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."
"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?"
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.