Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: _______ with Alicia

Though I ultimately opted against adding more salacious content to the Instagram amount that I inherited from Alicia, I did find myself curious about what I could do with itbeyond simply treating it as a repository of photographs for future reference.  I may, after all, find my next set of circumstances one where an understanding of the market dynamics of social media could be quite valuable, and the best way to learn new things is through experimentation.

So, if the content was not going to change much, what other variables could I consider?  Engagement seemed the most obvious, so I started replying to comments, and occasionally following the accounts of one's that had something interesting to say.  I would occasionally make notes on what certain people liked or questioned, keeping it in mind when taking photographs.  Look a bit wanton when mostly undressed for the men, excited when trying new clothes on for the women, make sure there is both something familiar and obscure when sightseeing.  When following someone else, especially one with a larger audience than oneself, comment quickly and simply if she just wants validation; ask questions if she seems to be looking for people who share her interests.

It seems simple enough, but with the right raw materials and the discipline to post regularly enough that one's followers don't feel neglected, one can grow an audience fairly quickly; by the end of July I had gone from 20,000 followers to 75,000.

And my roommates treated this as some kind of accomplishment!  I had changed very little about how I lived my life, but having total strangers "like" what they saw apparently made that life noteworthy, rather than cause to roll their eyes and treat me as an antisocial snob.  They started asking questions about what I'd been up to, and recommendations for what to see in cities that they had visited more often than I had.

I did hit a plateau in August, and thought that might be the end of the experiment, which was something of a relief - the amount of time these "influencer" people must spend on targeted interaction and filtering the most grotesque things that people try top attach to their profiles while not coming off as heavy-handed or some such must be extensive, as I found that an account which posted roughly a picture or two a day might need an hour's maintenance every night.  I was quite ready to simply go back to using the site for my original propose and let those other people continue to pay attention or not as they would.

But then one of the comments caught my eye, saying that I should have a podcast or a YouTube channel.  I had given something along those lines some thought, of course, every time somebody said that a place I had visited and my description of it was interesting, but I was thinking more in terms of a book.  This suggestion seemed more in line with what somebody my apparent age would do.

I mentioned this idly to "Barbie" and her eyes practically lit up, and she quickly opened the locker at the foot of her bed to pull out a video camera, then scooted to the other side of the room to point it at me.  The lens moved and then the red light came on, and she asked me about my favorite place to fly.

"I'd rather not."

"No, you totally should!  Come on - what's the place you're always tempted to over-bid on?"

I roll my eyes and start talking about a sculpture garden in New Mexico which is far from my favorite destination, mentioning how the dry air preserves the work although the hippies who live in the area are nearly as amusing.  I expect her to turn it off, but she doesn't, instead waiting until I'm done and saying it was "awesome", and that I must have wanted to be a teacher before getting into this.  I told her I'd given it some thought.

She says this could be the basis for a channel, that there are men who go on for hours on YouTube about how new science-fiction films are evidence of a conspiracy against the male gender, and I am far more interesting and attractive than they are.  Not untrue, I admit, and we eventually start having out the idea of the channel/"show".  She comes up with the title, saying that even if I never actually do anything more risqué than wearing a short skirt, it will get attention, even if it really means I can do shows on whatever I want (and looks at me blankly when I say it's straight out of The Match Game).

The next day is a mutual day off for us, so we crisscrossed the city with her camera, me delivering "lectures" on the various pieces of WPA at in the area, something that one would think people her age would know about, what with their belief that everyone is an artist or a "maker" deserving of support and fondness for politicians who openly identify as socialist, though I suppose their not reading history is why they need videos like these to spoon-feed it to them.  And though I describe them as lectures, they are not much like standing in a classroom.  There s just Barbie and the camera, telling me to smile more, flirt, or "pretend [I am] telling [my] boyfriend about one of [my] favorite things". 

Ridiculous, even if it does apparently make for good Internet video.  We waited a bit to post it, making a few others at various stops and shooting some new footage as we got more familiar with the process, eventually deciding to bank a few before starting to upload them on Thursday mornings and regularly mention them on my social media accounts over the next few days.

We sent the first one out before working a round-trip to Dallas on September 5th, and she was disappointed to see it did not immediately get many views, and just almost forgot about it until my phone started buzzing while I was in the shower.  I didn't recognize the name of the daughter of s some celebrity who has not herself accomplished anything who re-tweeted our link, but Barbie did, her eyes going wide as she opened her laptop.  The counter on my new YouTube channel was incrementing quite rapidly.  "Is this unusual?"

