Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Todd: All I've got is a photograph...

You can tell I'm out of sorts, because usually I'm above a Def Leppard reference.

I've been moping a lot. I wasn't even sure I wanted to write this entry, because not a lot of note has happened since my last post. Been working detail. I'm glad to have that level of stability in my life. It's settled down to an almost unbearable level now that Crystal and Bryan work together and have their own stuff going on, I'm largely on my own. Things seem to be passing me by... Crystal, who when we first met her was very skittish about going out, went with Bryan and some others to the Zombie walk, which I skipped for a combination of work and moping.

Bry and I also had to accompany her to (Canadian) Thanksgiving and act as her guide to her various relations... it was awkward to explain why I was there despite our no longer being together. But she needs the help and support, and she's not a bad lady, so I'm happy to help her.

I keep wondering if I should maybe pick up the phone and call Erica and Sean, but I know they're not overly interested in anything I've got to say. And I guess I'm not really interested in anything they've got either. I just find it hard to relate to people nowadays.

It was over a year ago that I started posting here, sharing my story. It was really therapeutic, and regardless of what you folks think of me, I've always appreciated having this outlet. Back then I was lost and confused, and as much as things have changed, I still feel some of those same feelings.

Except now it's my own life I have to deal with. My time as Anne-Marie was paradise compared to what I'm going through lately. It was okay that I didn't feel comfortable because I wasn't supposed to be. Once I accepted that rock bottom level, everything became surprisingly easy. The sex didn't hurt. Well, sometimes it did... she was not a spry woman, that Anne-Marie.

I just need to shake myself out of this state of paralysis. I don't know what I want, and I can't get enthusiastic about anything. I'd try a shrink, but I don't think I'd be able to really open up. As you know, I've been through some weird, weird things.

It's just that I guess I expected going back to my life to be, well... my life, the life I left, despite the chaotic state I left it in. Employment or no, Alia was supposed to be a big part of that. And every time I see Crystal, it's just a harsh reminder. It's even worse when I was Anne-Marie and I saw a pretty young girl, and my brain kept expecting a reaction from a penis that wasn't there. I can't win.

The title of this entry is because I was thinking about all this while I was browsing Facebook. All the photos I have of Alia are outdated, from before either of us were changed, years ago when we were last dating. I have a lot of good memories of those times, and a lot of bad ones.

My hope, oddly enough, is that when she comes back, things won't be the same as they were back then, because I was kinda... lousy. Sometimes, anyway. I want to be a better man and I am tearing my hair out trying to figure out what that really means. I've been thinking about going back and finishing school, although that's not my favourite option. She and I have been talking it over on MSN. It was her idea.

But for now I'm stuck in this life that is just a few degrees off from the one I want and it's driving me mad. Someday, she will be back and we'll figure things out then (knock on wood) but until then, I've got my moping to go back to.

Then again, it feels wrong to keep up my moping when there are folks like Cliff and Marc and Greg and Alia out there. For the life of me I wouldn't go back to being Anne-Marie if you paid me (and in a way, it was kind of a profitable experience.) So this isn't a "grass is always greener" thing. It's just a "The grass is greener here but it's still pretty dry."

Which reminds me, there has been some correspondence down south, particularly as pertains to the new Julia and Kalli, but I'm not given to divulging others' personal details... except in all those cases when I already did.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marc/Betty: I hate my hair

It's not the only thing about this body - well, this form; it's still my body, isn't it? - that I hate, but it's something that I just can't seem to get any help with. For all the hints Arlene can give me about every other element of being a teenage girl, dealing with African hair is all on me. I'm half-tempted to go out for the swim team just so that I have an excuse to shave it off, but that would mean more time in the locker room.

If Betty were college-aged, that might be fun, although I suppose that in such a case I might be mortified over other people seeing me getting changed, as so many other people who have been through the Inn and changed sex have described. Instead, though, I'm stuck taking a physical education class with a bunch of Grade 9 girls, and how do you not feel like a complete pervert surrounded by 15-year-olds? I usually just try to face the locker as much as I can and not make eye contact. I'm not sure which is worse, feeling disgusted at myself or the idea that I eventually may not feel that way.

Arlene feels it too, at least a little. About a week ago, she came home from a football game late. The Daves didn't much care, and why should they, but she shook me awake as soon as she got in (and I'd just fallen asleep!). I asked what it was, and she said she'd gone out with some of the other cheerleaders and players after the football game, and she'd wound up making out with the quarterback.

I congratulated her and rolled over in bed, but she pulled me back. "I told you when this first happened to me, I don't do kids! He's only seventeen, and he thinks I'm sixteen, so that's trouble no matter how you look at it! And I don't want trouble this time!"

"'This time'. You understand that these aren't our lives, right? That eventually, we're going to be ourselves again?"

She groaned, not wanting to get into the argument over why we haven't heard from the original Betty or Lasker family yet again. It's something we've hashed and rehashed over the past month and a half, generally along the lines of me and Big Dave not wanting to spend the rest of our lives female while Arlene and Little Dave say our lives our better and not to look a gift horse in the mouth. "Look, even if Betty and Heidi do show back up and want their lives back and we can give it to them, do we want to give them back screwed up?"

"So what's the problem? You made out a little, got grossed out, came home."

"What about next time? I've got a ton of teenage hormone juice in me right now, and this may come as a shock to you, but I wasn't so hot at saying no the last time!"

