What Has My Stepson Jace Been Up To?

A tale of love and loss in America’s heartland

Anthony Aycock


Photo courtesy of the author

That’s my car, above.

The one belching flames.

Well, I say it’s mine. What I mean is, I am the legal owner. Was the legal owner. I imagine the burned-out hulk is now sitting in some Iowa scrapyard. The car is a 2004 Toyota Corolla, which I bought in 2005. It had over 500,000 miles on it.

I can’t be sure of the total, as the odometer stopped working eight years ago.

Iowa is where my stepson Jace lives. He has driven the car for years. He was driving it three days ago, August 21, when he suspected something was wrong with one of the tires. He pulled over, got out, and started looking at the tires.

That is when the car did a Krakatoa.

You remember Jace. I’ve written before about his becoming transgender, then about his starting testosterone, and finally about how that testosterone was affecting him — affecting us — after six months.

I’ve known Jace since 2003, when he, then “she,” was six years old and I met, and later married, her mom. That marriage ended in 2018 when she moved out, blaming me for the fact that she and Jace fought like the Yorks and Lancasters. This left the two of us as roommates in North Carolina.

How did he end up in Iowa?

I began dating again not long after Jace’s mother left. She was my third wife, and I wasn’t looking for a fourth, though I wasn’t opposed to the idea of one. In 2020, I met Maria. She was 50 years old to my 46, with two teenage sons. Like me, she grew up in a small town with many eyes on her (her mother was a college professor). She was raised Methodist — not that different from Baptist — and frogmarched to church every week. She liked books, British comedy, studying languages — the same nerdy miscellany as me.

Before long, I was spending a few nights a week at her house. A man who has two homes actually has none, and eventually, I grew tired of shuttling myself back and forth. The solution was clear: we should move in together, maybe get married. Why not?

Jace, for one thing.