Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Arthur: He does it in the same phone call

I don't yet have a huge list of things that make me wonder whether or not I do them in my real life, but I've just added one to it: Assuming my activities are more important than my girlfriend's.

Obviously, we all do it, because in some ways it's impossible to not be egocentric, but we usually hide it a little better. Then again, I suppose Ray and Liz have been together long enough that it's not really a big deal when he calls to say he's going to be a bit late for the party because of a west-coast conference call and, oh, by the way, make sure you have next Friday off because one of the partners is retiring and it would look really bad if we didn't attend the party.

I don't mean to make Ray sound too bad - he apologized profusely, there will probably be flowers in the living room when I wake up tomorrow, I'll get taken out to eat at someplace expensive on my next night off. And, honestly, I've had girlfriends who do the same thing. It's just something Zoe complained about the other day, with a "men!" attached to the end.

Ah, well. Hopefully this makes for good novel fodder.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Arthur: Sometimes I don't know what's gotten into him/her

Jake's really going native I met up with him this afternoon, since he'd invited me and Ray to some Halloween thing that he'd been given free tickets for and I didn't have any sort of costume picked out. I had stuff I wanted to pick his brain about, anyway, and he's really the only one I talk to these days - even Vinny is tough to get hold of. It's quite disappointing, actually - one would think that we'd have a sort of support group going, but if any of us talk aside from me and Jake, I haven't heard any of it.

We met up just outside Bartley's in Harvard Square, which is a pretty darn good burger place. I'd been poking around the Harvard Book Store (which is apparently different from the Harvard school bookstore; that's called "The Coop") when he gave me a buzz on the cell phone to say he'd gotten off the T. So I went out in the chilly air and waited. I didn't quite spot him by the heads turning, but I couldn't help but find my head turn when he got there. Jake was wearing a white sweater that covered everything while leaving nothing to the imagination, shoes with a kind of blade for a heel, and perfect make-up; his hair seemed to flow just so. I swear, I almost had phantom limb syndrome going on in my panties when he walked up to me and asked where the burgers were. I pointed, we walked, we sat, we ordered.

"So," he says, "this is what I'm thinking of." He puts a few drawings down on the table in front of me, and I'm kind of taken aback. For one thing, they're really good. A little rough, but you can easily tell its supposed to be the two of us, Ray, and I guess this Josh guy in them. I tend to forget that Jake was a "real" artist before getting involved in computer animation, and like I think most people do, I have a hard time recognizing that computer work does actually take artistic ability.

But, of course, that wasn't the first thing I commented on. "Jake--"

"You should probably call me Ashlyn out in public, Liz; wouldn't want people thinking we're some sort of weird transvestites."

"Yeah, well, no-one would be able think that with these costumes, would they? I mean, ours are practically underwear!"

"I suppose, but it's not like we're going to have that many chances to flaunt what we've been given before next summer."

"I'm not looking to flaunt."

"Oh, come on! You wouldn't believe how much fun it is! You get the whole Pygmalion vibe while getting ready, and having people look at you in admiration is a real rush. You really ought to get out of those baggy sweatshirts and sneakers sometime and give it a shot."

I told him I had enough troubles with people being attracted to me as it was, and saw no need to encourage strangers.

"Oh. Well, okay. Still, I'm going to go with something like this - the station's sponsoring it, and I got passes with the understanding that I'd be a little eye candy--"

"And you're just such a hard worker."

"Hey, don't mock the work ethic."

Our food came then, and we dug in. It almost hurt to only get halfway through that delicious burger before feeling full (more than full, really), but they boxed it up and I figured I'd have something to reheat after work (I'm eating the other half right now, actually).

After that, we took a walk over to Hootenanny, in the Garage mall. Evidently "Ashlyn" had been there with lady friends and noticed they sold Halloween costumes as well as ridiculously overpriced clothing. Jake showed me the one he thought would be good for me, but there was no way I was doing the schoolgirl skirt and knee socks thing. I almost considered it for half a second, but then I came to my senses. I said I'd just go to the City Sports across the street and pick up matching football jerseys for me and Ray. Or a Raiders one for me and a Pats for him, just because I can. He seemed a bit disappointed, saying I should at least go for basketball because I had really great legs. Uh, thanks, but Ray kind of doesn't.

We charged our respective purchases (I made him promise to save his receipt, because that looked like a pretty costly one-time-use outfit on a waitress's salary and it could potentially be construed as a business expense) and wandered into the square. We had a couple hours before we had to get to our respective jobs, so we found a spot to sit in down by the river where we could talk.

I had a hard time starting. "So," I said, "you know that letter I got from Liz? There's something I didn't put in the blog."

"What's that?"

"She... she said she was planning to leave Ray for Stewart. That they'd been little more than glorified roommates for over a year, and she hated sneaking around, but that when she was with Stewart..."


"Yeah. And since she's looking for any way she can to get her life back..."

I couldn't finish the thought, and I don't think Jake could either, at first. As much as he seems to enjoy playing dress-up, the fact was, all we really knew about Liz's relationship with Stewart was that it was physical, and that's... a big step, to say the least.

"So what are you going to do?"

"I don't know! I don't exactly feel like I have the right to screw up her life, but at the same time, how can she ask that of me. Not that she does, nowhere in the letter does it say 'please fuck my boyfriends until I get back', but the meaning is pretty clear."

"Well, if you're going to live her life, that's part of what you've got to do."

"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you? You throwing your boobs around and working as hard at looking pretty as you ever have at a real job--"

"Hey, you're the one that said we should try to live out these girls' lives without making waves until we figured out how to fix this! And you knew Liz had one boyfriend - you had to know this was a possibility all along!"

