Monday, June 01, 2020

Daryl/Magda: This Goddamn Week

If you're reading this sometime in the future, not really remembering what 2020 was like, here's a reminder:  There's been a pandemic that has shut down and disrupted every facet of our lives, not nearly enough was done to mitigate it, and just as America in general was starting to "open up" too early, video a couple of black men being killed by white people ostensibly enforcing the law was everywhere you went on the internet and the protests became riots, in large part because of police overreaction and, from what I can see, because of people going out of their way to stir shit up because they know that any trouble will come back on black protesters.  It's been fucking insane.

I'd like to tell you that I've been using the fact that I look like a pretty well-preserved white woman to make a difference, putting myself between cops and protesters when I know shit is about to go down, but I haven't, and I hope like hell that it means I haven't lost touch with who I really am.  It's doubly concerning because I've been calling "Junah" and Jenn (and her ersatz family) to make sure that they're staying safe and feeling kind of proud that the conversations with the former feel really authentic.  He's not an older lady playing at being a young black man, or incensed that he's now more of a potential target in a way that he doesn't "deserve" because of how he started out.  He's not totally familiar with the nuances, but he gets it.

And maybe it's a measure of how much I've become this white woman that I'm more scared of the virus right now.  Between people not traveling and the airlines and airport doing what they can to enforce six-foot spaces, it could be a lot worse, but I do get people every day who are mad that I'm wearing a mask and cough or breathe heavy at you when they want to make some sort of point.  I've had several co-workers and friends come down with it - including one person I don't know very well who has died - and have had that swab stuck up my nose a couple of times.  Going out into a crowd, all that stuff going on...  I get that for some people like J.T., who have mostly been staying in for the past couple of months, this seems like not just a welcome but a righteous opportunity to hit the streets, but I can't help but think of the virus as the most dangerous part.

And to twist the knife just a little more...  Pete had found someone I could become.  36, African-American, female, she'd fallen into a good thing over the winter and was willing to say goodbye to her old life.  I haven't talked about it - or anything - on here because I didn't want to jinx it, but it was a chance to become a little more myself, maybe even start a family, except that the Inn being closed messed all that up and a part of me looks at the news and is glad that I don't have that to worry about.

Sorry for dumping all this, but if this blog isn't for the times when we don't know who we are, then what is it for?

-Magdaryl

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Valerie: There goes the bride

For the past few months I have been thinking about what I would write if I came back to the blog. The world I left off in seems so different and alien, and while changes of lifestyle are nothing new to me, this is the first time everyone else has been along for the ride.

The coffee shop has been kept open for grab-and-go and mobile orders, but business is way down, which means shifts are way down, which means sitting on my butt at home like everyone else. You would think this gave me time to write, but living in an apartment with two other girls doesn't give me a ton of private time to collect my thoughts. I've started this post five times in the last month.

Indulge me for a sec while I go back to the Pre-Pandemic world to explain what things are like now.

The last thing that happened was on February 29. That was the day of Meg's wedding. To say I had mixed feelings about the situation would be putting it lightly. I'm not still in love with her or anything but I can hardly look at her without feeling a really complicated sense of loss, disappointment, resentment and guilt over how things ended between us and never resumed. I've accepted the situation but the feelings stubbornly wouldn't clear. I've been open about them, and she understands, and she wants my friendship, and I wanted hers. So, she said, her wedding wouldn't be complete without me there.

Besides, I thought. Things had fizzled with Rafe, maybe I would meet a guy.

Because I had just had my breast-reduction surgery, I needed a new dress that fit my body better. Most of what I liked from before can be taken in, but I'm definitely enough of a woman now that I will take an opportunity to buy something new and frilly when it pleases me. I brought Ariel along for advice because of the girls, she's the one whose fashion sense I most admire - kind of edgy, kind of modern, but also tuned into classic beauty looks. And I know she would never just tell me what I wanted to hear.

Ariel and I have bonded in a way I didn't with Maddie, who is a sweetheart, or Charli, who was cool. It's definitely because her coming out as bi and having her first female relationship with Charli reminded me, ironically, of transforming into a woman and starting to have relationships with men. In the past, I have told her about my past with Meg, and so she understood how this could be complicated for me, admiring that I was really dedicated to supporting my friend - as long as I wasn't there to start shit. I laughed that I wasn't there to start it, but if need be, I was always ready to finish it.