She looked from it to me, eyes wide.  "Is this unusual?  It's huge!  You're huge!"  Or faces were close, and out of nowhere, she kissed me on the lips.

I did not see this coming, but I had not forgotten how to respond, kissing her back and pulling her closer.  For all that the sensation of our breasts together was surprising, it was not unpleasant, and she has a quite impressive bottom which was soon in my hands, being pulled from her seat.  I unzipped her uniform while she worked the buttons on my pajamas, and soon we were on my bed, her back to my chest, my hands spring her breasts while I kissed her neck.  Soon one found its way lower, and I found that I had not completely lost practice in pleasing a woman.

She seemed to come out of her trance when she turned around and kneeled on the floor, her face being level with my pelvis seeming to surprise her.  "I'm sorry, I can't...  I shouldn't have...  I've never..."  And then she started crying.

I was briefly annoyed, but tried to shrug it off.  "Not to worry," I said while replacing my pajama top, "we were excited, and this was something of a first for me as well.  Now, go take your turn in the shower and when you come back, it will be like it never happened."

"Yeah, that's probably for best."  She pulled a t-shirt and sweatpants from her dresser and headed for the bathroom.

We have been cordial since, continuing to work on the channel and mostly assigned to the same flights.  I do, on occasion, find myself curious about what would have happened had she not gotten cold feet - she is the sort of young woman that I have long favored, even if she does not have the same academic background - but this shape obviously makes circumstances different.  In the meantime, we work together both in the air and on the ground.

-Harmon Keller

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Jordan/Yuan-wei: Not Seeing a Master Plan Yet

Jacky kind of left his post-Inn visit to chance, but that is not how Chen-ai operates.  I may not know what her whole deal is about, but she had never sprung anything on me that hasn't taken some planning, even if I never see it coming.

Take last night.  My co-workers and I are rolling out of the building at around 9:30pm - something can't miss its Christmas release date, and, no, it's not Star Wars - and doing the usual when we've been hit with that much unpaid overtime:  Grabbing a snack at the taco truck a couple blocks away, because we've worked straight through dinner and who is going to want to fucking cook by the time we make our way home through traffic?  Add some beers from a nearby convenience store, and it makes for a fine end-of-week bitch session.

It's my turn to buy the beer, and I'm walking back to the truck when a bright green convertible slams on the brakes and turns into the lot.  The driver gets out, a blonde wearing a sparkly pink dress that shows pretty much all of her legs and has a plunging neckline that makes it clear she's got the sort of slender build to go braless, plus matching stiletto heels and dark sunglasses.  She makes a beeline in my direction.  "Missy?"

My colleagues raise their eyebrows, and I'm pretty confused too.  "Do I--?"

She takes off the glasses, and it's suddenly more obvious that the blonde hair is a dye job.  "It's me!  Bingbing!  Oh my god, the look on your face!"  She quickly pulls a phone out of a handbag, shoves herself against me, and takes a tongue-out selfie with one hand while extending the two fingers with the other.  "Can you believe this?  Missy and I grew up together in Hong Kong, and then I'm out here doing a scavenger hunt of all things, and I find her!  What are the odds?"

All my friends are smirking like seeing me uncomfortable is hilarious.  Rafik is the first to respond.  "If you want to catch up--"

"No way."

"Yes!  We're supposed to do this with partners, but since I'm between boyfriends...  Oh, you're still hung up on that!   But that was ages ago, and we were totally different people!"

I sighed.  "Fine.  Whatever you say."

Chen-ai/Bingbing squealed, and everyone made a point of calling me "Missy" as I got in the car, barely shutting the door before she hit the gas and tore out onto the highway, leaving me grabbing hold of the door while trying to buckle my seat belt, and soon work was out of sight (along my own car, I suddenly realized).  I looked over at Chen-ai, expecting her to drop the act, but she just switched to Cantonese.

"I should have done this years ago!  Is this what it felt like for you, seeing Yuan-wei's face in the mirror after choosing not to go back to being that fatty again?  So light and sexy and full of energy and free?"

"No!  What the fuck is wrong with you?"

She didn't say anything for a few minutes, and then seemed a little more serious and like the Chen-ai I remembered as we pulled into a gas station.  "You know, it's going to go a lot better between us if you just let some things go.   I promise."  She reached into what passed for a back seat and pulled out a garment bag, then nodded toward the restrooms.  "C'mon, go get changed."

I thought of refusing, but we were kind of out in the middle of nowhere and pissing her off was maybe not a great idea.  I snatched the bag and went to the back of the station, hoping this wasn't how I got left behind.

