Mr. Johnson

| Mar 2, 2020
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Victoria sat at her little table brushing on eye shadow. She stole a quick glance at the clock. “Shit!” she thought. “Every time.” She was supposed to meet Barb for tea in 20 minutes. Without fail, Victoria always had hours before she had to be somewhere, until . . . she was running late. Pursing her lips at the mirror, she thought, “Well, that’s good enough.” Throwing on a black knit sweater, she put on the big flouncy hat she bought yesterday, just for this occasion. Its giant brim dipped down just right around her head. She was wearing a modest dress with a big floral print, a Barbara Bush large pearl necklace, and simple black flats. Humming I Feel Pretty, she scurried to her car.

Traffic was a little heavy for a Tuesday, but it moved easily, and Victoria turned into a parking garage and pulled the ticket. She emerged onto the sidewalk and headed for the restaurant where she was meeting Barb. Barb was her best friend, and they often got together to laugh or cry about whatever was happening in their lives.

“Let’s go to high tea,” Barb had announced one day.

“What is high tea?” Victoria asked her.

“I don’t know. I just know I want to. I think there are big fancy hats involved.” Laughing, Victoria asked where to find such a place. “There’s a little restaurant on Third Street. I’ve walked past it, and it is so cute! We could drink tea and eat little pastries. Maybe old biddies would cluck at us,” Barb offered

“You had me at big hats!” Victoria exclaimed.

It was a clear afternoon, windy and cool, as summer turned into fall. The leaves on the trees were beginning to turn into glorious reds, yellows, and oranges. Like the roads, the sidewalks were busy with people scurrying about to their work, or to eat, or perhaps beginning their holiday shopping. With one hand holding her hat against the wind, and the other clutching the bag slung over her shoulder, Victoria pressed against the foot traffic. Her phone jangled in her purse. Switching the hand holding her hat, she fished out her phone. It was Barb.

“Bitch, where are you?”

“I’m sorry honey,” she answered, “I’m almost there.”

Holding her hat against the wind and shoving her phone back into her bag, Victoria stepped off the curb to cross Broadway, and . . . bam! She ran into a brick wall, bounced off, well, something, and fell right in the street, skinning her knee as the contents of her purse spilled out onto the crosswalk. She got up to her hands and knees and began shoving her keys, cellphone, and makeup back in her bag. She realized someone was speaking to her.

“I’m so sorry. Are you all right?” Finishing collecting her items, she peered up at the man speaking to her. He was a big dark shadow against the sky. Victoria realized he had extended a hand to help her. She reached out and took it, and he effortlessly pulled her up to her feet. “You’re bleeding.” He noticed her knee.

People hurried across the street, not noticing or caring much about the two strangers standing in the crosswalk. Victoria threw her purse over her shoulder and straightened her dress. She examined her knee and saw a nice little scrape just beginning to bleed.

“Oh, I . . . “ She looked up to see who this man was. At 5’14” Victoria was very conscious of her height. She felt awkward and gangly. She knew some supermodels are very tall, especially in their heels, and they stomp down the runway looking fierce and confident. Victoria has herself known some taller women, and she admired them for their comfort and grace. Indeed, she thought they were beautiful women. But when it was her, she felt her ungainly height made her stand out in a crowd.

He was perhaps 6’5”. Victoria looked up to meet his eyes. He had a big handsome face. One of those light stubble beards. His head was bald, with one ear bent over at the top, perhaps bitten by a dog or maybe it was a boxer’s cauliflower. An amused little half-smile played across his face. But it was his eyes. Steel grey eyes were examining her with a mixture of concern, and a little humor. Victoria found herself looking up into those eyes, and she swooned. Her knees buckled, and she started to fall. Again. His hand caught her elbow, steadying her.

“Whoa there,” he said. “Take a moment. Let’s find you a place to sit for a minute. I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you.” Then, after a heartbeat or two, “My name’s Rick. Rick Johnson.” He looked at her questioningly.

“I’m . . . I’m . . .” Victoria stammered. “I’m late!” She rushed pat him, to the curb across the street, and on to her tea with Barb. The man named Rick Johnson just turned and watched her melt into the crowd.

Entering the little restaurant, Victoria paused to look around. Lace curtains adorned the big front window. Mismatched wooden tables and chairs, each with a pretty tablecloth and fresh flowers, were jammed in seemingly at random. Searching the room, the tables full of women in finery and yes, some big hats, she heard her name.


She turned, and spotting Barb, began to weave her way through the tables. “I’m sorry I’m late,” she exclaimed, a little breathless from her recent ordeal.

