Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alia/Rob: Everything breaks

Elaine Benes was right, in that episode of Seinfeld, when she said that a man's body is utilitarian - it's built for getting around. Even the skinny indie boys I like to date (HI TODD!) represent that to some degree. Heh, there's nothing elegant or traditionally beautiful about Todd's physique. He's thin, a little gangly. That's how I like my men. Imperfect in their perfect way.

A man's body is uncomplicated. You let the body hair grow, you get a little bit of a gut, your shoulders slump, it doesn't seriously affect the attractiveness, as long as the man has the right attitude. At least, that's my take on it. The sad thing about the way our culture has developed is that a woman's personality is often tied to her perceived beauty. If she knows she's hot from an early age, she'll act like it, and that'll make her a bitch. If she grows up not perceiving that she's attractive, she definitely won't act like she is (this is how I grew up, and I'm still not certain how I feel about my real body.) And then you get the worst ones, the girls who think they're hot, but aren't, and still act like they are. Aside from your boyband-type Jersey Shore-esque pretty boys, most guys don't think about that stuff a hundredth the amount of time a girl does in her lifetime.

That's not to say the male body doesn't have its problems. Oh sure, I don't mind being free of my monthly visitation; as proud as I was to bear that burden, it's a relief knowing that there's nothing going to be leaking out of my body each month, from a practical standpoint. I will add, however, that men who have never menstruated (which is most, but I suppose not all, in a world with the Inn Curse) don't know what they're missing, for better or worse.

But I have a really nasty habit of crossing my legs in the feminine manner. You'd think I should have adapted by now, but there are things you're just not conscious of until you realize you've held your legs in a clamplike position too long and bruised your balls. Yes, that happened. I limped around the school for days.

If you're wondering where I've been for the last month, well... I've been right here in Philadelphia, enjoying this decidedly un-Canadian winter (which isn't fair, since the report from Todd is that their winter has been mild due to El Nino. Sorry I've missed it.) I haven't been up to much. The Winter Break was uneventful, I sent small trinkets to Rob's family in the southwest, on his consultation, although he wasn't helpful (not much of a gift-giver, that one.) I stayed at home and wondered if maybe I should blog, but it occurred to me I was simply not doing anything worth blogging about. "Dear Internet, avoided catching penis in front of jeans, craving burrito." Okay, that's mildly racist, but in my defense, I love burritos as Alia too, so... there.

Oh, there was also Secret Santa. I did end up getting Don those Phillies tickets. He was very glad to get them, too. The theme of the event was partially "How 'bout them Phillies," since this was, like, right after they signed Halladay, making all the guys around the school very, very excited about their team's chances. The mood was, erm, somewhat bittersweet for me, as I am not much of a baseball fan, but I understand how devastated my hometown is by this little maneuver. But I have to play along with Phillie Fever.

I myself received a gift card and a pair of boxer shorts. Apparently the look on my face when I discovered the underpants was memorable. Cathy, my other work-friend, admitted she was the one who had picked them out for me. Without thinking how it might sound, I casually remarked, "Well, thanks for thinking about my crotch." and we laughed a little bit, but she seemed somewhat embarrassed.

Sigh. I don't know how it is with her. She jokes around a lot, but I think her unsuccessful personal life is starting to get to her, and more to the point, I'm worried she may have a bit of a thing for ole Roberto. I've been spending a lot of time with her, and I do like her company, but not... you know, that way. We carpool, because I got tired to driving Rob's car to the mechanic to get it serviced - it's pretty shot. I don't know what's wrong with it, I'm just a stupid girl who doesn't know about cars.

I theorized on these topics a few weekends ago when Cliff had come over. I don't see her as often as I feel I should, but that's partly the fault of circumstance. I work all the day and she works in the evening and she hangs out with people who are more in line with her social scene. I don't even have a social scene. Rob's social scene consists primarily of dodging drunk calls from Ingrid, Rob's ex-wife, on New Year's eve.

Though we've been in contact over MSN, I hadn't seen Cliff in months, but I called her over because one day, my computer just stopped working, and of course, in a past life, she was in computer tech.

It was a few days after I asked her that she came by, because she had to go buy a toolkit and other materials that were right at hand in her original life. I thought, if I could save a few bucks off Rob's bank account by getting his computer fixed for free, then great. I offered to contribute to the tools and such, but she said it was no bother.

She came over to the house and wet to work, perky as could be. When I had last seen her, she was morose and very uncertain in her mannerisms and her way of dressing. She was still a man trapped in a woman's body. And now? Now I guess she's a man playing a woman, not fighting it, just being. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's because she finally took to playing with herself. Maybe it's because we made reservations at the Inn this month. Maybe it's because she felt so at home working on the PC.

Like Rob's car and PC, Cliff's frustration at her predicament has broken. It's not a defeat -- being happy with who you are is never defeat (unless you're happy being a skinhead neo-Nazi or something.) Acceptance of one's situation, I think, is a victory, because until July there's nothing she can do about the contents of her panties. It was the first time I ever saw her smile.

She told me, after working on the computer for a couple of hours, that there was nothing she could do, not with the resources available, and definitely not on the cheap. So I had to get a new computer, which is what I'm using to type this to you.

"So I read about Crystal. That's messed up, someone doing that with your body?" We were drinking tea and eating cookies. "I can relate."

I shrugged, "As revolted as I am by the idea that Bryan now knows what I look like naked... it's got its benefits. Like he said, it's better him than some stranger, better someone who knows Crystal, who won't tempt her into staying. Todd's taking it a little harder than I am, because I'm down here and there's nothing I can do about it. I think Todd's disappointed that he wasn't nominated for the role of 'Guy who has sex with Crystal.' I think everyone just thinks about sex too much."

