Saturday, March 24, 2018

Tyler the Valerie: Loosening up, after a while

Yesterday was one of those rough days that really underscored how frustrating life could be. Not that I would blame it all on being transformed, although if I never had been to that Inn it's hard to imagine myself having any of these problems... but things might not be as different as I'd like to think. Yes, I'd still be male (and trust me, being female has a way of compounding every single one of you daily issues in sometimes unexpected ways) but would things be that good? I've got to wonder.

A lot of the things that were bugging me were not really gender-related, mind you. It was just a tougher-than-usual day to withstand. There was the usual bullshit with the boy-children I live with, with the place looking like as much of a wreck and the whole gang is totally apathetic about it. Then I worked all day shorthanded due to an illness, with some big pop-up event happening down the block that led to a 300% increase in traffic and only me and Maddie to cover it. Everyone who we could have called in had other plans, except Rafe, who declined because he was "not feeling it today."

So the two of us were absolutely killing ourselves trying to fill five orders a minute, sweating through my best bra, with entitled suit-bros eager to debate who got what order wrong and how until they get a refund, like I have time for any of this, as if there isn't a line out the door. So by the end of nine hours - oh yes, I stayed an extra hour - I was tired, and all of my parts, from my shoulders and back down to my knees and ankles, were sore to the bone. (In case you weren't aware, having breasts this size on such a petite frame really taxes your muscles, especially when you have to spend all day bending down, stretching up, and just generally on your feet.) And I had been so eager to get out of the apartment that morning that I skipped breakfast, which made me so hungry by the time I took my break that I was too faint and nauseous to actually eat. I won't repeat that mistake again... probably.

By the time it was over I did not want to do anything, but oh, I had already agreed to go out with Pete/Brigette because she had gotten us on the list for this hot new piano bar. Plus, I had given her a minor earful when she was nowhere to be found and I "had to" crash at Rafe's that one night, (even though it wasn't so bad at the time - my current anger at him notwithstanding.) So I didn't think I would be able to get out of it, and I actually didn't want to because I was dying for some Inn-Victim company so I could complain about what's really bugging me for once.

I ranted and raved for twenty minutes while Pete wrestled Brigette's hair into a really nice up-do. I scoured tall-thin Brigette's wardrobe for something that might fit stumpy-booby me, eventually coming a cross a top that was probably meant to be billowy, but clung to me decently, and a skirt-tight combo that I didn't hate putting on.

I complained, a bit, about how hard it was to find clothes that fit nicely, and Pete, ever the optimist, complimented Valerie's looks, saying she had a great figure.

I rolled my eyes, "Great to look at, I suppose, but not always fun to live in."

She paused, considered my case, and shrugged, "Let's find you some shoes."

I  was a little miffed that Pete didn't take my grievances seriously. If anyone could understand what I'm going through, it's him/her. But I've learned over the past year that Pete isn't wired to dwell on these things, which I envy a bit, but am also baffled by. Am I to believe that nothing bad has happened to him since being Brigette? No depression or dismay, hardly even a gender-related faux-pas? If there has, he has hardly mentioned it.

So we went out to the bar, this very upscale piano joint Pete heard  about through Brigette's connections. I would have felt out of place here in any one of my lives, but P is able to glide in like she owns the place.

As soon as we are seated, we're approached by these two women. "Brigette!" one called out with an enthusiastic wave and a goofy smile, dragging her friend over. Pete looked at me for a second, with that all-too-familiar expression of "Crap, now I have to pretend I know these people."

Then Girl #1 says, "Comment ca va, Cherie?" which I recognize as French. And she natters on for a minute or so with hardly a breath, in French, on whatever she had been up to since the last time she saw (the real) Brigette.

I look over at Pete, like "Wow, how do we get out of this?"

And Pete looks lost for just a second before she replies... in what I can only assume was proper, flawless French, and before you know it the three of them are having a long conversation in that language like they're total BFF's, and I'm stuck on the outside.

Eventually they all start laughing, and I ask Pete what was so funny, and she says, "Oh, I asked if they'd mind speaking  English, because it's a little rude to speak French in front of an American, and she said 'That's the point!'"

"Huh, charming," I sneered.

Pete asked them to introduce themselves to me, as a sly way of getting their names, Caroline and Maryse.

They talked for a while about the New York Art Scene, which is how they knew Brigette. I had zero to say in any language, so I just grabbed a glass of wine and sipped liberally. When they finally moved on to their own thing and said adieu, I huffed to Pete, "You speak French?"

"Oh, that? Yeah, um, I picked it up years ago along with a few other languages. I'm just glad they weren't Russian."

I rolled my eyes but made nothing further of it. We got a table and moved away from the subject when the next frustrating thing happened. A familiar voice crept up behind me, "Look who it is! Mind if we join?"

I turned and saw Ryan and Alexa hovering over me. "Woah, what are you guys doing here?" I asked.

"Alexa's dad told us about this place," Ryan said. He was looking sharp as hell in a suit that fit just right, and Alexa was looking typically glamorous in a cocktail dress with a plunging neckline that showed off her perfect, trim body.

"Well, that's all well and good that you three are such piano lovers," I said, "Or maybe you're jsut here for the hors d'ouevres. I'd kill for a plate of wings, but I don't think they serve them at a place like this."

Ryan smiled, "There's a bar down the block, Austin's, best wings in the city. Top five at least."

"I'm there," I grinned back, "Might have to leave these two behind, they're not dressed for it."

"Ew," Alexa sneered, "I don't even like wings."

"Blasphemy," I laughed, "Ryan, what are you doing with a girl who doesn't like wings?"

"She has other good qualities," he looked her over fondly. She didn't seem to appreciate the remark.

"Ry, I'm bored, let's go dance," she whined. He said he didn't feel like it yet and needed another drink, so she went by herself to sway in the crowd as the piano man played some kind of jazz thing.

There was a long moment and Ryan said, "You don't like her, do you?"

"I didn't say anything!" I protested. "Maybe I razzed her a bit."

"It's okay, she's a little stuck up, I know," he said.

"And boring," Pete nodded.

"Pe--Brigette!" I scolded.

"What? We were all thinking it!" She laughed.

"I apologize for my tactless friend," I said.

Ryan changed the subject quickly, "So, you and the guys still fighting?" asking about my interactions with the roommates.

"Yeah, uh, I didn't move in to become a human dishwasher, Ryan."

"They're a little bitter because I got you a good deal," Ryan said, "Alexa's dad owns the place."

"You don't say," I said. "In that case, marry that girl. And let me live there forever. But kick them out."

"Yeah, we'll see," Ryan smiled, downing the rest of his drink and joining Alexa on the dancefloor.

Eventually the night ran its course and we left. On the way out, we passed Caroline and Maryse in the midst of a very heavy make-out session in full public view. "Huh," I said. "I wouldn't have guessed."

