Carl Young’s biggest secret: he’s always felt like Cara Young. Through the years, he acknowledged his authentic female self in ways he kept hidden in the shadows. The makeup, the dresses, the shoes -- all of them represented his most longed-for desires and his deepest shame.
When Carl’s husband Roberto comes home early from work to discover Cara in her wig, makeup, dress, and high heels, he’s shocked. Who is this person he married decades ago? He flees, leaving their home in Chicago for the obliviousness of the sunny skies of Southern California.
Cara begins making tentative steps into a world she imagined would always remain secret. She ventures out, dressing the only way she feels whole. Publicly claiming her identity, she’s terrified, but also filled with joy when she discovers there are others like her, people who will welcome her with open arms and support.
But for both Roberto and Cara, their long-term and love-filled marriage is now a challenge with which they both must reckon. Does her transition mean following separate paths? Or forging a new one ... together?
He tried to hold his discomfort and shivering in abeyance as he climbed the boulders at the north end of the beach and sat down on the cold and wet rock. He wished he’d worn a warmer coat because he longed to stay here a while, in the quiet, the only sound the rhythmic pull and push of the waves against the shore. There was something mesmerizing about watching the flakes drift down, disappearing into the pewter-colored water. Visibility was nil, but he could see the sun above as a white orb, a glow amidst the overcast skies.
“You know, it’s all right.”
The voice came to him more through his head than his ears. He turned.
Sitting next to him was his mother. Carl wasn’t surprised.
She was as she appeared when he was a little boy -- a beautiful woman whose Sicilian heritage endowed her with the most penetrating green eyes and the creamiest olive complexion. “And the biggest nose,” she’d probably add, laughing. Staring out at the waves, her face was unlined, her hair glossy, dark, curling around her face. She wore a mouton coat he’d remembered from his childhood. Once upon a time, he’d slip into her closet and don the coat; it was unbelievably soft and warm. Its satin lining was a wonderful contrast to the plushness of the fur. He could smell his mother’s perfume and the faintest hint of cigarette smoke on the coat.
It was almost like being given a hug from her.
“What’s all right?” he asked, almost as if talking to his younger -- and dead -- mother on a beach in the middle of a blizzard was the most normal thing in the world. “The fact that you lost your battle with cancer?” The tears welling in his eyes worried him because he feared they’d freeze. “Because, Mom, I can tell you, that is not all right.” He wiped wet snow from his cheeks. “What will I do without you? Who will I call on Sundays? Who will care about what happens to me? Who will listen now? How will I feel the hole left in your absence?”
He had a lot of questions.
She waved his concerns away. Her nails were long, blood red, just as they’d been when she was young. She stopped caring as she got older and kept them clipped short, no polish. “Don’t be so dramatic. You always were. I was old, honey. And the cancer they said they got all of?” She chuckled. “They were wrong.” She shrugged. “It happens. The big C stands for cancer, right?”
“Well, it also stands for cunning, because it is. It comes down to a fight for survival. I take comfort in the fact that even though the big C won the battle, I won the war.” She smiled, looking Carl in the eye. “No more host. That cancer just lost his job.”
They sat silently for a long time. Carl wondered if he’d died and now they were in some sort of afterlife. It was quiet enough. The still made it seem as though they were the only two people on the planet.
“Well, what did you mean then? What’s all right?”
She turned and reached out her hands, not quite reaching his cheeks. He wondered if she was capable of touch or if her hands would reach him as a cold gust. “You. You’re all right. Just as you are. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it. I wish I had told you this when you were little and I caught you wearing my clothes or makeup.” She shrugged. “Hindsight. But Carl, you’re okay and you will be okay. Don’t let anyone stop you.”
“From being exactly who you are.”
Carl closed his eyes and that caused the tears to fall at last. They made him colder, but they made him human.
When he opened his eyes again, he was alone on the beach.