Sunday, November 15, 2009

Alia/Rob: In Plain Sight

I guess I just don't have the writery instinct that some of the other folks on here do. I guess things have been slow around the blog in general lately, but the fact that it's been more than a month since my last entry and I'm still straining to really formulate my thoughts should say something.

I mean, what can I say? It's another month of Philadelphia, of pleasant enough weather (retaining a bit more warmth than Toronto usually does around this time.) Another month of being Rob Garcia, of facial stubble and hairy legs, of neckties and teenage students. Another month of slight beer gut and sore back slowing me down.

Each morning I sit up in bed, run my fingers through my short black hair and sigh, "It's gonna be okay." Then I just... I don't know, turn off "Alia" and be Rob. It saddens me somewhat to say that I feel like one of those really ineffectual teachers who is clearly phoning it in, lacking in passion... that was the whole reason I rejected my parents' push that I might do this job myself, because I didn't want to do anything I couldn't see myself feeling truly passionate about. And then when I get home, I'm free to more orless be myself again, and free my mind of all the trappings of Rob, even if I'm still physically him. That's when I get home and Todd is online for me to talk with.

Most days, we just share notes, commiserate. I hate to cheat you nice people out of hearing about my experiences, since I mainly sum them up to him and then I don't feel like writing here. And then when I try to, I end up rambling and trying to talk about everything and when I re-read it before posting, I decide it's crap and delete it all. I can be a bit hard on myself.

Anyway, I was telling him about something that happened to me recently and we got to talking about the Inn's "curse." Once your body has been transformed into someone else's you'll believe just about anything. The one that never ceases to amaze me is how it affects the people around me.

Maybe it says something about how we never really know each other. How hard it is to see anything below the surface of another person, and take their behaviour for granted. People act "out of character" all the time, even when they haven't been transformed (...although how can we know?) and even if others notice, and say something about it, it can always be explained as "Oh, I just feel different today."

There's an old philosophy question about, if you take a wooden ship and replace it plank-by-plank, when does it become a different ship? To the outside world, I seem to be the same ship, even though all my planks have been replaced.

In this metaphor, "the ship" is my appearance as Rob... ugh, see what I mean about rambling?

So for the most part, the people I've dealt with could barely be said to be lifelong close acquaintances of Rob. My inherited work friends seem to be taking more to me than they had when I first arrived, they may know Alia/Rob better than real Rob. How well do you know your casual work acquaintances? And all of Rob's family is back in Arizona.

Yet on the extreme side of things, think about Todd and Bryan last year. Todd was somebody's wife and mother for crying out loud, and at no point in this blog did he ever write about a time when Hal or one of the kids truly seemed put off by "her" (still can't picture Todd as a girl, and yet I've heard some very detailed accounts,) behaviour! I even asked if there was anything he was leaving out, and he said yes, a little bit, but nothing dramatic, otherwise he'd have mentioned it. And Bry was able to get away with wild mood swings because he was stuck in puberty anyway. Anyone who's ever been (or known) a 14-year-old girl wouldn't bat an eye if she ran the whole emotional gauntlet in a few moments, depending on the girl.

And meanwhile, my doppelganger up north seems to be passing decently. Yes, she shies away from situations where she has to be too familiar with people, but she's warming up to my life in a way I'm not sure I'm totally comfortable with. And not much in the way of raised eyebrows. I just find it eerie... the idea of never truly being known. I'm guilty of it myself, I know it from both sides, because as odd as Todd seemed for the year he wasn't himself, I hardly gave it much thought, because well, he was kinda mercurial. (In case you couldn't guess.) Finding out what had really happened was truly Earth-shattering, you can imagine.

I guess you really have to act out if you want to turn heads, and then you might get sent to the rubber room.

Which brings me to the whole reason I started writing here tonight, something I've been putting off. It was a meeting with the one person who I think would've known Rob well enough to say something. His ex-wife, Ingrid.

The ink was dry on the paper. It was all said and done, I had done Rob's job of formally ending his marriage, which is good because I had had enough of her harassing me. But apparently she still had some of his stuff in her trunk, and wanted to hand it off.

I was tempted to tell her to get stuffed, but then thought better; maybe this was stuff Rob wants when he gets back. Might as well just get it over with. So somehow this innocent transfer of property transmuted into a dinner. I don't know what I was expecting, a shadowy encounter in a parking garage perhaps. But I guess this is how grown-ups do it.