"I got a bit of a vibe," Pete said. "Wasn't sure if it was my imagination or anything. Gotta admit, I'm a little jealous."

"Of what?" I asked."Kissing girls?"

"I can't be the only one frustrated to find myself walled off from my former sexuality... wishing I could be a girl who kisses girls, but every time I think about it something turns me off."

"Yeah," I shrugged, "I guess it sucks..."

"I mean, don't get me wrong. Realistically, I knew that being a woman wasn't automatically going to be a sorority sleepover, but I'm kind of stuck between. I miss the excitement of romance either way. Nothing does it for me these days... I miss the confidence that comes with being a heterosexual man. Or knowing exactly what you are either way. I'm sure you remember what it's like, before you got used to it."

"Used to it?" I snorted, "What makes you think I'm used to anything?"

"Aw, come on, Ty," she said in a sing-song voice. "I see you batting your eyes at Ryan, who I'll admit is objectively a hot guy. And I was around you when you were with Josh, you can't deny you were a little smitten."

"He was all right," I huffed.

"I think you really liked him. I think you enjoyed playing Val's part in their relationship. And I think he was the first person since Meghan who really did anything for you and it hurt a lot when he broke up with you-slash-Valerie. And there's nothing wrong with any of that, like I said, I'm jealous of your ability to like dudes."

"I've seen you be way more flirty than me," I insisted, not even bothering to address the accusations about Josh.

"It's an act," she sighed. "Fake it 'till you make it."

I didn't know what to say but eventually I muttered, "I'd love to tell you it gets easier, but a lot of the time it's just confusing on a whole new level."

Notwithstanding the statements she was making about me - whether they had any truth or not - I kind of appreciated seeing Pete's vulnerable side. To me, he had always been in command of the situation in a way I wasn't - walking into Brigette's life, doing her job, embracing her style and fashion, friending her friends, speaking French and all, and never seeming to complain or stumble.

She walked me home and when we got in, I was somewhat surprised to see Ryan had beaten me
home. I was even more surprised to find him in the kitchen, doing dishes, shirtless.

When I noticed, I maybe gave out a little gasp of "Ry!" He turned and acknowledged me.

"Hey, uh... just thought I'd pitch in. I know I'm always out, but it's my place too and it's only fair."

"Thanks," I said warmly, "If only the other guys had the same attitude." I did my best to keep my eyes on his upper third, probably because of what Pete had said about me, but I had to admit he was more in shape than I thought he would be - better-looking from that perspective than Josh. And after all these years I ought to not have a problem admitting that here.

"They'll come around," he said. "I'll have a word. And hey, I'm sorry I haven't really hung out with you since we, uh, since you moved in."

"Oh, uh, don't worry about it. Things are what they are. It's good training for if I have kids someday," I said somewhat sardonically, and forgetting, just for a second, that I kind of already was a mom.

"You know that piano bar," he said, "Has an open-mic night. Think I might sign up. I know it's not your scene - even though a few years ago you probably would have loved to hang out there every night. But would you come support? I haven't played live in like a yea, and I'm a little nervous."

I didn't realize he was a musician... come to think, when he was around, I did often hear music coming from his room, but I thought it was a recording. He was good.

"Of course," I said warmly, going to pat him on the shoulder, then thinking better of it and pulling back. I bid him an awkward good night.

I went to my room and started to change for bed. And I thought, if I seem as confident in my sexual identity as Pete is saying, I thought, maybe it's time to explore that, and not with someone by circumstance puts me with. In fact, I thought, as I studied my naked body, I had been here all this time and hardly appreciated it.

There is a lot to like, if you can get past the inconveniences and aches. The elegant way my hair sways as my turn my head. The sexy curve of my hips as I prop myself up on the bed. The soft weight of my breasts in my hands as I caress... the sensitivity of my skin, causing me to perk up and feel warm as I slip my fingers down further... taking time for myself, outside my my hang ups and frustrations and finding the good in this situation. "Having my fun" as Valerie suggested I do. I didn't even try to stifle any of the sounds I might have made, inadvertently, as I pleasured myself...

And then just as I was reaching my finishing point, I hear the faint sound of piano music in the other room...

I couldn't help but laugh.

-Tyler, currently Valerie

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: How rumors start

Two nights ago I was doing dishes for the umpteenth time since moving in while the guys (specifically Denny and Trent) were playing Xbox and I decided I'd had it.

"You guys mind helping out?"

"Well there's only one sink," Trent said without pausing the game.

"It's called taking turns," I said.

"Ehh," Denny said, "I cook a lot so it's not exactly fair if I have to do dishes too."

I point out that I don't eat much of the food he makes but I still find myself cleaning it, and when I cook (I'm much better than him anyway) I still do the dishes.. His smartass reply is that that's my choice. Ryan, my one ally around here, was of course out with his girlfriend Alexa.

Trent adds that he "doesn't really know how to clean" and that I'd do a much better job so there was no point in him pitching in. I told him he could figure it out, and if this was my choice then it was time to choose not to. I dropped everything in the sink and walked off.

I was so pissed I went to my room and started texting around to see if I could hang out with - and maybe stay with anyone I knew. Pete was busy of course, (one day I'm going to have to ask exactly what s/he gets up to) and Marie had family over, and with the baby and all there's not usually a good time. That kind of left only one person to answer, and he was all too happy to do so.

"Chickpea!" Rafe opened the door with that big stupid grin on his face  right away when I knocked.

"I regret this already," I sighed.

"I honestly didn't think you were gonna honor that rain check," he said.

"Well, I figured what the hell," I said, "You've toned it down a bit this week."

"Thanks for noticing," He snorted, "I'm not so bad am I?"

I entered and looked around. It was a sty but a one-man sty unlike my place.

"You've got to be aware of your rep. It seems pretty well earned."

An open bag of chips was on the kitchen table. "This dinner?" I took a fee.

"Just the appetizer. Dinner was by Swansons."

"Ew," I rolled my eyes, "Learn to cook. Women love it, as long as you don't make them do the dishes."

"I'll bet you do," he said back, and I wasn't sure if he meant 'you women' or me in particular. I didn't ask.

"Place is pretty nice. You afford it by yourself?"

"My parents help," he said, he said nonchalantly.

"Translation... They pay, while you spend your twenties 'Figuring it out.' I should have smelled the money on you."

He didn't acknowledge that. "Well, come on in. I've even got your favorite ice cream."

"Creepy," I smirked. "So what are we up to tonight?"

"I can think of a few things," he said.

"This should go without saying, but all clothes will remain on for the duration."

"Sure, sure," he said, pretending to be indignant (at least I hope he was pretending.)

I noticed something paused on the TV screen. "What's this?"