"I imagine you'll get better with practice."

"Yeah, but... Look, Rick and I have a double-date with Justin and Lacey on Friday. I can't back out, and even if this is temporary like you say, I don't want to leave Heidi with a bad reputation. Could you come with us? Be our fifth wheel, help me put on the brakes when I need to? I'll get better at this, I promise, but until I do..."

"Damn it, Arlene..."

"I'll find out what Keisha does with her hair. Her straight, beautiful hair."

"Fine! Just let me sleep!"

So the next day, Arlene asked one of the black girls on the squad how she got her hair straight, saying that "Betty" envied it but didn't want to look like she was ashamed of her African-ness. It turns out it's done with some chemical goop called "relaxer". We bought a container of it at a CVS before meeting the others for the movie (is it me, or is the beauty products section of a drug store much smaller here than it is back home?).

I was oddly excited about getting that stuff under control, and then the previews before the movie included one for a documentary with Chris Rock that shows that the stuff is incredibly toxic and corrosive, so that gunk got thrown in the trash on the way out. I'll deal with brushing if the alternative is something that can burn my scalp. As I said, this is still my body, and who knows if any sort of damage to it will carry over should I get to be myself again?

Arlene did, at least, promise to treat me to a trip to a hair salon as a "birthday" present (Betty's 17th was last week). Nice of her, I guess, and I don't have any reason to be suspicious of it, the same way I may of the restaurant gift certificate that arrived a few days later.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Cliff/Tori: Weekend Away

What a week it's been. Going away last weekend kinda threw me off and I just didn't feel like summarizing the whole weekend, but I figured I'd better get around to it by now.

As I was making plans to go to Louisville to see Tori and Rob, I realized how difficult it is to just up and do something like that independently when you live with your "family." Obviously I never would have just up and took off out of state when I was living with my parents, because A) I had nowhere to go and B) No money to get there. The first point, as you can tell, is settled. I shouldn't need much occasion to see the person whose face I am wearing. The second point, well, that's one of the pleasant side-effects of living with Tori's family. I don't pay rent, contribute minimally to the groceries, don't buy clothes and spend relatively little on entertainment. I make a healthy wage and it's all just sitting in Tori's bank account. So I figured I could stand a $300+ plane ticket to Louisville. (Compare a 2-hour flight to a 17-hour bus ride at maybe half the cost. Somewhere, my mom is sensing that I spent nearly $200 when I didn't have to, and sighing.)

I arrived early on Saturday morning and found a smartly-dressed young woman waiting for me. I was a little uncertain about meeting her. She had sent me a photo to show what she looked like, but if you've ever met someone online (for example) you'll know that sometimes photos are deceptive.

She turned to see me. Her eyes lit up with recognition mixed with awe. In heels she was considerably taller than me in running shoes. She had straight, shoulder-length brown hair and wore a blouse and skirt combo. (I just typed that and wondered whether I would've described her in the same way when I was a man.) Similar body type to Tori. By the end of the weekend I resented how close both she and Rob had landed to their original bodies.

She led me to the parking lot excitedly, going on at lightspeed about how incredible it was to finally see me, that is herself, and made it very clear that she was both disturbed and fascinated that a guy like me had become her (aren't we all?) She hardly let me get a word in edgewise and peppered me with commentary about her current life. We got to her car and she talked about how she was still getting used to driving. Tori has a license, of course, but as you might've guessed from my descriptions she didn't exactly have a set of wheels of her own.

We got to the house, an upper middle class place in the suburbs, to drop off my luggage. If the entire Trading Post experience is a roll of the dice, it seemed to pay off for Rob and Tori, who became Gary and Karen Costas. In addition to no gender mix-up, Rob has a junior exec job at a beverage corporation (read: liquor.) Karen is a young intern and fill-in weathergirl at one of the local stations. I can't remember if it was CBS or NBC or what, but anyway. Apparently she's got limited room for advancement due to not being a trained meteorologist, but hey, that's why she's a fill-in.

My point is, financially, they're well off, good-looking, healthy people and the longer I spent with them, the more it ate away at me. I told myself it was nothing to worry about, that it probably had something to do with the curse putting pressure on my perception of them. I'm so used to thinking in terms of "The curse does this or that" that I can hardly tell what I'm actually thinking anymore anyway, or what is magic, or what is Tori's body. It can be... complicated.

"Gary" came out from the den to greet me, and I caught this look in his eye, this very unnerving "I've seen you naked and it doesn't matter to me that you're really a guy" look. I tried to avoid addressing him directly. After showing me the house Tori whisked me away for "girl time."

This, of course, necessitated going out to the mall. Still absorbed in herself, Tori said that she gets that it may not be my thing, but as Karen she has so much extra money and has no idea what else to do with it, besides it could be fun for me.

"I mean, it's just so weird," she says, "I look at you, and I see... me. It's like having a twin. You're this whole stranger person who looks exactly like me. But I know, I mean, you've told me about yourself. It's just so hard to put the two together." I should note that I was slightly girled-up in low-rise jeans and a black girl-tee with a pink design on it.

We went for lunch and I caught her up on what I'd been doing with her life. I told her what I was doing for a living, how I was trying to keep up her friendships with Raine and Sara, and she just sighed wistfully. The conversation didn't seem to gain much momentum, which I thought odd.