"Too much?" she scoffed, "Is that possible?"

"Sure."

"Alia, when I met you, I was a 29-year-old male virgin. I think I've earned the right to some frustration."

"Sure, and now you're a 22-year-old female virgin."

"Tori's not a virgin."

"No, but you are. And if I were you, I'd be tempted to stay that way. I don't think sexual exploration is a good idea for people like us. Todd was one thing, he had a relationship. But going out and finding someone to have sex with? Forming that kind of relationship, even when you intend to leave the body? Hell, especially when you intend to leave the body, is unfair." I was preaching maybe, but I was really just trying to make sense of my own thoughts. I was telling her about Cathy, and how certain I was that both she and Ingrid wanted Rob at least a little bit, and how I was attracted to them, but unwilling to pursue due to the complication.

"What, you've never heard of meaningless sex?" she asks.

"Of course I have. Didn't I tell you about Sean Flaherty? Oftentimes, so-called meaningless sex is more complicated than relationship sex."

"So if Cathy came to you and said, Rob, I don't want anything except meaningless sex, you wouldn't go for it?"

"No, because I know, or at least I think, I'm getting my life back, but that leaves Rob to deal with the open thread of Cathy."

"He might like Cathy."

"He might also hate Cathy. I already hate the fact that I've made as much of an impact on her as I have. He really hates his ex-wife, and she's kind of a bitch so I get it, but she's hot, so I get that, too."

She says, "That brings me to my next question." She looks straight at me and asks, "Would you... do... me?"

My eyes bulged out a little bit. I'm not going to lie, the possibility had occurred to me. Why should it be so strange? we're both in a weird situation, we both know each other, and Rob and Tori had had that association previously (and undoubtedly at some point in their current lives.)

I had already made up my mind on the subject, too, but before answering, I asked, "Is that something you'd want?"

She just said, "I don't know."

"Well, I definitely wouldn't want to be with someone who didn't know if she wanted it."

She starts to get really talkative. "Look, don't judge me, okay? I don't know what I want. I want to be back in my own body, but I'm not, and I want to be with someone. I don't think I'm a lesbian, or bi, or anything. Something is just keeping me from feeling the way about my female friends as I did about Willy when I went to Buffalo. I liked that feeling, it reminded me of the last time I was in love with a girl, which was too long ago, it reminded me of the feeling of meeting a girl and wanting to get to know her, except it was a guy, and the guy looked like me. I've never felt that comfortable with anyone, and I want to keep it, and part of that is, I want sex." She takes a breath, "And I'm embarrassed, so fucking embarrassed to try putting myself out there, because I'm scared of who or what I might wind up with, I thought I'd ask."

She continued, "And I thought, because we're in the same situation, kind of, because we're both not used to all this, maybe it would be worth a shot. Just to get it out of our systems, just to have someone to do it with, someone who understands what we really are. And then when it's all over, I go back to being Cliff and you go back to being Alia."

"I don't think you need the extra baggage."

She mutters, half-snorts, "You don't know what I need."

Things got real quiet.

"I just don't think it's healthy," I sighed, "I wouldn't feel right putting you through that."

"Even if I want it?"

"Even if you think you want it, you don't know until afterward, if anything's changed."

She looked sadly at me. She sighed, "We're having one of those blog post moments, aren't we?"

"Yeah," I said. When she never got around to posting about it, I asked if I could. So I did.

I like the way Cliff acts nowadays. She seems to be taking it in stride, and really getting into it. That said, there are doors that, once opened, can never be closed. Todd may say otherwise, but I think he agrees that sex is never just sex, especially for our kind. Todd was left with a lot of bitterness over the way Hal overdid their sexual relationship, but rarely mentions it because he thinks there's something feminine about complaining about sex -- totally not true, since the dirty little secret is that girls want sex too. We just often want it to mean something, because the feelings it leaves us with are often more... intense.

That said, I told her, it's more practical than letting her try to find her way out there. I didn't say I'd go through with it, but I did say that anytime she wanted to talk, I was here.

That's all.

-Alia/Rob

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cliff/Tori: Needs and wants

Early January, as I guess readers of this blog know, means the Inn starts taking reservations.

There was something so pulse-pounding about calling in and confirming my dates. Following Todd's advice, Alia and I have been in contact with Crystal and Willy, respectively. Willy has been so good and reassuring. Alia, as you can guess from Todd's last post, has some issues with Crystal, but they are cordial to one another. As the one of the group who works evenings rather than days, I was elected to make the call and book the block -- three sessions in the same two rooms. Greg was right about the chain links being so hard to organize, but somehow, it looks like we are going to make it.

I asked Tori about the original Costases. Apparently they have not been as good about keeping contact though, and I guess the Costases will not be able to take advantage of this situation, which is unfortunate. About Willy and Crystal's original bodies, I also have no idea. It's all I can do to focus on the people on either side of me.

As much as my credit card was reamed by the booking fees -- some paid in advance, others owe me (or Tori) some considerable cash -- when I hung up after confirming the dates (late July for yours truly) I wanted to scream with delight. I haven't imagined myself in my own body in weeks, but suddenly it's all I could think about. And suddenly all the unbearable stuff about Tori's life, Tori's body, Tori's identity, it's just something I have to wait out. I'm getting out. It's really happening. I hope.

Which kind of makes me feel a bit insecure about how I behaved over the holidays.

