Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Transgender Heaven

A short story by Monica Roberts
Dedicated to all of the people who have fallen victim to anti-transgender violence.

“Monica, hope you’re feeling better. Girl, take something for that cough.”
“As soon as I get home Aletha, I’ll will.
“Gee, this dream is so realistic. These lights are so bright I can barely make out those gates over there.”
“You mean the Pearly Gates? “
“Who said that?” I asked as a six foot one sister dressed in white from head to toe stepped out of the light and into my field of vision.
“Phyllis Hyman?”
“In the flesh, so to speak.”
“If that’s really you standing in front of me, then I must be…..”
“Deceased? Not yet.”
“To what do I owe this honor?”
“Your grandmother is tied up in a meeting with Dr. King, so she asked me to escort you around Heaven. She thought you’d get a kick out of me showing you around.”
"She’s right.”
“Besides, this is my off night from The Club and I didn’t have anything planned for today except hanging out around the house.”
”The Club?”
“Yep. We have shows every night. Luther’s singing tonight. Duke and Ella ask me to sing with them when they perform.”
“Hmm, that’s a show I’d love to see.”
“You’ll get that chance if you decide to stay.”
“I might. I’m so tired of the crap that’s going on back in the United States.”
“I’ve heard. Your grandmother Tama told me. We’ve become pretty tight since she arrived.“
“So where are we going?”
“I need to make a hair appointment first before I show you around.”
“Still the diva, huh?”
“And what sistah doesn’t have a little diva in her?”
“True that.“

We walked past well-manicured homes and apartment buildings until we came to a beauty shop on the corner of Heavenly Peace Lane and Holy Boulevard. She opened the door and I almost fainted when I saw that the hairdresser was Tyra Hunter. The client that was sitting in the chair getting her hair done also looked vaguely familiar.
“Hey Phyllis, what’s going on?”
“Hey Tyra, what’s happening?”
“Busy as usual. Who’s your friend?”
"Tyra, this is Monica. Monica, Tyra.”
“Nice to meet you. I’ve seen the stories about you and Dawn on HNN. Love what y’all are doing for the sistahs.”
“I need to make an appointment, Tyra. When can you hook me up?”
“Would you excuse me for a moment, Chanelle? I need to check my appointment book.”
“Sure,” she said as Tyra walked over to the ornate desk to check it.
“How about tomorrow at eleven?”
“No good. Got a brunch with Dorothy Dandridge. Is three o’clock open?”
“Yes it is.”
“Okay. I’ll see you then,” she said as the door swung open and Ukea Davis and Stephanie Thomas walked in.
“Hey, Sister Tyra, Miss Phyllis,” said Ukea.
“Hey ladies.”
“Sister Tyra, can you fit us in to get our hair done? We’re going to the Mahalia concert tonight and my hair needs to be tight for that,” said Stephanie.
“I can hook both of y’all up as soon as I’m done with Chanelle. Aaliyah had to cancel her appointment at the last minute.“
“Have you seen Gwen lately?” asked Ukea.
“She came in here with Chareka Keys yesterday,” said Tyra.
“Next time you see her tell her I need to talk to her.”
“Who’s your friend, Miss Phyllis?”
“Stephanie, just call me Phyllis. You’re making me feel old.”
“Yes ma’am.”
“This is Monica. I’m showing her around.”
“The lady they talk about on HNN who's the transgender activist back on Earth?”
“In the flesh,” I replied.
“Congratulations on winning that Trinity. You sure lit a fire under those girls when you told them in your speech to reclaim and proclaim their Christianity,” said Ukea
"Thanks ladies.”
“Are you planning on staying?”
”I’m leaning toward it, Stephanie. I’d love to be around my grandmother again.”
“Yeah, that’s the best part about being here. Being reunited with a lot of people and meeting interesting new ones every day.”

Phyllis’ cell phone rang as we were chatting and she picked it up as I continued talking to the various patrons of the shop. Phyllis finished her conversation with the person on the other end of the line, then hung up her phone.
“Who was that?”
“The Boss. He says your work on Earth isn’t finished yet and you need to return ASAP.”
"Doggone it. I was hoping to see my grandmother.”
”Sorry Monica, It’s gonna have to wait for another time.”
The shop patrons and I said our good-byes and I reluctantly headed back to the Pearly Gates with Phyllis.

I arrived a few moments later and started to frown as I prepared to walk back through the gates. Phyllis hugged me as she said, “Cheer up. When it's time for you to come home we’ll be waiting for you. Just continue helping your fellow transpeople and remember that all of us will be watching over you.”
“When you get back I’ll have a front row table reserved for you at The Club.”
“Monica’s waking up…”
Is that Dawn’s voice? “Where am I?” I said groggily as I awoke to beeping machinery and a group of anxious people gathered around my bed. It dawned on me seconds later that I was in the hospital.
“At Baptist East. That bad cough you had was pneumonia. Nearly took you out of here,” said Aletha.
“Yeah, the machine flat lined for a moment but they brought you back to us,” said AC.
Just then the nurse walked in. “Sorry folks, visiting hours are over. She needs to get some rest.”
"Monica, on the nightstand next to the bed is your CD player. Grabbed a few CD’s and stacked them next to you.”
“Thanks, AC.”
“You’re welcome. Get some sleep, kid. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I said as everyone left. After the nurse checked my vital signs and marked them off on a chart she left my room. I reached over for the CD’s to see which ones AC brought for me to listen to. In addition to my usual 70’s and 80’s R&B and jazz favorites there was one more:

Phyllis Hyman’s ‘Prime of My Life.'

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