Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Cliff/Tori: Thanksgiving Saga Chapter 1

I don't think I have ever lied on this blog. It's a really bad idea, because if something happens that I can only explain by revealing the truth, it's pointless. I might as well not even write here if I am going to lie to you good people. I want to share my story, and I have, including some parts that I find myself embarrassed to discuss.

The upside is, you don't know me. To you, I am just a bunch of words on a screen, not a person. An idea about a man in a woman's body. I assume you believe me, or are willing to pretend you do, even though if you met me in person, you'd probably think "This woman is crazy." So I have nothing to hide. Not to mention, you have all proven remarkably understanding about what's going on in my life, willing to hear my stories about putting on panties and bras and wondering if I am still the man inside I feel I should be. Through interacting with fellow victims and kind anonymous readers I have felt safe and secure, and reassured that things will go okay. I don't know how people have lived through this Trading Post ordeal without a blog like this one. It has helped me grow comfortable in this skin well beyond what I ever dreamed, in such a short time, when I first got changed (if that sentence makes any sense, please don't judge me, Alia!)

So I want to thank you, by assuring you of my absolute honesty here and hoping it all comes out well. In the past, I'll admit, I have omitted details, but never anything I thought would be important later, and usually I'm right. Thanksgiving was a big story, and I intend not to omit anything I think is important... it may end up being multiple posts. But I want to get as much out of it out there as I can.

It was the kind of vacation you need a whole other vacation to recover from. It started with a long, long, long bus trip, (drive from Philly to Buffalo it's 6 hours, take a bus and it's double that) early Wednesday morning. I decided to bring a couple of Tori's old diaries for reading material. Foolishly, I decided to begin at the beginning, and it's a long story. The first entry is dated to her twelfth birthday, January 30th 1999. I never realized how much older I was than her, until I thought about the fact that at the time she was writing on that page, I was a 17-year-old boy in high school. Not long after that I was in college studying computer sciences, a field that you'll probably understand grows as time has gone on... it put me in an odd nostalgia trip.

As you can imagine, there's very little that a 12-year-old might have to say that has to do with my current life, but I felt it was necessary to browse anyhow. It's full of the necessary prepubescent complaints. Her parents control her life too much, school is boring, her little sister is a pain... little Leah Mae was only six years old in 1999. The girl who just last week was asking whether I thought it was the right time to give up her virginity. Ick.

The handwriting was also scratchy, the spelling bad, the grammar awful, not that I'm holding it against her I'm just saying it made it tough to read. I found myself thumbing over pages that I couldn't decipher, and where nothing seemed to jump out at me. Many of the entries were spare, short summaries of what she did that day or what she was mad about, or how she had fun with her friends.

One helpful commenter on my last post noted that the diaries could be considered an extension of the letter I got when I woke up as Tori, which to a degree is true. It definitely helps me understand her better. But at the same time, the letter was written by a 22-year-old girl, to put her life in a context a stranger might understand. The bare essentials. The diaries were clearly never meant for someone other than Tori to read, and they sometimes make puzzling references (names, places, events that are never explained, but later become slightly more clear.) This is all access, but a lot of it is locked out. As the book goes on, she writes longer entries with more references and explanations that relate to what I'd already read, so I assume that as the books go on I will gain more understanding as my frame of reference builds.

I guess if my original intention was to learn specifically about sex, 12 was definitely the wrong place to start, and as you can tell there's more at work here. Learning more about how Tori talks to herself has helped me learn about her as a person. There are times when she seems very analytical, like me, and she was still only 12. Other times, she's just gossipy.

I arrived in Buffalo after dinner. Willy had told me he'd be busy and unable to meet until a bit later than that, so I arranged to meet with him at a favourite bar of mine and Justin's.

The commenter also mentioned a parallel with something the original Ashlyn/Jean-Michel had done, which I'll admit was partly my inspiration. I was eager to see my old friends, my family. Willy and I had cooked up a none-too-original (and slightly unbelievable, if you know me) cover story, where I was a girl "Cliff" had met online, and we hit it off, and I had agreed to meet him in person. The unbelievable part is that I could never envision myself hitting it off with a girl like Tori... girls like Tori don't tend to be interested in guys like J.H. Clifford, and to be honest I had written girls like her off as not being my type, personality-wise (not that I wouldn't have stared impotently if she came into the bar.) But I figured, we have Inn-magic on our side, people will believe whatever we say.

I arrived at the bar and didn't see Willy there, so I took a seat at the bar. About halfway through my first beer, Justin arrived. I pretended not to notice him, because I didn't want to act like I knew him without Willy around so we could keep things straight. But he sat next to me anyway and ordered a draft. I kept my eyes forward and drank up.

"Excuse me," he said. I didn't move. "Miss?" I looked over. He had this odd smile on his face. "You're drinking awfully fast, I just thought I'd point that out."

"Oh, um," I blushed, oddly embarrassed, "I'm just nervous about something. and I like my drink."

"I can see that," he joked, "Why don't you let me get you another one?"

"No, it's okay," I was off-put, "I'm just waiting for someone."

He smiled at me and said "Well if they don't show up, feel free to have a drink with me. I'm Justin."

Reluctantly, I shook his hand "Tori." It suddenly because very obvious that Justin was coming onto me.

Full disclosure: I've had guys look at me with desire quite a bit since I've been female. There are days it makes me feel nice, there are days it makes me feel absolutely shitty, depending on how I feel about my body/my mind that day, and who's doing the looking. By and large I am able to ignore it, and when a guy seems like he is about to proposition me I've got the art of polite rejection down.