On New Year's Eve I was deep in Tori mode. I go through these phases where I allow my body, my current identity, to completely overrule my male instincts and thought patterns. It's been that way practically since I started being this way, but it's really been driving me nuts since Thanksgiving. It's not like I'm pretending to be something I'm not. I'm a girl, and I'm being more and more aware of what that means, trying to understand and accept the needs that go along with that.

When she was 15, Tori described, in her diaries, this intense desire to be with her friend Danny. Hell, the passion, the detail she ascribes to it comes so close to the brink of pornographic as she imagines herself messing around with him. I've behaved myself so far. I'm a responsible person, I think.

It's not fair that I don't feel as attracted to women as I used to. How did that happen? Is it because they're not acting like I should be? They act so different around me; their boobs and faces and bodies are all like I remember, but there is zero sexual tension there. I remember being pushed down against my bed in Buffalo, Willy in my body running my hands up my legs, my hands coming so close to that piece of my body I've known so well. There's nothing wrong with being a girl who wants to have a piece of a guy, right? Todd, help me out here, if you're reading.

Since I had no date, and have been outspoken about my "celibacy," I was the designated driver for Raine, Sara and Thom. We met up with Cyndi and her boyfriend Leo at a pub, a big bash there. Raine immediately goes off to work her feminine wiles. Sara and Thom split a pitcher and are all over each other by the time they order a second. Cyndi and Leo are more civil.

I was left to my own devices, saved from wallflower status only by the fact that I am a pretty girl who appears unattached in a bar. If only there was something about me as Cliff that was attractive to women as Tori's breasts are to men. That was a complicated sentence, but I think you know what I mean.

That may be the problem with boobs (I mean, now that I am used to having them and the way my clothes stretch over them and wearing a bra.) They may not be the biggest, but they're so well shaped and my cleavage was looking so good. Guys love them; I do too. I've gotten used to the eerie feeling of not being looked in the eye when men talk to me. But they don't come with a sign that says "No Jerks Allowed."

Worse yet, I haven't learned, the way some girls do, how to judge the jerks from the non-jerks right off. Some guy comes up to me and offers me a drink and I'm just like "Hey, he can't be that bad," even though I'm not drinking. And I waste the better part of an hour while this guy tells me about his car. and I know that I'm really a guy, but I'm not a car guy, and do any girls want to hear about a guy's car? And he's really glommed onto me and I don't know how to get away. I don't have the skills for this, and he smells like body spray. After a while of this, he floats the idea of sharing a midnight kiss, (with obvious implications beyond that) and Ican feel my stomach turn.

By the time he starts trying to get handsy, I'm about ready to punch him out, except I can't, I'm just cowering. Luckily, Raine somehow spotted my predicament and pulled me away to the ladies room.

"Dude, what the hell is going on with that guy?" she asked me.

"I don't know, I couldn't get away from him."

"Since when have you had a problem ditching losers? God, it's like you've totally lost your shit."

"I did lose my shit, Raine."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

I facepalm. I wanted to admit all my fakeness at this point, "I'm just... horny, and it's messing with my head."

"Well, you should've warned me. It's not safe to go out there without a game plan."

It's sad. All this scheming and conniving to get away from guys is exactly the kind of thing I hated when I was on the other side. I was the loser, I was the guy women needed to get away from. I never felt like I was getting a fair shake. But this only occurred to me afterward. At the time I was really gung ho to kick the loser to the curb.

We started dancing together to put on a show for all the horny males in the room, to intimidate them. It wasn't that long ago that when I danced I looked like a total spastic, limbs flailing in all directions. I think I've gotten a little better, or at least I don't care so much now... I know a bit more about how to work it. If you know I'm still an awkward white guy, you could still see it, but it's an improvement, and when a girl's got a little jiggle, they'll forgive it.

Then after a while of sweaty grinding, the sound cut out and the countdown began. The loser was nowhere in sight, and then somehow, maybe because she was drunk and uninhibited, Raine pulled me in and gave me a kiss (grabbing my boob for good measure.)

Well what could I do? I was all hot from the dancing and the atmosphere of the room, and generally confused anyway, so I went with it. It lasted a bit longer than it probably should have. It was a real Katy Perry moment.

And then the music starts off and she resumes her flirting with guys, ignoring me for the rest of the night, like none of it ever happened.

For the rest of the night, I was hanging out with Leo and Cyndi, who have the courtesy to refrain from pawing each other the way Sara and Thom do in public.

I didn't have the energy to go back to the dancefloor much after that, collecting up my friends around 1:30 for a relatively early ride home. Raine had found herself a guy, as per usual, so we left her. The whole way, drunk-Cyndi was verbally abusing me and Leo, which he apologized profusely for. "She gets like this." No wonder they weren't so hot and heavy at the party.

When I got home, I flopped down on the bed. I was on the brink of tears once again. I could feel my eyes watering. What a way to end 2009. There are times when I think how amazing this experience is, but as often as not it's a pain in the ass. What was I thinking? I'm not a hook-up kind of person, even in this body.

"Get ahold of yourself, Tori," I told myself... don't ask why but I find it far too awkward to refer to myself as "Cliff" even in my private moments. Cliff doesn't have long hair, doesn't have beautiful eyes, doesn't have nice tits.

I slowly peeled my shirts off. Let my jeans fall to the floor. Reaching back with one hand, I unclasped my bra, letting it fall away. I lay on my bed, letting my breasts flop upward. I rested my right hand on my left breast and began to massage and slid my left hand into my panties. I've been thinking about this for a while and it's only out of fear and awkwardness (I live in a house full of strangers who are relatives) and had to figure out on the spot where to touch, where to put my fingers, how deep to go. How fast I wanted to do it. A feeling of warmth, of excitement flushed through my body with my two hands working in rhythm... God, it was like nothing else. I wanted to scream out, but all that I could manage was a quiet, high-pitched squeal, and then... then I stopped.