That stung. "I... I thought I'd been let off the hook. If Ray had started getting romantic a couple months ago, I might have done it, but now..."

"Maybe it's time to let go of the idea that we're ever going to be ourselves again. The new Jake seems pretty comfortable, and have you heard from the new you lately?"

"Not for a couple weeks, but that doesn't mean anything. We don't hear from 'Marie' and 'Jean-Michel' very often, but we know they want their lives back."

"You can want all you want... You know what? This is stupid. You're my best friend, the only person I can talk to about this, and I'm not going to ruin that. Whatever you decide, I won't think any less of you."

That's nice to hear, but no help whatsoever when you're trying to make a difficult decision.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Jake/Ashlyn--Clam Chowder for the soul

As Jake I was on a phenomenal streak for not getting sick. Five years. Five years without a cold, the flu, or any other combination of coughing, runny nose and sneezing. I used to tell people I was too busy to be sick.

As Ashlyn I couldn’t even make it two months--Halloween will make two months since I have turned into Ashlyn.

I felt terrible, but worse, I sounded terrible—every time I would speak to someone, their eyes would get real big and they would ask me if I was okay. I’m fine, I would say, I just sound worse than I feel.

My little pink cell phone rang—I was in bed in a Nyquil induced haze, with a sleep mask covering my eyes. Groggily, I fumble for the phone that was on the nightstand and answered it without removing the mask and checking the number.

What I tried to say was “Hello, this is Ashlyn.” What came out of my mouth was “Hellwoe. *Cough, hack, cough* Thess id Athlyn. *Cough*

“Ash? You sound awful. Are you okay?” It was Josh, the ex-boyfriend.

“Yeah, well, I’m thick.” I may give up speaking until I get well.

“Do you need anything?” He asked concerned.

I try to convince him I am fine. I tell him I just needed to sleep it off, and in a few days I would be my usually healthy self. I manage him, and say goodbye—forgetting to ask why he called in the first place.

He showed up a few hours later with food and other supplies. I was too sick and tired to deal with a love sick ex-boyfriend, and was about to tell him to get the hell out of the house—but he reached down into one of the paper bags he brought with him, and pulled out a couple of lattes.

I had been drinking bad coffee for days. Suddenly Josh’s company didn’t seem so bad.

I sipped the latte and I could feel the life returning to me. Josh sat on the edge of the bed, and I warned him he didn’t want to get too close, he didn’t want to get whatever I had. He smiled and said he would risk it.

Josh is a good-looking guy. He is tall, has dark hair, and has the build of an athlete. I’ve decided I can make those kinds of observations without it really meaning anything.
I was concerned, however, with the fact that I was suddenly very self conscious about how I looked. My vanity seems to have grown from just me looking in the mirror, to me being concerned with how I looked in front of everyone else. My red hair was everywhere, my nose was red from constant tissue use, and I have been sleeping in the same t-shirt for days. It was pink with the words “Porn star” written across the front. Worse than my own personal appearance, was the disastrous condition of my bedroom. For days I have let my room go—I was too sick to care.

Embarrassed, I started gathering the twenty or so used tissues that were scattered all over the bed. “I must look like a wreck.”

Josh got up and picked up a trashcan. He brought it over to me and I threw away all the old tissues.

“You look good to me.” He says smiling. “What you need is dinner and a movie.”

This guy never gives up. “Oh Josh, I’m way too tired to go out.”

“Who said anything about going out?” He reached into a different bag, and he brought out several containers. “I’ve brought dinner to you. Your favorite, and the one thing better for a cold than Chicken soup—Chowder.”

I have never had clam chowder before. I grew up in Texas, and until I traveled outside the state on business, I had never even heard of clam chowder. North Texas is the land of beef and Tex Mex and those were the types of foods I grew up eating. My appetite as Ashlyn is much smaller than that of Jake—which is probably why I haven’t ruined Ashlyn’s girlish figure. I have, however, craved some decent Tex Mex in the last two months. It simply doesn’t exist in this part of the world—I’ve spent a great deal of time looking.

Back to chowder—so he hands me a bowl of this white looking soup, and I just stare at it. It just didn’t seem appetizing to me.

“What’s wrong Ash?” Josh asks. “Oh I know! Here you go.” He hands me a plastic bag filled with round bready pellets. On the bag is written “Oyster Crackers”. I watched Josh as he empties a similar bag into his chowder and stirs it together. I do the same and decided to give it a taste.

It was amazing.

It was hot and delicious, and had all the good qualities of a good comfort food.

“Omigod this is good!” I enthusiastically tell Josh.

We talked for a while. He told me about problems at work, and I told him about my problems finding work. I told him about my thoughts of going back to school and he was very enthusiastic about the idea.

“So you’re going to give up on modeling? When’s the last time you’ve heard from your agent anyway?” He asks.

Agent? Ashlyn has an agent? She didn’t mention one in her video letter to me—and I definitely have not gotten any calls. I tell Josh it’s been a while since I’ve heard from my agent, and we move on to other subjects.

I finished every bite. When we were finished eating, Josh brought out his laptop.

“Time for the movie part of the evening.” He announced.

The vain girl part of the new me demanded a few minutes. “I just want to take a quick shower and clean up a little. I smell so bad, I don’t know how you can stand being in the same room as me. “ I told him I just needed 15 minutes. He said no problem.

The hot shower also did me a world of good. I dressed in some fresh flannel pajamas and returned to my bedroom. He was sitting on the bed, back against the wall, laptop in his lap. I slid into the bed, next to him. I was a little nervous about getting into bed with him, but I figured I was still to sick to worry about him making a move on me. Josh had the opportunity to take advantage of me in the past when I was drunk, and didn’t—so I trust him.

