Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ashlyn--Jessica

Suddenly I see…

While I was out last Saturday, I received a new gift from my secret admirer. I was too tired to take much of an interest when I got home, but the following morning I carefully opened the package. I briefly considered waiting for when Jessica would be present, but I thought it would be fine as long as I didn’t destroy the packaging. Inside was an iPod. Finally my admirer sent me something I was really excited about.

It was charged and ready to go. I turn it on and scroll through the song list—it’s loaded. What is even more surprising is the fact it was loaded with music I liked. Outward appearances aside, I’m a child of the eighties and like the music. U2, the Cure, Cyndi Lauper, the Police…good stuff. There are older songs I like, and I like some new stuff as well, but the eighties hold a special place in my heart.

Oddly, even though my new toy was jammed with a lot of eighties music, the first song on the list was “Suddenly I see”. It’s a new song by KT Tunstall. I listened to the song and it lyrics make me wonder if my secret admirer had a hidden meaning to his first choice:

(Just a few of the lyrics)
Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me

I gotta say, it’s a good song.
I think I’ve listen to it more than anything else on my iPod.

I love a parade… (I’m on a song kick)

Saturday’s radio promotion was mostly indoor, so wearing the Catholic schoolgirlish costume was okay. Working the St. Patrick’s Day parade required a little more clothing. Fortunately the radio station takes care of its girls—parade attire was warm (and tight) green sweaters, form fitting black pants and silly green top hats. They also let us wear running shoes! Several of the girls actually squealed in delight when they told us we weren’t wearing heels. Our job was to walk along the parade route and pass out t-shirts to the crowds. Again, it’s not exactly brain surgery I do in my promotional work.

Several of the girls wanted to hang out again after the parade. I had other plans. I was meeting up with Art and we were heading over to south station—Jessica was arriving by train. So I had to say no.

“That’s too bad.” Kara says to me. She’s your typical blue-eyed beautiful blonde. “Hey, later this week a few of us are doing a little shopping…you want to come?”

I was slightly surprised. I felt like I had passed some kind of rite of passage. These gorgeous women were accepting me as one of their own.

“Um, yeah. That sounds like fun. Count me in.” We make plans and I give her my number. It was like I was back in high school and I’d been accepted by the cool kids.

I was assuming it was a clothes shopping trip, and I was a little nervous about it—other than my Halloween costume I haven’t bought any clothing for my new body. I’ve been living off of the plentiful closet I inherited. I haven’t had to worry about sizes because everything fit. I don’t really understand women’s sizes—but it can’t be any more difficult than anything else I’ve had to figure out since joining the pink team.

Meeting Jessica

Art and I took the T to south station, but we stepped out and visited the Starbuck’s at the Financial Center. Starbucks has almost become a tradition for me and Art—it seems like every time we hang out together we have to stop by Starbucks first. Coffees in hand (actually that would be a non-fat chai for me) we return to the train station. There is a small food court at south station, and Art and I sat at a table waiting for Jessica’s train to arrive.

“Everything okay? You’ve been awfully quiet.” I ask him.

“It’s Ray. We had a mild fight before I left…He wasn’t really thrilled that I was going out to hang with you.”

“What? Me? What’s wrong with me?”

“Ashlyn has a bad reputation. Ray thinks you are a bad influence.” Art tells me.

“Oh.” I thought Ray was a friend of mine. Then again, I’ve read Ashlyn’s diaries—she probably was a bad influence.

“I think he also imagines that I am not here at all, that I use you as an excuse to go visit Stewart.”

“Ouch. That sucks.” I say.

“Yeah. He’s also been hinting big time that I should quit my job at the theater; of course I can’t do that, but I am finding it hard to explain that to him.”

“So are you still seeing Stewart as well?”

“That’s a yes and no answer…I haven’t slept with him in a few weeks. I haven’t told him it’s actually over or anything either.”

“And that’s actually working?” I ask.

“For the moment.”

“It’s not exactly fair to Stewart; and he may be patient now, but sooner or later he’s going to get tired of waiting for you.”

“It’s a complicated situation. I don’t want mess things up with Ray more than I already have and it doesn't feel right to out-and-out END it when Liz may wind up trying to pick things right back up come the end of May.” Art says.

“I understand. I just don’t think you can put Stewart on hold until May.”

He sighs. “Yeah, I know.”

He takes a big sip of his drink. “I envy you sometimes. It must be nice not to be pretending to be someone else anymore.”

“I don’t know if ‘not pretending’ applies. I’m doing things the old Jake would never do.” I say back to him.

“Yes, but that’s your choice. You choose how to live your life now.”

