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.