“You sure you want to get so close to me? You are so going to get sick.” I say to him.

“I’ll risk it.”

So we watch a movie together. He had brought a movie that he thought Ashlyn would like, so he brought a romantic comedy. It was a movie called “Hitch”; it was a Will Smith movie. I actually really liked it—or at least the part I saw. At some point I suddenly became very sleepy and I drifted off.

I awoke the next morning to the surprise of finding Josh still in bed with me—worse, I had rested my head on his chest and he had an arm wrapped around me, and our legs were all tangled together. I couldn’t move without waking him. I very slowly try to detangle us without waking him. No such luck. He takes a deep breath and his eyes flicker open. Our faces are just a few inches apart, he smiles at me.

“You have very sexy bed head.” He tells me.

“Thanks, I guess.” I start to get up, but his arm is wrapped around me, and he holds me close for a moment.

“Josh, let me go.” I softly demanded.

He hesitates, but complies.

I roll off of him and he gets out of bed. I tell him I feel so much better than I did the day before.

“Good!” He looks me over, but not in a sexual way, more like he is sizing me up, making a decision about me. “I have a friend who manages a popular night spot here in Cambridge—I didn’t say anything before because the old Ashlyn would have taken the job and quit a few days later. You really seem like you are trying to change your life, I think I can trust you not to screw things up with me and my friend. It’s a waitress gig but the tips are supposed to be really good, and you would fit in there. I bet it’s yours if you want it.”

I jump out of bed, close the distance between us. “Yes! Please!”

He pulls out his cell phone and makes a call. He talks to someone for minute or two, then hands me the phone. I ended up talking to a guy named George for about five minutes. He asked me basic questions—can I work odd hours, am I a people person, did I have waitress experience. I was a little nervous about saying no on the experience, but that didn’t seem to faze George. We made an appointment to meet in two days at the restaurant, to give me another day to get over my illness.

We said goodbye, and I handed Josh his phone back. I give him a hug.

“Thank you!” I say.

“Your welcome.” He packs up his stuff, getting ready to go. He stops and gives me a look. “Let’s go out Friday night.”

“Go out?” I was a little stunned. “Like on a date?”

“Yeah, like on a date. Dinner. Drinking. Maybe dancing.” He stated dramatically. “I know we broke up, and I know you don’t want anything serious—but maybe we could go back to before it got serious between us. Maybe we could just go out and have a good time.”

I’ve been avoiding the concept of dating. From the moment I walked out of that cabin in Maine, I have been hit on and asked out constantly. The old story where the pretty girl never got asked out on a date because she intimidated the guys? Bunk. It has been my observation that there is always at least one guy around who will ask a girl out no matter how hot she is. It hasn’t been just guys either, a few women have asked me out as well. Some of these women were extremely attractive—more than once I wished I could have gotten the attentions of women like that back when I was still Jake. I’ve turned everyone down so far.

Not having a penis is very confusing. In the past, I would see an attractive woman and my body would respond. I would then pursue the woman. A + B = C. Very simple, and elegant. These days the only woman that seems to turn me on is myself in front of a mirror. Guys definitely do not turn me on—at least visually. I keep thinking back to when Josh and I kissed on the dance floor. I was drunk, but I was definitely turned on by the kissing and him running his hands over my body.

So what am I? Am I a heterosexual woman or am I a lesbian? Maybe I’m bisexual now or maybe I have no sexual orientation at all.

Back when I was sure I was going to get my body back, I could avoid all these questions.

These days I’m thinking I might be Ashlyn for the rest of my life—I have to start answering them.

I have been doing “promotion” gigs for WBCN off and on for the last few weeks—it’s been my only source of income. It was always pretty much like the first time I went out—put on a skimpy outfit and hang out, smile, and be friendly. Basically be eye candy.
Through the radio station I picked up 4 free tickets to a big Halloween costume ball/party. I’m giving a couple of tickets to Art. That leaves one ticket for me and one for my date.

I give Josh the ticket.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Arthur: Learning more about Elizabeth

I can't believe I've gone two weeks without writing anything. Whenever I meet someone new, and I say I'm a writer, I always talk about how it's not just my job, not just what I do, but who I am. That it's a compulsion, something I have to do, that days where I don't put pen to paper (metaphorically, of course; I like typing far more than actually scrawling something) feel lacking, like failures, that I haven't done something which I ought to have. I suppose it's like an addiction, although (I hope!) a fairly benign one.

I guess there's some inaccuracies in that first paragraph. One, maybe two. The "maybe" is the use of the present tense; I obviously haven't done those things in a few weeks - almost two months. I still think of myself as Arthur Milligan, male, writer, Californian, even though there's another guy who is probably pulling it off better than I could right now. Perhaps I'm just stubborn, and I sometimes think that Jake's handling things better, being able to think that he may be Ashlyn long-term, but I'm just not ready for that.

The second is that I have written something - a little letter, addressed to "Jean-Michel Therriot", the real Ashlyn, with instructions to pass it on to Elizabeth the next time he/she saw "Marie Desjardins". I know she said not to contact her short of an emergency, but I consider "what the hell is the deal with you and your boss!?!?!?" an emergency.

I got a letter back Saturday, which was awkward - I was at work, so Ray picked up the mail, and since he's known Liz since they were little kids, he was curious about who I knew in Montreal. I said it was no big deal - the person who had stayed in the room at the inn before me had left her wallet behind (true enough), so I'd mailed it back and this was just a thank-you note (lies, lies, lies). He accepted that, though he thought it was odd that it took so long for her to send me a note. Well, I say, he's French-Canadian: Polite, but very laid-back. He laughed at that. I felt guilty by proxy that he didn't seem at all suspicious of his long-time girlfriend having contact with some guy he'd never heard of.