She'd said that she had wanted to meet Alia, but apparently, he had something else going on this weekend and so couldn't join me (also, no money) so I was going to have to be her gal pal. She dragged me through the stores, put me through the motions. I felt like I was her kid and she was a mommy having to keep me from wandering off to the electronics department.

But I bore with her because of my whole "Torification" thing, I'm trying to take an interest in my appearance. It's just that, looking around some of the fancy stores she was shopping in, there was nothing in there I could actually see myself wanting to wear, as much as I'd adjusted. Finally, she caught on and with a glint in her eye got an idea. Her mission was now to find me my style.

In stark contrast to her younger sister, Tori is most definitely a girly girl, and so I've had to put up with a certain level of femininity in my wardrobe choices. But, she said, it's remarkable what they're doing with tomboy fashions lately. It wasn't necessarily her style, but that didn't mean "she" (meaning me, in her body) couldn't pull off that kind of look.

Suddenly she seemed a lot more approachable and open-minded about this whole thing and I actually ended up walking around with a considerable amount of shopping bags. Once I stepped back and really looked at myself, it was really remarkable. Fashion I could get behind, but still feel like myself. I must've bought every variety of flannel shirt in American Eagle, which is weird because I could've sworn I hated that place.

We came home to find Rob cooking. Tori looked just a little put out by the concept; neither of them was much of a cook but they were trying. The results were less than impressive, some overcooked chicken and mushy potatoes. Not that I'm much of a cook either, most of what I make comes out of the microwave.

As we ate, Rob looked me over and said, "So... Cliff, right? Man, I don't know what I'd be doing if I was you. I'd just be going crazy." I felt a little embarrassed. I didn't want to talk about it, but I knew the topic had to come up eventually.

"I'm just taking it one day at a time, really," I answered non-committaly.

"I saw all those shopping bags you came in with," he smirked, probably thinking he was being funny, "Did the inn make you like shopping?"

Grimacing, I responded, "I just... wanted some stuff of my own to wear. No big deal." He nodded, faux-understandingly. Tori chastised him, "Don't be rude."

After a brief and painful silence, during which I finished my food, my phone began to ring. Tori jumped at the sound of it, then seemed slightly embarrassed at her (rather appropriate) reaction. I grabbed it and wandered toward the stairs for some privacy.

It was Tori's mom, checking in. For a cover story, I had told them I was meeting up with some "new friends" I had met over the summer, which I guess isn't far from the truth. She quizzed me what the house was like, who they were, was I doing fine. It's weird, she hadn't seemed overly protective when I was actually at home with her, but she was quite overt here. When I assuaged her fears, she let me off.

Tori came by to see me exhaustedly hanging up. "Is she always like this?"

She shrugged "If I had to guess, it has to do with disappearing in Maine for weeks." True enough. "Sorry about the little display down there. Rob's a really cool guy but he can be very embarrassing."

"How did you start... seeing him?"

"It's just one of those things. I met him through a friend who was his wife's hairdresser. When I met him they were still together and then, I dunno, things happened."

She wasn't being very clear, but I guess she was giving up all the details she wanted to. Which, I should add, is one of the frustrating things about the Inn life, never feeling like you've got the whole story, walking around in the dark, never sure what they next weird thing to come up will be.

"So, how is married life for you guys, anyway?"

She sighed. "It's... weird. Like, he is really anti-marriage, after everything with his wife, ex-wife, whatever. So it's more like we're dating, or we're roommates who fuck. Except, not so much."

"Oh. Sorry to hear that."

"It's... okay, I guess. I don't know. We weren't that close, I just wanted to go someplace. After Raine and Sara ditched me for Europe I was lonely and he had the whole Inn thing worked out with good timing." She laughed in spite of herself. The way she'd said "Raine and Sara" struck me as slightly bitter, although they have never seemed anything but kind to me. So I asked.

"It's not that they're mean, we're totally best friends forever, but haven't you noticed they sometimes act slightly superior? Sara has a good job. Raine is getting her Masters. And I couldn't keep a job cutting hair. What the fuck is wrong with me?"

I wanted to comfort her, so I said, "I guess you just hadn't found your way yet. There's nothing wrong with that, you're only 22. You'll still have plenty of options open when you get back."

She paused and contemplated that for a moment, then changed the subject. "So, how about a fashion show? You and me. I didn't get a chance to see you, me, whoever, in some of these clothes."

I was a little hesitant, and sighed. "Okay, let me go change."

She stopped me, "No, no. Don't be lame. Go ahead, change right here."

"What, in front of you?"

"Cliff, it's my body. I know what it all looks like."

"Yeah, but..." There was a really logical way of objecting to this but I couldn't come up with the exact wording. So I just said "Whatever" and began to disrobe. It wasn't until I had my pants half off that I realized why I hadn't wanted to go through with it.

She said through suppressed laughter, "Oh my God. Cliff. You're wearing a thong."

Yes, dear readers. What can I tell you. Tori only left me so many pairs of regular-cut panties, and sue me, I haven't gotten around to buyning my own. Once I tried them on (Torification, Torification, Torification,) I didn't see much of a difference, since I don't have to concern myself with my junk hanging out. I felt my face beaming with embarrassment. It was a new low in "not feeling like a guy" and her chuckles embarrassed me, even though she assured she saw nothing wrong with me.