It was a really nice dress, as sparkly as hers but not quite so low-cut, even if there was no wearing a bra with it.  The cut (and underwire) pushed my tits up and in, anyway.  The matching handbag was just big enough for phone, wallet, lipstick, keys, and pepper spray; the matching shoes were also stilettos, and I felt a little wobbly from not having really gone out in a while (and folks were just going to have to deal with my unpainted toenails).

Chen-ai hadn't abandoned me, so I tried to play it cool.  "Pink and blue dresses?  Trying to say something?"

"Nah, it's just funny.  We've got a private joke."  She let me get secure in my seat before driving off this time.

We were in the city a half-hour later, able to walk past a round-the-block line at a club.  She asked what I was drinking, I said a 7-Up, and she said "Bicardi & 7, got it."  Before I could say no, it was in my hands.

We attracted attention, and though we weren't attached at the hip for the next three hours, I would always find her near me after a while.  I'm not going to lie, there were moments when I was a bit carried away by the great DJ, the cool light show, and the very hip crowd.  Some folks bought me really expensive drinks, and I do have the phone number of an actor who went from flattered that I recognized his face to curious when I said it was from putting it on a stuntman's body.

But Chen-ai seemed to being having an even better time, grinding on the biggest stars in the place, screaming that she loved that song, flirting and getting numbers from people half her age like it wasn't fucking weird at all.  Every once in a while, she'd make sure to introduce me to one, taking about how he might be a really good contact to have, or saying he'd been looking my way.

I guess she didn't quite know how much Bingbing could hold, because after a while she put her arm around my shoulders and said she needed me to drive her to the hotel.  I disentangled myself from the finance creep who was hitting on me, got her to the sidewalk, and took the key when the valet returned.

The car was annoyingly fun to drive, and the hotel was five-star.  I tried to drop her at the elevator, but she grabbed my hand, half-drunkenly saying we had to talk.  Her room was a suite, of course, and she had apparently already used the place's app to order room service, remembering how I liked my steak.

Hungry from not having my tacos hours ago, I attacked it right away, looking up to see her smiling.

"So what's this all about?  Making sure I can see how well you planned everything and prepared to fit in so that I don't try and push back?"

She gave a little "ugh!" gap, like the accusation was me being paranoid.  "Fitting in's not that hard, Jordo.  Like, all those eighties and nineties movies and TV shows you millennials watch, that's us.  Not that much has changed other than the phones!  And as for what it's about, like I said, it's easier for everyone if we get along.  Everyone thinks we're best friends anyway."

"Right, you want to be my friend."

"Why is that so hard to believe?  I told you that I'm impressed by how you handled all this, I stepped in when I saw Carlotta and Giorgia were trying to mess with your life, I've shared what I know about the Inn.  I know it's not great that I never really learned to play the part of a good mother because I resented Yuan-wei and that I like you better than her, but now I don't have to!"

"If you like me so much, why did you make me dump Jacky?"

"Did that turn out to be a bad thing?  Look, it's not your fault that you never developed the instinct for when guys are trouble the way other girls do, but were you going to listen to the woman you imagine is some sort of supervillain if I said he set off alarms?  Obviously not.  I figured maybe a little time as a woman would have made him appreciate you more, but from how receptive you seemed to be to other guys tonight, I'm guessing it didn't turn out that way."

I didn't concede the point, but I didn't say anything.

"Besides, you're going to want me by your side when they start asking about your mother."

That was what I was waiting for.  She said it in the same casual, fun-loving way as everything else, but a chill went up my spine and I carefully set my fork down.  "Chen-ai, what did you do?"

"Nothing, really, but my old identity is in limbo, so when nobody sees her for a few weeks, there will be some questions, especially if anybody finds out she's not at that place I checked myself into."  She gave me a look like I was the one making trouble.  "What?  It's not exactly easy to disappear for long enough to overstay a visa.  But I trust you to cover for me!"

"You expect me to cover for you?"

"I wouldn't have given you power of attorney otherwise, although I admit, I did figure you'd be coming to your friend Bingbing for advice."  She shrugged.

"What the fuck else?"

"What do you mean?"

"What sort of other fucking mess have you stuck me with?"

"There's no other mess, and the business runs itself."  I crossed my arms and stared bullets.  "Okay, fine, I put ten million dollars into a numbered amount.  Hong Kong dollars, not U.S., I'm not greedy or anything.  It's just kind of like start-up money."

"You did what?!!?"