"Oh, uh, Riverdale. Kind of a guilty pleasure." He seemed embarrassed.

"That's that show with the sexy Archie and Betty and Veronica?" I wondered whether people Val's age even knew Archie comics before this show came on. (And then I thought, I'm not that much older, am I?)

"Yeah, and there's a murder mystery," he said, I guess trying to make it sound more manly (and failing.)

"Sounds cheesy. I'm in."

"Really? You came all the way over just to watch a show we both agree is probably pretty bad?"

"Why not," I said, "One of the best dates I ever had was staying up on a hotel room watching I, Frankenstein, which was the worst."

"Lucky guy," Rafe said.

"Yeah... He was," I sighed, referring to myself.

"So... Is this a date then?" He asked.

I twisted my mouth, "Let's not go nuts..."

He gave me a beer and flipped the Netflix back to the beginning and we wanted like six or seven weirdly gripping episodes before I started to drift off. He let me lie down with my feet up on his lap - a perk of shortness is that I can do this on any couch and basically stretch all the way out.

He must have crept away sometime and left a wooly blanket on me. I was more tired than I thought I would be. I woke up on the middle of the night to pee - as I do pretty much every night - and was momentarily spooked to find myself still there. When I tried to fall back asleep I got a little paranoid about how I was sleeping on a near-stranger's couch and that he might think I'm leading him on and try to do something to me... But nothing did happen of course. Then my mind started racing in all these other directions about the various stressful, painful aspects of my life, and I felt sad sleeping on this chilly, lumpy sofa alone.

Then before I knew it, it was daylight and he woke me up by sitting down on the couch next to my feet. I must have fallen back asleep eventually.

After asking if I slept okay (and me lying and saying yes) he suggested we hit up his favorite breakfast spot. It was a twenty minute subway ride away and I hadn't showered, but he swore the bagels would be worth it.

"All this way just for bagels? You can get those anywhere."

"How long have you lived in Brooklyn? You should know all bagels are not created equal." Once I tasted the product, I had to admit he was right.

Over breakfast we got to talking. I asked what he wanted to be besides a barista and he said he was a writer. I asked what he wrote and he said he was working on "Something of a semi-autobiographical novel. Basically a memoir."

I teased him a bit. "Oh really! What have you done to warrant a memoir?"

"Hey, I've got plenty of material."

"I'm sure," I snickered.

"Oh and you've had such a fascinating life? What has ever happened to you?"
My face stiffened. "Well, I was recently dumped horribly on my wedding day. That's gotta be good for a few chapters."
He blushed, somewhat acknowledging his faux pas. "I'll give you that," he muttered, his voice mingling embarrassment and irritation. I actually felt a little weird saying it because for a moment it didn't even really feel like it had happened to me, even though it definitely did, and it definitely didn't feel good.
"What else you got?" he said, snapping back into his more obnoxious character.

For a moment I wanted to play the "man magically cursed into living as three different women" card... And hell, even before that I might've had a tale or two worth telling. But as Valerie, I don't think I had much of a case. "Not a lot, I'll admit."

"Well, it isn't the story, you know. It's how you tell it." I hope he noticed me rolling my eyes.

Still, it was nice speaking to him on those terms. I had been hanging out with him for several hours and my skin hadn't crawled once. And I had to admit the bagels were pretty great.

He had the day off but I had the afternoon shift so we went to the coffee shop together. It was almost gentlemanly, until he noticed a woman coming out of the shop who happened to have large pair of breasts. His head snapped in her direction so fast he must have gotten whiplash.

I'd like to think I would usually have taken it on myself to defend her as a new member of the sex, who has had to deal with a fair share of leers, but I guess we had bonded a bit. Still I couldn't let it slide so I let him know how obvious he was by ribbing him about it: "Come on, she was a seven."

He seemed surprised that I would say anything about it, let alone that, but after a beat he regained his composure and said "Yeah but her tits were ten each."

After that remark I felt a little gross for encouraging it. Trying to make locker room guy talk was like putting on clothes that no longer fit. I felt weird for trying so hard to make him think I'm, I dunno, some kind of "cool" girl who acts like a guy... Even though deep down I still think of myself as a guy! Just not, hopefully, a cliche horn dog like him.

I went into the bathroom to put on a fresh pair of underwear, tights and deoderant - a nice thing about femininity is that you can carry all these things in your purse and people won't think much of it. When I came out, one of my co-workers, Maddie, was waiting to tsk tsk me.

"What was that about, you strolling in here with Rafe? Scandal..."

I lied, "We ran into each other on the subway."

"Suuure," she said, rolling her eyes and kind of laughing but keeping some judgment in her voice. I felt pretty bad for the rest of the day. It's weird. I'm kind of making friends with the guy, but I feel like I shouldn't. But as much as he deserves his bad reputation, I hate to admit there's a decent guy in there. It's all part of me lately being very confused about my place in the world.

-Tyler, Valerie

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: Alone time

I don't know what I was thinking moving in with four guys. Probably deep down that I was still a guy so it would just be like old times. Uh uh. Living with four guys as a woman ain't no picnic.

It doesn't help that I'm mentally older than these bozos by nearly a decade so I'm past the "eating Swansons and drinking Pabst in your jockeys" phase. I'm not saying you can't eat in front of the TV ever but I'm definitely "notices crumbs on the carpet" years old. I'm "Another random sock stuck in the couch cushions??" Years old. I'm "What does it take to get someone to scrub a dish??" Years old. Denny fancies himself a future MasterChef, loves to experiment, but leaves the evidence of his projects festering in the sink for days.

Even though my time as Judith may be influencing my need for cleanliness, I choose to frame this as an age thing, not a girl thing. These guys are years out of college, they should be up to speed by now. And yeah, I resent the implication that I need to be their live-in maid if I want it to be less filthy around here.

Ryan is the only one with a girlfriend, no surprise. So he's out most often. I don't have much of a relationship with the others and I guess I'm just not in a place to confront anyone about anything.

I'm already regretting moving in but there's no way I could find something comparable, in the neighborhood, affordable. I'll have to live with it. It won't be easy though.

This past weekend I found myself with the place to myself for the first time. I knew the guys were all planning on being out, potentially late, so I had no time to lose. I was going to treat myself right. I was going to put on something comfortable, take a nice hot bath, grab a bowl of my favorite hipster ice cream, and watch Die Hard in my robe.

So I was at the store getting the ice cream and... Fuck my life, it's on the top shelf. And there's only one left. I look around and there's no one to flag down to help a 5-foot-tall female out, so I try standing on my tiptoes, climbing awkwardly on the bottom shelf... I lasted a half a second before I could hear it buckling. Just when I was about to quit in frustration, I hear an annoyingly familiar voice: Rafe, from work.