I just sat up and started laughing. My sheets were damp; I needed to set them aside for laundry and get fresh ones set after cleaning off. But like I said, at that moment, I was just laughing at myself. So caught up, so carefree. Oh, God. What a moment.

Laughter gave way to embarrassment and a whole host of other mixed emotions because I couldn't help but feel like somewhere, somebody knew what I was up to. And now you all do.

It's good, though. Real good. I've got a whole seven months of it left, if I want.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Greg/Priya: Catching up on a snow day

So despite the fact that its been a week since snow covered most of the midwest, today is the first day that Adlai Stevenson Elementary has canceled school. It wanst really because of the snow, its because of a busted water main, but the same rules as a snow day apply so they sent the snow day email out to all the teachers.

This of course finally gives me some time to blog. You think having a two week vacation would give you more time to sit around and write about how you're feeling in your new body, but quite the opposite was true.

Vacation began, as I mentioned in my last post, with a snowboarding trip to Colorado with some other teachers. It was two guys and 4 girls. There was Rachel and Steve, who are married (Met at the school), Anne and Ron, who were dating, and Simone and myself, who were the 5th and 6th wheels and would be sharing a room.

Simone is a 6th grade teacher who I had barely spoken to this year, and was only a casual acquaintance of Priya's. She was actually pretty cool but not much of a snowboarder. Neither was Priya, so the plan was for the two of them to hang out on the Bunny Slopes while the more experienced snowboarders ran the more challenging slopes.

This turned out to be pretty boring for me because as Greg, I was a pretty good snowboarder, and thats hard to do growing up in Illinois where there are no hills. It took me a couple times down the mountain to figure out my balance in a new body and lower center of gravity, but after I got accustomed to that, technique took over and I was fine, much to Simone's surprise. I didnt abandon her though, and actually gave her some tips, saying I had been watching snowboarding videos on youtube for help.

At night we all met up and went to some of the local bars, and I once again discovered what happens to school teachers when you get them out of the classroom and into the world, especially 800 miles away,...they go wild. Like, college freshmen wild. I think it comes from having to spend 8 hours a day being a role model and responsibility in the life of children. Sorta like being a parent, except you get paid and your shift ends at 3.

Simone especially went wild.She didnt get very drunk, but she sure wanted to attract a lot of male attention. She wound up taking a guy back to our room, and I had to sleep in the lobby. Which wasnt very nice of her, but in my past life I prided myself on being a great wing man,and wasnt about to cockblock Simone. She thanked me the next morning, explaining that it had been a while for her and she owes me one. Women are so much more sexually assertive than I gave them credit for. At least some women. Might be a generational thing.

We got back from Colorado on the 23rd, so that everyone could spend Christmas eve with their families. However, when I called Priya's mom asking what time I should come over tomorrow she asked me what for, and then it dawned on me. Christmas, for all its commercialism, is a Christian holiday, and Priya's family isnt Christian. And they didnt celebrate Christmas.

This made me sad and philosophical at the same time. There is nothing like being cursed into the body of a totally different person to make you question your understanding of God and religion. Theology aside, I was missing out on one of my favorite holidays. I wound up buying a little fake tree and putting it in the apartment, just as kind of a reminder of who I was inside. I wound up spending much of the 25th texting Amber and hearing about her Holiday with Dee and my parents. Really made me miss her despite seeing her every day.

New Years was less depressing since its nondenominational and I was going to a party at a friends house. At least she was supposed to be a friend, id never met her before, but she knew Amber and vicariously knew Priya. It wasnt the first time id been to a party where people knew me but i didnt know them, so I managed pretty well, that was until I ran into someone I knew from just my Priya-life.

It was Will the pharmacist who Amber had set me up on an ambush date back in September. He had called me back but I never really responded with interest and he seemed to take the hint. (Amber took the hint to, since she hadnt set me up on anymore dates). He was there by himself, also a friend of the hostess. We actually talked for most of the night. We actually liked a lot of the same things so it was pretty enjoyable, until midnight.

At the stroke of 2010, Will kissed me. I was too shocked/buzzed to pull away and its not like he did anything that bad, but it still spooked me. He picked up on this and apologized and said maybe he'd call me sometime. I nodded nervously. I couldnt exactly say "sorry Will, but this girl you have so much in common with is gonna be an entirely different person in 6 months so that might put a strain on any relationship"

That also gives me a good segue in to the real reason Im writing today. Tomorrow is the opening of Inn reservations! Ive never been so excited for a day in January before, but Im all set. We found a break in our chain, but its much sadder than previous ones. About 4 "links" back, someone was transformed into the body of a 73 year old man, who died of a heart attack in his sleep. I dont know much about that person, only that its a true tragedy and probably caused a lot of anguish for the person who became him as well as the man he became. Its causing me to be extra careful and drive very slowly for the next few months.

Stay save everyone

-Greg

Friday, January 08, 2010

Todd: Mysteries part 3 -- Nothing's ever done

There are a few reasons I found it easy to be attracted to Ginessa. One, she's hot. I have a thing for exotic-looking women; if you'd ever met Alia, you'd understand. Two, we come from the same world, sort of. We understand a lot about each other on a sort-of intuitive level that is difficult to explain. Inn folk, even when they disagree, have a sort of mutual respect, at least the ones I've met. Lastly, she just seems comfortable being herself, whatever that's supposed to mean. She's very at ease in her skin, not a prim and proper lady, but one who knows how to command a situation if she wants to.

