Not everything is a love fest, as my (terminal) correspondence with Slade indicates. You’ll recall I saw him the other day for lunch before my high school reunion. I had not heard from him, so I dropped him an email yesterday:

Hi, Slade ---

It was great to see you in Empire Falls the other day, and thanks for helping me get that red Dodge pickup from the airport to town (we'll see if they can fix the master electrical bus).

I saw Rob Peterson and Anna Cramer out at the ranch on Saturday afternoon, and Ann reported that you and she had talked at the country club and that Keith Cravat was apparently drunk and obnoxious (I suppose some things simply don't change).

Speaking of change, I know that we did not talk about me and my life transition, and perhaps it was because of having the kids in tow (which wasn't something I had planned -- Mary Jo was supposed to be in Empire Falls Thursday night and she was going to watch the kids while I did stuff in town, but she was delayed because of a medical exam).

Or maybe there was nothing to talk about -- I don't know. In any case, what you see is what you get with me, and aside from it being a bit odd (OK, even really, really odd), life is good and I feel like whole person for the first time in a very, very long time. I'm not sure what this is like to you --- whether you're pissed off or fearful or annoyed or confused or aghast or something entirely different --- and I guess it's none of my business except that I pledged loyalty to you a long time ago and attended your wedding and have always held you as my oldest and dearest friend, and the silence is perplexing. If there's something to be done, I'd like to know what it is.

Hope you're doing well and that your kids are getting all their ducks in a row for the upcoming school year.

Yours,
Joyce

To which he responded definitively this morning:

George:

You have gone somewhere I cannot go. I barely recognize you anymore and I have had a very difficult time with this situation. You talk about "loyalty" and you insist on some definite reply from me. Since you insist, I choose to reply No. I will talk over the phone or by email, but I cannot hang out. Remember, you insisted that I choose. I would not have wanted it this way. Everything was by your choice and upon your insistence, not mine. I did my best. That's all that can be expected of me and that's all that I can expect of myself.

Slade

I have gained much in transitioning, have benefited in a hundred ways since I fell into the deep despair almost 2 years ago. But there are also losses, perhaps not as many as I feared, and not as many as my friends feared, but they do exist, and they feel like enormous failures as they glow white hot with my fire of doubt and regret. Some things may never be recovered through personal atonement, and that hard realization makes me feel very vulnerable.