Ingrid has been rather hostile to me in the past, I can't deny it. And her bitchy demeanor has inspired less than kind thoughts in me, so I've returned it to some extent. (Funny how acting like a "bitch" while being a man just makes me look like kind of a dick.) But really, I believe in the goodness in people. That's probably why I stuck with Todd so long, and after a few negative encounters I realized that while I had inherited the baggage, I may not be beholden to it.

So I decided, over the dinner, to pour on the honey. We went out to a nice restaurant, she wore make-up and perfume, which to an ex-gal like myself, sent an obvious message ("I'm gonna make you want me but you can't have me.") Rob's gonna hate me for this, but I was excessively polite to her, conciliatory, agreeable. I admitted wrongdoing that I (Alia) had no stake in. Gave her whatever she wanted, argumentatively, and yet acted aloof, like I was completely unaffected by her charms.

Don't get me wrong. She looked great, and I noticed -- and Rob's body noticed. Maybe women are more in touch with the aesthetic than men are, so when a woman becomes a man, rather than the opposite, I can admit when I find a woman attractive. I can definitely appreciate all the work she put in to her appearance, and from this angle I truly understand the elusive allure of a nice set of breasts. (I was aware how men feel about breasts, and I knew how to emphasize them, yet the true connection between the two escaped me until now. Even now I can't articulate exactly the meaning of their effect.)

As we conversed, I used many of the tricks that had been used (deliberately or not...) on me in the past that got me more interested in a man. I disarmed her with humour, I spoke directly to her, maintaining eye contact whenever possible, and yet I also feigned distraction, let my attention wander non-specifically at crucial moments.

I don't think it was a deliberate attempt on my part to lead her on... maybe subconsciously part of me wanted the power of knowing what I know about women, in this position. Maybe it was a secret, passive-aggressive revenge for her confrontational tendencies. Maybe it was a reaction against her "look at me!" outfit. Before I knew it, we were playing a game, and I was not going to be the first to crack.

And in all that, I actually saw her warmer side, probably what attracted Rob to her in the first place. Once the "ice queen" facade melted (some alcohol involved) she was quite lovely, smart and funny, even.

Maybe I got a little carried away. I felt like she must really feel she knows Rob, because she knew him well enough to know she didn't want to be married to him. Yet by the end of the dinner I must have somehow conjured up the spirit of a younger, pre-married Rob. By the end, she was very cheerful and waxed nostalgic. Specifically, she sighed with a smile, "Oh, Rob... why did things have to change? We used to laugh like this a lot..." joking self-effacingly, "We really did ruin it by getting married."

Trying to disarm a mounting situation, I just shrugged, "I guess things change." She agreed, yet subtly implied that the "old Rob" still existed, and had resurfaced now that the marriage had split up.

Um... whoops?

Maybe it was a little intentional, but in an unconscious Freudian way... that I kind of sort of got her interested in me. By the end of the night, she was saying how much fun she'd had, and that we should try this again... leaving it open.

I played it off, but she was insistent, and has e-mailed me since to re-affirm this. I've consulted Todd, who has been not much help by insisting I go through with it. "Fuck it, it doesn't mean anything, you're not going to fall in love with her and it has nothing to do with the real you. Just go for it."

Thanks, Todd. I love you ,but not everyone was blessed with a detached opinion of sex and relationships as you were. As I well know. A lot of boys would actually be quite against this idea.

Rob, meanwhile, has been equally unhelpful, warning me to stay away from "the bitch," which is a slightly simplistic view to take, so... I'm not sure I can take that route either. She's in my life one way or the other.

But I got home after that meeting, and I just couldn't stop thinking about those looks she had been giving me... those bedroom eyes, that vibe she'd sent out that very clearly into me. Part of me felt guilty that she was attracted to "Rob" under false pretenses, and part of me felt a little... intrigued by that vibe. It's all very confusing.

There's really no easy way around it now. It's gotten to the point where I have to start making decisions that might affect Rob longer than I plan on staying as him. Sure, it wouldn't hurt Rob personally to break off all contact with his ex-wife... but some part of me doesn't sit well with mending fences with this woman and then giving her a new reason to hate me.

Well, I'll be thinking about it... believe me.
-Alia

PS In case you were wondering, the items Ingrid had to return to Rob were a milk crate of vinyl LPs. There's some good stuff in there, like Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Santana, Emerson Lake & Palmer... okay, maybe not that last one.

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