The first time we met, and often in our letters, it felt like Inn stuff was off the table for her, conversationally. In a kind of "methinks the lady protests too much" way, she wanted none of it. Once she got the sense that I was not a judgmental guy, though, I think she eased up on it. I think a lot of it is her defensiveness from being friends with Darren/Jamie, which apparently wasn't always an easy thing to handle ("I can't say too much about her, but she's getting better.")

"I just find it amazing," she told me over beers at my place, "I met you, and you were this woman, and here you are, looking completely different... I have a hard time believing it, but you're so much like I remember. It's more than a little weird."

"Having Bry around sometimes, and the blog, helped me keep track of myself."

"Can I be honest?" she says, "I'm so glad I didn't keep up on the blog. One, I'm not a writer. Two, it feels like I would've just spent the whole time beating myself up over it. Maybe I gave in early, but I'm happy, and I have been for a long time. Well, I'm not always happy, but it has nothing to do with my body."

Eventually, the way conversations go off in tangents, we began to reminisce about the moments we decided to first have sex in a female body. I told her I felt like the Universe was conspiring against me. Hal was getting his vasectomy, Anne-Marie was on my case about it, I was horny as hell. So many different signals seemed to be pointing me in the same direction. She laughed at that one, "Yeah, I know the feeling."

I asked her about her first time. She glossed over the details. I get the sense she doesn't really like talking about it. "It was a mistake. I should have waited. I mean, it was way, way too early. I was not nearly ready for it, and I barely knew the guy." It was not her husband, but it was the only other guy she had sex with. She paused a moment and smirked, "I remember when he whipped out his cock, my eyes popped out of my head, like You want me to do what? And now, heh." 'Nuff said.

We ended up going out for New Year's to a house party at a friend of Bry's and I. I watched from afar as Crystal/Alia was being chatted up by a couple of guys, trying to suppress my overprotective urges. We've had talks, and I should trust her, but I didn't. Something about her just seemed untrustworthy. And all night people kept pointing her out to me and asking if it was awkward to be around her now that "we were done." I told them nothing's ever done.

At the party, I made like Ginny was my date. She was more of a life preserver. There was a very, very attractive girl who seemed interested in me. I told her I was taken and she said it could just be our little secret. Cue Ginny, playing like she was my woman, a jealous type ready to choke a bitch getting too close to me. Bry sat morosely in the corner, and spent a lot more time talking to Crystal/Alia than I did.

At midnight, I kissed Ginny, a polite, lips-sealed grade-school type kiss. Then she got drunk and developed the amusing habit of slapping asses. Also at the party were Erica LaFleur and Sean Flaherty, but Sean has made it clear he doesn't want anything to do with me. Eric was polite enough to acknowledge me at the snack table, which is the least she could do since I impregnated her and all.

Ginny and I left early. The next morning, though, she was waiting for me in the kitchen while Bry was still conked out.

"What's up?" I asked.

With the uncertainty of a woman with a minor hangover and some bad news to tell, she said, "Listen, Todd, I wouldn't be a very good friend if I didn't tell you this, but you know how you were saying Bry had a girlfriend he wasn't introducing you to?"

"Yeah." Two posts ago, but really I'd written it sometime earlier, I wrote 'He's seeing someone, although our hours don't sync up to the point where I've met her yet.'

"Well, I saw her last night. Todd, it's Alia. I mean, Crystal."

What.

"I was trying to get to sleep. They came in at about 4, all over each other. I didn't look, but I heard their voices very clearly."

I sunk into the couch. For a while I didn't know what to say. So I asked, "Is she still here?"

"No, she left early this morning."

Hot with rage, I pounded on Bry's door, something that is strictly an emergency measure. Through the door he cursed me out before relenting and opening. When I saw his face, I didn't have any time to be subtle. I growled, "You're fucking Crystal."

He stopped in his tracks and sputtered, "Buh, wha? What makes you say that?" which is exactly what he says when he's called on his bullshit.

"Ginny saw you two last night." I looked over at her for confirmation, and she glanced away, trying to remove herself from the conflict.

Bry tried to wriggle out of it for a while, stammering things like "Is that all the proof you've got? You don't know the whole story, that's not what it is at all," before finally admitting "Well, okay, so we're... whatever. So what?"

"So what? So what?!" I'm flipping out, "You're fucking her! Do I need to spell it out for you?" I ranted and raved about boundaries and respect and all this other self-righteous stuff.

I couldn't believe Bry didn't see what was wrong with this. But he let me keep going, and when I was out of breath, he put his hands on his head like Dr. Cox, and asked if I was through. I'd thought I'd made my point pretty sufficiently, so I wanted to head what he had to say for himself.

So he says, "She's not Alia, you know."

Pause. I tell him, yeah, I know that.

"So what's the problem? You don't own her. She's not your girlfriend. She's a stranger to you. You've barely spoken to her. She thinks you hate her."

"I don't hate her," I objected.

"Well, I know, but that's what she thinks. We've gotten to know each other. She likes me. I like her. Things happen."

"You crossed a line here," I tell him.

"This is beyond your control, Todd. This is just like with Erica and Sean. That has nothing to do with you, and neither does this. She can be with anyone she wants. And you're lucky -- for fuck's sake, you are damn lucky she chose me and not, like, some stranger who doesn't know the truth. She trusts me."

"And what happens if she gets attached to you, when we have to send her away to Maine, and she doesn't want to go?"

"That's not gonna happen."

"How can you be sure?"

"Because she cares about me, Todd. Because she knows I want to help you get Alia back, and she wouldn't betray me that way. We're all on the same side here. Don't act like I'm betraying you here. It's the opposite."