"Hey, I earned that money, and I deserve to take some with me!  It shouldn't affect you at all - I didn't touch your trust fund, and barring any sort of emergency, nobody will have any reason to freak out and call the police about how your frugal, sensible mother hasn't been seen in weeks if you just stay in California and let our employees do their thing."

I pushed away from the table.  "There's the fucking threat."

She stood up and chased after me.  "It's not a threat, Jordan, it's precautions, just in case something went wrong or I got homesick.  I didn't even see the need to tell you before you started interrogating me because I could see you're so happy here and such a good person.  Trust me, we're going to be great friends by this time next year.  Maid of honor at my wedding."

I snorted, and she ignored it.  A big, genuine-seeming yawn escaped her.  "Wow, I haven't had a night like that in twenty years!  I've got to crash.  The hotel laid out a toiletries in the other bathroom and some really great pajamas in the other bedroom, so we can talk more in the morning if you want."  She hadn't taken her heels off, and giggled as she had to find her balance on the way to the bathroom.

I said hell no to that, calling to charge a cab to the room as soon as she had closed the door.  I'd been watching my drinks, but I still felt pretty drowsy when I got home, and feel asleep right away.

This morning, there were text messages from "Bingbing", saying she understood this was going to take some time, and since she had to go back to Hong Kong anyway, she'd give me my space.  Then the selfie she took at the start of the night.

The whole night almost doesn't even feel real, even with that stupidly nice dress hanging by the hamper.  There's got to be some sort of angle.  There's no fucking way that Chen-ai really thinks we're going to be besties after all she's done, unless she's crazier than I thought.

-Jordo

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Jonah/Krystle: Job-Hunting

I like working at The Changeling compared to other jobs I could have - I've got a boss who understands my weird Inn-related quirks, I spend a lot of time with my best friend, and the hours work so that Momma Kamen can watch Little Moira rather than hiring a sitter most nights.  And, yeah, the tops have been better this summer, and not entirely because I'm less worried about Good smiting me down for wearing shorts and a scoop-necked t-shirt.  All the time at the gym had me able to carry trays easier, and having a boyfriend actually makes me less nervous dealing with people.  I don't flirt, but I'm less worried about being friendly, because I'm sure that there's not something else going on in my head.

But it's still waiting tables, and while Ashlyn and Moira don't pay the tipped minimum wage (in part because Moira says that tipping is, and I quote, house-shite), what you make is pretty dependent on how busy it is and what sort of mood the customers are in, and that's kind of scary.  I read something online about how one emergency can wipe most people's savings out, and that's kind of me.  Like, a couple weeks ago, Little Moira had a really bad night, wheezing instead of crying, and I might have wound up spending everything I've saved up on a trip to the emergency room if Dad hadn't texted back with something to try first.

Yeah,  Dad.  I'm not really back on speaking terms with my real patents, but when my baby girl gets sick, pride goes out the window, and apparently Dad feels the same way.  A situation like that does make you focus a little more on making sure that you can handle emergencies, and not just that; families come in with kids not much older than Moira in preschool.  On the one hand, I kind of don't know if she needs it - she's curious, can count to ten, likes being read to, and makes friends at the park, so what's something formal that costs more than I'd make working the hours she's there going to get us?  But it just seems so expected...

So I've started looking for other jobs, and, wow, there is not a whole lot out there for a woman with nothing more than a high-school diploma and the work history that Krystle and I have accumulated.  Not a lot guaranteeing that I'd work enough hours to get insurance at all.

The résumé is also kind of a problem.  Calvin wanted to help when I told him I was thinking of looking for something, but once you get back past my work history and into Krystle's, it's kind of a minefield.  I've mostly been saying that "I" was kind of a mess until getting pregnant served as a wake-up call and he hasn't pushed, and who wants to put something more specific down as bullet points?  Not like anyone I want to work for wants to see that, either, but it does leave a pretty noticeable hole between Krystle's high school graduation and my first stint at The Changeling.

Also kind of tricky:  Interview clothes.  I'm pretty comfortable with my body these days, but every professional-looking skirt I try on seems to be saying "look at my butt!", especially when I'm also wearing heels.  Like, they work when I'm sitting with my legs crossed, but not once I'm on my feet.  Tops are tricky too, if you're built like me and don't want your breasts getting all the attention.  Momma Kamen insisted on altering my jacket, grumbling about how trying to fit us into clothes made for white women without curves are part of how they keep the sisters down.