"You know," she told me, "I know you're a guy and everything, inside, but I have to say. You make a really cool girl-friend. Once you open up a little bit, you're really fun to be around." I said thanks, I've had a lot of female "just-friends" (sigh) so maybe I picked some stuff up, or maybe it's just the way I am. It's the kind of compliment that also hurts a little.

I dressed myself in a new outfit. She approached. She approved of the outfit, but began to play around with my hair obsessively. "Honestly," she said, "I can't believe nobody's noticed what you're doing to my hair," she was half-kidding. "It's awful. I have a reputation."

She got really close. Almost uncomfortably so. Our boobs touched. We were eyeball to eyeball. I haven't been had a girl that close to my face in a very, very, very long time. I realized there that, one slight muscle reflex and I could've kissed her. And then what? She objects to making out with herself? How could she blame me? It would've shown Rob, and myself, that deep down I am still a man.

But I didn't. I just let her run her fingers through my hair - an intimate gesture for sure - feeling weird about the whole thing, wondering if I was turned on even by this. Oh, God, I still don't know.

Sunday was a blur as we did some touristy things, took some photos, (there's some really nice forestry by the Ohio river) and then that evening they took me back to the airport. I got in after midnight Sunday. Mae was up, channel surfing, but we didn't have time for our usual witty repartee as I just wanted to flop down in bed, which I did, in my clothes.

Obviously there's stuff I'm omitting, but if it becomes important, I'll mention it later. I have to work tomorrow and I've been writing for what feels like hours

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cliff/Tori: Torification Continues

As I type this, my fingertips are a blur of red nail polish. I crossed a number of items off the list this weekend in one go, and I'll tell you why/how, and why it's got me slightly depressed.

I've been working more lately, since I got off newbie probation, 5 days a week I spend all evening on the phone. My life officially has no room for professional advancement until I return to the Inn. It's been wearing me out, a fact not lost on Raine and Sara, Tori's friends, and therefore mine by default. Raine recently came on MSN (which I tend to avoid, but I needed to talk to Tori for reasons I'll explain later) and accused me of avoiding her, which is true. It's not that I don't like Sara and Raine, of course, it's just that the more time I spend with them is more time I have to be "in character."

Around the house, nobody seems to notice or care how I behave. I don't have to deal with Tori's family in any really serious way so I'm comfortable doing whatever comes naturally, and confining myself to my room or the living room or the kitchen table. Nobody notices more than a moment if I say something Tori might not, because the conversational topics are limited to household chores, "how was your day" and things like that.

But in social situations, those few times over the last few months when I'm stuck with Sara and Raine, I have to figure out how to be Tori, not just Cliff in a Tori suit. It's agonizing because no matter how much I wear the clothes and look the part, there's a very large chunk of me that does not operate in the mindset of a girl like Tori. A girl who cares about fashion and celebrities and boys. You can't fake that stuff, so when the conversation drifts that way, I just glaze over, making the whole experience painful for everyone.

So I avoid. It's a more comfortable lifestyle, but not a very fulfilling one. So when Raine made her case to me, I was willing to listen. She claimed it was clear I was becoming hermit-like because of work dissatisfaction (not entirely unlikely) and that the cure was just to come out with the girls like "I" used to. Feeling stir-crazy (even in my romantic-loser years, I was never this much of a shut-in) I bit the bullet and decided that maybe it was worth a shot. but on one condition. I was going to give them Cliff.

As much as I expect to be unmasked as an impostor (an irrational fear I guess) nobody seems to notice when I just act like Cliff. So I resolved to just be myself, to not even try pretending. I mean, that's part of the curse, isn't it? At worst they'll think I'm just being weird. Sound reasoning, I thought.

So last Friday night after work, Thom gave me a lift over to the bar. Thom and Sara, you'll remember, I accidentally walked in on in the middle of some serious business. It was never revealed whether they knew what I'd seen, and it was several weeks before they actually admitted their relationship. I was happy for them when they did, which I guess is my first indication that I do care about these people like friends.

So Raine and I were the "single girls" out with the couple at a bar, kind of a dive sports bar where girls drink beer, nor cosmos. For the first while, I was quiet, chiming in when called upon but otherwise just observing. I didn't mind being the quiet one. Then Cyndi from work showed up with her boyfriend, whose name I didn't get, and it started to look more like a double-date as those two got acquainted with Thom and Sara and Raine and I were the fifth and sixth wheels. Eventually we broke away from the pack.

I find Raine kind of interesting. Maybe her figure isn't ideal, and her looks aren't picture-perfect, but she seems very sweet and funny and cool and frankly not unattractive. I can't remember exactly what we talked about, but I remember it not being all-out girliness. I think we started to relate once she realized I didn't really want to talk about hair and make-up (which must've seemed odd on some level since Tori is a former hairdresser.)

It's all very confusing to me as I'm trying to determine whether this means I like her, or have some kind of girl-crush, or if I just consider a friend. I just find myself drawn to her when I am around her, and yet not nervous, because she's not treating me like a guy who might want to sleep with her, and that, oddly gives me confidence. Also I was tipsy from two and a half beers by the time we got a pool table.

She took me by the shoulders and looked down toward me (she's slightly taller than Tori, which somewhat emphasizes her curviness) and grinned girlishly, "I know what your problem is. We need to get you laid."