Memo to self: Rent a post-office box for correspondence with Liz & Ashlyn.

Liz said she was sorry she hadn't told me about Stewart, but she couldn't bring herself to write about it with Ashlyn there - that not only was she not proud of cheating on Ray, but she had, on occasion, been kind of judgmental about how Ashlyn dealt with the men in her life, and since she was going to have to depend on Ash in their new lives, she was afraid of losing the only friend she had in Montreal, the only person she could talk to about their secret, over having been a hypocrite.

Now, though, she laid it out - after Ray had passed the bar, and started working at the firm, there had been a week where their schedules lined up so that they didn't see each other awake at all, and it had been a few weeks since they'd slept together before that. So, when some of the folks from work went to a bar after the last show, and she and he were the last two there, one thing had led to another...

I don't really blame her, I guess. If a man did something like that, we might think he was something less than a good guy, but there wouldn't be the temptation to brand him a slut or something. He and his friends might even laugh about it. I'm upset about the position she's put me in, but there's no way she could have known that she'd be making someone else live with her decision.

There was more in the letter, but I think I might have to talk it over with someone before going into it. Maybe Jake will be available for a lunch sometime this week, maybe combine it with shopping for a costume for that Halloween party she's invited me to.

So, what else? Well, one other thing I've learned about Liz is that she used to be a lot more serious about acting. I knew she'd studied that in college, and Zoe mentioned that she'd thought Liz had quite her job to actually got back into it when she didn't show up at work right away after vacation, but something Ray mentioned the other day, to set up our date for this past weekend, had me wonder. He said he knew going to a movie for a date was sort of a busman's holiday for me, but the Boston Fantastic Film Festival was playing The Host, this big Korean hit, and he wanted to see that, maybe it'd be good for me to see it, too, if I was maybe thinking of sending sheets out again. He said he noticed that I hadn't been importing many DVDs lately, and wondered if I'd just given up.

Apparently, every once in a while, Liz tries to get Korean casting agents who need someone who can speak English interested in her, which is part of why there's this big old Korean DVD collection in the apartment - she's got to keep up to date on the industry over there so she doesn't sound completely ignorant should someone call.

I kind of hope nobody calls, because I'm not acting, travelling overseas, or speaking Korean. But since I don't intend for this to be permanent, I don't want to give Liz a reputation for being difficult when she gets her life back.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jake/Ashlyn--Morning workout

The alarm goes off Wednesday morning and I stagger out of bed at six in the A.M. As Jake, I never needed much sleep. It was probably a byproduct of all the late nights I did over the years. As Ashlyn however, I find crawling out of bed a real struggle. I actually slept until noon a couple of times—something I never did as Jake unless I had pulled an all-nighter.

I stretch in front of a large wall mirror, and give myself a sleepy once over. I’m not wearing anything fancy; I tried sleeping in some of Ashlyn’s lingerie but I discovered as sleepwear it wasn’t that comfortable. Last night I slept in a white cami top and pink flannel pajama bottoms; so much of Ashlyn’s wardrobe is pink and I’m just not going to avoid it anymore.

I change into a sports bra and some grey sweats--which would have been the least girly thing I had worn in a while, except the word “Juicy” was written in pink on my ass. I slip on some pink and white running shoes and head out.

Logan is waiting for me in the living room, he’s watching Sports Center. Last night a bunch of us were watching TV and I mention I was going to start getting up early and working out. Logan immediately offers the weight room at the fire station.

“It’s nothing fancy, but it’s free and close.” He offered.

The only stipulation was that he would have to work out together; I couldn’t be there without him. The price was right, and Logan seemed interested in having a workout buddy, so I said yes.

We jogged over to the firehouse, it was very close, and Logan introduced me to some of the guys who were up and having breakfast. There where about six of them, and they were more or less like Logan—big, physically strong, good looking guys.

One of the hazards to being Ashlyn is I can’t seem to have a quick casual conversation with guys. As Jake, I could have walked into the firehouse, maybe shook a hand or two—and if I was feeling extremely friendly, maybe talk about last night’s ball game and moved on. As Ashlyn, guys dig for information, trying to figure out what we have in common—attempting to make some sort of connection. It’s the mating game, but I don’t play very well because I’m not interested in playing.

So I answer questions: “Um, no, I’m not a model.” “Logan and I are just roommates.” And “Yeah, I’m a natural red head.”

It’s always at the “red head” portion of the conversation that someone says “Red in the head, great in the bed”. And this was no exception. I’ve been Ashlyn for less than two months, and I swear I have heard that phrase at least a dozen times now. I’ve learned to smile and giggle (yes, giggle—what else would you call a slight laugh from a young woman) like it was actually a clever thing to say.

Fortunately, Logan steps in. “Hey, leave the girl alone, we’ve got some serious working out to do.”

We made our way to the workout room. As Jake I worked out sparingly, I never made it a priority, and I was always busy with something. I’ve decided I am not going to make the same mistake as Ashlyn. This body may be the wrong gender, but it is an extremely healthy and attractive body, and I should take are of it—I may be in it for the rest of my life.

Logan turned out to be a great work out buddy. He knew how to run the workout machines and he offered a lot of good advice on setting up a good “workout program”.
He also seemed to know when to push me, to get extra reps. I found it interesting that I didn’t feel a need to compete with Logan on the number of reps or amount of weight. If I was Jake, and not Ashlyn, I might have tried to keep up with Logan—which would have been a dumb thing to do, because Logan is in much better shape than I ever was.

After about an hour of working out, I was done. Logan said he wanted to get a few bench presses in, and then he would walk me home. I said that wasn’t necessary, but he said he was going home anyway, and wanted the company.