She got weirdly emotional seeing me dressed up once everything matched and I'd pulled my hair back into a bun and put on makeup, saying there were days she didn't think her daughters would get this far.  I told her not to count her chickens, but kind of got it when I looked in the mirror.  Obviously not nearly as strange as the first time I saw Krystle's face and body, or when I watched a baby grow in it, but my first impression was that I looked like I was wearing a Halloween costume.  Not quite "sexy businesswoman", but not church clothes, or the casual tomboy/busy single mom I think of myself as being, and not like any pictures I've seen of Krystle.  More grown-up, I guess, another version of us.

I didn't get the receptionist job I interviewed for in that outfit, maybe because of those doubts.  Maybe the next one, though.  It's another thing I do now that I didn't before.

-Jonah/Krystle

Monday, September 16, 2019

Steven/Shona(!!): Seeing is believing

It was 3:30 in the morning on Sunday. I rolled over in bed barely awake. I want to say I felt different but in my mind I was just... groggy and tired. I raised a hand to scratch an itch on my chest,  and immediately discovered - to my great displeasure - that it was extremely sensitive.

And squishy.

I would say that I "bolted" upright, but that would be a misstatement because it takes a different amount of muscle necessary to bolt upright in my old body vs. my new one and I guess my brain hadn't caught the difference, so it was more like a failed crunch. I got very disoriented and fumbled around for the lamp, then tried to slowly ease myself upright. By that time it was impossible to ignore all my wobbly bits.

It was real. All real. And all me.

I look like Shona now. I didn't quite at 3:30 AM but I was getting there. More and more mass ballooned out of my body. By that point my clothes were restricting me very badly where they weren't outright ripped. I should have anticipated that what I was wearing would not feel good if I were to transform into Shona while wearing it. I guess that's a function of not really believing it was going to happen, and not really thinking that critically about what would happen if it did. Scratch one pair of boxers (the V-neck I was wearing survived in stretched-out form, but left marks on my upper arms.)

I should have slept naked, but it was chilly at night. As you know from Jenn's descriptions, Shona is an XXXL. I'm a pretty stocky guy, I wear larges or extra-larges depending on the brand. Nothing I own would have been appropriate for a woman with such wide hips, prominent behind, belly, breasts and arms. Now I have all of those.

I timidly made my way over to the mirror, but on the way over it's not like I could pretend I was ignorant of what was going on. The flesh of my thighs rubbed together and I only needed to look down very slightly to see my new figure. When I finally made it, it wassuch a weird creature - half my face, half hers, and not in a cute "What would our baby look like" way. Her nose and eyes with my jaw and brow... grotesque. My beard was fading into my face, my hairline was moving forward and her long locks were inching out.

I turned away for the remainder. My body continued to swell. I knew how big she is, but it's very different when you're feeling it from the inside.

Fear and panic mixed with elation. As terrifying as this experience was, it was on some level what I wanted - answers, or at least leads on them. Confirmation that the world isn't totally crazy and yet it is - magic is real! In some form at least! And it's happening to me! I suspected I would feel miserable about the exact outcome later, but for the time being... wow. Wow! I have boobs! And... well, you know the rest.

In the morning, I did another v-chat with "Paola." She practically squealed with delight when she saw Shona's face - tired and not made-up, but really there - over top of my mug. She asked if I believed everything now, and I said what choice did I have?

She asked if I had any regrets about my decision. It took me a moment but I said no. I needed to do this. Yeah, it's not the most convenient form to be in, but I have a lot of good memories with this face and I was nearly moved to tears when I finally did see it again in the light of day.

It's not like I want to be a woman, but I really badly didn't want to be myself anymore either. And there's a very specific reason why, if this was going to happen, I was okay with it. It has to do with what I have since read that Jenn wrote about her time in this body.

I've known Shona since we were teenagers, and we've been together for a while. Her being this size has been part of my life for years. Maybe I never could have understood what she went through on a day to day basis like this, but I have seen her through lots of situations, including times when I needed to reassure her or comfort her. She never let her size get in the way of living her life.

And honestly, she deserves better than someone who is going to look in the mirror and say to themselves "This person is flawed. She is broken because she's so big." Jenn seems like a  well-meaning person, but I don't want the person who winds up with Shona's life - if it's to be permanent or whatever - to look at it as a curse. I want them to be able to love who she is the way I always thought Shona did. That was in the back of my mind when Jenn told me about how she felt about being Shona, before I knew it was real - she was saying things I just never thought Shona would really say about herself, even in her darkest moments.

I'm not ignorant. I know her appearance doesn't meet certain societal standards, and it would habe been willfully ignorant of me to pretend a woman this size doesn't experience inconveniences and challenges than a skinnier woman.