I was suddenly feeling very overwhelmed. I can't remember the last time I'd felt so "put in my place."

I never thought of myself as someone who needed to control things, but my frustration at the Erica-Sean thing seems like part of this. The universe seems so big and unyielding, I want things I can command, but there's so much beyond me. It doesn't do wonders for my ego.

So I ask him, "Does Alia know about this?" He says no, he wanted to tell me first, because he know she'd end up telling me. We ended up telling her later that day. Her feelings were... mixed, to say the least. She has plenty going on in Rob's life, and she's not terribly comfortable with the idea of Bryan coupling with her body, but... well, you have to admit there's something in Bryan's logic. Whether this was something he came up with before or after his pants were off, I don't know.

It was on the 3rd of January that Ginessa headed home. The weather took a sudden turn for the colder in the New Year and Ginny took that as a sign that it was time to head home.

There's something very appealing about Ginny's life. It's not the one she was born with, but it's hers. She told me that when she was preparing to marry Gavin, she was still an ex-man doing what she had to do to survive, living in temporary solutions. It was afterward that comfort and security came, and something she calls love, when she really stopped being Mark and became Ginessa. For better or worse, she has her life, she makes decisions for herself, she is pretty much in control and doesn't rely on anything supernatural to provide for her. I hope to get back to that place as soon as I can.

But it's a long way away yet, and like I said... sometimes it feels like nothing's ever done. Maybe Ginessa proves that wrong. But I know nothing's done for me, yet.

-Todd

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Todd: Mysteries part 2

How chaotic my life is that an entry I started trying to write on the 2nd didn't get posted until the 5th, and now here I am on the 7th trying to remember what happened in between.

Ginny had checked into a motel. What kind of fight she must've had with her husband that led to her wanting to make an impromptu trip north she didn't really explain, except that it was about whether or not to have kids, and that obviously it was a big deal. I helped her bring her stuff over to my place and let her crash on my couch. I forgot what it was like to have a female under your roof. I've missed it.

Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to have kids. I woke up one morning in a body that already had them. I hated it for a long time, resented the lack of control I had over my life, or what I thought should be my life. This was made easier to deal with by the fact that I did have a lot of time to myself, but I didn't have anything to do during that time except watch TV, eat and masturbate read. The rest of the time my life was controlled by the demands of the kids and husband I'd acquired, and all the little needs that went along with them. I can't believe how much I left out of this blog. A commenter noted that I seemed a lot happier when I was Anne-Marie. I think I didn't complain too much (and therefore barely spoke about it, because if I had believe me it'd be to complain) because part of me believed I deserved whatever misery I'd gotten. And part of me still believes that, because I've been a shitty boyfriend and a lazy human being. The truth is, I'm probably not those things, but far be it from me to realize that.

I probably seemed happier because I was complacent, glad to go along with whatever I had to deal with because I believed (rightly) that sooner or later it'd be over. If I woke up one day and learned that my chance to go back to the Inn was gone, I probably would've flipped my shit like nobody's business. I'm only unhappy now because of who is not in my life, in case I haven't made that clear. I think I have. I remember one time trying to corral Hayley and Connor into the car for a family gathering but Connor was playing Little Big Planet incessantly and I really lost my cool, yelling at him like some bitchy mom. Once I calmed down I freaked out privately about how out of control the whole situation had gotten, how it was affecting my behaviour. All it was was trying to get "my" kids into the car to go see family members that I don't even care about for reasons I didn't want. And somehow I was still capable of getting that irritated that easily. That's the kind of shit I didn't write about. Maybe I should have. This blog would feel a lot more complete.

I didn't, and don't, believe that the Inn affects the way one feels about things, behaves, thinks, acts, at least not in any magical way. Having lived through it, I certainly believed I was still in control of my every thought and desire, I was still the one making decisions. I only behaved differently because I was in a situation that necessitated a different type of behaviour. We know that the curse make a man into a woman physically; I believe that it's the situation that makes a man into a woman mentally. Bryan didn't want to be a girl acting girly and dating boys, so he became a tomboy who dated a girl. I wasn't going to go around finding lesbians who would want to bang a middle-aged mom, so I took what was there and convinced myself to put up with it.

Ginessa doesn't seem to have been anything other than a woman. I don't mean because she acts like a woman, I mean because she acts like she knows what she is. The morning after she first stayed over, she was sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, like any regular person. I remember getting to that place as Anne-Marie (Ginny must've gotten there long, long, long ago) where every day stopped being about the horror of a new life and instead about the normalcy of your own life.

I don't know how she fell in love with Gavin, I don't know how any woman falls in love with a man, especially having been one (having been a man who has had a woman in love with him, and having been a woman living with a man. Either way.) I think this baby-thing has really shaken her up, made her question her decisions, or second-guess the place those right-seeming decisions brought her. Who gets married without thinking of kids? She has to have seen this coming. It spooked her good, though.

I told her nobody asked me if I wanted to have kids, but I ended up with them, now almost for a second time. If someone had asked, I'd have said no thanks. But the truth is, being a parent is no worse than accidentally turning into someone else, and if you can handle that, you can handle anything. If you'd asked me if I'd want to spend a year as a woman, a mother, a wife, I would've laughed in your face without a moment's hesitation. And while I wasn't happy during that time, I don't regret it either. There you go, Bry. How could I? For starters, I made it back in one piece. I got an experience that extends beyond the imaginable, beyond what I can truly explain or even understand. Wouldn't have chosen to be Anne-Marie. Even if you lined up a hundred women and said I had to be one, I wouldn't have chosen to be Anne-Marie. I could've done worse, though. And I don't regret it. And I don't see Ginessa regretting a lot of her life either. But this kid thing, man! It's really got her tripped up.

