It's cooled down a bit, reminding me of home. This past weekend, in Canada, was Thanksgiving, one of the few dates where I make the effort to see my mom and other family members (birthdays, Easter, Christmas, usually.) I feel bad about it because I have this reputation for being kind of aloof and tending to avoid my family. It's not deliberate, I'm just usually doing something else. Man, if they only knew how bad I feel about missing them this weekend... instead, someone else was there, being awkward and pretending to know their faces and avoid conversation (believe me, nobody will notice.) And here I was, not celebrating the non-holiday of Columbus Day.
So Bryan and I, that first day, were sitting there reading letters, getting high, and coming to terms with being "transformed." I'm here now, at the keyboard, having a pronoun problem. I keep thinking of Bry (and myself) in the abstract as "he," but when I picture the day, of course, I get this image of this puckish little girl. I've grown very accustomed to hearing her voice speaking Bryan's words. I don't want to type "She and I were sitting trying to figure things out," but, well, that's exactly what was going on. She and I were trying to figure things out.
It was a couple of days before we actually hit the road. Some of that was spent trying to confirm as a matter of fact that this was really happening and not just our imaginations. Some very uncomfortable conversations with fellow victims (which I won't retype just now) did the trick. Some of them were better off than us, some were worse. We then had to make arrangements to get to Connecticut, and write our entire lives and our understanding of the curse into easily-digested letters.
The upside, which was actually a downside, is that our lives didn't have much to them. I hated my job and was always a hair away from quitting before I went on the road. Bry is a classic moocher. Neither of us talks much to our families or has any real relationships going. The main thing was Alia, so I stressed in my letter to at least be good to her, because I intended to come back for her. I also crafted the letter so that the new Todd would feel pretty much compelled to contact me. In the meantime, I kept my online accounts afloat - establishing an e-alibi on Facebook and MSN - and developed new ones under Anne-Marie's name.
I left my luggage, laptop, and all my writings at the inn, because I felt they would be of vital importance if someone were to get into character as me. I did keep a few things. One was my iPod, because i spent a lot of time cultivating my playlists - walking away from them would basically mean walking away from Todd Casey altogether. The other was a vintage Clash t-shirt Alia got me for my birthday many years ago. She would probably notice that "I" don't have it anymore, so that when I get my body back, I can come full circle and start wearing it again. Plus, it smells like me - all the sweat and dirt and weed and Speed Stick really registers strongly in my nose. Scent, I heard in a commercial once, is the sense strongest-linked to memory.
Bry was very reluctant to leave his $1200 Digital SLR, but I convinced him it was vital to Bryan's identity and too bizarre for Ellie to just have picked up on her own.
There were other adventures in the meantime, but finally at the end of it all, and with more reluctance than I have ever known, we had to bring Ellie and Anne home.
It was a long train ride and we had a lot of time to think. I asked Bry if we were doing the right thing and she said, well, we had no choice. Anne-Marie and Ellie were basically missing persons. For all we knew there was a manhunt and we'd get found no matter what, plus we had no other place readily available. Could we take the pains to stay out, stay off the grid, and lay low? Maybe - we're resourceful enough to have done that sorta thing all summer - but a 33-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl get a bit more attention than a couple of 23-year-old dudes. Our backs were against the wall.
I wondered if we were up to the task, and she laughed. There was no way to fail since we couldn't tell anyone the truth if we wanted to. It might be embarrassing, even gross - you know what I'm getting at there - but this is life and we're stuck. Stuck. Billions of women live their lives every day, same as men... no reason things couldn't just fall into place, she shrugged. I groaned - I didn't want things to fall into place. I wanted the same sense of control over my destiny as I always had, the open road.
I told her she was being far too calm. She said she had it all figured out, "If it can happen once, I'll bet it can be undone. It doesn't make sense that if they can change your body, they'd only do it once. Right?" It's worth noting that Bryan has always referred to "they" whenever she has a bone to pick with someone... although in this case she may be right. And I asked, what if it can't be undone? She just shrugs and says "Then we go on with these lives."
She began to get all philosophical. "Everything we've done in life... Alia, your job, the road trip... it brought us to that inn. This is the consequence of that."
I pondered it for a moment and then realized - "Did you just quote Anton Chigurh?" If you're looking for comfort, the words of the serial murderer from No Country for Old Men isn't going to really put you at ease.
But that's Bryan for you. A real deep thinker and a great guy, but kind of an asshole. I noticed she had her little knees tightly clamped together, and they were twitching. I'm no body language expert, but that girl was as nervous as me. She just didn't want to show it. I kept quiet.
Long passages of the trip were spent in silence as I stared at my reflection in the window and tried to get accustomed to the woman staring back at me. Every so often I'd forget about the tits and crotch business and just smile to see what it would look like (very forced, as it turned out.) Every moment brought us closer to our final destination, Somewhere in Connecticut.
Anne-Marie Adkisson is 33 years old and married to a Dentist named Hal. They have two kids together: Hayley, 12, and Conner, 10. I was barely even responsible for myself, and now all I could think of was how I'd have to take care of two young ones, not to mention the burden of a marriage.
By contrast, Bry is a lucky gal. He - ah, fucked up the abstract again - she is so young all her decisions are made for her. Ellie probably still has a bed time, doesn't date, gets all her meals cooked for her... the freedom of youth and the experience to enjoy it. Then again, the freedom from responsibility is basically oppression, and maybe, I thought, he'd end up feeling worse than I did. Time would tell.
We pulled up to the house late that night. All my fears and anxiety were replaced when I saw it with sheer awe. It looked like a courthouse, or the house from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. These people were well off - if there's been an economic crisis, you wouldn't know it from here. They're definitely keeping the Roman Column manufacturers busy. And their front lawn is big enough to play baseball.
For a while, I was just stunned.
And then I walked inside, flip-flops flapping against the ceramic tiles of the foyer (never ever been in a house with a foyer) echoing all around me. "Hello?" no answer. I smiled, breathtaken.
And that was the first time since the transformation I'd felt any good at all.
What happened to that feeling I'll leave for later. Laundry calls.
-Todd, alias Anne-Marie