"No!" I resisted, "No, no, no. I'm... celibate right now. Okay? I'm on a break. That is the last thing I want or need." I'm fairly confident that if I wanted sex I could probably get it. Any guy would want someone like Tori, and more to the point I'm sure that if I walked into a lesbian bar I'd be pretty popular too. So I got an idea, since I saw some of the guys looking over at the two of us, I wanted to help Raine get some of that attention. I had a plan, based on something that happened to me a few years ago.

We started to play pool, badly, as a result of my being pretty uncoordinated as a girl and also, as I said, tipsy. This guy came over and started giving me advice. He smelled like dissipated aftershave and I could tell he really thought he had it going on. Shaved head, half-beard, v-neck sweater, I didn't know what to think of the guy, but after chatting him up just a little bit, I happened to mention my "Boyfriend in Iraq"and tried to shift the guy's attention over to Raine. Eventually, she cast the guy away, or maybe he just moved on. The second guy didn't take any interest in her, and the third guy got her number but didn't seem overly enthused.

"You're a good friend, Tor," she said drunkenly at the end of the night, "Those guys were mostly losers, but it was fun." Then she invited me out the next night. I thought, "Hey, I had some fun tonight, too, let's give it a shot." I overcame the fairly major hurdle of enjoying a night out with Tori's friends, opening the door to limitless possibilities.

The next night shut at least one of them pretty hard.

On the Friday night, I didn't pay too much attention to my appearance. I was coming straight from work so I was dressed in plain clothes; good, presentable but not flashy. The next night, Raine was having me come out to a club, so I had to wear heels and a tight dress thing. A dress, I might add, with a neckline that made my boobs look absolutely phenomenal.

Anyone who knew I was a guy would probably get some mixed messages. I know I was.

I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered whether it was too much. Lipstick, a bit of mascara on the lashes. Earrings. Painted nails. This really was the whole nine yards. I thought to myself, how much of a shame someone didn't get this life who really wanted it. But I've long since accepted the fact that this is the hand I have been dealt, and for now, I must play it. If I wanted to get out of the house and have fun, I'd have to go along with this, at least for now.

I regretted my decision not to just stay home and watch Saturday Night Live early on when I paid $25 just to get in. I immediately saw a crowded dancefloor of guys grinding on girls, girls shaking their butts. I didn't fit in to any of this. I hung by the bar and ordered a Mojito, a drink just manly enough for me to handle.

It was dreadful. Between loud music, losing Raine early, and waving off repeated attempts to buy me drinks (I should've accepted, I dropped a lot of money by the end of the night, but I didn't wanna lead any guys on.) It was all very unpleasant. And then... it happened.

After several drinks, my constitution loosened, and goaded on by Raine and the two guys she had met, I... got on the dance floor. I thought, how harmless, everyone's doing it, why not just imitate what all the other girls are doing? These guys are just happy to see some jiggling. I have no idea what possessed me to do this. I guess I was just bored of leaning up against the bar not talking to anyone. I paid $25 for a reason, damnit!

After a few songs (it's hard to tell how many, or even if you can call them songs) I went to the ladies' room. It's interesting to me that after years of avoiding sitting on public toilets as much as I can, I now have no say in the matter, but hey, pee-talk should be limited on this blog.

So as I leaned my elbows on my knees to try to stay stable, I heard the "tak tak" of two sets of heels enter the washroom. And I couldn't help but hearing "Did you see that girl out there in the (description of outfit matching my own.) What a loser! If I was her friend I'd be sooo embarrassed. People like that should not be allowed in clubs."

I had to sit there taking this abuse until I finished, and stepped out. They looked at me -- clearly recognizing me -- and acted as if nothing had been said. The bathroom stall is not a cone of silence! Sheesh. They just continued to touch up their make-up.

Raine and I split a cab with the two guys; she with them in the back, me sulking in the front. I woke up the next morning feeling like a total ass (a hung over one at that) and wondering whether I should bother sharing this with the blog world. Obviously I decided yes, since it's all part of the experience, isn't it...

Well. Apart from all that, it's been settled that tomorrow night I will be taking the overnight Greyhound bus to Louisville and visiting the original Tori and Rob. I just figured it was something I had to do at least once, and they said this was a pretty good weekend, although given the travel arrangements I doubt I'll be doing it again. And before you ask, yes, I do plan to go back to Buffalo sometime too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Alia/Rob: (Real) Thanksgiving Thoughts

I checked the calendar today to remind myself that this weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada. It might not be the healthiest thing in the world but I allowed myself to get nostalgic. The past doesn't seem that far away, and Todd keeps reminding me that before long, I'll be back where I belong. If has has anything to say about it, that is.

Fall always puts me back in the state of mind of my early University days. Even before all this, I marveled at how much things had changed over the years. It was fall 2003 when I first met Todd, this comparatively dangerous-looking boy who kept catching my eye in a couple classes, and whom I swore I'd seen glancing back my way once or twice.

I was living in the dorms and I guess one of the girls he was involved with was on the same floor because one day I caught the elevator with him and he struck up a conversation and I thought it was probably too good to be true because he seemed genuinely friendly and not only that, far more intelligent and well-spoken than his rough exterior. He was sarcastic but kind, and he had opinions but was not preachy. Before I knew it, I was swept up in this whole group of people, some of whom were utterly full of shit, some were legitimate individuals. And as much as I did not want to fall for someone like Todd -- I knew (or figured) going in, that I'd be hurt in the end -- it happened that we were drawn together. And I guess I was the last girl standing. For a while, anyway.