Well, I think this is a problem without an easy answer. And I don't particularly do well when there ARE easy answers. Ginessa will either go back to New York and have a kid, or she'll go back to New York, fight with Gavin about it, and maybe they'll split up and she'll have to forge some new destiny for herself. Sadly, life is not a simple, straightforward story.

While she was here, she played girlfriend. Not romantic girlfriend, but "girl-friend." I indulged her in her shopping and we went to see Avatar, and I showed her the sights and introduced her to people who know about the Inn.

I hate to say this, especially considering the situation, but Ginny's the first woman I've found attractive in a long while. I mean, I see hot girls around a lot of the time but I don't approach them the way I used to, with confidence and, like, a plan. I just watch passively because I don't want to allow myself any dangerous thoughts while Alia is in Philly. Aside from Crystal/Alia and certain other people, Ginessa is the first female I have spent a significant amount of time with since getting back, and it gave me a warm feeling that was tainted by guilt. Guilt of me betraying Alia with those feelings (fleeting though they may be) and guilty of her already being on the rocks with her husband. I hate myself for the fact that, had I done anything, she wouldn't be the first married woman I'd fucked. That year. Ugh.

Once I'd acknowledged it to myself, at the end of the first very long day with her, I felt shitty. So I spilled my guts. "Ginny," I says, "I want you to know that I'm in a very vulnerable place right now, so if you're getting a weird vibe from me, just know that it's because you're just a really hot girl who is also very cool and I like spending time with you. That's all." Yeah, I've really lost my way with words.

She looks at me for a minute like she's trying to wrap her head around whatever it is I'd just said. "Todd, hun, are you saying you want to fuck me?"

"No, no, I mean, yeah who wouldn't, but I don't intend to do anything about that. I just meant it as a compliment."

She laughed a bit and sighed, "That's so wrong. Not quite as wrong as the fact that I've thought about it too, but pretty damn wrong."

"You've thought about it?"

"Sure. I mean, not seriously. I'm a married woman, for God's sake. But the idea had occurred to me that if I was going to cheat -- which I'm not -- I could do worse."

"Well... thanks." Then, since I could think of no appropriate gesture at that point, extended my hand for a shake.

She went in for a hug instead, and said quietly in my ear, "Do yourself a favour and keep it in your pants until Alia comes back." That's my New Year's Resolution.

I told Alia about this later on MSN. She replied with "Lol. You're an idiot, you know. But if you wanna come down here I wouldn't mind." I politely declined, but I'm counting the days until she makes it back to Maine.

The story of New Year's, and other stuff, is a relatively simple one, but I've spent so much time trying to make this little story into big thoughts that I should give it a rest. More later.

-Todd

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Todd: Other People are Mysteries

That's what I've learned about the world since my trip to womanhood and back. I got only a fraction of the wife-mother experience, only a sliver of one woman's life and it opened up all these questions, about all women, about men, about myself. I used to want to understand women, now I don't believe such a thing is really possible. It's hard enough just trying to understand yourself. There are so many things I did when I was Anne-Marie that I don't even know why. But this isn't really about that.

Working over the holidays really got me down. My entire life became the retail world. And I like my job, inasmuch as I can enjoy a wageslave retail gig, talking about movies and music to customers who think I'm out to cheat them because I wear the uniform of a big company. It got fairly ridiculous over the holidays and there wasn't much time for me to think about anything else. I sleepwalked through Christmas with my family and made some very obligatory outings on New Year's. More on that later.

There are these kids that come into the store. I don't mean any specific kids, but it's a type of customer we have, teenagers, usually in the first couple years of high school, 15, maybe 16-year-olds. Usually in small groups of mixed boys and girls, usually it looks like at least one couple in the mix, possible their first relationship. That bums me out for whatever reason, seeing these kids with their lives ahead of them, getting the fun of a new romance for the first time in their lives. I miss that. I've thought I was in love a lot of times, but I only really was once, and she's still in Philadelphia teaching high school English.

Todd the former-woman isn't Todd the CD seller. My life has gone on. Bryan's life has. He's seeing someone, although our hours don't sync up to the point where I've met her yet. Maybe it's not serious but I do hear them fucking ever so subtly in the next room. Good for him. I know he's been in love, or at least he once told me he was, but he wasn't loved back, so he doesn't carry a torch. That is a man who knows how to get on with his life. Or maybe he still thinks of himself as a 15-year-old girl pretending as a man. Like I said, other people are a mystery -- Bryan in particular. He never got back to me about his investigation of Crystal the new Alia, beyond the name tracing to a different, more low-rent suburb of Cleveland. I think it was Cleveland Heights.

I was all super-absorbed with my own depression, and then on December 29th, a woman walks into the store. I was busy with a customer so I only caught her from the corner of my eye, but I sensed a familiar appearance. As soon as I had helped that customer, I turned my attention to this woman. She was about 5'6, dressed elegantly but warmly with a sweater, long coat and scarf, the curve of her beautiful round breasts apparent through the layers. Low rise jeans leaving just a hint of skin bare beneath the waist of her sweater -- it was a warm December in Toronto. Leather boots with low heels. Tan, light-brown skin with long brown hair pulled back demurely, small gold earrings, undecorated lips. Big purse slung over her shoulder. She looks at me uncertainly with her big brown eyes and I look back at her to signal that even though she doesn't recognize me I recognize her and I have to interpret she must have come looking for me.

She guesses, "Todd?" as if it'd be embarrassing to be wrong.