So I sat there and watched him. He had taken his shirt off sometime in the last hour, and I could see all the muscles in his arms a chest push against the barbells. It was very impressive. Sweat was pouring off of him, and he looked like someone you would see on TV.

Out of nowhere, the thought “He’s a good looking guy” popped into my head.

I mentally panicked for a minute—where the hell did that come from? Am I noticing guys? Or was that the same way I could tell a guy was good looking as Jake--just a simple acknowledgement, and nothing more? I started reading too much into everything I thought, and I just manage to confuse myself. As I waited for Logan to finish his workout, I looked anywhere but in his direction.

As we walked home, I was extremely self conscious. I couldn’t help notice how tall Logan was—and how small I seemed to be next to him.

When we got home I got another surprise. There was a florist delivery truck parked out in front of our building. As we walked up, a delivery guy came out, hoped into his truck and drove off.

When Logan and I walk in we are immediately yelled at by an excited Billie.

“Hey Ash, you have a delivery!” Billie was grinning from ear to ear. “Somebody just got roses.”

Billie was giddy—then again, Billie was often giddy.

I reluctantly made my way to the kitchen table, where sat a glass vase and two dozen purplish roses.

I grabbed the card and read it to Billie and Logan—I think Billie would have burst from curiosity otherwise. “Lilac roses symbolize love at first sight. That is why I sent them, I’ve wanted you since the first time I saw you, from your secret admirer.”

There was a PS, but I didn’t read it out loud—I got a weird vibe from it. Could it be women’s intuition?


Billie was thrilled. I was not; I found it to be kind of creepy. She asked if I had any idea who my admirer might be, and all I could do is shrug.

Looking at the flowers, all I could think was “what a waste of approximately $125”. I had often bought roses as Jake—usually to get me out of the doghouse for working to much—and I knew flowers could have a very positive effect on women. For me, however, I found them to be just another reminder of what my life is like now.

They did smell nice. My sensitive nose approved.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Arthur: Thank God I don't have to actually speak Korean

One of the hazards of being plopped into the middle of someone else's life is that I, at least, tend to assume that it will be just like my own life, except in the places where it's different. Obviously, that sounds silly on several counts - everything is different, from biology to location to occupation, and it's a tautology anyway - but the fact is, I expect the new things I encounter to have some sort of similarity to what they were like before the cursed inn changed everything about me. Of course, they never do.

At first, it looked like the weekend was going to be pretty easy, because it would be busy. The Departed opened on Friday, and our theater got it. I have to admit, I had kind of underestimated just quite how much this city loves its Matt Damon, or even just movies that apparently shot here. For example, Raymond seldom shows much interest in Liz's job, but he was asking me if the theater were test-running the prints Thursday night and he could sit in. I asked Matt, who was scheduled to do the production, and he said I knew I didn't have to ask. Ah, well. At least Stewart wasn't working that night; that would have been rather awkward.

I wound up scheduled for five out of a possible eight shifts during the holiday weekend - Friday night, a double on Saturday, Sunday night, and this afternoon. That's just crazy - thirty-odd hours in four days. And as if that wasn't enough, Elizabeth's family wanted us to come to Sunday dinner yesterday afternoon.

To be honest, yesterday afternoon was sort of a blur. I wound up bringing the letter from the inn to work with me on Saturday and studying it and the pictures in her wallet during every second of not-crazy I had. There was a lot of information it seemed like it would behoove me to be up on. This sort of thing shouldn't really concern me that much - nobody believes us when we say who we actually are, and is it even right to deceive them? Still, I'm at least a little afraid of not keeping up appearances - what if I lost this home and job and checking account because people found out I wasn't really Elizabeth Lee? Pretending to be her does beat being broke and homeless. And maybe I'm drawing the wrong conclusion from the evidence, but it does seem like this has been going on for a while without becoming widely known, so maybe there's a reason and there would be consequences.

At least I had a built-in excuse for any time I seemed a little slow, being frazzled from work. I met Liz's two siblings, and they seem okay. Older sister Tara and her husband Dae-su Kim are total suburban yuppie types, yammering on and on about driving, mowing lawns, day care, and investigating private schools for four-year-old Billy. Billy made a big impression on me, literally, I think, when he saw me and Raymond get out of his car and launched himself at "Aunt Lizzie" like a guided missile, knocking me right on my ass. Adorable. The kid likes the running around and making noise, but that's okay since he's not mine. I don't know Elizabeth feels this way, but it's oddly satisfying to see Tara get pulled away from nagging me about not having married and had a kid yet to go deal with him looking like he's going to break something. Then there's "little" brother Winston, who turns eighteen in January and is about a foot and a half taller than the new me. Probably a good kid, but I don't think he said ten words to me all afternoon. Which just means he's a teenage boy, probably; he didn't talk much to anybody else, either.

It was a pretty boistrous family dinner. I hope Liz doesn't usually have seconds of kimchee, because that stuff is kind of nasty. I had some funny theater stories to tell, and Liz's father was pretty excited about hearing what the cool seats at Fenway are like.

I'm sure these are fun events for Liz, but it was nerve-wracking for me. What if people had suddenly started speaking Korean? Bed enough that I looked like a fool when I didn't have any particularly useful opinion to offer on whether The Departed was better or worse than Infernal Affairs because I didn't even realize it was a remake, even though there's apparently a Hong Kong import DVD on Liz's shelf. Might be worth starting to go through some of those movies tomorrow afternoon, at least to give me some more idea of what she's like, just from her taste in movies.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Jake/Ashlyn--the new me

I mull things over. It’s what I do. Things happen in this new life of mine, and sometimes there is a delay before I share it on this blog. How can I write about something when I don’t know how I feel about it? So I mull, I dwell and I muse—until I feel like I have a good grasp on the situation. The return trip to the Inn is one of those things I have been dwelling on.

