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