"Chickpea!" He calls out. That's his "cute" nickname for me, ("Because you're a chick who's the size of a pea.") He gives little nicknames out to all the girls, at least the ones he would want to sleep with (ie, all of us.)

"Having a little trouble?" He asks smugly.

Flush with embarrassment, I groan, "Just trying to get some ice cream..."

He reaches up for the tub. "Choco Frenzy. Sounds good." I'm burning with rage that this guy gets to be 6'2.

Rafe... if I had a nickel for every time I came home from work irritated because of something that guy said or did. For instance, it gets very crowded behind the counter so when he has to pass behind any of us he puts his hands slightly on our hips as if to "guide" himself, playing dumb when we tell him not to. I see him eyeballing all the girls when they/we wear tights or yoga pants to work (sue me, they're comfortable and light.) I once heard him describe, at length, a scale "from tasty to wastey" to gauge how good a girl was in bed. Stupid crap like that.

He's the only straight guy working behind the counter anyway, so I don't know who he thinks enjoys his shit. I guess it's just him amusing himself, bugging the defenseless young ladies who work with us. He's decently behaved with the customers, which is why he doesn't get in trouble.

Something about his face bugs me, too. His scrawny neck, pointy jaw, the bags under his eyes, the way he wears his long hair in a man-bun. His whole deal annoys me, I'm just trying not to be shallow about it by bringing up all the other annoying crap about this guy... but that's part of it too.

He starts to walk away with the ice cream. "Excuse me!" I call out.

He turns back and flashes me that shit-eating grin, "What?"

"That's my--" I stop myself. "...Forget it."

"You want this?" he holds up the pint. "Must be good. I know you love ice cream."

"What makes you say that?" I sneer.

"You just look like a girl who enjoys her dessert."

I immediately glance down and, after seeing the familiar sights that have greeted me for the past several months bulging out of my sweater. My neck straightens back up. I'm a little choked up with anger that he called me fat, which I'm not, and just shocked at the gall he was showing by doing so in public.

After thinking on it, I'm more annoyed that I was so defensive anyway since it's not even really my body! And there's nothing wrong with being curvy or plus-sized or anything anyway! But still, I'm not fat! Just big-boobed and short. Just a way men can get under women's skin, and fuck, it was working.

So all of these various reasons to be angry were colliding in my head, and he looks at my obviously stunned face and starts to laugh. "Woah, don't have a cow!" he snickers.

At that point my annoyance and pseudo-rage turns to something else. "'Have a cow?' What, is 90's slang back? Because that... would be radical."

He doesn't laugh at my awesome joke but that's okay because it lets me go back to being annoyed. "Can I just have the ice cream?"

He smirks again, "Well it's mine, obviously. If you want, we can share..."

I huff, "Forget it, Rafe. Enjoy." I turn to go to the checkout.

"Aw, come on, Pea!" he calls out, following after me. "Come on, we never hang out outside of work."

"Wonder why," I say flatly.

"We could have fun," he says.

"I'm not looking for fun," I say as insistently as I can, hoping he'll back off.

"Val," he says, using my "real" name for maybe the first time in months, "If you're seriously going to go home and eat ice cream by yourself, I find that incredibly sad. I know you've just gone through a big break-up..."

"Broken engagement," I correct him.

"You're just going to wallow in sadness, and that's your idea of a fun night?"

"I'm not gonna wallow," I say, "I'm gonna... revel. I haven't had a night to myself in forever. Is it so wrong for a guy--er, girl, to want to be alone once in a while?"

"You swear this is what you want?" he says.

"Been dreaming about it all week."

He shrugs and hands over the ice cream. "Maybe next time."

I sigh. "Maybe." Doubt it, though. "Have a good one."

He leaves and I cash out and go home.

About an hour into Die Hard, Trent and Denny get home, drunk. "Shit, Die Hard's on!"

They were about to park themselves on the couch, but I improvised. "Oh, is that what this is? I was just channel hopping..." and switched it over to 27 Dresses on the Women's channel to scare 'em off.

They were on their way out again but I had to keep it on the Katherine Heigl movie for the entire time they were there, 45 minutes or so. Practically ruined my whole night.



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Friday, March 02, 2018

Simon/Joy: Done with All This

Maybe today would have gone different if I hadn't been so distracted by what's going on elsewhere.  Treena says that doesn't matter, and I shouldn't blame myself, and that I did what I had to in both cases, even if my male mind is going to second-guess part of it, saying I'm letting hormones make me overreact.  Which is nice of her to say, even if it's not practical.

It started a couple of days ago, when I got a phone call from Brian.  Things had taken a bad turn, he said.  The chemotherapy and radiation which had seemed to be working had suddenly become ineffective, and as a result, the cancer had completely consumed one of his/my testicles, and it would have to be removed.  On top of that, there were indications that it may have metastasized, so even after the operation, we might not be out of the woods.

Hearing that about someone you know is never easy, and hearing it from the person who assumed your life because of a cursed hotel is a punch in the gut outsiders really can't imagine.  But try, and then imagine that you picked up the phone while in your bra and panties, doing your makeup for a night out with a couple of your best girlfriends.

Your immediate first reaction is that it's your fault, and not because something in your diet or lifestyle or something you'd exposed your body to before the Trading Post Inn took a snapshot of its exact state to apply to the next guy had created the cancer and it just hasn't become noticeable until after the changes.  No, the fact that I've kind of enjoyed being a pretty young girl, taken advantage of what it gave me, to the point where a moment ago I had been wondering if the high heels I was pairing with my dress were sparkly enough, that set something adrift in the universe that attacked my true form's masculinity in response.  It makes a stupid amount of sense, especially if you've got a roommate who talks a lot about karma and energy and connectedness.  Like, you know there's magic in the world (or, as one guy I know suggests, aliens conducting a long-running social experiment), and maybe that's the sort of thing that actually affects it.  Sure, it hasn't really worked that way for anyone else, but who knows?

I text the girls that I can't make it and spend a couple hours talking to Brian.  It's not a great conversation, but, hey, he needs it and I suddenly feel like getting into some sweatpants and watching sports anyway.  I have my first night where is really hard to sleep afterward, but I get through a day of work feeling kind of grateful that I can do this whole Brian goes through the hard stuff.

Today is basically going the same way until I had out to the suburbs for a showing.  It's one of the best listings I've got, and the guy I'm showing the house to is some sort of tech millionaire.  I'm feeling really good about it, thinking about what I can get with the commission, pointing out the large walk-in closet in one of the bedrooms, asking if there's a Mrs. Tech Millionaire who might appreciate it.  Maybe I'm being kind of flirty - I sort of turn it on by instinct if I think someone might be partial to petite blonde girls by now - but even if I am, it seems like he's mostly showing interest in the property.  Or at least, it seems that way until I realize I've wound up in the corner of this windowless space with a decent-sized guy between me and the door, with one hand on the wall next to my head.