In the middle of last month, Art and I took a trip back to Maine to see what new info we could dig up—and to talk to our old selves if we could catch them before they left to live our old lives. If you read Art’s post then you know we did. Art is the real writer in our little transformed group, and I thought he captured what happened that day very well. There is one or two things I would like to add about that day.

First of all, we didn’t just listen to the radio as we drove to Maine—we sang to the radio. It is a minor detail, but worth noting because we sang along to all the women’s parts. Liz may have been a small woman, but she left Art with a powerful set of lungs and a great voice. I tried to tell Art this, but I don’t think I convinced him.

Secondly—there was all the time I spent with Stephen Jefferies, the guy who is now living my life. It was an eye-opener seeing myself walk into the Inn carrying pizzas. I knew there was a good chance I would meet myself, but no amount of mental preparation could dull the shock. There I stood—only that’s someone else now, I’m the busty redhead with the bedroom eyes.

It’s interesting to see yourself in the third person. I think most people when they look in the mirror make excuses for themselves: “I’m not that overweight” or “my hair isn’t thinning too badly” or “my teeth need to be cleaned, but they are not that yellow” and my favorite “This comb over looks so natural, no one will notice.” Seeing yourself in the third person removes the ability to lie to yourself.

I knew I needed to lose a little weight, but I never thought it was really noticeable—but it was noticeable and I just never saw it. I’m talking maybe thirty pounds, not the end of the world; it was just interesting being so objective about my previous personal appearance. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the form I am in now is so attractive, and I have gotten used to seeing something appealing in the mirror. Maybe I’m becoming a snobby vain bitch. God, I hope not. Thirty pounds aside, it was good to see myself, it was like my world was a little more right, now that it wasn’t “missing”.

Stephen and I spent the rest of the afternoon together, mostly going over the details of my old life. My hope was that maybe I could give enough help and information that maybe whenever I did get my life back, it was not a complete shambles. The kind of work I did was highly specialized, and even beyond artistic talent, it’s taken me years of work and study to become good at it—there’s just no way some random guy could step in and take over my job. I tried to explain this to him, but he just smiled at me and said he was looking forward to the challenge.

I have to hand it to Stephen; the guy is a stickler for organization. We talked for hours and he took a yellow pad’s worth in notes. I discovered that Stephen has a mind for business, that in his previous life he was a VP for a major corporation.

I guess my little one man band operation isn’t really that complex when you compare it to running a corporation.

I also learned that Stephen had gained more than twenty years in the transformation. He was fifty-five. This worried me slightly, what if he didn’t want to go back to his old life? My old thirty-four isn’t exactly young, but it is a hell of a lot better than fifty-five.

We decided to take a break and we jumped into the convertible I had previously rented, and he drove us to a local watering hole to get a drink. I guess he decided I might need one after going through all the details of a business that I might have lost forever.

We sit at the bar at an Irish pub, and he orders a scotch. I’m feeling kind of pissy, so I tell the bartender to bring me the girliest drink they serve. He brings me a cosmo.

“In your letter, you didn’t go into your personal life very much. And today we’ve talked about nothing but your business.” He made a statement, but really it was a question.

I stared at my cosmo for a while, before I answered him. “The sad truth is my business was most of my life. I struggled at keeping a relationship for more than a few months, my parents died when I was a teenager, and all of my hobbies are work related.”

I felt ashamed that my life was so shallow. Tears suddenly started running down my cheeks. “My life was all about my work…I'm sorry you’ve inherited such a pathetic life. The really sad part is I want it back so badly.” I was full on crying now, I couldn’t stop myself. I am turning into such a girl.

He wraps my old arms around me, and I bury my face in his chest. We stay like that for a little while, and I get a good cry out of my system.

Eventually I collected myself, grabbed my purse and excused myself to the ladies room—crying had messed up my makeup.

When I get back, I find a new cosmo waiting for me. “Sorry about that.” I say to him. “I think all these hormones floating around in my system is having an effect on me—plus seeing myself has kind of thrown me.”

“Don’t worry about it.” He smiles, and wraps an arm around me. “We’re all friends here.”

We drink and chit chat for a while. Eventually he leans in with a serious face, “Can I ask you a personal question?”

I joke that I didn’t think we had many secrets between us.

“So what’s it like? What’s it like being a woman? And an extremely attractive one I might add.”

I drink some more of the cosmo, and considered his question.

“I don’t think there is an easy answer to that question.” I tell him. “For one thing, I don’t think I get treated like an average woman.” I wave my hand dramatically over myself, like a girl showing a prize on a game show, “Not to sound conceited, but I am a total babe.”

He laughs, “I think I agree with you.”

“The world isn’t fair. Attractive people get treated differently.” I tell him about how I get free things all the time. “On the downside, I discovered people are hesitant to hire an attractive—sexy—young woman for an everyday type job. People make assumptions based on looks. If a woman is attractive, has big boobs, sexy green eyes and long red hair then she must not be very smart. People assume that a woman like that has never had to work very hard because she is has been given everything in her life.”

“Really?” he asks, “But other women probably give you the benefit of the doubt.”

I shake my head, “No, other women are worse. I think they HOPE I don’t have a brain in my head, because I would be unfair for me to get both beauty and brains. Some women are openly hostile towards me—angry at me because of my looks. One woman was honest enough to tell me she thought I would prove to be too much of a distraction to the other employees.”

“Amazing. I had no idea it was so hard being beautiful.” He shook his head in amusement.

I smile. “It’s a burden I’m learning to live with.”