Somewhere in all this, I asked if Ariel would maybe want to come, since being alone would probably be a good way to do something stupid. I didn't even know how to broach that topic with Meg, but as luck would have it there was a last minute cancellation at the singles table, so as long as she didn't mind being "Frank Leoni" for the night, she was welcome.

We drove up to Vermont and checked into the hotel. I texted Meg to say "I hope this is better than the last time I stayed at a hotel in New England..." and she responded, "Haha, well, it could have been a lot worse." Looking down at myself, I thought yeah, I guess so. (Still hate being short though.)

We changed into our dresses. I was wearing a form-fitting black dress that accentuates my curves in a way I never got to when I had the giant boobs. I was stunned to find I really looked like I had a body. Ariel wore a light blue one that set well against her brown skin, and reminded me that my body is nothing compared to some other peoples.

Ari did my hair. She reflected on how she used to do her cousins' hair, and would be jealous, because they were white and their hair was so easy, and it took her years to not want it to go straight down like Michelle Obama's.

The wedding was tasteful and modern, with lots of quirky touches that I would expect from Meg, which goes right along with having the wedding on Leap Day anyway.

At the Reception, I was seated next to this guy Henry, a friend of Justin's. He was tall, with piercing blue eyes and a strong jaw. Very striking. He was good conversation, since like me he has lived in a lot of different places in the country.

Early in the night, the DJ announced a "Kissing Game" called "Show Them How It's Done" where couples go up to the bride and groom and kiss for them to prompt them to kiss - it's one of those things they do instead of clinking glasses because venues don't want you to do that anymore. It was cute seeing young couples kiss each other sheepishly, while the old couples full-on made out. After a few drinks, I was wanting to get in on the action.

"Hey Henry... feel like going up there?"

He stammered, "Uh... sure!"

I must have really intimidated the poor guy because he only barely gave me a faint peck. When we got back to the table, Ariel rolled her eyes.

Naturally, because it was her wedding day, I didn't get to spend much one-on-one time with Meg, but it was great to see her - bittersweet, but she looked beautiful and joyous, and even Justin cleaned up really nice. I mostly saw her on the dance floor, because as she was fond of telling me, since her knee was healed up, she had years of living to make up for. Which is all well and good but it hasn't taught her a thing because she dances even worse than I do.

When the dancing started, Henry was hard to drag out on the floor and moved stiffly, but was fun. Really, we were having a nice time and I was glad to have someone to forget my troubles with, but he had an early flight and left, giving me his number. I wasn't sure if I saw it going anywhere though..

Once that was over with, I was determined to keep having a good time, and so was Ari. We kicked off our heels and danced up a storm, pausing only for more drinks, photos, and to stuff ourselves all over again at the late night table. As the night went on, we got a little less shy about touching each other, holding each other, twerking on each other (well, she did the twerking, I did... some other awkward white girl move.) I got swept up in the moment and I didn't care.

More and more drinks were consumed and we got tired of indulging guys who wanted to cut in. We probably took it a little too far and made a spectacle of ourselves. It's not like we fell to the floor or anything, but our hands were all over each other, our eyes locked. Maybe it was just the liquor and the setting, but I was feeling things, things that I haven't felt in a very long time - not merely attraction, or interest in another person, but real hunger for them. Lust. Fire.

Eventually I just whispered in her ear "Hotel." And she nodded. We were already all over each other in the cab, tongues flecking in and out of each others' mouths, hands furiously finding breasts and hips and legs. I didn't have time to think how strange or different it all was, how unexpected - I was caught up in the moment, and I badly wanted to be.

We fumbled only a moment on the bed as we had to help each other out of our dresses, but as soon as we were it was the quickest acceleration I have felt in a very long time. We explored each other's naked bodies - which I was too excited to feel insecure about my still un-faded scars, and luckily the tenderness in my breasts was subsiding, because she really seemed to relish playing with them.

"I'm sorry they're not big anymore..." I muttered self-effacingly.

"Honey, they're perfect," Ari said to me. Then added, "And they're still bigger than mine."

It was... different, passionate, energetic. It was exciting to know we could go at a pace that women are comfortable with and not worry about the man's needs. After a bit, she said to me, "I brought something... just in case. I didn't think it would be you though."

"Show me," I said.

