Thursday, December 30, 2010

Max: Dawning of a New Day

By the end of my first month as Max, I had a considerable chip on my shoulder. I was living with a lot of hostility, from Mrs. Kearn, who held a lot of Max's actions against me, and from Tanya, who saw me as the enemy in her quest to return to normalcy. Of course I wasn't actually antagonizing her, just trying to ease her into acceptance of her (yes, likely temporary) situation.

It was exhausting to try to take on all of their problems, avoid confrontation, prove that I wasn't the bad guy, and go on with my life, working five or six days a week on top of it. I was understandably frustrated.

Between us all was Melanie, the former man in Tanya's life, who had wound up as Tanya's sister. She stayed quiet ever since the change and I was worried she'd taken it badly, and that nobody was looking out for this possible mental trauma case. She seemed to fade into the background while Tanya did all the thinking for both of them, despite Tanya's insistence it had been Melanie's idea to come to New Brunswick.

I learned a fair bit more about this fellow in a young girl's body one morning in early September when I passed by her bedroom. She was still in her PJ's, sitting on her bed cross-legged with her eyes closed.

Curious, I poked my head in. "What's up? Am I interrupting?"

"Oh. Max. No, no, I'm just... meditating. It's a stress-management technique I learned while I was an air-traffic controller." She laughed slightly, "It really helps."

"I'll bet. How are you doing with all this?"

"You mean being a girl? Being far from home, stuck in this house, with my girlfriend transformed into an unrecognizable... well, bitch? As well as can be expected, I suppose."

"Not well?"

"Not perfect, but what choice have I got?"

"Melanie..." I said, still under the impression she needed me help, "Don't be afraid to let it out. If it's all too much, it's not going to do any good to bottle it up. If you need somebody to help you, I'm here. Don't avoid talking to me just because your gir-- sis-- Tanya doesn't like me."

"I appreciate the offer, but I'm more worried about her."

And I realized it was true. From what Melanie told me, Tanya was not typically a panicky or angry person, but the change had brought out her more erratic side. By now she had gone from trying to control the situation to resentfully going along with it. Neither of them was "in control" now. According to Melanie, Tanya had still not yet come to terms with that.

I told her Tanya had told me it was Melanie's idea to come to New Brunswick, even though they had apparently gotten permission from the new-them to stay in Washington.

She straightened her legs out over the edge of the bed and ran her fingers through her hair, sighing with resignation. "If you'd seen our place in Tacoma, you'd know. It was pretty small, a one-bedroom apartment. Where were the two of us supposed to sleep? What were we supposed to do with our time, enroll in school? Move around the block and get shit jobs to pay the rent? Take our older selves as our caregivers, watch them live our lives from a distance? Supervise them? That wasn't going to work, and she was in denial for thinking so. She thinks I just wanted to get away, but for crap's sake, you'd be crazy not to. You get it, don't you? You said this is where we belong right now, and you're completely right. It wuold be stupid to pretend not to be these girls. Right? Right?"

She was right, but it felt harsh to hear it laid out like that. I nodded along anyway. "Yes, of course."

She lay back on the bed and motioned for me to do the same. "I like looking at the ceiling," she said, "All these posters on the wall, Melanie's possessions, Melanie's furniture, Melanie's clothes son the floor... but there's nothing on the ceiling, so when I look up, I can forget my hair, forget my clothes, forget my boobs and just... be nobody. So lie back for a minute, will you?"

I did. We were shoulder to shoulder. We stayed quiet, all we could hear was each other's breath whistling through our noses, all we could see was the white plaster on the ceiling.

Suddenly, I couldn't resist the urge to look over at her. She looked so at peace. She looked back over at me and smiled. "It's nice, isn't it?"

I felt my heart get heavy, and a warm, stuff jolt from inside me down to me... crotch.

I sat up quickly and stammered, "I gotta, uh, get to work."

Oh, no. I hoped to God she hadn't realized what had gone through my mind.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tori C: Christmas toys and new resolutions

Instead of going ahead and just summarizing my holidays, I'll look at a comment that was left on my last post:

It doesn't seem like you're "all woman." It seems like your a little girl playing with a new toy.

My first reaction to this was, "Uh... what?" But the more I thought about it, the more I saw the reality. It's kinda true. And I don't think there's anything wrong with it.

I mean, all this here, once I've gotten past the angst and anger and frustration of my situation, it should be enjoyable. I mean, if I don't see myself going back to male, (or even if I do) I should at least be happy, and being happy shouldn't mean avoiding something I want just because it's something I didn't used to want. So while you see me as a little girl, all excited for a little playtime, I still see myself as a mature, rational adult, reaping the benefits of her situation.

But the "little girl" thing hit home, because of my situation I've avoided certain life decisions that would maybe put me in control of this life, which is the goal for 2011.

Stuff has been mounting... my discomfort with attempt to have sex under this roof, my increasing dissatisfaction with my menial, trivial job. So I have two objectives for the year. One is to get a new job, hopefully one closer to the computer work I was doing before I was girlified. The other is to move out. Frankly, I can see myself doing both of these in the month of January.

