Jack looked into the mirror and studied his square jaw and good looking features. He was quite pleased with the five o’clock shadow which had finally filled in on the sides of his face. Outside of the small cinder block dressing room, he could hear the pounding beat of the evening overture which signaled the start of the show. Adrenaline rushed through his body as he stepped out on stage, where he stood, discreetly hidden behind the heavy red velvet curtain. The emcee could be heard enticing the crowd to call his name….Jackal…Jackal…Jackal…and as the voices grew louder and more intense, he felt his heart begin to pound in his chest until suddenly the curtains flew open and a thunderous roar filled the club. Jack stood there, alone on stage with his back to the darkened audience, waiting impatiently for the first note of his signature song to burst through the massive sound system. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house, in fact, standing room only, he could tell without even looking.
The Legacy had been his home bar for seven years. It was the club that had given him his first opportunity at “drag”. Jack… aka Jackie, had been an awkward 18 year old tomboy, showing off on the dance floor, when one of the seasoned kings had noticed her. Tommy D. offered to take her under his wing and teach her the art of male illusion. Jack had accepted the offer and had quickly gone on to become a headliner at Legacy and a top paid performer in clubs all over the tristate area…and now here he was stepping out onto the stage for the final time. It all seemed strange and surreal and it felt like his world was about to come crashing down upon him.
All at once, the pounding drums of Def Leppard filled the room and he began jumping in place to the guitar riff at the beginning of “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. The crowd leapt to its feet as Jackal spun around and the white hot spotlight engulfed him. He felt comfort in the heat on his face and his blinded vision. The girls screamed as he moved across the stage, plucking dollar bills from their outstretched hands or their pouting lips and he loved it. He loved every stinking second of it. For so many years, the stage was the only place he felt at home, it made him feel like the man he should have always been.
He lived for the weekend, wishing in fact, that he could just sleep through the other five days. Instead, he flipped burgers in his Uncle Milton’s diner every day from 10 am until close. The front door of the place, opened to a shiny, stainless steel counter surrounded by a row of cherry red vinyl stools. Large, comfy, red booths outlined the room with gleaming white Formica tables inside. As you stepped through the front door, you were greeted by the sound of sizzling burgers and the roar of French fries dropping into vats of bubbling oil. The smell of the food was intoxicating and the mysterious recipe of Uncle Milton’s secret “Gut-Buster” kept the place hopping. Jack had grown up in that diner and could fondly remember his Aunt Nellie dropping quarters in the old Wurlitzer jukebox and encouraging him as an enthusiastic 7 year old, to dance and sing for the customers. Jack, who knew the words to every single worn out forty five, did so happily, since he was eager to please his favorite aunt, especially when the delighted customers tossed him dimes and quarters at the end of each song. That was his first taste of stardom and at the time, he had no idea how performing would one day change his entire life.
Back on stage the infamous Jackal, continued to relish in what would be his last time in the spotlight. The audience, knowing that this was indeed his final curtain call, kept the applause going throughout the entire performance, hoping that maybe it would help change his mind and postpone the inevitable. It would not. Jack knew the time had come to put his drag career behind him, especially since it wasn’t really “drag” anymore. A little over a year ago, Jack had made the decision to transition. Tired of living a lie, Jack worked hard and saved his money, all of his money. After investigating clinics and doctors, procedures and techniques, he had decided to move forward with the process of Testosterone injections even though some of the possible side effects could be quite severe. The transformation began quickly as his voice began to change and his soft facial features hardened. He felt dizzy with excitement the morning he woke to discover budding facial hair on his cheek and chin. Jack spent late nights working out in his basement, developing a new body and physique. There had been bouts with nausea, allergic reactions, mood swings and hot flashes but he would not change a thing, never once questioning his choice to move forward with his transformation.
As Jackie became Jack there seemed to be no place in his life for the persona of Jackal. With his top surgery complete, and his bottom surgery scheduled, combined with the official name and gender change yesterday afternoon at the DMV he was not a “male impersonator” anymore. He was a man. The stage had once provided an outlet for his alter ego to shine and a safe and welcoming place to be himself. It was a teeny, tiny spot in a callous, intolerant world, where he was applauded for his courage and conviction. He now had the whole world to conquer, discover and explore. There was no longer a need to tape down or “pack up”. The facial hair was real, the heart and soul had finally found harmony within the vessel in which they traveled. It was time to let go of the safety net that Jackal had provided.
The song ended to a massive wave of love and applause, as the crowd screamed “Encore…encore!” Jackal stood there fascinated, enchanted by this single, powerful moment that would end an era. He soaked up the spotlight and surveyed the room one last time. He considered an encore but decided against it…after all, Aunt Nelly had always said “Leave ‘em wanting more!” And that’s just what he did as he bowed one last time and walked off the stage.
Alana Marie
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