She went to her duffel and pulled it out. It was a... shall we say, wearable appendage. I welcomed it, let her use it on me for a while, before I decided it was my turn.

Guys.

Do you know how gratifying it is to have a woman say in the throes of passion "Wow, you really know how to use that thing!" And know she means it?

It was a little clumsy, and honestly, I'm not entirely sure I liked using it better than being on the other side, but it was an amazing, exciting night that left me abuzz. We fell into each other's arms.

Then in the morning we just kind of looked at each other in shock. The spell had somewhat worn off and I was really just embarrassed, although I couldn't explain to her why. She said she was starting to feel guilty about using me for a rebound after Charli left, and maybe taking advantage of my feelings at the wedding. I told her I had a part to play too, but my frustration was with myself. After all this time getting used to the idea of dating and making love to men - and actively enjoying it - why did sleeping with a woman feel like a failure, even thought it was an amazing night?

For over a year, I had been having these thoughts, that maybe I'm not 100% straight, ever since I met Maddie, but I pushed them aside as just surface thoughts, residual inklings of who I was and misplaced appreciation for other women. But what I felt that night sure as hell was real, at least for the moment.

We decided it looked like an awkward one-time-only thing, that we could forgive ourselves and move on. Given that we were roommates now, it might be for the best if we don't pursue. I was both relieved and disappointed - relieved because I was not sure I was up to dating women again, and disappointed because I really like Ariel, especially now, and was starting to feel like maybe we would actually be good together.

And then... in the midst of trying to put that behind us and get through all of it and live our lives... Covid hit New York City. Hard. And suddenly we were locked in together.

I'll tell you more about that later.

Love and kisses,

Val

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Jonah/Krystle: Not Essential

I've been thinking I maybe should write something about the whole stay-at-home thing for the last month and a half, but it's been hard to get started.  It seems like I've got nothing but time now, but that's not the case.

As you might guess, I'm unemployed right now.  I'm technically "furloughed", which I guess means I've got a job waiting for me when the restaurant is back up to something closer to capacity, but that's not any kind of given itself.   To the extent that is still operating, it's because Ashlyn and Moira are working in the kitchen and making deliveries themselves without drawing a salary.   There ain't enough seats to have a bartender and two waitresses working I'd they open up at half capacity, so it'shard to put to much hope in that.

So I've been home, and on the one hand, Little Moira loves that.  We have a great time playing together, and reading.   She's only three, so she can't read yet, but she's got a lot of her favorites memorized, which is kind of amazing itself.  Momma Kamen and my folks say that neither of us were that into books at that age, but we were never locked down or anything like that.  It kind of males me worried that there's some of the man who knocked me up in her, but nobody who knows thinks it works that way.

She misses her cousins, though, and her friends from the park, and it's hard to explain to her that we can only talk to them on the laptop, especially since Momma Kamen still goes to work, if not for quote so many shifts.  It seems backward to me, because she's in her fifties and probably had more that makes her vulnerable than I do, but the MBTA obviously can't just let me take her job.  It means she does all the errands before and after work, so there's really not much reason for me to go out at all.

And I'm lucky in that way, I guess.  Karla is calling to check in on her mother fairly often, and her kids are sad about not being able to see their grandmother, plus all the drama that comes with their fathers in a time like this.  My own folks are keeping in touch a little more often, but the question of going to stay with them is something we kind of dance around.  There aren't any cases in their town, and someone coming from the big city to visit would be an issue.

And I guess I'm lucky, in a way, that I've accepted this as my life.  Hotels aren't opening in Maine until June at least, and there are some people who probably thought they were getting their lives back this weekend.

Anyway, just wanted anyone I haven't been keeping in touch with off the blog to know I'm okay.

-Jonah/Krystle

Monday, February 24, 2020

Val: Under the knife

Around the holidays things started to get weird between me and Rafe. It can be a very sentimental time, even though neither of us are sentimental people, and it's hard not to succumb to the urge a little and behave a certain way.  Something about holiday cheer and togetherness makes it hard to just enjoy casual sex for what it is.

Around New Years Eve we found ourselves having an obligatory "What are we?" Conversation. Are we exclusive? No, but neither of us is seeing anyone else. Do we go out on dates? I said it would be acceptable but he said it was outside his comfort zone (to put it mildly.) In my head I had echoes of someone or other saying "Why buy the cow..." even though I didn't even grow up as a woman. I had to field awkward dating questions from Valerie's mother over the holidays, and deflected by saying I was out there, and that's all. It deepened the already sour feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I spend time with that family.