“Yeah well, I envy that you are going back to your old life. Less than a couple of more months of pretending and you’ll be back on the blue team. I bet you are excited.”

Art was taking his time to answer—I think he was trying to protect my feelings.

“Hey, it’s okay.” I tell him. “It’s not your fault things didn’t work out for me. I’m excited for you.”

“Really?”

“Well, maybe I’m a little bitter.” I give him a smile to let him know I’m okay.

“Well yeah, as the day gets closer and closer, I’m getting antsy. I am so sick of all this ‘being a girl’ stuff.”

“Hey. I think she’s here.” I point to a teenage girl coming through the automatic glass doors. I wave, and she waves back. As she walks toward us, I say to Art “You know, when you go back, I going to miss these conversations.”

“Hey, we’ll continue to talk. We’ll stay in touch—I promise.” He says to me. His pretty Korean features seemed earnest.

It’s funny. I’ve spoken to Jessica by phone, and I intellectually know without a doubt she too is a victim of the Inn—yet when she was standing in front of me, saying ‘you look just like I imagined you from the blog, you have to be Ashlyn’ my first thought was: This is a joke. There is no way this cute teenage girl could have been a 40 year old cop.

I realized it was the ‘curse’ at work, messing with my head.

I smile and shake her hand. “Yeah, I’m Ashlyn. And you have probably figured out that this is—“ I motioned to Art.

“Arthur Milligan.” She finishes, she shakes Art’s hand as well. “It’s so weird to meet you guys in person. It’s kind of a relief as well, you’re proof I didn’t imagine all this, and I’m just coo-coo for coco puffs.”

Jessica was 5’5, about 120 lbs, had shoulder brown hair, and had the bluest eyes behind a pair of glasses. She wore jeans, and a t-shirt that had ‘Cleverly disguised as an adult’ written on it. She had a whole cute nerd girl thing going for her.

We take a cab back to my place, which turned out to be empty—all my roommates were out enjoying a Sunday afternoon.

We settle in, and I show Jessica the packaging from the latest gift from my secret admirer.
“What was in it?” She asks.

I handed her the iPod.

“Sweet. Nice to have a secret admirer.” She says.
Just like I did, she looked through the song list. “It’s mostly eighties music.” She says. “Are you a fan of the eighties?”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t you think that a bit convenient?”

“She right.” Art jumps in. “Your secret admirer knows your taste in music.”

“The reeeaaallly interesting question is if whoever put the songs on here was guessing your music tastes because they knew your previous age—or whether they knew exactly what songs to put on here. Ash, when you were Jake, did you own a lot of CDs? Would they match the songs on the playlist?”

“Ohmigod. Yeah.” I start scrolling through the playlist. “This is mostly my old CD collection.”

“That’s really weird. Does that make Stephen the secret admirer? He has access to your old CDs” Art states.

“Something tells me no. Whenever I deal with Stephen he’s very clear he wants nothing to do with me. He threatened to get a restraining order—it doesn’t seem like the actions of a man sending secret gifts.” I answer.

We debate it for a while until Jessica changes the subject.

"I think I may have leads on a couple of the people who were at the inn the same time you were, but stopped contributing to the blog."

She laid a few sheets of paper on the table. "Here's what I've got on Mark Lange, now known as Ginessa Lopez. No listings for her in the NYC phone books, but I found a mention of her in a Village Voice theater review back in December. This year, she shows up in the social pages a few times, often with the same group of people."

She spread some printouts on a table.

Art pointed at a gorgeous blonde who was next to "Ginessa" in one of the pictures. "Am I wrong, or is that who that Peruvian girl turned into?"

"You talked to her more than I did." I said.

Jessica looked at the printout, and it was becoming very easy to believe that she had been a detective in a previous life. "Hmm... Caption says ‘Nicoleta Fidatov’ . Maybe a roommate? Then the phone might be in her name. Could be a lead."

She pushed Mark's pile aside and then another one. "Okay, I found several Kayla Johnsons online. Any of these look familiar?"

I pointed to one. "Okay... Kayla Johnson, 22, grew up in a small town in Wyoming. All I've got on her is this little notice in a community weekly saying that she graduated from University of Wyoming with a degree in Wildlife Management and will be starting with the National Parks Service this... that is, last... fall."

"Well, I guess he's still a Fed..." Says Art.

At that moment Jessica’s cell phone rang and she answered it. “Hi mom! Yes, I got here okay. Yeah, they seem like good people…” She walked away to talk in private.

“She's going to be a real help.” Art says to me.

I couldn’t agree more.

--Ashlyn

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