Shona is beautiful. Jenn even agreed when she saw her Insta account that she was very pretty. And to me, it's not a "beautiful for a fat girl" kind of beauty. It's real beauty. And she exuded it inside and out. And all I want - for whatever the duration of my time as her - is to embody that. I think she deserves somebody wearing her body who can see that.

In the meantime... I guess I'll go back to Gainesville and rebuild her life for her, in case she ever does decide to come back. I hope that I can find her and speak with her and learn what she is feeling. What's become of her. Hopefully, now that I know what the Inn does, we can pick up where we left off.

More thoughts later

-Steven/Shona (Stona? Sheven?)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Steven: Made it

I have been going over all the possibilities in my mind and none of it really adds up. So I have come to Maine in search of answers. I managed to avoid Dorian and have found a fairly nice spot to vacation. Since being here, I've seen sights, mingled, had some good craft beers, and played cards with the older ladies who checked in ahead of me. It's been days and I'm starting to doubt anything weird will be happening anytime soon.

I know Shona. She's a lot of things. A raconteur. A kidder. A biting wit. Incisive. Intuitive. Caring. Loyal. Friendly but guarded. A secret Trekkie. Sometimes she withholds information or her true feelings, but other times she is very outspoken. But I have never known her to lie, not to me. And if she did, it wouldn't be some crazy story about a body-swapping Inn.

Which would make it all the more diabolical if it was a lie. But to what end?

I say "Shona" told me this. I am halfway convinced that the person I was talking to - the person I made love to - was not my real girlfriend, but only after she insisted for days this was true and at the end of one of the worst days of my life.

At the beginning it was like "Okay Keet, if you want some space I can give it," And not point out how unnecessary her story was. (Keet - short for Parakeet - is my pet name for her.)

After I got canned, I was driving around wondering who to call, and I got to Shona in my contacts. My finger was over her name and I had this weird hesitation, and it kind of hit me - maybe her story is true. What a weird time to think about that. Maybe I was thinking it because in my own way in that moment I no longer wanted my own life

You have to understand. From the time she came back from Maine until the day she told me her story, and beyond, I really felt I was in the presence of my girlfriend. I didn't clue in that her laugh was different or her walk, or the light in her eyes. Yes, the hiking was out of character, but that's a woman's prerogative. Did she become distant? Sure, but if you knew Shona that might not be so unexpected.

There are things that make a lot more sense if the Inn is true, but I wouldn't call any of them nonsense. She expressed a lot more concern and self-consciousness over her physical appearance than the woman I know. She didn't laugh at things I swore she would find funny. And yeah maybe she seemed a little lost when discussing the past but who spends much time discussing the past with someone they've been seeing for years?

See there's always an explanation.

I have the following theories:

1) This is her kooky way of breaking up with me, and she has more capacity for Fantasy stuff than I thought

2) This is some crazy con, and the first part was to make me fall in love with her so I would be more susceptible to it.

3) It's all true, and my Shona is somewhere out there, and she left me without saying goodbye, and frankly I am owed an explanation.

4) Body-swapping is real, but this is still a con, and I am letting myself get taken for a ride. This is something I fear in the put of my stomach, but "Jenn" - if she is who she says - has put a lot of work into making herself seem genuine on this blog.

5) Shona has had a delusional break from reality, which is perhaps both the most  troubling and the most likely.

I need answers and the fact that I'm willing to entertain the idea that this Inn does what it's said to do shows I am desperate. Yes, it was my idea to come. I told Shona -- Jenn -- I guess out of hopes she would come clean and that the story I was rapidly coming to believe was in fact fake news. Instead she said "If you're going, you have to become me." In the moment it seemed like a sensible plan. It was like playing chicken.

I got here and there was an unlocked suitcase full of Shona's clothes. If this works, in a few days time they will be my clothes. Think about the implications of that - you don't have to, there appears to be a full decade of writing on the subject!

And I'm walking into this willingly? That probably shows how little stock I put in the story, despite all the evidence. But hey, I'm here aren't I?

Earlier I had a Skype convo with a young girl purporting to be "Jenn." Seeing her meant nothing to me and I could not put in my brain that this was the same person who I had bid Bon Voyage to days earlier. I thought about asking her to tell me something only Jenn would know,  but there are ways to prepare for that. And besides, I don't know Jenn all that well.

Maybe I didn't know Shona as well as I thought either?

Well depending how things break this weekend, I might have a year to find out.