Spying the little trail of blood dripping down Victoria’s leg, Barb asked, “Oh my god. What happened? Are you all right? Sit, sit,” with concern in her voice. Victoria slung her purse over the back of her chair and plopped into the chair.

A waitress appeared before them and handed Victoria a menu. “What can I get you ladies? Do you need a minute?” She was an older woman with maybe a little too much makeup on.

Barb said, “Give us a moment.” Turning to Victoria, she asked, “What the hell happened?”

The napkins on the table were cloth, so Victoria pulled a tissue out of her purse and dabbed at her skinned knee. “Oh, it’s nothing really,” she reassured Barb. “I was hurrying to get here, and I ran into this man. Or he ran into me.”

“A man? Tell me more!” Barb’s eyes twinkled, and she leaned in conspiratorially.

“Oh, it was nothing, really,” Victoria replied. She was not dating anyone. In fact, she had stopped looking. But something about him . . . She looked away, a little wistfully.

“What?” Barb studied her face. “Give it up.”

“Well,” Victoria searched for the right words. “He was kind of handsome. And . . . kind of tall. And kind of rugged.”

“Oh my!” Barb fanned herself with an invisible fan. She looked at Victoria, her eyes darting from one eye to the other, waiting for more.

Victoria went on slowly, “He said . . .” She remembered the feelings that washed over her and caused her to run away. “His name was Rick Johnson.”

Barb laughed out loud, both at the schoolgirl who was suddenly sitting across from her, and at the name. “Wait. The man’s name is Richard Johnson? You do realize that’s like two dicks. Like Peter O’Toole! It’s like, I don’t know, an omen or something!”

Victoria instantly flushed. Beet red. Looking down at the table, avoiding eye contact, she said, “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But she smiled demurely, remembering her very brief encounter with Mr. Johnson. “Besides, I’m sure I’ll never see him again.”

It was Friday night. Barb and Victoria were meeting friends for drinks, as they often did. That night they had all agreed to meet at Plan 9. It was a new downtown club, and there was a lot of buzz that it was hopping. They entered the bar and immediately the darkness, the flashing lights around the dance floor, and the thumping of the bass in the music suggested that Plan 9 was indeed hopping. They pushed their way through the throng of people to the bar and immediately Barb began trying to catch the bartender’s eye. Victoria spotted a couple of friends on the dance floor grinding away to the music and waved. Smiling, they waved back and returned to their dancing.

The bartender came over and Barb shouted above the music, “Two shots of tequila! And a mojito, and . . . “ She turned to Victoria.

“A shot?” Victoria asked.

“Yes momma. A fucking shot. It’s Friday night.”

“A margarita.”

Turning back to the bartender, Barb finished their order. “And a margarita.”

The bartender offered up the shots and began making the cocktails. They raised their shot glasses and clinked them together. Barb toasted, “Here’s to staying positive and testing negative!” They tossed down the tequila and thumped the little glasses down on the bar.

Looking at her image in the mirror behind the bar, Victoria plucked at her hair, straightening it a bit. “Don’t change a hair. You look beautiful,” a voice boomed behind her. Over her shoulder she could see the face of the man from the street Tuesday. “Remember me? We ran into each other the other day.”

Victoria grabbed her drink and took a sip, buying a moment or two to collect her thoughts. “Yes, of course,” she squeaked. You’re Rick . . . “ she tried to remember.

“Johnson,” he responded, holding out his hand. “Rick Johnson. And you are . . .”

Victoria took his outstretched hand in hers and found herself dangerously close to swooning again. What was it about him that touched her so deeply?

Not missing a bit of this little dance unfolding in front of her, Barb stepped up and said, “Victoria. Her name’s Victoria. And my name is Barb,” she grinned, first at him, then her. A smile broke out across Rick’s face, and Victoria looked like she was about to throw up. Neither of them looked over at Barb. “And I’m invisible,” she exclaimed. I’ll just be over here buffing my nails.”

“Nice to see you again, Victoria. How’s your knee?”

“Fine, Mr. Johnson. It’s just a little scrape.”

“I’m so happy to bump into you again,” he chuckled. “So to speak.”