By the end of the semester, we were an item, and as much as I resisted, I had to bring him home to meet my parents around Christmas. It was pretty much as bad as I expected, although not as bad as I feared, if that makes sense. Dad had resolved not to like him no matter who he was, and mom saw he was trouble from the beginning. But he was on his best behaviour, played the good suitor for my dad and charmed my mom. It was a rough start but after some consideration they determined he was not the worst boy in the world.

I tried to limit their contact with him, though. It wasn't until much later they saw his darker side, especially after he resigned himself to a certain state of life and our relationship started falling apart (repeatedly.) And that was still a long while before the break-up that led to him coming to Maine.

But for a long while, we were fixtures at each others' family Thanksgivings. It reminds me of the first time I met his whole family, which of course also features part of Bry's family, since Bry's dad is Todd's step-uncle. It was a choice between helping/hindering the women in the kitchen or sitting in the living room with the men watching the Leafs and scratch themselves. I guess there's nothing wrong with the traditional female role, and looking back, those ladies were some tough cookies. I fit in well with them, and I've missed them. I hope Todd, this weekend, has found some way to send my love, even if I might be there in body. Sigh.

Instead, I'm sitting here feeling nostalgic. I contemplated doing something, going out, having a drink, but instead quietly cooked dinner for one and sat on the computer not doing anything particularly productive.

I pine for those innocent Undergrad days because, let me tell you, I much prefer them to the awkward teenage years that preceded them, which I seem to relive on a daily basis at work. I feel like I'm cursed to watch these kids play out the usual teenage drama, barred from providing any useful advice or assurance that things will get better, because really, when I was a kid, I didn't believe my teachers when they said stuff like that.

The weird/funny thing, I guess, about being in a high school environment is that it even makes adults -- REAL adults, not just fake ones like me -- regress a bit. Sure, there are jaded older teachers who've been here forever, but ones around Rob's age, like Dean and Cathy, have a way of slightly adapting the attitudes of the students, I guess because we're young enough to still relate, not so old that we feel completely detached and deeply embedded in our authority figure roles. It's kind of a dangerous position because when it's time to be firm with a student, you have trouble really asserting yourself. Or at least I do.

Dean and Cathy would be the supporting characters of my little story as Rob. I eat lunch, I make funny excuses not to talk much about my (Rob's) life, despite them having known Rob for a few years at least. Don's a nice guy, in a long-term relationship but is still glad to talk about girls like he is available. Perhaps too glad. Cathy, I don't know her deal. She's mentioned a few guys before, but I guess none of them are all that serious. We all eat lunch together, I don't mind having them as friends, I imagine it's kind of like what Todd, Bry and I will be like in5 or 6 years, if Todd and I aren't together.

Thy have interest in the mostly-nonexistent details of Rob's bachelor life. They seemed somewhat scandalized when I let it slip that "a girl" stayed the night last weekend. Sorry, Cliff, heh. I told them it was completely innocent...

Anyway, I just felt like spelling my guts a bit tonight, all the nostalgia and all, and Todd's busy with family stuff, unable to put up with my little flashbacks, so here I am. hope you've enjoyed it.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Todd: Nuit Blanche and a rambling man

I've been finding it very hard to sit still and settle back into the life that is rightfully mine, because there is a lot of housekeeping that I have put off since returning a few months ago.

Every time I see Erica, she has gotten that much more pregnant. She's really starting to expand. Since she works in an office and I, ahem, have a tendency to sleep all day, we never did intersect that much in my regular life and we haven't lately. But when I do see her, it's like a reminder that the life I've come back to isn't the one I left.

But I did manage to get over to her apartment for dinner over a week ago, with Bryan in tow. She and Sean Flaherty cooked some pasta while we all awkwardly caught up on things. It's so weird having to withhold such a giant tract of my life from people I know. There are so few people who can know that I spent a year as Anne-Marie. In a way, it's a relief, because it means I don't have to explain it to them, don't have to field questions about sex or menstruation or any of that other crap I've pretty much touched on here (and if I haven't said something directly here it's because I really didn't wanna talk about it.) But it's also a shame since it means a very important slice of my life has to go unacknowledged. I feel like I've matured, but Sean and Erica don't seem to agree.

They explained their position. They are looking to have all the legal paperwork drawn up so that Sean is legally the child's father. I will have no responsibility for it, I will not have to pay child support, they're not even sure when or if they will explain the kid's real parentage.

At first it was a relief. Although it is my genetic stock, I felt, at first, as much connection the the child growing inside Erica as I do to anyone else's baby. I wanted no part of it.

Relief turned to disappointment. I thought the last thing I wanted was to take care of a baby that isn't really mine, but it's a little more complicated than that. I try to push it out of my mind, but there's a part of me that fears Alia will never make it back to her own body, and that I will never care about someone the way I do about her and so will never have a kid of my own, aside from this one. Paranoid as it may be, being suddenly transformed into a different person will have a drastic impact on the way you look at things. It feels now like anything is possible.

Bryan sat watching from the couch while Sean cleared the dishes from the table and I sat across from Erica and asked her why keep it a secret, why cut me out of the whole thing, why not ask for any money?