But this is my friend. He's supposed to know me. I know all about the Inn magic, but part of me wishes that the fact that we've known each other for over a decade meant he was able to see past my long hair and nice breasts and realize he was talking to his best friend. And hopefully that would stop him. This not to mention the fact that he's dating a really great girl, Randi.

Then just as things were about to get super-awkward for me, in came a shockingly familiar face -- my own. I never thought of myself as a particularly tall guy, but my real body is head and shoulders above the 5'5 Tori (I am on break from heels.) He bounded in with confidence. "There you are! Justin, I see you've met Tori."

He spoke with such zeal, so boldly, so friendly to Justin you'd think they really had been friends all their lives. When I spoke to Willy on the phone he had a rather British accent, but I could tell he was putting on an "American" one that made him sound like the guy from House (who is British) and doesn't sound local to Buffalo at all. But I guess that's one of those things people don't think about.

They looked at each other and laughed, and I was deeply embarrassed to find out that Justin hadn't been hitting on me at all, they'd set the thing up as a joke. Randi came in after that and we got a booth.

Obviously, I was the object of conversational interest. They asked me all sorts of questions, things I expected to answer, my likes/dislikes, my background, stuff I could handle. My mission was to seem like "Cliff's" perfect girl, someone who shared his interests and understood him as a person. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but it was really amazing to play that role (only later did I get sad when I thought about the fact that such a girl may not exist in real life.)

By the end of the night, we had made plans to meet up again the next night after our family thanksgiving dinners, and then brave the Walden Galleria on Black Friday. Justin seemed suitably impressed (despite my just-off-the-buss look) and Randi seemed like she had found a new girl-friend... which is sad, because I will not be in her life for long, will I... as Cliff drove me home in my own car (I had wanted to drive but was definitely not sober, I hadn't seen him take a drink all night) we talked about what a success we had been, what a "smashing" couple we made, as he reverted to his more natural accent.

I made fun of his American accent. "Wot, d'ye not like it?" he asked, "I been practicin' for months, you should'a heard me when a'first got out here. I'da thought the accent changes with the body, but no. People was lookin' at me like I's an alien back in August, and now listen!" He switched to American "My name is Cliff, it's nice to meet you. Let's watch the Bills this Sunday."

I laughed at his antics. He's a very funny guy, very charismatic. he told me he learned accents because he used to act a bit, but never really had to polish up his American. I guess considering that, he's pretty good, seeing as how bad my British accent is. And that's having spent a lifetime watching Monty Python...

We got back to my apartment - Cliff's apartment - and I walked around, taking note of all the things he'd moved, and all the things he'd kept the same. "I'm gonna make a pot of tea, you want some?" Sure. We spent the evening talking, late into the night, just talking, him about England, me answering his questions about who John Henry Clifford really is... it's sad to realize there are things I don't even know about myself.

Around 2 AM, we were on the couch and I was drifting off, but a thought occurred to me, so I told him, "If you want... you can tell them we did it. I mean, that's what they think I'm here for. It'll make you look cool, and I don't mind..."

"Now, that wouldn't be very gentlemanly," he sighed, "I don't intend on tellin' them anything that didn't actually happen. I respect yer virtue too much."

He smiled, I laughed. "Well, that's nothing they haven't heard before... Cliff can't close the deal."

"You're all right, Cliff. You're a sharp guh--" I could tell he was gonna say "girl" but stopped himself and changed it halfway to "guy."

"Well, I'd better get to bed..." I said, "Thanksgiving is a pretty exhausting day even if you're well-rested."

"I have to admit I'm a wee bit excited to see exactly what the fuss is about. We haven't anything like it back home, from what I seen on the telly."

I laughed again, still slightly inebriated, "Haha, the telly. If my dad heard the way you talk... oh, brother."

He ushered me into my room even after I offered to take the couch. "Now now, we won't be having that," he insisted, "I am only a guest in yer body, and I insist on treating you fairly."

I changed into my pajamas and slung my bra over the side of the bed, taking a moment to take in how foreign the image of women's clothes in my room really looked. not only that, but being undressed, letting my breasts see the air, in a room that was once my private sanctum, felt more scandalous than it should have. This used to be my place, but now I really did feel like an outsider.

I noticed the lingering body odor of Cliff on the pillows and sheets. The strangeness of it, nothing I would have noticed when I was me... I fell asleep nestled deep in the mattress trench made by my old body.

More to come


Anonymous said...

Tori's letter gave you instructions on how to go through the motions of living Tori's life. Her diaries give you insights into how she thinks and feels and supplies details on some of the things she saw, heard, and experienced in her past, all of which will make it easier to ACT like Tori.

Willy spoke of acting experience... for victims of the inn, this is the ultimate exercise in acting. Every time you are in the presence of others you are "on stage", with the task of acting like Tori to a sufficient degree that no one knows the difference. Sure, you're getting an assist from the inn's magic, but as Dex/Kayla proved, it is possible to act "out of character" enough for acquaintances to notice the sudden change in behavior and be alarmed by it, even if they don't believe the truth. So, what the diaries do is help paint a picture of Tori's personality, values, and experiences, which serves to help you get more "into character" as Tori when dealing with her acquaintances.

Cliff/Tori said...

True! That's how I started thinking about it... but worded better!