Victoria was not quite able to actually speak yet. She sipped her margarita and looked up into his eyes. Up! “How wonderful,” she thought. That big square face. And oh, that cute little bent over ear. She could just . . . but wait! What was going on here? He’s just a random man that happened to bump into her. Well, twice now. But Victoria was not looking for a man. Not at all. She had transitioned from Jim three years ago and had three years living as a woman. She had gradually, over time, learned how to be happy. How to walk and talk. How to dress and wear her hair and makeup. Today she was out and loud, a proud trans woman. And her eyes were open about her choices, her chances for meeting Mr. Right. Victoria was comfortable in her own skin, “But let’s be honest,” she thought. She had been on the worst dates. “The worst!” They could be comical, if they didn’t feel so tragic. And while she felt right with her presence in the world, she would always carry that adjective. Victoria had resigned herself to the fact that the greater world, the straight world, would never see her as a woman. She would always be a trans woman. And that was all right. In fact, she loved being a trans woman. Victoria was not what anyone would call an activist, not by any means, but she was active in the transgender community. She participated in the local LGBT Center, and she loved her transgender sisters and brothers. But she had resigned herself to the fact that dating was off the table. But oh, this man standing in front of her! “He’ll run for the exit when he realizes,” she thought, “but a girl can dream.” She realized he was speaking.

“What are you ladies drinking?” He ordered another round.

Victoria studied him. He was tall, she sighed. He was broad in his shoulders and in his hips. He was wearing a dark brown sport jacket over an impossibly white t-shirt. Jeans. “His chest looks like a billboard!” she sighed.

They chatted about work and home life, local events and the upcoming holidays. Victoria began to relax as they conversed, as she looked up and met those grey eyes. But she also watched him, waiting for that moment when he would realize who he was talking with. “Any minute,” she prepared herself, “he’s going to run for the exit.” But Rick never did. In fact, their conversation became a little more . . . intimate. They were a little closer together. And Rick was a little . . . flirty. Not in a lounge lizard, skirt chaser kind of way, just . . . nice.

Barb had long since given up and leaving this scene to play itself out, had joined their friends.

“I’m kind of hungry,” Rick declared, “What about you?”

Victoria thought, “Let’s just get it out there. Better to yank the Band-Aid off.” “Rick, I think there’s something you need to know,” she proclaimed resignedly.

“What is it, Victoria? You don’t like me? You’re seeing someone.”

“No, no,” she laughed. “I’m not seeing anyone, and you’re just . . .” she sighed.

“What? What is it? Wait.” He studied her face, reading her anxious concern. “I knew it. You’re . . .” He paused.

“Here it come.” Victoria braced herself for reality.

“You’re a Scorpio!” he proclaimed. “Well I’m a Pisces, and Pisces don’t believe in astrology. “That’s not it,” he continued. “You’re left-handed. You’re a Republican. You’re in a relationship.” Then, with very heavy words, he said, “You’re married.”

Victoria was laughing, and at the same time she was quite near tears. “No, no, no. This is serious.” She paused. Victoria moves through the world all day every day as a transgender woman. Confident and happy, generally, and proud of her identity. What was it about this man? Why was this so difficult? This was it. Nothing left to do but press on. Looking down, her cheeks burning hot, she swallowed and said, “I’m transgender.”

“Oh.” He paused a moment, either pausing for dramatic effect or collecting his thoughts.

Victoria waited for a beat. Two beats. Waiting for the axe she knew was coming.

“Is that it? You’re not a serial killer? Or married?”

She smacked his chest. “This is serious! I need you to know and understand who I am. I’m happy with that person, but I can’t bear the thought of anyone scowling or whispering about you.” If he didn’t run out the door, Victoria just might.

Rick turned her chin up and gazed at her. He took her hands in his, and said, “Look. I saw you for you that first time last Tuesday. I saw a strong, confident woman. A beautiful woman. If a little disorganized.” He laughed, and with a little sniffle, Victoria laughed too. “So I just have one very important question.”

“Yes?” Victoria responded, waiting.

“Are you hungry?”

Blinking through some unexpected and unwanted tears, and with a little chuckle, she answered, “Yes, Mr. Johnson, I am.”

Holding her hand in his, with a firm but gentle grasp, he said, “Well, let’s go grab a bite.”

Holding hands, they picked their way through the crowd to the door. Catching Barb’s eye, Victoria gave her a sheepish grin and a shrug. In response, Barb held up her hands in a heart shape against her chest. She grinned back.

They pushed through the door to the sidewalk outside. “There’s just one thing I have to do.” Rick’s voice was deep. He turned Victoria’s face up to meet his and gazed once again deeply into her eyes.

“What? Do you . . .” her voice trailed off.

“This.” His arm reached around to the small of her back, and he drew her in tight. His lips came down, and hers moved up to meet him. They kissed, a long, slow, absolutely glorious kiss. Once again, Victoria swooned. Her knees buckled, and she clutched him tight.

“Oh . . . Mr. Johnson!”

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Category: Fiction


About the Author ()

Jaelle Terrell is a self described "old crone" living in Cleveland Ohio. She is a fabric artist and a writer, and recently become enthralled with stand up comedy and has been performing at local open mic’s.

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