We finish our drinks and head over to the library. I was supposed to meet up with Art, but was running late. What can I say? Up to that point I was really enjoying my own company.

In the parking lot of the library, I go to shake Stephen’s hand to say goodbye—he ignores my hand and gives me a hug.

“I’m going to miss myself.” I tell him.

I’m still in his arms, but he leans back and looks me in the eyes.

“You could come with me.” He says.

“Come with me to Dallas. You could help me run the company, and regain a little of what you have lost.”

It sounded too good to be true. My mind raced. “Where would I live?”

“You could live in your old apartment. We could live there together.”

Then the bastard ruined everything by putting his hands on my ass and trying in to lean to kiss me.

I realized then I had liked and trusted the new me without really knowing anything about him. I looked at him, saw the old me, and nostalgia must have colored my impressions of him. This guy was once a VP of a corporation, he was a shark, and he had read me as someone to be used.

I slapped him. It was a girly thing to do, but it felt appropriate.

“You are missing out Red.” Stephen glared at me. “I would’ve treated you real good. I would’ve taught you what being a woman is all about.”

“Don’t screw up my life, I want it back.” I shoved him and went into the library to meet Art.

Present day—

I did a little checking online. Stephen apparently did go back to Dallas, and did what I thought he couldn’t do. He stepped right into my life and picked it right up without missing a beat. He doesn’t do the work—he manages. I had always worked out of my apartment, but he rented some office space and hired some people to do the actual work.
He hadn’t changed the password to my email account, and curiosity overcame me—I logged on and read some of the emails from my old clients.

Every one of my clients were very happy—some even noted that since it wasn’t just me anymore, the projects seem to be getting done faster.

The bastard was running my business better than I ever did. I don’t know if I should be happy or sad.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Jake/Ashlyn-- I feel pretty, oh so pretty

My math may be off by a day, but I think today makes the 37th day since I woke up in the body of Ashlyn Shelley. When this first happened, the optimistic side of my brain kept telling me that we (Art, Jeff and the others) would figure out some way too fix it in a few days, and I would be able to get back to my life. In those first few days, optimism kept me sane.

Then days turned into weeks, and now a month has come and gone—and I am still Ashlyn. These days I don’t worry about going insane, these days I worry about adapting too much to Ashlyn’s life. A month and six days ago I knew nothing about walking in high heels, applying makeup or what it is like to have a period—yeah, it happened to me as well. I applaud Art for being so open about getting his period. When it happened I chickened out about putting it in this blog—I guess that makes Art a bigger man than me. Pun intended.

I had my “visitor” about a week and a half ago. It was messy, smelly and over all unpleasant. My boobs felt swollen and more sensitive, and I had several headaches during the 4 day…period. During the last 37 days I have learned to wear women’s clothing and makeup, worn a thong and kissed a guy a few times—but having a period made me feel like a complete chick. Every time I changed one of those pads I felt a little less like a man.

I had to give up wearing mostly just jeans and t-shirts. My roommates started noticing, and making comments. Also, I went on a lot of job interviews—which meant dressing up, at least more than the jeans than I normally wore.
So I broke out the skirts, dresses, sweaters, pantyhose, and all types of “tops”. I decided to totally give in on the clothing thing—besides, I realized I was fooling myself if I was trying to hang on to some sense of “maleness” by wearing mostly jeans. All of Ashlyn’s jeans were tight and sexy, and I caught tons of guys checking out my ass when I wear them.

So I’ve developed a new problem: If this body I am in is not my original body, is it vain to like what I see in the mirror? Since I started dressing more and more girly, I’ve started working harder on my hair and makeup. The sad thing is I seem to have a talent for applying makeup—I think it has something to do with the fact that I am an artist. I was a traditional artist before I became a digital artist for my job—and makeup just reminds of paints, and my face a canvas.

The hair is a lot of work. Every so often I realize how much time I spend on my hair every morning and I consider cutting it. I just can’t bring myself to do it. In the first place, I might discover a way to switch us all back to the correct bodies--I spend a lot of my free time looking for a solution. From reading, I’ve become a minor expert on the occult, and I keep hoping to find some answers. If I did cut off Ashlyn’s long red hair I think she would be very disappointed when we swapped back. Secondly, and probably the main reason—I like what I see.

My reflection and I have had an unusual relationship this past month. At first I was afraid of my reflection. Then I was angry with it. Now... now I am in love with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still desperately want my life back—and underneath this sex kitten exterior is the same guy I have always been.

It’s just there is something erotic about dressing myself up and posing in the mirror.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but last week I opened up my lingerie drawer and gave myself a show. Ashlyn had collected a great deal of lingerie: babydolls, teddies, bustiers, chemises and robes. She also had a vibrator and a few other sex toys in the lingerie drawer. My roommates had all left town for the weekend; Billie, Jordan and Dean had gone to New York to see friends, and Logan was spending the weekend at the firehouse. He always stays at the firehouse when he is “on the job”.

So I felt very comfortable slipping into a lacey bustier, panties, stockings and stilettos-and smiling into the mirror.

I’ve generally been a good girl this last month—no real inappropriate touching. I’ve been pushing any desires like that out of my head. Some twisted part of me is afraid I might enjoy it, and it might weaken my resolve to keep looking for a way back to my old life. But standing in front of the mirror, looking like a lingerie model, I couldn’t resist running my hands over my body.

It felt so good—and it was so sexy to watch the girl in the mirror cup her breasts and play with her nipples.

I started to get really turned on—which was really interesting in itself, because getting turned on as a woman is so different. I was getting wetter and wetter and lost in the fantasy.