In January I decided, kinda unilaterally, to downplay my thing with Rafe. Call it a Resolution if you must. It had been a few months of great sex with someone who wasn't interested in more. Why not look again?

Instead, online I found the usual collection of way-too-self-absorbed boy-men in suits who think all women are impressed by a decent suit and a nice car (in this city? Please.)

It was a lot like last year's round of boredom-inducing matchups, only this time I actually had sex with a few of them. None of them had much potential for long term, but I wanted the experience. Whereas before I avoided sex because I didn't want to feel used, now I embrace it because I wanted to do the using.

I think I have screwed myself up because I can only bring myself to sleep with a guy if I dislike him now. I know I should respect my body enough not to just let anyone have it, but I also respect it enough to give it things that will feel good, at least for the night. But if I think I have feelings for a guy? I dare not complicate it with sex.

Besides, I was worried they wouldn't want me soon. At the end of January I did something I have been dreaming about for years... having my breast reduction surgery.

Having boobs of any kind is great about 10% of the time. Times when you want the attention they bring. Times when you are wearing something flattering but not uncomfortable. Times when you are literally naked, on top or below (or in front of) someone and feeling them bounce up and down and against your ribcage in response to something very pleasurable. The rest of the time they are a frightful inconvenience, and when they are 8% of your overall body weight (I did the math!) they are a literal pain.

I had made up my mind months ago and went through a battery of consultations and examinations. Recieving healthcare as a woman in this country is not overall simple of convenient but my doctor - a man - acknowledged that on my frame, these breasts are too much by a lot.

Before the surgery, I texted both Kevin and Rafe, the men in my life who I had kept at arms length of weeks or months. Kevin wished me well, Rafe didn't respond right away. I also texted my sister and Meg, and of course Maddie and Ariel knew - who has taken Charli's old room and made a really good late night talking partner since both of us are effectively single.

Before they put me under, the Doctor said something to the effect of "Just think, when you wake up, you'll have a whole new different body." I probably laughed way too hard, involuntarily, and confused him.

Then they wheeled me in, put me under, and that was that.

Afterward, as I woke up, in my groggy state, my first thought was to grab for them. I think I thought I was back to the Inn because Maddie recalled me babbling about "Am I me? Am I me?" Before long, I came to and had a chance to examine.

It was amazing. The scars are barely noticeable. They're still pretty big actually, but much, much smaller than before. I might actually be able to shop in regular places for tops and bras. Wear sundresses. Jog. See my feet. They're reshaped into perfectly symmetrical orbs. Almost too perfect. It bugs me how I've lost a certain natural appearance. I don't want people to think I have fake boobz (I did get a lot of "are those real?" questions from creepy guys online, but mostly people assume rightly that at this size, you wouldn't pay to put those on your chest.)

Part of me was excited - I looked great. I felt free. Part of me was sad, as I worried I might be - I had lost something that had come to be a part of me, as frustrating and inconvenient and painful as they could be. Never in all my years of wandering as Tyler or drifting from life to life via the Inn had I felt so attached to anything, let alone body parts I wasn't even born with. I worried about not being appreciative of the body I had inherited, but Cynthia has told me this was a dream of hers too.

It's like being a new me (something I'm real familiar with) with the losses and gains that implies, but I get to keep being me, which is exciting.

Once I got back into street clothes, Maddie and Ariel were gobsmacked. It was so different and yet it looked so rigbt. They were very supportive and very complimentary. They got me a card and pampered me while I recuperated.

Rafe eventually did text me back, saying that he was happy for me, in a weirdly brief manner. But that's him.

One other reason for the timing... Meg's wedding is coming up. And I wanted it all out of the way so I could wear a nice dress and feel good about myself because the only person I ever really loved is getting married and I need to be there to support her.

If it ain't too obvious to say, I really do feel a weight off my shoulders. I had been hemming and hawing so long, and now it's done and I don't regret it.

I'm a happy gal.

-Valerie

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Steven as Shona: Call me crazy

Stir crazy that is. All I do is go to work at a big box store, eat and sleep. I'm not enriching my life in any particular way, or the world. At least when I was the Ice Cream Man, I was something.