I don't think there's a lot of intent to it; I've done stuff like that in my real life and tend to think of it as saying "hey, stick around" if it's saying anything, and girls who see an "or else" are just reading too much into it 99% of the time.  So I'm not really thinking of "escape" as I slide along the wall in the other direction, just that I've got a fair amount more house to show him.  He moves the same direction, puts his other hand on the other side of my head, and asks if I could fill this space.  I say I'm not the one shopping around today and duck underneath his arm, getting out of that closet and into a more open area.  I'm starting down a couple of steps toward a recessed hot tub when I'm bumped from behind and I have to do that thing where you make really quick, small steps to get down the steps in your heels without really falling.  I turned around at the bottom and asked if he was okay, because that's what you do.  He smiled, said he was sorry, and then indicated the basin with his eyes and asked if I brought a bathing suit (there was a trap over it, but you could faintly smell chlorine indicating it was filled).

Even if you're a guy inside and out, that's going to set off alarm bells (and not necessarily just omg gay! ones), so I back off, still trying to be friendly but also like, whoa, not the time or place.  But somehow I'm up against another wall, and he's real close.  His hand reaches out and for a moment I think it's going to wind up around my neck, but instead he sort of nestles my chin between his thumb and forefinger, then tips my head back before starting to lean in for a kiss.

I knee him in the groin.

The ladies-who-have-always-been-ladies probably don't understand how freaked out I have to be for that; even when a man finds someone taking it in the junk funny, he winces, and we just wouldn't consider doing it to one another, even inn a nasty fight.  We know how much that hurts.  I'm actually kind of horrified when I see him let me go and then stagger backward.  But I'm also really angry, wondering how much letting little things slide had led to this, so I do it again, this time really connecting because I'm not back against the wall and can aim that skinny kneecap.  If I'm not going to have a full complement of testes, no need for this asshole to have one.

I've got my fist clenched, the image of a  uppercut sending him flopping into the hot tub very clear in my head, but he holds his hand up and backs off, all the way to the driveway.  Once I've heard him drive off, I sink down into the nearest couch, and just shake for a while.  Then I go to the nearest bathroom and look in the mirror, kind of surprised at what I see.  It was over so fast that my hair wasn't mussed and my makeup didn't really need any touching up - there was a bit of a smudge on one cheek, but I hadn't cried, so nothing was running.  It was almost like it didn't happen.

I almost convince myself it didn't on the road back to the office, but the looks on every face there tell a different story.  I'm called into the same office as before Christmas, only this time, instead of staring at me coolly from behind the desk, he's pacing behind the chair where I sit as he asks what the fuck is wrong with me.

"I--  I'm sorry.  I didn't feel safe, so I just reacted."

"Oh, you didn't feel safe!"  He leaned in, mauve trying to see if I'd covered some injury with concealer or something.  "You certainly don't look like you've been through any sort of wringer."

"Yeah, because I acted before it could get that far!  Son of a bitch had his hands on my face; should I have waited until they were on my tits or in my panties?"

"There's no call for that sort of language, missy!"

"Are you shitting me?  Folks use that language in this office all the time, about those same tits and panties.  I don't mind like some chicks do - I can take it as the compliment it's intended to be - but that asshole crossed a line I told myself I wouldn't let anyone cross.  And if you're going to blame me for that..."

I got up, walked out, and started cleaning out my desk.  Loudly.  You might think that in sunny liberal #MeToo California, someone might have interceded on my behalf, but nope.  They just let me walk out to my car.  I think I overheard a comment about how I was just being emotional, but I'd be back Monday.

And maybe I will.  I've got to admit, this doesn't really feel like me, and maybe when I've got a little less adrenaline and female hormones running through my body later, I'll be able to sit back, think about how this is just what a woman has to do if she wants to play in men's worlds.  Tonight, though, I'll be going with booze.


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Monday, February 26, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: Coffee with Anna

Ever since this thing happened with Josh, my life has been a fight.

Fighting with Josh to disconnect Valerie's life from his.

Fighting with Valerie over what to do next... and who's actually to blame.

Fighting with myself over... well, everything.

Meg has said I have a guilt complex... I can somehow blame myself for everything but be very touchy when others do the same. Which probably explains how I can beat myself up over what happened but get very defensive when Val puts the blame on me for not being, well, her.

When I finally did sit down face to face with her, she looked exhausted. I think Anna's life is putting her through the wringer in addition to the emotional distress from the wedding fallout. Or maybe I'm just sexist and still think that anytime a woman doesn't put on full makeup she looks ill.

She met me at the coffee shop after work but we decided to go to a neutral location so that my co-workers wouldn't interrupt us.

Even though we had planned to have this big conversation, which I was sweating over all afternoon, neither of us really seemed to want to talk and we spent a lot of time making failed small talk about the weather and work.

Eventually I said, "I've been telling people what happened... everyone's very sympathetic."

"What have you been saying?" she got a worried look on her face.

"The truth," I shrugged, "He cheated, went back to his ex and fathered a lovechild."

She looked away. "I hope people aren't going to be too hard on him."

I sputtered, "What! Val, he's a monster! What he did--"

"I just don't know if he deserves to be shunned! He's such a good person..."

"How can you think like that?"

"Well--" she choked a little, "I still love him, Tyler. Part of me would even forgive him if I could talk to him directly."

I didn't comment on that.

"I keep wanting to tell you to go to him and say some things on my behalf, but I can't put you in that position, to say things you don't actually feel."

"That's a conversation you'd need to be there for," I said. "Maybe when you get back..."

She shook her head, "I should move on, really. I said part of me wants to forgive him, but the other part... I'm too devastated."

"That's understandable."

"I want to believe you did all you could," she sighed, "I don't want to go on blaming you, but the alternative is that it still would have happened if I were there, and that's hard to swallow."

"Uh huh." I hoped we weren't going to fight about it again.

"I just can't help it. I think he knew. I think he knew it wasn't me but he couldn't process it so it made him run. I don't care how much you look like me, you're not my essence. You're not even really a woman."

I don't know why, but that bugged me.

I have my own theories as to why it happened, which basically boils down to the relationship being broken on a fundamental level... maybe he was always iffy on her and from what I can tell - I'd never say this to her face but maybe I can get away with writing it here - she took him for granted. The way he behaved around me, he was used to the doormat treatment. It's not hard to see why a guy like that might stray.

I asked if she wanted to discuss our plans for returning to the Inn, and she said things were fine. "I don't want to think about how the life I'm going back to isn't the life I want."

"Fair, I guess."

"I heard you're living with Ryan Moreno now," she said with some consternation in her voice, "Be careful with that one, he's always had a crush on me."

I raised an eyebrow. "He seems fine. He's with someone."

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, for now..."

