Now that it's been a few months, there are fewer and fewer times when I allow myself the luxury of totally freaking out. I know I made myself sound kinda confident in my earlier posts but it's very hard to pin down exactly how mortally terrified you are when you start walking around in someone else's body, let alone one with new equipment. But I found what you might call... coping mechanisms.
One obvious one is that I took an example from Bryan. Unnerving as her attitude toward the whole thing is - how easily she accepted the whole thing (and still waiting to see if she'll show up on this blog) - I was at least able to take a cue and think "Okay, better not be the weak one." Bry's attitude that "This is what's happening and we should just go along" is annoying until it becomes comforting, once you settle down and think "I can do this."
The bigger one, though, is my prevalent belief that this is not permanent. That I will not see Anne Marie to the end of her days. That I will not be cheated out of a decade of living as Todd Casey. That I will not see Hayley and Connor raise Anne Marie's grandkids. That there is a way back. And all I have to do is kill time and accept my lot until I can get there.
One of the bigger hurdles to feeling comfort was meeting Hal. He came home a few days after I did, without fanfare and with only a cursory "How was your trip?" He was hardly as panicked as Mrs. McClay.
I thought maybe he was hiding his concern. Then I thought maybe he legitimately didn't care about his wife's wellbeing. Then I realized, he was just being himself. That's just who he is. And after 12 years of marriage that's maybe what happens.
I didn't see much of marriage as a kid. I was born out of wedlock and while they tried to make it work, it just... didn't. I tried never to be bitter but you can imagine what a warped sense of relationships I must have, particularly married ones. One by one I watched my friends' parents get divorced and usually re-married while they struggled to cope with the breakdown of their parents' lives. I guess in that sense I was lucky. Never had any delusions.
Does that mean I think Hal and Anne Marie are heading for divorce? Not in the near future - not prior to the Inn and not on my watch either. I don't intend to shake up Anne's life any more than the bare minimum given the circumstances. I just think it's a cold marriage. A comfortable one. And thankfully for me - a sexless one. I dressed and undressed myself very privately for months until I realized that after a decade plus of raising kids, these people just plain aren't doing it.
And that's fine because as curious as I might be to find out what it's all about down there (don't judge me, you're all thinking the same deep down) I'm definitely not interested in this guy. He's a nice enough man, but... he's still a man.
I say he's a "nice enough man." He's kinda quiet, taciturn. He comes home after a day of drilling teeth and just wants to have dinner, drink a beer, and watch the World Series. (PS - was glad the Phillies schooled the Rays, given their triumph over his Red Sox. New England. I'm just waiting to see what Cito Gaston does for my Jays next year. But anyway.)
So... we struck up this kind of domestic balance. I cook the food (getting better thanks for the internet) do the dishes, the laundry... he provides the house and the car and the lifestyle, and nobody bothers the other.
I figure eventually it's gotta come up. One of us will reach a breaking point and I just won't be able to put it off... but until then, it's back to back in the queen-sized bed.
Once Hal came back, I fell into this quaint little routine. I'd get up in the morning around 9 or 10, well after he'd gone to the office. I'd explore the neighbourhood a little bit to get to know my surroundings... go for a drive or a jog, get a coffee, whatever. Then by the time I'd come home, Bry would be waiting for me there. Mostly we'd play Rock Band or Guitar Hero or any of the various games the kids have. Or we'd go for a swim in the backyard... I always used to envy the kids who had a pool.
Bry, by the way, who used to be over 6 feet tall, still looks ridiculous in a 14-year-old girl's swim suit. Maybe it's just the way she carries herself. She's all boyish angles with a figure that appears to be gradually morphing into 3-dimensions... if you catch my drift.
Meanwhile I've got the opposite deal. Anne Marie's no tubbo, but her body's been around a while. Put me in a bikini and suddenly - for the first time - I'm self-conscious about love handles and cellulite, and that little belly pouch that hangs over just a bit. Hmph.
After lunch, she'd usually just lounge around while I did chores, or tried to figure dinner out, or what have you. While all this is going on, I'm maintaining my (Todd's) online presence, making all the usual arguments about movies and comics on the various boards I'm on.
Anyway, back to what I was saying at the beginning of this post... how this isn't permanent. Well after a few weeks of feeling nervous of what became of my body, I got... the call. I was very adamant I wanted to hear from the "new Todd" and when I did, I felt happier than I had since this whole ordeal began. I remember looking at the caller display on Anne's cell and seeing my own name. I nearly dropped it in the pool.
I took a deep breath and answered. "Hello...?"
"Is this... is this Todd?" asked the somewhat confused and fearful sounding voice on the other end.
I hesitated. "Yeah... it is."
"I'm sorry, your voice..."
"Yeah, I know," I grumbled, "Who is this? Who are you really?"
Timidly he explained himself - I'll leave the details for later, suffice to say our situations are not dissimilar and we're all very eager to get back where we belong. And once that piece fell into place, I began to breathe easy. Taking stock of my life, that is, my life as Anne-Marie, I decided it's not such a bad place to visit... I just wouldn't want to live here.
To be continued...