I am not a social butterfly by nature and being Shona has not changed that. She has friends but they never really got along with me, so as long as I am wearing her life they are somewhat persona non grata. Thst leaves my work acquaintances. Most of the girls... maybe they don't see me as one of their own because, well, it could be a lot of things. I never learned how to break the ice with females and just being one hasn't made it easier. Most of the women who work with me are older, younger, or moms. We don't share the same worldview or interests... the ones whose lives most closely resemble mine are the ex pep squadders in cosmetics and I don't have much common ground with them besides our biological gender. Similarly, none of the guys know what to make of me because they see me as a woman, but not as a potential sex partner, so I'm just nothing. I can't even be "one of the guys" because I was never that to begin with - I had to google who was in the Superbowl when I found myself invited to the work Superbowl party.

I went just because what else was I going to do on a random Sunday night? I did find it fun, and wound up talking to Kenny more than anyone. Kenny didn't know Shona well, but he did know me. So it's been interesting getting to know him all over again from this angle.

He confided to me, later, he had a crush on one of the makeup girls, Allie. I counseled maybe he should look elsewhere - Allie is model thin and kind of dumb and if I'm being honest, self absorbed. I guess I'm forgetting what kind of effect a nice pair of breasts and a thin waist can have on a certain type of man. He's hoping I can do something to get that set up, but that would require me to strike up a relationship of my own with her, which seems intimidating and pointless.

Still, he's a friend and he deserves happiness. I'd like to help. I just wish he would look somewhere else for it.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Valerie: Holidazed

The Holidays saw me running ragged. Not only did I have to do as much as I could to spend time with "my family" - that is, Val's family, which is, you know, my family now, seemingly everyone from my past wanted to crop back up all of a sudden.

It started when Dylan's parents said they were considering visiting New York, and wanted to know if I was still living there and wanted to see my former "kid." I was struck - It feels like multiple lifetimes ago that I was Judith, and being reminded of it brought up unexpected emotions. Echoes of the guilt I felt about whether I was a good parent, nostalgia for having that kiddo in my life, the fraught nature of my relationship with Kitty. I have enough baggage as Valerie now, it's hard to even think of stuff from when I was that person.

But since it came up, I became very excited about the possibility of seeing him. I told his parents to bring him to the subway near my apartment - it would be best if my roomies didn't see any of this - and I could show him around Manhattan for a day.

Dylan arrived with his mom. She put on a friendly, but neutral, face, as we shook hands. I asked how she had been.

"Not bad, all things considered," she sighed, "It's been a long few years. Lots of adjusting. I can't say I'm happy with the way things worked out, but going back to my old body is just... not happening. So this is it for me, and we make the best of it."

"Right," I nodded. I had forgotten that Dylan's parents wound up getting switched, and I supposed their aversion to the Inn made them decide never to try to go back. It would be a lot to expect everyone to thrive this way, I guess, but I hope s/he doesn't bring too much bitterness home. She gave me a few ground rules then went off back to the hotel.

Dylan smiled when he saw me, and stooped down to give me a big hug. "Woah!" he said, "I mean, I've seen pictures, but I totally forgot you look like this now. I still think of you as... well... when you were Judith I could sometimes tell you were a guy in there. But now...?"

"Yeah, yeah," I said. "Well, let's get over our shock. This is me, and yes, I do think of myself as a woman, but I'm still me."

"That's great," he said, "So cool. You know, the kids at my school are just now starting to learn about LGBTQ and gender identity and stuff. It sucks that I can't tell them what I've lived through."

"Yeah, sometimes you really do wish you could explain it to people," I sighed. "By the way, holy crap you got tall. I mean, I got short, but you got tall."

Dylan is 15 now, and stands 6' tall. He told me about his love for basketball, and his other hobbies - he writes now, and does a little bit of music. He played me some stuff off his Soundcloud - not really my thing, but not bad.

We went to some markets, saw the Museum of Natural History, and hit up one of my favorite lunch spots. There was the inevitable moment where I had to take my coat off and he glanced at my chest, but he tried to play it cool and generally kept his eyes north. I get it, they're impressive. For what it's worth, I was wesring a loose sweater, not something that invites attention, but thry do a good enough job of that o their own.