I shrugged. "It's going okay. Gotta live somewhere."

"I would have moved back home... if it happened to me. I'd want to be with my mom."

I winced. "She's very sweet, but a bit overbearing I think. Very protective when I told her what happened."

That made her smile, weakly. "She would be."

There was a lull, and she said, "I'm dating someone."

I nearly spat my coffee. "What??"

"It's just casual. It won't interfere with the Inn. But even before the break-up with Josh I was lonely. You could say I'm on the rebound."

In my head I thought, it'd better not interfere. Out loud I said, "Do what you gotta do."

"Do you think you'd like sex, as a woman?"

"I've had it," I answered back, "I liked it, but I'm not missing it."

She snickered, "Liar." She sipped, "You find men attractive?"

"It's... complicated."

She smiled in acknowledgment. "If I told you you could have some, would you?"

I bristled at having to get permission for it. I'd like to think that, after Josh, if I wanted it I would have pursued.

I shrugged. "Someone's bound to get hurt. Maybe me, maybe someone else." I nodded in her direction.

She sipped the last of her coffee and said my words back to me, "Do what you've got to do. We'll talk again soon."

I watched her go, taking her long, lean, willowy frame out into the cold night air. She left me with a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach...


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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

J.T./Elaine: Three Dates

It's actually been four dates if you count New Year's Eve, but that's a thing we did with a group of people, and when I was stalling because the third date is often the sex date, it was easy to pick up the habit of counting from zero that comes from working with computer people all day.  If that first one was Date Zero, then the third was actually Date Two, and I didn't have to worry about being intimate with another man for at least another few days.  Of course, that just pushes things off...

Still, that New Year's Eve night was a lot of fun - though most of Elaine's girlfriends had couple-centric things to attend, Jezzie had seen the clips of me and Daryl singing karaoke at the company Christmas party and was in no way going to be my excuse for not meeting up for more of that, although she was willing to be my escape route if things went badly.  Which I figured was the best thing that could happen; it's kind of weird seeing Daryl outside a work environment, maybe I can say one of his friends is making me uncomfortable, and we agree that it was a bad idea, and I don't have to deal with Elaine telling me that not taking a chance with him would be very out of character anymore.

We have a great time.

Jezzie, it turns out, has never done karaoke either, but loves it immediately.  We're initially outnumbered four guys to two girls, but Daryl's friends are apparently charming enough that two girls they met at the bar join us, and there's eight of us drinking, singing, and laughing for three hours before we break for "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight and then apparently have another hour and a half in us.  Jezzie winds up hoping up with one of Daryl's friends, and the next time the girls get together, she's telling me that he was really skeptical about the whole karaoke thing, but had a good time, and that he was surprised Daryl found a girl as fine as Elaine at his work, what with his nerd job and all.

I feel weirdly good about the compliment; I may have inherited Elaine's shape, but I've put enough work into it to feel some ownership:  I've lost a pound or two off my butt, got a shorter haircut that I like, and even figured out enough about dressing myself and doing make-up that those early days of embarrassing myself on job interviews are something I can laugh at.  He's not entirely attracted to someone else when he looks at me, and him saying so makes me feel like I've done something right.

Still, I don't really acknowledge that we had a date that week at work, and when the team is talking about how they rang in the new year, I kind of make it sound like we just happened to be in the same place.  He seems to get the hint, not asking me out again that week, but come the next Monday, the 8th, he casually slides by my desk and mentions that he's got an extra ticket to the Bulls that night and would I like to go?

I immediately wonder what kind of vibe I'm giving off, because I do occasionally find myself about to respond when guys in the break room talk sports and then thinking about how it's not really in-character - I've picked up Elaine's workout routine, but there's no team logos on her gear or souvenirs in the apartment, and I don't dress in a "one of the guys" outfit almost ever - but I also really want to go.  I've spent a lot of Sundays just camped out at the apartment watching football and caught more basketball since becoming Elaine than maybe I did in the rest of my life, just for something to follow.  Is there something I'm doing that says "she's not like other girls", or am I just stereotyping?  Heck, maybe he's just figuring that he should find out if the girl likes sports early.

So I say yes, the seats aren't great, but there's expensive watery beer, we get to argue en route to the Bulls losing to Houston, and there's no ironic thing putting us on some sorry of Kiss Cam or anything like that.  We go out for a couple drinks after that, but I don't get drunk enough for more singing.  That's Official Date #1.

I spend the next week and a half lying and saying I've got a lot going on at home, but eventually I cave when he asks me out to a movie the next Friday.  It's not a great one - that "Proud Mary" thing with Taraji P. Henson - but it's kind of fun.  I'm not sure how much I should enjoy her playing this kind of role, in that I still have zero problem identifying with white male main characters, but I kind of do dig watching someone who looks like I do now kicking ass, especially when I'm just letting myself get caught up in things.  I kind of like that she mostly did it in comfortable clothes and shoes, too.  Official Date #2.

Then, at the end of January, I decided to dial back comfortable, because that was the third date.  It's a bit of a cliche that that's the sex date, but I'm kind of susceptible to those expectations; I grew up inside TV and movies, after all, and truth be told, I'm kind of not used to waiting for the third date as a guy.  And, I admit, after four months, I'm kind of curious - I've been intimidated by a couple things at the back of one of Elaine's dresser drawers, I've occasionally lingered in the shower, and I've been kind of surprised that what I've done with my hands hasn't really done that much for me.  Am I just too tentative, does knowing exactly what's coming kill the excitement, or (gasp!) am I just terrible at pleasing women and nobody has ever told me?

I'm 50/50 between anxious to find out and terrified, but I do things up nice, spending way more of Saturday afternoon than I ever imagined in a hair salon, putting on lipstick, putting on flimsy, lacy underwear and spraying some perfume at my crotch after really tidying up down there for the first time.  It's too cold to wear anything really skimpy, but I look pretty great, I think, and, hey, it's not like I haven't spent longer getting ready to shoot a two-minute scene in a horror movie (and wound up looking much less sexy).

And Daryl, darn it, almost looks even better when we met at the restaurant.

It's a pretty nice meal, high-end Japanese.  I never pegged him as a big sushi guy, but it turns out he's a not-so-secret big fan of all things Japanese, though it's not a thing he really mentions to a girl until he's really sure that there's something there.  I guess black nerds not only get it as bad as white ones in high school, they're often kind of invisible in pop-culture, so he often really felt like there wasn't a place for him, and so he kind of keeps a loud on his "otaku-ness" still.

As much as it felt kind of strange for him to be opening up to me like that, it got even weirder when the subject got to me in high school.  I hadn't really had Elaine coach me on that, figuring it was long ago not too come up.  I gather she was not unpopular - she's in contact with a bunch of people from that time on social media - and she's got a few mementos from then in her closet, along with a few more in her parents' basement.  But we got on the subject, and it didn't seem right to say nothing after Daryl said something kind of important to him.