"Ginessa," I smirk, overplaying my confidence in our now-mutual recognition, "Long time no, uh, see." I had absolutely no idea how to react because apart from my sparse conversations with Bryan and my usually off-topic conversations with Alia (either Alia) the Inn has not impinged upon my day-to-day life lately.

She melts in the warmness of the situation and hugs me. "Oh my God I am so glad to see you. I'm so glad I was able to find you. When do you get off work?" It was a couple hours yet. She asked if there was a coffee place nearby where we could meet. Of course there was. This is Toronto.

While I continued to work, she browsed the store. I've never mentioned it by name, but I work in a very large CD/Music/Video Game chain store that does not exist in the States. We also sell books, but only if you like books about music or teenage vampires.

Once I clocked out, I took her down Bay Street to a favourite hole-in-the-wall non-chain coffee place I used to go often with Alia. I asked what she was doing in Toronto, she told me, obviously, she'd come to see me.

I say I haven't had the Inn impinge on my day-to-day life that much. That's true. But of course I haven't left it behind. I have had correspondence with Anne-Marie and Alia and through them I get updates on people like Cliff and the new Kalli and Julia. I have also kept a pen pal relationship with Ginessa, whom you'll no doubt remember was once a man named Mark, although that was a lifetime ago for her. I met her once in person, when I was Anne-Marie, back in March. I liked her, I admired how fully she'd seemed to move past her old life. She'd gotten married, although it was technically a green card marriage, she professed she did love her husband Gavin. Our mutual friend was Darren/Jaime, whom I haven't kept in contact with, not through dislike, but I suspect she probably didn't care for me goofing on her.

Ginessa and I were able to bond despite our differences, though, because we had both given in to certain parts of the change. Hers was permanent, mine wasn't -- I hadn't thought it was when we met, and wasn't distressed. Jaime was still stuck in a place where she couldn't seem to admit it if it was. Ginessa, once an aspiring football star, was now a clubbing, would-be actress wife. And it didn't seem to bother her.

Didn't seem to.

She didn't express a lot of discontent in our infrequent letters. She'd vent about Gavin's particular habits, apparently he's a fussy guy (to be a stage director, I guess you'd have to be) and bemoan what she considered to be a sometimes one-sided sex-life. I wondered whether she missed sex from the male perspective the way I did. The female orgasm is nice, but elusive, and there's something really cool about being "in control." Not that women are never in control. Anything can be both ways, and everything is a mystery, like I've said.

But she didn't run away from her husband because of sex. Not directly. She did it because, after three years of marriage, the fact that they had barely discussed children seemed to be eating away at him. It was clear this wasn't just a marriage of convenience, it was a relationship, and he wanted it all.

"And you?" I asked?

She sighed. "I don't know what I want anymore. I don't know if I ever did. I used to think every woman, deep down, wanted to settle down and have babies, and it was their job to convince the man to go along with it. Now I'm a woman, I'd be the one getting pregnant, giving birth, and the idea is too much for me to handle."

"You've been a woman for years, did you really never think about it?"

"Of course I thought about it. But when Gavin suggested I go off the pill, it got real."

"Do you think this has something to do with... the inn? Your old life?"

She hissed, "I'm not Mark anymore. I don't want to go back to the Inn. I'm done with it. I used to have to repeat that to Jaime-- I used to have to repeat it to myself, even before that."

"I know."

"You never gave up on the idea that you were Todd, though. I like being Ginessa. God, if 20-year-old me heard me saying that, he'd kick my ass... if he wasn't against hitting girls. I just don't want this to change."

"Tell him now isn't the right time."

"I can't do that. Financially, we're amazing. Gavin's union has good benefits. We're in love, the sex is great... well, it's good. I'm hot."

"Yeah, you're hot all right."

"I don't want to be a pregnant lady. I don't want this to ruin my relationship with Gavin. I don't want to raise a kid!"

The more she talked, the more I sensed it actually was about the Inn, but that's just my interpretation. Not that she didn't want to be female, but maybe she felt like if things got too real, she could go back and roll the dice again. A lot of (horribly unprincipled) people seem to use it as an exit strategy to their crappy lives. Ginny's life doesn't seem so crappy. But maybe being an Inn-survivor makes you a bit of a commitment-phobe.

I told her, "Did you know I almost cheated on Hal?"

"What?"

It's true. A few months before Bryan and I went back to the Inn, I met a guy named Jack. Not long after that, Hal's father got sick and for whatever reason he decided to express his stress with excessive fucking. And I went along with it because by that point I had this whole philosophy about putting his needs before my own hang-ups because hey, it's not really my life. But things were getting out of control and I needed something of my own.

I liked Jack, the way a dude admires another dude. The poor guy was heartbroken and he seemed nice, smart, kinda charming. So I sent him Anne-Marie's way -- at the time she was "Julia," struggling to keep the reins on "Kalli." She indulged him in a few dates but as far as I know was not overly into the idea of seeing someone. Since I had a friendly connection to him, he complained to me of his sexual inadequacy. I almost fucked him, just to cheer him up.

I told Ginny that a part of me regretted not doing it, because it would've been at least as honest, if not moreso, than fucking Hal. Hell, it would've been far more honest than fucking Donna. But I didn't, obviously, because I didn't want to fuck up someone else's life.

"But you've got your own life, now," I told her. "This is your life to fuck up. But you can't keep things going. Maybe one of you will relent on the kid thing, or maybe you'll end up divorced. I'm definitely not the one to give you advice."

"I know you're not," she smiled, "That's why I like ya, Todd. You get it."

The issue, of course, was far from resolved, and Ginny is still at my place, crashing on my couch... I have a lot more catching up to do with this blog, so stay tuned. But I've got to go to work right now.

-Todd

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