“Hello? Anybody home?” It was Logan, yelling from somewhere in the house. I was immediately brought back to the real world. I didn’t want to face him looking like this, so I didn’t answer. I very quietly walked over to my bedroom door and locked it, then listened. I heard giggling. He had a woman with him. Logan called out a few more times, and then I heard him tell his companion that they had the house to themselves, that his roommates were out of town.

Logan has the bedroom next to mine, and I could hear the two of them enter his bedroom—and then I could hear the squeak of a bed as the climbed into it. They started having a very good time, and they were very loud about it—they thought they had the house to themselves.

I felt like I was like some kind of pervert listening to them, so I considered quietly changing clothes and sneaking out of the house.

I caught my reflection in the mirror and started staring at myself again. I could hear the woman in the next room moaning in pleasure, and I ran my hands over myself. I pinched a nipple, and soon I was quietly moaning as well. I lower one hand and start rubbing myself through my panties.

After a few minutes of that, I wanted something more. I could hear the woman in the next room and her moans and gasps seemed to be coming faster—I felt a need to match her pace. I slid my hand into my panties and found my clitoris. It felt so good it nearly brought me to my knees. I didn’t need the mirror anymore, and I lay back my bed, pleasuring myself. I could feel something building up, aching for release—but the feeling was elusive, and my hand was getting tired. Frustrated, I grabbed the vibrator and used it. The pleasure was so intense I gasped and arched my back.

The woman in the next room and I climaxed nearly simultaneously. She was a screamer, which was fortunate for me, because I don’t know how quiet I was at the end.

I laid there in the afterglow for a while, feeling better than I had in a month.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I went to work like is becoming usual yesterday, after spending another relatively uneventful weekend hanging around with Raymond. Not uneventful in that we didn't do anything, just that in that we didn't do anything. I wonder if this is what being married feels like, where you're in and out of each other's lives and business but the sex drive just isn't all that prominent any more. And, I know, not every marriage is like that, and these two aren't even married, but... You know. They've been together ten years, maybe they feel there's nothing new to see. Which is pretty darn good for me.

In some ways, it's actually kind of nice to have him in the bed next to me. It's a primal, instinctive thing, liking the warm body next to you. I don't really mind that there's always coffee on when I get up, since he's always up before me. He's also pretty decent with the grill he keeps out on the deck, although I wonder how much longer he'll be going out there to make us dinner on the weekends with fall hitting like a brick wall.

There's a reason for all this. Ray's a good guy. I'm not as scared by the one bed in the apartment as I was, although it's still plenty scary. I'd like having the guy as a roommate under normal circumstances.

But, back to work. It's not far away from the apartment - they're both described as near the Harvard Square T stop, although kind of in opposite directions - so I've picked up Liz's habit of biking to and from on decent days. I got there a little early yesterday, so bumping into the FedEx guy on the way out. Janet was working the box office, and after saying hi, I asked if they were dropping off or picking up. Dropping off, she said, and hefted one of those flimsy-looking mailing envelopes that nevertheless can't be ripped; it looked like it had a couple trailers in it. I said I'd bring them up to the booth, and she went back to dropping her ones into the lockbox.

I stowed the bike in a closet and then headed upstairs. The projection room was relatively quiet, since Stewart tends not to run a film if no tickets have been sold by the start time, and Monday afternoons aren't the busiest. I saw him, waved, said we got a couple new trailers, and headed toward the cutting table to put them down. He said "long time no see", I pointed out that as head manager, he makes the schedules, and he said that was true enough.

Before I could turn around to head back downstairs, he'd walked up behind me, put his arms around me, and leaned over so his head was right next to mine. "I love the way you smell when you've just rode in," he says, and then does this exaggerated inhaling thing, sucking in my sweaty scent. Before I've got a chance to remark on how creepy that is, he's kissing my neck, his right hand is squeezing my left breast, and his right hand is heading south! "Whoa," I say, ducking down and out of his arms, "what the hell are you doing?"

He looks a little confused, and then smiles. "Things with Ray must be less exciting than I thought, if you don't even remember what sex is."

I stammer a bit at this point, saying that oh, I know what sex is, and he says he hopes so, since it's only been a couple months, and I say hey, sorry, just surprised, was all. Then I go leave the projection room, go into the office, and hyperventilate.

At first I think he's trying to trick me into spreading my legs for him even though that's something Elizabeth wouldn't do, but that doesn't make any sense. No-one believes I'm not Elizabeth Lee, and unless he knew and believed that, the whole trick angle is stupid. No, I think, Elizabeth must have slept with her boss sometime before going to Old Orchard Beach on vacation.

At this point I run to the bathroom and throw up a little. I'm not just upset about being in this situation, I'm kind of disappointed. From what I could tell, Liz seemed like a nice girl - helps a friend get a job, keeps in touch with old roommates, living with a pretty decent guy, good taste in books and movies. And now I see she's done this, and then given me no warning about it. Maybe I've just built her up too much in my head or something, but this doesn't seem right.

But, it's something that's got to be dealt with. I clean up a bit and then look in the mirror. I know the look in Stewart's eyes. He may just have been playing around before, but he's figuring on getting lucky sometime that night. I recall that the way things ended last Wednesday, it seems like Liz doesn't like to have sex when she's having her period. If my math's right, this is about when she usually would. So I can put Stewart off for a few days and it won't look terribly weird. Unless he brings it up with Ray, but if that's the case then I may not be the weirdest part of this love triangle I've fallen into (if I can be a little melodramatic).

So I do that, and it works. I get through our shift without much difficulty, since I don't have that much cause to go up in the booth and he apparently isn't flaunting our relationship (if it's anything more than at-work booty calls) in front of the staff.

Discretion is good.

But, man, this just buys me a few days.