I could see her squirm, as she insisted that keeping it between her and Sean was a way of keeping things from getting complicated. "Plus," Sean chimed in, "We thought you would want it this way. You're not really the parental type, you know?"

I've spend a fair bit of time talking about Sean Flaherty indirectly. He first came up when Alia admitted she'd had a fling with him when Deb was me. He and Erica actually go back a ways, but unlike me and Alia, only broke up once, and hadn't been together for a while, I assume, when this whole thing between her and Deb went down.

The easiest way to describe him is... smug. He can be a nice guy, but he has a bit of a holier-than-thou streak running through him. It was actually hard for me to spend a whole evening with this guy and not punch him, adding to my annoyance that he'd be raising this kid. Part of that was also the knowledge that he'd slept with Alia, but even before there was that. I've known him for years. He's a good athlete, he's a pretty boy, has terrible taste in music, dresses preppy, he has a good job and comes from a family background not that different from mine. He's Bizarro-me. And he doesn't hesitate to let people know he thinks highly of his accomplishments.

Erica steps in to clarify. "What he means to say is that your life is pretty chaotic lately. We can't take your money, you need to get settled for yourself. Maybe when you stop running all over the continent when you get bored or angry..."

Now I was really upset, partly offended at the insinuations about my character, partly annoyed that they were pretty much right. As much as I want everyone to know that I've changed, that I'm not going to be that guy anymore, there's no reason anyone should believe me, because I still seem to be the person I always was. A rolling stone, a "ramblin' man" (Allman Bros. reference) who ran away from his problems instead of facing them.

After all, I wasn't working, I was living hand-to-mouth, lonely and pining for Alia. My life had actually gone several steps backward since returning to Toronto. I left in a huff. Bryan followed a bit behind me, taking care to get leftovers.

Bryan. I keep forgetting, while I haven't been posting, that although there's not a lot going on in my life, there are others like Bryan and Crystal/Alia, that you readers only get to hear about through me. Crystal, as I've already said, got a job writing ad copy (I suspect Alia was afraid she'd end up doing something like that herself, but Crystal seems to like it.) As wary as I am of this rather skittish woman in my girlfriend's skin, she came through for Bryan and helped him get a staff photographer position, where he can ply his skills as well as keep a close eye on Crystal. I hate to be the suspicious type, but knowing what's going on in her life is a bit of an advantage.

Anyway, now they both suddenly have decent jobs and I'm left as the loser. I've pondered getting my design/intern gig back but I know I wouldn't be satisfied, I know there's not a lot of room for advancement there, and I'd pretty much be back where I started. I haven't written it off yet though, I just need to figure out exactly what I want. Stability, or happiness?

Until then, I managed to get back into a record store job I had years ago. It doesn't earn me a ton of bread, but it pays the bills. But it's not going to impress anyone into thinking I'm parent material.

I don't know what upset me so much. I actually don't want to be a parent and should be fine with the whole arrangement, but something about the way the whole thing went down felt so insulting... it just hit a sore spot because of the way I've been feeling about my life lately. I'm faced with the fact that I've really got to start outlining my future, and it's... intimidating. I'm feeling the pressure to get my life in order before Alia gets back.

Which brings us to Nuit Blanche, which is an all-night event in Toronto where the city is pretty much transformed into a massive modern art gallery. They have them in various cities all over the world (it started in Paris a few years ago and migrated outward.) We managed to entice the somewhat-introverted Crystal into coming out with us despite the ridiculous rainy weather. Ironically, she was the one most taken by some of the exhibits while Bry and I were calling "pretentious BS" left and right. She enjoyed it more than either of us.

She was getting kinda loopy around 3 AM. I had an installation I wanted to see across town, so Bry made sure she got home okay and met back up with me later. Getting her out of the way made it easier to interact with people who know the three of us. For a long time, there is going to be the awkward disconnect between what people think "Alia" is and what we know about her. We've had to face that fact a lot already, and hopefully over the next few months it'll get better, because it seems like Crystal really wants to get out more.

Anyway, I guess I've said enough for tonight. It was good to catch up.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cliff/Tori: Alone and not

I guess you could say, after my last post, the point of my little list was to "Tori-fy" myself a little bit,

Phase one was to wear heels. Like most women (I imagine) Tori had a rather sizeable collection of footwear, but for the most part I have been sticking with running shoes. So I went over the shoe rack in her closet and came across a pair I felt I could handle. Not, like, giant spikes, or anything, but just adding a couple inches. Unfortunately, the twist of this was that I didn't particularly like the way these shoes went with my usual style of jeans. It seemed like a mismatch.

Committed to the idea of taking this step, I found myself crossing off another item from my list sooner than expected. I went through the pile of clothes I had dismissed months ago as too girly, and found the least objectionable skirt I could. A knee-length black denim one. It was not a bad day for it either, as these past few days have been unseasonably warm (compared to my hometown of Buffalo.) The bare legs were rather refreshing.

I could feel the difference. Everything about me seemed altered just standing still, I could feel myself perched on my toes, seeing the world from a height almost close to my original form. It caused me to become more aware of other things about my body. I straightened my posture, keeping my shoulders back (my dad often remarked on my slouching) which had the unintended effect of enhancing my breasts. I looked at the girl in the mirror with awe, tried to detach myself from my reflection.