For now,
-Steven

Friday, September 13, 2019

Jordan/Yuan-wei: My (Ex) Boyfriend's Back (to Normal)

You know what's kind of fucking disturbing?  I know that Jacky's recent trip back to the Inn (I guess at the same time Jenn became Paola) is the first in a series of events that is probably going to play havoc with my life as Yuan-wei, but my biggest question is when I became such a goddamn feminist?

I don't think it was in just the past week or so, although I kind of shrugged off the naked text Jacky sent after the change.  He was naked and erect, but whatever; I imagine if I'd gotten my dick back after a year as Deirdre, I'd have been pretty excited.  Hell, I'd probably be pretty excited if it happened tomorrow.  Especially since whoever the last Jacky was, they kept him in good shape, maybe not quite like Benny did as me, but that a high bar.  It wasn't like a picture with just a dick, and good on him for still feeling good about his body after the other perspectives he's been getting.  I sent him a thumbs-up, meaning congratulations.  He asked what I was up to that weekend, I sent a shrug emoji ("I don't know"), and went back to whatever I was doing.

Fast-forward to the weekend, where I'm trying to clean my house and there's a knock on my door.  The camera shows its him, so I decide too be mature and talk to him, because all this shit can do a number on you and make you make bad decisions.  I buzz him in, not really thinking about what I'm wearing (crop-top, shorts, flip-flops) until he's looking me up and down.  I look back a bit - I haven't had many boyfriend's, but I've learned from real girls that there's no shame in trying to see how they've done without you, and also trying to see what some time thinking he'd be stuck as Bingbing has done to his taste in clothes, grooming, etc.  Tough to tell.

"So," I say after offering him a beer, "got any secret intel on why Chen-ai decided to pull up stakes and run now, besides the protests?"

"No, fake-me quit the job and deleted everything.  Hell, I'm going to have to buy a new laptop when I get home and already got a new phone because he went at them with a hammer.  Maybe there's some hardcopy back in Hong Kong, but he seems pretty thorough."

"Fuck.  Chen-ai is going to screw me over somehow, I just know it."

"Yeah, but look at the bright side - your new mother probably won't care if we're together or not!"

I stopped, right in the middle of reaching for a bottle in the back of the bottom shelf, then straightened up.  "Wait, what?  Are you serious?"

"Hey, I get that you broke up with me because of all this weird stuff, and Chen-ai being in the middle is scary.  I was mad for a while, but now that I see how it can mess with a person I won't hold it against you."

"You won't hold anything against me?  I'm sorry, when all of this went down, which of us told the other person what was going on, and which of us kept quiet about who they really were and fucked their ex's brother for a year?"

You'd think he would have anything to say, but he did.  "I was just thrown into all of this and he seemed--"

"Dude, you know what?  I don't care why you did it.  I'm just not gonna be with someone who did, especially when they're gonna be on the other side of the fucking planet getting into who knows what.  I'm sorry, maybe it was just an extreme situation, but we're not going to be like that again."

I put the bottle in my hand on the bar counter between us, not sure what else to do with it.  It gave him a reason to step forward.  "Well, how about one for the road, just to make sure it's all in working order?"

What. The. Fuck.  "Holy shit, are you serious?  No!  It wasn't my job to make sure you feel like a man when we were together, and it's definitely not now!"

"C'mon, you owe me that much!"

"Dude.  No."

"You want it - look at you, you're totally DTF."

"Are you serious?  I didn't really think you were coming - it's just a hot day and I had some sweaty work planned!  Plus, how did you spend two years as a girl and not figure out they don't ever owe someone pussy access?  Was Max just such an incredible, always-around boyfriend that things never got uncomfortable with anyone?"

His hand tightened on the bottle a little, and I worried that maybe I had pushed it too far, counted too much on him being able to see a woman's point of view and not enough on his brain not having been flooded with this much testosterone for two years, but he relaxed a bit and pulled it toward himself.  He took a drink and seemed to calm down a bit.

I exhaled.  "I think you should go."

"Yeah.  I, uh, just thought maybe things could go back to normal."

I spook my head.  "Sorry."

He nodded and went out the door.  There wasn't any calling me a bitch or some colorful Cantonese equivalent under his breath, but I still paid attention until he was in his Uber and driving away, and let out a breath I hadn't realized I was holding.

I brought Annette's contacts up on my phone and was starting a text, but decided I wanted to hear her voice, so I hit the call button.  She answered, probably figuring this was some sort of emergency, and I told her about Jacky's visit.

"Wow.  Are you okay?  I haven't had many scary boyfriends, but there's always a guy or two."