He told me he reads the blog, which makes me a little embarrassed considering most of what I post here is about my sex life.

After lunch, we walked around some more and he told me about his girlfriend.

"It was weird you know. For a long time after I went back, it was like... what am I? I wasn't that into girls before I became one, and by the time I was done being Livie, I kind of did like boys. It took me a long time to sort out... until I met Theresa. Then it was instant."

"I'm happy for you," I said warmly.

He went on, "My parents are worried that hanging out with you is going to make me want to go back to the Inn, because of what you said."

I raised an eyebrow. "Oh really?" I remembered what I said - that someday when he was 18 if he still wanted to, that would be his choice.

"It's tempting," he said. "There was a time I went to bed every night thinking I was gonna be a girl for the rest of my life. I look at Theresa and I see what that would've been like
 Sometimes I get jealous because she's so beautiful. But I'm lucky because I get to be with her."

"So, no going back then," I said, hopefully.

"I don't know. I'm still young. Who knows what I'll want. I'm happy now. But I also know that going back and becoming something else isn't a death sentence."

"Tell that to your dad-- er, mom. Neil."

Dylan snickered. "He's just playing. He thinks if someone like you finds out he doesn't hate being a woman, it's like he lost or something. But he's a lot more like you than he wants to admit. Honestly, I think my mom's almost got him convinced to try for another kid."

"Woahhh," I said, "Now that's a subject I don't need to hear about."

In the end, I told him, that's what the real world is, what every person walking the Earth has to face in one way or another - how much is sucks to feel stuck, but how good it feels to put down roots in the end.

He took this advice in, and reflected on it, then said one more thing. "I'm glad I never got a period."

I wrapped my arm around him. "Be grateful."

For the rest of the holidays, I sleepwalked through some time with "My" Family, and then our little group faced a shakeup as Charli left New York for Brooklyn. Maddie's on-again-off-again boyfriend moved in, which left me feeling crowded and wondering if it's time for me to make a change. I had a pretty interesting year but I was ready for it to end.

More soon

-Val

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Val: On Trial

A little after it came out that I was back to seeing Rafe casually, I was called into the common area for a serious talk.

My roommates - Maddie, Charli, and Ariel, were putting me "on trial." It's a thing we do when one of us does something the others don't like. Sometimes it's for stupid things like getting a bad haircut, and sometimes it's... a little more dramatic than that.

I wasn't surprised, but I was a little irritated. Yes, we all know that Rafe is not the best possible person for me to be with. He's crass and annoying, immature and directionless. Sometimes that irritates me, and sometimes I'm sympathetic because I kind of see some of myself in him.

The charge: That I'm selling myself short by dating someone there's no future with. That I'm hurting myself and others by letting him have me whenever he wants without expecting much in return.

My defense: I'm a grown woman and I went into this with open eyes, and it's honestly prudish to say a woman can't enjoy casual sex without feeling like she's being taken advantage of.

Plus, he's not a bad guy. He's smart, he makes me laugh, and, let's not be modest here, he's a great lay.

Do I see myself settling down with him? No, of course not. But fate put me back into my mid-20's, biologically speaking - do I need to be with my soulmate right now? If so, where is he?

He and I know the deal. No commitment, no strings attached. We're honest about what we're doing. Last time, I got antsy because I was craving an emotional relationship he couldn't offer, plus I thought I was going back to the Inn. I had a year of solitude to see if I could make that emotional relationship, and... nothing.

Well, not nothing.

See, that was a big part of Maddie's case against, as she led the prosecution. She felt like I was short-changing Kevin, and that I had cut off any progress we were making toward true coupledom by dividing my attention between him and Rafe. Maddie "ships" me with Kevin.

I told her it wasn't going to happen - Kevin was a rock I couldn't budge. I put all my best moves on him and he never seemed to see me as more than a companion. Nothing I was doing with Rafe violated that arrangement or gave me any reason to feel bad.

"Okay then," she said. "Then why don't you talk to  Kevin about it?"

That made me nervous.

Kevin knows that sometimes I'm not available, or that sometimes I have to hurry home for something, but I have never specified that it's so that I can sleep with another guy. I don't really think it's any of his business and he's never indicated to me that it would bother him. And yet, the idea of bringing it up to him did seem very... heavy.