I did a few practice laps around the house to perfect walking in the heels. The skirt significantly altered my stride and transformed my rather unfeminine gait into a strangely dainty walk. I was still wobbly when I left the house, but all of a sudden I could sense myself radiating womanliness and... oddly enough, I was okay with that.

At work, there is a girl. Cyndi. You don't have to be a fashion model to work in telemarketing, obviously -- more often than not, the opposite seems to be the case. Cyndi is a student who works here to pay her bills, and is considered to be "the hot one," which suits me because that was hardly what I set out to be.

She's blonde and thin and has terrific breasts. Not overly big, although I imagine they are bigger than mine. Perky and firm. Seeing her is an endless torture for me because I know I should want to stare, but I don't -- part of my brain expects to get an erection, but the other part of it is just numb to it, and, thanks to a few months of female conditioning, I just think of her as "another woman."

I'd love to spend an entire post trying to deconstruct the implications here, what does it mean if I can't feel attracted to a girl like Cyndi, who if anyone am I attracted to, but it's all beside the point. What I'm getting at here is that what I really admire about her is her poise and confidence. The way she strides about, knowing how hot she is and not hiding it at all. No, she isn't a tease, wiggling and jiggling all around the office. She just has this domineering presence, this self-assured understanding of the way people see her. I have often envied her that, but figured it must be inherent in people who grew up beautiful. Women and men alike. Despite Tori's objective good looks, I guess I don't really act like a good-looking person. Cyndi has never directly addressed me in any meaningful way.

Well today, I was stepping off the elevator and going to my workstation, and I guess I had that bounce in my step, my arms and hips swaying of their own accord, and as I passed her she smiled, said "Hey Tori," and gave a playful wink as we went our separate ways.

I've seen that wink. She gives it to everyone, it's her playful way of acknowledging your existence. She winks at Thom, Tori's friend who set me up with the job in the first place (you may remember him from this episode.)

My walk, and that wink, must have spurred me on, because I could sense myself engaging more with my calls, trading in my faux-masculine grumbling to a more feminine conversational tone. The improvements in my results were more than I would've thought. I've been a girl for months, but I guess this was the first time I acted like a girl. Sorta. I mean, I'm still me, right?

I mean, hell, there are some habits that don't die. I spent the weekend dodging requests from Sara and Raine to hang out. It's not that I'm avoiding them per se, it's just... I feel really anti-social by comparison, I can't keep up with their outgoing natures, no matter how much I fake it, and I end up feeling embarrassed, highlighting the difference between my body and my mind.

Last night, I was slightly regretting this. "Mom and dad" were out at the movies, and Mae was on a date with her boyfriend Ed. I was alone in the house, feeling like, after making a positive step earlier in the week, I was going in the wrong direction by hanging around the house watching TV. So I went on MSN and reached out to someone... familiar.

I wound up going to over to Alia/Rob's place around 10. When he opened the door, he gave me the same look people had been giving me all week, although he tried to hide it, it amused me that had even struck a former woman that way. Still, he shook it off and treated me more like myself for the rest of the night.

We sat at opposite ends of his couch and watched Iron Man on DVD, then when that was over, The Big Lebowski, which was one of his favourites, but I had never seen. The plot didn't make much sense to me, but I was pretty drowsy and fell asleep at parts. Some of the bits I did see were funny though.

I awoke in time for the credits of that movie. I thought about going home, but it was about 2 AM. He suggested I take his bed and he sleep on the couch. I was going to argue with him, but he had this serious "I insist" face on and bid him goodnight.

I shut myself up in his room. I thought about the first time I slept in Tori's room. It felt so scandalous then, being in someone else's body, undressing in their room, sleeping in their bed. I laid down at first in my clothes, but I wasn't comfortable, si I stripped off, layer by layer, until I was in my panties.

I looked over at the bra sitting on Alia's nightstand, and laughed to myself, wondering if Alia's neutral feelings about the opposite sex echoed my own, or if he was feeling the change. I wondered if somehow the essence of a naked girl would linger in the bed, if he might notice.

I drifted off to sleep and awakened the next morning to the smell of bacon in the pan. I dressed and stepped out of the bedroom, bed-headed, to find him there in his sweatpants presiding over bacon.

He looked at me and grinned. "My mom was Muslim," he said to me, "But she rebelled against her culture, especially after she married my dad. When she was a kid, she kept halal, but she always told me hell would be worthwhile for a pound of bacon. It's one of my favourite foods. There's also toast."

We had a nice little breakfast. I felt some kind of serious conversation was called for, so I asked how he was coping.

"Come see come saw," he said (I don't know how that's actually spelled.) I asked what that meant, and he said "It's French for so-so. I get the sense we're both struggling with some things and we're both having an easy time with other things."

I agreed. I wanted to go deeper, to probe into whether he could sense his personality changing in certain ways, but I still didn't know how to broach the subject.

He continued, "I'm just trying to take things one day at a time, you know? It's really hard to step back and look at the big picture, everything I do is geared toward not going insane. And whatever comes up in Tori's life, do whatever feels best for you."

I nodded. It was pretty good advice, but not always the most practical, because these days it's hard to tell what's best for me. Anyway, he gave me a lift home, and I crept back up to my room to nap and then shower, change clothes, and get on with the day. It was a really nice visit, all things considered.

I guess I really do need to get out more.