"Yeah, it's just...  I was l kind of attracted to him because he seemed like me, you know?  Same hobbies, told some of the same jokes without prompting, doing the same sort of work, and--"

"Jordo, I love you, but you do realize you were the same sort of asshole, right?  Like, I heard you yelling at people while gaming as Deirdre, and who was that girl at the beach you said you were going to hate-fuck if you became yourself or Benny instead of Yuan-wei?"

"Tina Chen.  Fuck, I haven't thought about that in years.  Shit, was Jacky always like that without me seeing it?"

"I dunno.  It's tough to guess how a guy's going to handle being told no.  He didn't seem the type."

"Okay, now tell me when I started being the chick that lectures guys on that consent and agency shit?  I thought I was the fun bitch!"

She laughed.  "Oh, you are, but I've been a good influence!"

"Thanks a lot!"

"You're welcome, and congratulations on reaching the point in the story where, having learned how women want to be treated, you wake up from this weird dream a better man, confusing everyone around you!"

"You're a weirdo, you know that?"

She said she did, and then we started talking about her new job, apartment, boyfriend, and all that.

It got me spending a little more time looking in the mirror after slowing and changing to go out, though.  I always say that's still me, just in a sexier package, and even when I'm putting on lipstick or a push-up bra or whatever because I want guys to look at me, I figure that's kind of just biology too, but, shit, how much of the guy inside has changed over the past few years, and what would I be if I was suddenly myself again?

-Jordo

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Valerie: Friends Without Benefits

Of all the people to talk to about my dating situation, the one I looked forward to the least was Rafe.

Rafe is back at the shop after an extended time away. Somehow he heard about my hanging around with Kevin, and somehow he got the idea it was any of his business.

"So Chickpea, I heard you got ghosted by Silvertop."

I told him he heard wrong, that Kevin and I were hanging out regularly as friends... with no benefits.

"And he's not trying to get laid? That's weird."

Now, part of me agrees but I would never let him know that. So I tell Rafe it's sad that he doesn't think men and women can be friends without sex, which I also happen to believe (moreso now that I'm a woman maybe than when I was a man.)

"I don't think it's impossible," Rafe shrugged, "I mean, I like to think you and I are friends. But then again, we've already had sex."

"Don't remind me," I grumbled.

"I never heard any complaints," he smirked. I felt a little queasy at that, not the least because it's true and he knows it. It especially stings that I've basically been with nobody since him. But I know he's just trying to push my butrons. Puts me in a no-win situation - either I lose my cool and seem like an uptight woman, or I play along and encourage it.

Understanding men doesn't always help you deal with them.

My girls are more understanding of the situation, to various degrees. Maddie thinks it's cool, but she has specifically said she "ships" me and Kevin, so she holds out hope. Charli is skeptical - I wouldn't say she's a manhater but she is definitely one to question everything that comes out of a man's mouth, so despite his apparent honesty, she sees the possibility of ulterior motives, or just, I don't know, some kind of desire to mess with my head.

Ariel, oddly enough, is the one I've talked about it the most with. She's the one who has most tried to get the sense of my feelings - am I really okay being just friends with Kevin? Teaching him to cook, going on outings to markets and stuff, playing out part of a relationship without ever truly fulfilling it? Am I setting myself up for pain? Am I settling for staying in orbit around a man who, by his own admission, can't love me back, as a way of avoiding trying to find something real?

Am I hoping for something, that I can "break through the shell" as a commentor put it?

I don't know.

I do know that, despite what he's told me about himself, I feel a connection. We've had long talks, had some really cute moments. I made a conscoous decision not to push him away after what he told me. I wanted to show we could get along and I could be in his life without expecting anything. But it hasn't  een wothout challenges.

You know, I think I'm still a little guarded around guys, which probably didn't help my case on the dating scene. I want reasons not to like them and I don't want to try to make them like me. But with Kevin the feeling is very natural. We "vibe." It just stings that being around him kind of gets me worked up and then, well... there's no payoff.

We took a weekend trip upstate. He had a  business meeting and I invited myself along because I wanted to get out of town and see the area. That obviously seems frought, especially since we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast - and you know my history with cute little Inns. But it was nice. We stayed in separate rooms of course.

I imagined we were in Maine. We wake up as different people and suddenly all his baggage melts away and we begin a new life together. That's a rotten fantasy. The man has kids. A life. And I have my own commitment, a commitment to myself to stay as Valerie for good. But I'm not doing much as her except fretting over boys and it's making me crazy.

And besides, I should know well enough that your baggage doesn't just disappear when you get a new body. As far as I'm concerned it only gets bigger.

-Valerie