So I improvised, only to find myself putting a lot more of myself into it than expected.  To Daryl, then, Elaine had been popular but busy, not just inside school but out of it, and her parents had tended to over-commit her so that they could kind of soak that up.  Then, come college, she'd gone from being an overachiever to just one of many girls who were good at something, and that was why she was writing emails and annoying people by filling their Outlook calendars instead of creating things herself.

That's not entirely my story - if nothing else, I didn't come close to making Elaine's parents nearly as selfish as mine had been, on the off-chance he might meet them - but it's a lot closer to being mine than Elaine's.  I don't tell it a lot in any form, because it doesn't tend to do me much good; people both think that everybody who works in show business is rich, which is not the case, and take a certain amount of joy in people who have success as a teenager coming back down to Earth.  So it was a bit of a surprise to find Daryl being completely sympathetic, saying that he does know what it was like to feel like your biggest success is behind you.

We keep talking throughout our after-dinner activities, walking around to kill time before some local band he likes plays at 10pm, and then after, we hang out in the bar, talking some more about work, "my" troublemaker sister, his friends, and feeling like you don't really fit in somewhere.  The funny thing was, it didn't quite leave us in a sexy place, especially since the conversation included an ex-girlfriend of his who kind of made him nervous about girls wanting to have sex with him because she saw him as a way out of something and then wasn't easy on his self-esteem in the breakup when he didn't become an Internet millionaire as fast as she wanted.  Maybe the real Elaine would have taken it as a signal to show him what it's like when a girl really likes him, but I didn't.

We kissed, though, and I don't know if it's because I'm black or a girl now, or just random transferred genetics, but I've got much fuller lips than I did before and he's a good kisser - it's the first time I've actually felt like there was a lot going on with my lips rather than their being an obstacle on the way to my tongue, at least to that extent.  It was definitely weird, but one thing I learned as an actor was that the person kissing you can be anyone if you either close your eyes or tilt your head so that you're kind of looking over each other - you can be kissing a mouth, not a man, at least as long as you don't think too much about how strong the hands on your butt are.

Maybe me not being ready for that much eye contact was a signal to him, too.  Didn't really think of that until I started writing.  Still, I can't deny that the end of Official Date #3 had me very curious to see what all the way is like - and I'm sure he's planning something special enough for Valentine's Day tonight that I won't be wearing a thong for nothing!


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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: The Briefest Consideration

One of Lindsey's current favorite ways to mock me is to call me melodramatic, as it is apparently a term I would occasionally apply to millennials like herself, although likely not so often as she implies.  Most of the time, the epithet is misplaced but I cannot deny that, in the aftermath of the man currently wearing my face making me look like a fool at a conference in December, I started to wonder if, perhaps, I should abandon the life I had lived for over sixty years.  Though I would certainly have the opportunity to produce important new work for years to come, would I be able to attract good collaborators or re-engage with the dozens of other academic matters which my substitute had allowed to languish?  The thought of having to rebuild my reputation at this point in my life was dreadful.
It was awful enough, in fact, that I started to think seriously about leaving my life behind.  Under that scenario, I would not remain Alicia Polawski - the thought of living my days out like this sends a chill down my spine - but I would find some other life to live.  The would be an element of randomness, and I might back off once I see what is available, but as the time to start booking rooms in an appropriate chain came, it seemed like a reasonable option to consider.

I did not share this with Lindsey - she has the date reservations open circled on the calendar, a reminder in her phone, and frequent conversations with the Coopers about what they are doing with our lives, commitments being made, and the like.  She has also taken to creating scenarios where somehow the Inn's magic can be acknowledged and legal arguments can be made about how one has acted while living another's life, or steering people to the Inn.  It is complete sophistry that requires one to treat the Inn as simultaneously an unacknowledgeable force of nature and something that can be brought into a court of law, and this pointless.  She claims the ethical considerations are interesting in and of themselves, and that it's a way to quantify what Inn visitors can expect from each other.  As such, she would very likely disapprove of my leaving someone else with my life and appropriating another.

Rather than consider theory, I was instead more ingesting talking to people with practical experience, which was why, when it was time to choose routes for January, I made a request to have a few days off in a row in Boston.  It may not be a particular favorite place to visit, especially in the middle of winter, but it has the biggest cluster of people living lives other than the one that they were born into that I know about, and I thought it might be useful to learn what particular challenges such people faced. 

We met in the Changeling bar, which took some getting to - once I de-planed, it was an expensive cab ride to get across Boston and Cambridge to the suburb of Arlington - but which the people I was meeting said was where they liked to meet for Inn stuff, both because it could be difficult for Ashlyn to get away and because they liked to support each other.  So, that was where I met Ashlyn, Penelope, Ray, Annette, and Yuan-wei.

I was still wearing my uniform from the flight, which made it easy enough for them to call me over.  Given the range of ages and Yuan-wei being Chinese, it was easy enough to match names to faces, although it still took me somewhat by surprise to see that Yuan-wei wore stockings and heels while Annette was wearing denim jeans, with Ashlyn in a tight top with holes at the shoulders.  I knew, intellectually, that they had all been in other shapes longer than I and had acclimated, but it still surprised me that they would choose such feminine attire during their own free time.  Though only Ashlyn truly had the same sort of figure that I had been cursed with, the attention it garnered was enough of a bother that I could hardly fathom wanting to encourage it.  But, of course they are closer to their apparent age than I, so maybe they saw it differently.

They would soon prove unsympathetic to my enquiries.  Initially, they offered their condolences, tempered with surprise that the Coopers would not be relinquishing or lives, since that was not the impression they got from Lindsey's post of a few days before.  As soon as I said that, too the best of my knowledge, they were in fact planning to return to their own lives, the whole group seemed at a loss for words until Annette broke the silence.

"You'd...  You'd just let your real life go?"

"Young lady, ones reputation is ones life in academia.  If that has been irrevocably damaged, is it really my life any more?"

"Well, yeah," she answered.  "I mean, that's not really your whole life.  There's family, and friends, and...  You know, everything but the job."

I shrugged, mentioning that my patents were gone and I had no children of my own.  There are not that many ties that would be severed.

Penelope, the writer, said that may be true in one direction, but not necessarily the other.  "Have you ever heard of Impostor Syndrome?  I know a bunch of successful writers who are almost crippled by it, thinking that their success is an illusion and undeserved, and any minute people are going to see they're a fraud.  Now, I don't get the impression you are anything less than competent confident in your element, but I want as Arthur Milligan, either.  Still, unless you manage to parachute into a complete blank slate, you're going to get hit with the same symptoms, only for real.  My wedding almost destroyed me, for instance, and I need to take pills to sleep any day I've had any sort of meaningful interaction with the original Penny's parents.  And the fear of other moms judging me is...  Look, I'm happy most of the time.  If I hadn't gone to the Inn that first time, I would have never met this guy, and if Germy hadn't stolen my life, I never would have considered trying to make it work, but it's not destiny and it's not easy; it's being lucky and having outlets into which I can channel my other selves."

