to it, it’s not the entire situation; it’s usually something more specific. Take your case, for example. If you and your wife, Eclid, had met in another time period, you might have been able to have everything you wanted. Had it not been for the SHF, you and Eclid could have both become women and still been able to marry. Because you live in this time in history, what used to be called gay or homosexual marriage is illegal. So, maybe your anger is not at the situation, it’s with the government. After all, the reason two women can’t marry is because of a law put into place by the government.
“The other possibility is you’re upset with Eclid. Or she at least reminds you of why you’re angry. It’s possible to be angry with someone when they didn’t do anything wrong. You and Eclid made a choice, and now you may be struggling to live with your choice because when you see her you are reminded of what could have been. She may resemble the life you can’t have, and that’s what makes you angry.”
Nicke bit the inside of his lip and tried to smile away the tears in his eyes. This woman was making revelations about him in under half an hour that he couldn’t admit to himself in six years. “You’re good, Doc. I think you’re exactly right. I think that’s what it is. I don’t know why I feel that way; I love Eclid. It’s just some gut feeling I get. It’s like I love her, but I hate her at the same time, and I’m so confused.” He took a deep breath and brushed his hands through his hair to compose himself.
“What you’re feeling isn’t unusual,” Morgan assured him, “it happens all the time. The fact of the matter is, there are plenty of people who end up making decisions based on other people, and sometimes it works against them. But I think there are some positives to take from this. For instance, usually when people come in with the problem you are having, it’s relatively early on in their marriage. You and Eclid have been together for much longer than is typically seen in this situation, which means you two are trying to work through this together. I’m happy to see that. Not all couples are so mature. The other thing is there are a number of strategies we can employ to try and make you more comfortable sexually with your wife. It sounds like that is the only issue, because you seem to be comfortable with her in other aspects of your life.”
“Yes, absolutely,” Nicke said. “Problems only come up when we’re trying and have sex.”
“Understandable. I think we can work with it. But I want you to know it will be best if at some point you can tell your wife what you’re going through, and be specific. Especially because after our next few appointments I’m going to ask she come here with you.”
Nicke knew this request would come. He didn’t want to consent to it verbally, so he nodded.
Morgan smiled and continued. “Until then, I’d like to understand more about your background. I figure we can’t get through everything I want to know in the hour or so we have today, but I’m sure you’re aware this will not be a quick fix. I typically don’t make appointments less than a month apart, but would it be possible to meet again in the next two or three weeks?”
“Yeah,” Nicke responded, “I agree. Sooner might be better.”
“Perfect, we can schedule a second appointment at the end of today.” Morgan paused, then presented a grin so wide Nicke could see her back teeth, the second molars. “Now, tell me about your parents.”Nicke furrowed his brow, then shared a laugh with Morgan when he recognized the joke.