I told him the next time I was over there. I was making risotto and he was watching, giving me those gooey eyes that, in another person would normally mean "I want to jump your bones right now." The guilt was gnawing at me.

"So..." I said as I stirred, "I think you should know I'm kind of seeing someone."

His gaze didn't break. A long pregnant pause held in the air.

"Go on..." he said, his voice hard to read the way men sometimes are.

"Well, it's not serious," I stammered nervously, "But, it's been a while. And I just didn't think to tell you because, well.. it's kind of private and I... wasn't sure what to say."

"Well," he twisted his lips, "You could say, 'So I'm kind of seeing someone.'"

"I mean, you and I are just... friends, right? You don't see me that way, do you?"

The answer took longer to give than I was comfortable with.

I started to say, "I man, you told me--"

"Yeah, yeah," he interrupted, "No, I know. It's fine," he said, in a tone that suggested maybe it's not fine.

"You and I have a really special friendship," I said, cringing inside at what I was babbling, "It was just obvious it wasn't anything... more than that."

"Yeah," he said, and got real quiet, and for a while I wondered if he was mad at me. I wanted to keep talking but I couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound stupid.

Eventually, the food was done cooking. "Um hey," I said awkwardly, "Can you get some plates down for us?"

He snapped out of his trance. "Oh, yeah, of course. Sorry, I know my kitchen is built for people over 5 feet tall."

"Yeah, I'm used to it," I shrugged.

He set our places, and before the silence crept back in, he said, "I'm happy for you."

"Huh?"

"That's what friends say, isn't it?"

"Only if they mean it."

He smiled, "I'm happy for you. I'm mad for myself, because you deserve... well, anything you want. Things haven't changed for me, Val. I mean,in some ways they have, because I could picture... you know. Maybe. Someday. I didn't want you to wait for me, though. I wish it could be me, but... it's not."

I didn't know how to respond to that.

Another long silence was brewing, when he asked, "So when you say it's not serious..."

"You really want to know?"

"I'm your friend, aren't I?"

"Well," I said, "It's really just sex. Sometimes breakfast. One or two dinners. I don't do this sort of thing with him."

"That's good to hear. You ever go ice skating with him?"

"I told you, I can't skate. I'll fall over," I laughed, referring to a previous conversation we had about going to Rockefeller Center together.

"I'll believe it when I see it," he snickered. "So, this guy..."

"We have a good vibe, but he's not boyfriend material. Plus, we work together, so I don't really feel the need to see that much more of him."

"You should quit," he said, apropos nothing.

"And do what?"

"Whatever you're going to do," he said. "You're gonna pour coffee the rest of your life?"

"Well, I was planning on marrying a rich single dad but that didn't work out," I snorted.

Unamused, he pressed on. "I'm serious. Quit your job. Take a business course. Open your own shop. Do more catering. Whatever you want. Please, you'll feel so much more rewarded."

"I... don't think I can," I sighed. "I have no money."

"And you never will at this rate," he scolded. "Weren't you saying you're about to spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery?"

"Breast reduction surgery. I need it."

"Why not put that off and put that money towards some college courses?"

"Because I'd rather be physically comfortable and broke," I scoffed.

"I'll pay," he said. "Let me help you."

"The last thing I need is a white knight," I said. "Just let me live my life, okay?"

"Fine, no problem," he said.

I grew frustrated inside. He wasn't saying anything I didn't already think, but only I get to think those things. Ill quit the coffee shop when I'm good and ready. When I know what I want. It used to be, I would go from place to place and never think about the future. It was freeing, but I don't want to be that way anymore, so I don't want to quit on a whim only to decide I don't want to run my own business or go to school. And I definitely don't want to be told what to do by a guy I'm not even dating.

Part of me thinks I was just being sensitive - which bugs me because that makes me think this is a product of my gender and not how I am really supposed to be feeling. But God knows there was plenty of folks who thought they knew what was best for me when I was a man, and I didn't listen then either, it just bugged me less. So if my feelings about it have changed, well, that's all part of how I've changed overall. And I've accepted that, so watch out world.

That was back before Christmas. A lot has happened so I'm just getting around to describing it now. But it really affected our relationship. We don't see each other as much, barely text. Oir friendsgip really took a hit and I don't know if we can come back from it. I miss him, but it seems like things just ran their course. That makes me sad, but like he said, I shouldn't have been waiting for him.

-Val