Her red-haired friend picked that up.  "What she said.  I thought my own life being stolen was a blessing in disguise, justification for continuing to be Ashlyn, which was and is really fun.  But there is something missing sometimes, especially since you never really know what that easy, fun life is going to be like ten years down the road."

"Well, I wouldn't be subjecting myself to the change in sex if I can possibly help it."

"It's not just that," said Annette, "I went from female to male at first, and that made some things easier, but letting go of your identity is hard.  I was so glad when I could be myself again."

I turned to look at Yuan-wei, and she held up her hands.  "Don't look at me to contradict her!  My life has gotten ten times better since my brother's been part of it again, and I still can't bring myself to call Benny by 'Jordan'.  I'm doing really well, but I ain't gonna tell you the decision want fucking difficult!"

I wasn't convinced, but soon the food arrived and ended the conversation.  The people who knew each other wound up playing catch-up, and I eventually wound up waiting with Yuan-wei for a car back to her apartment, where I would be staying the night.  She stared at me, squinted a bit, and then asked my cup size.

"I beg your pardon!"

She then told me about the last few scenes of her student film needing to shoot over the weekend despite the lead actress having walked off the set, leaving a few custom-fitted costumes behind.  I may not be quite as busty as this "Bree" person, but I was closer to fitting her costumes than Yuan-wei was herself.  Ashlyn had apparently been her first choice, but she couldn't schedule it around the bar's needs.  I blanched when he told me what the parts were - mindless sex robots dressed in skimpy costumes, assisting some sort of mad scientist - but it is somewhat difficult to turn down a request from the person offering one her spare room for the evening while waiting for a car to arrive in the freezing cold.

I should have summoned the courage to do so.

It was not as simple as just slipping on a costume, staring gladly, and saying a few inanities.  Because the performers whose secondary roles I was filling in was quite busty, Yuan-wei arranged to meet the girl doing costumes early, so that she could get a quick look at me before we made our way not to the locations, but to the a butcherie.  There she examined packages of chicken breasts in what seemed like a peculiar manner until buying a few before we continued to the laboratory space Yuan-wei had rented.  There was a small changing area rigged with curtains, and I was handed thong panties, white fishnet stockings, and something like a "sexy nurse" Halloween costume, including a corset.  I initially thought the panties would be the worst part of it, and thought I would get out of it without doing anything because the costume wouldn't zip up.  That when the costumer came in and with an absurdly casual "excuse me" stated paying at my chest, placing the chicken breasts in the costume's cups and arranging things so that someone looking from the outside could find no border between them and my own mammaries.  I thought that would be it until she had me lay down on a table and started sewing the costume up.  After that, someone came to apply make-up and I was given a mirror to look in.  I looked ridiculous.

Yuan-wei intercepted the seamstress as she was approaching with a frightening pair of shoes, bringing them to me herself.  "I'm gonna guess you've never worn anything with this sort of heel before."

"Of course I haven't."

"Well, just see how you do.  I looked over the footage last night and I think we can mostly get away with shooting you in the heels while standing still and maybe rig some 2x4s for you to walk on.  If we can't, try holding your arms out at an angle like this, palms parallel to the floor, and placing one foot directly in from of the other while looking straight ahead."  She demonstrated.  "The arms actually make you look sexier while helping your balance, but it's kind of showy for real life.  Your lines are pretty simple, and if you can't do breathy -- 'is there anything else, Doctor?' -- don't worry about it, I can ADR later."

I could do "breathy", of course - the more Marilyn Monroe I put into my lines, the more she liked it.   Though I stumbled a few times early on and was grateful for the moments between takes when I could sit and rest my feet, the actual shooting was mostly rather dull.  Something like two hours over the course of the day seemed to just be spent on having me stand at a different location and stare blankly so that she could later paste it all together so that it looked like there were a half-dozen of these nurse/lab-assistant robots in the room.  There was also a great deal of tape on the floor, especially when shooting a scene where three of me were helping the main actor implant a man's brain in another robot's body, with some hastily-added dialogue about it being a different model.

I seemed some resentment from the cast, but paid it no heed.  They were just actors, after all, and ones who had to work for peanuts in student films.  I daresay by the end of the day, they had a certain level of respect for the work I was doing the first time around.

It was nevertheless a relief to get to the end of the day, be cut out of that costume and apply adhesive bandages to my ankles after a shower to wash the smell of raw meat and perspiration from my body. 

Sunday would prove an even more peculiar day.  While Saturday had mostly been building one particular sequence from every angle, Sunday had us shooting in Yuan-wei's apartment.  This time, I was given a similarly farcical French maid's costume - once again having my chest augmented and being sewn in - but I worked with different actors, including the director, who served as Bree's double so that I had a proper eye-line and voices to react to.  As a person who feels that work is best done focusing on one thing, this constant shifting was tremendously aggravating, and my cast-mates' occasional impatience entirely unwarranted.  We eventually got all we could done before I had to work a flight back out to the west coast.  It was clear Yuan-wei wanted to do more even if the cast was ready to be done hours ago, especially since I had established early on that I could not stay later than a certain time and all the innuendo withwhich Miss Lee's friend Ernesto and my co-star were peppering their conversation would be for naught.

After I had showered and changed into my work clothes, I saw Yuan-wei smirking.  "Still thinking of spending the rest of your life pretending to be someone else?"

I have her a withering look.  "Was that the point of this, young lady?"

"Nah, I just needed a girl who fit the costume, and you saved my [behind] there.  But, like Annette said a billion times while working on the script, it's never just one thing."

I suppose, I said, that this is true when writing a story, but I nevertheless wished I had more time to speak with the more experienced people about how they had applied their previous life experience to their new lives, but I had opted to give of my own time instead.

I did, perhaps, look at the various passengers on the flight "home" (and on others during the subsequent weeks) and find myself a little less convinced that I could drop into their lives with relatively little complication.  There would be details and obligations that I doubt I would have the stomach for.  In some ways, Alicia's life is relatively simple in that respect - she interacts with different people every day and lives with her mother, who is also someone else - but even more than when dealing with people on the plane, this solidified my lack of desire to have much dealing with the people more interested in Alicia's body than my mind.

My true life may have been somewhat battered, then, with undue setbacks, but it is clearly the best situation to which I can return, and I am quite happy that Lindsey and I have already been able to calculate the proper time to return to Old Orchard Beach and have booked the room where we shall become ourselves again.

-Harmon Keller

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