I've already talked to Raine about moving in with her. Sara and Thom are getting a place together, so that leaves us as natural roommate potentials. We're looking at places today. If this happens, I might be able to move forward with Buddy, provided he sticks around the area. And if not... well, let's not worry about it yet.

Oh, and then there was this comment:

Speaking of, are things still pretty straightforward for you in the bedroom, or have you been able to try new positions or new activities?

Which made me blush... I don't know what you're looking for, uh, we're not into anything that exciting. We still just doing it like regular people, although he ate me out for the first time last weekend, with the expectation I'd return the favour sooner or later.

Um.... we'll see. It was okay, though. I felt guilty for just taking my own half and not returning, though, and as much as I've grown accustomed to having someone be with me, it still felt odd to have him focusing his energy just on that. That's why I just like straight-up regular intercourse. I know he's happy to do that.

The last few weeks haven't been all that eventful beyond that. Stressful, perhaps, trying to make a plan for after this job's end, as well as getting all the usual holiday madness. We went back over to the Uncle and Aunts, back to the awkward family gathering. I'm trying to branch out a bit with the family, so I spent some time speaking to Grandma Pearce, and for my trouble I had my fashion sense criticized. That shut me up.

Most of my gifts were unspectacular... gift cards and some more personal stuff... but for whatever reason, Mae asked for some "fun, sexy underwear." It was a bit off-putting and I wanted to inquire. I'm guessing there's a new guy in her life, but she hasn't discussed this with me. Maybe it's not any of my business, but I'd like to know if she's dating some kind of hoodlum. Still, I found it amusing that she felt she could come to me with this request, and that I'd just fill it (and I did!) but it was definitely one of those weird moments of recognition, when I was standing in the lingerie store, eyeballing bras and panties, and trying to estimate my sister's size (I did cheat and look, but still, I had to imagine getting her something she'd like and look good in and... this is why, even as a girl, I don't give clothes as gifts.)

The holiday flew by, I still have yet to confirm that I will be leaving my job... and I'm not sure how much longer Buddy will be in New York after the new year, so I've got a lot on my mind!

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Max: Missing days

I haven't had a parental figure in my life since I was a 14-year-old girl. After the first change, I was pretty well cut off from my first family, and I never really got close to Sam's. So sitting down to dinner with Mrs. Kearn was pretty brutal.

I had no idea how to read her. She was quiet, and I could tell she did not care for the fact that I had come back on my own without her daughters without any concrete explanation as to where they were and why. But I couldn't tell what she really thought about the situation, about Max, and what she wanted to do about it. She was still letting me live in her house, apparently rent-free. That alone was enough to make me want to make any concession she had in mind.

I had faith that Tanya and Melanie would arrive sooner than later. I just had to endure the awkward silence until then. I didn't expect either of them to be better-equipped than I was to handle their new mom, but them being there would make our adjustment easier anyway.

In the meantime, I was sneaking out of the house to go to Max's job. He's a dishwasher, so I wasn't exactly in over my head, and I was able to smooth over things with the kitchen manager so I was able to keep the gig, not that it was all that precious to me. I just needed something to do while I waited and figured out what, if anything, my next move was going to be.

They did show up about a week and a half after I did. Jet-lagged, or maybe body-lagged, they stumbled through the doors looking exhausted, dragging a their luggage with them.

Mrs. Kearn rushed to greet them while I stood coldly in the kitchen doorway, saying "I knew you'd show up" with my eyes. They pushed past me to find their new rooms. I didn't go to confer with them immediately, instead I retired to the basement, figuring Mrs. Kearn would want a night with her daughters to get their story on why they'd left me in Maine.

Apparently they weren't too forthcoming. I was making my bed the next morning, the girls still asleep, when Mrs. K came by to interrogate me again.

"They won't tell me why they left off from you," she said.

"Well," I sighed, "If they ever do, can you let me know? Because I'd like to."

"You're saying two teenage girls just went out on their own in a strange country and you couldn't do anything to stop them?"

"Pretty much."

"I don't believe me."

"Yeah, I don't believe it either, but that's what happened."

"I can't even believe I let you go on that trip!" She spent another half hour laying into me, but I faded out of focus and just let her go, not really trying to stand up for myself, until she said, "I swear, if I find out you laid a hand on those girls--"

"What?!" I stopped her immediately, "Lady, I don't know what kind of guy you think I--" I stopped myself. I really had no proof even to myself that the old Max wouldn't have hit a girlfriend, but knowing that wasn't the specific case here kept me from being able to take that one on the chin. "It's just... no, okay? I didn't. You can ask them."

She didn't respond, but just left the room the conversation unresolved.

That day, when Mrs. Kearn was out, I asked Tanya what had happened out west to change her mind.

"What does it matter?" she snapped, "We're here anyway, isn't this what you wanted?"

"It's not what I want, it's what has to happen," I explained, "If you think you can make a go of it out in Washington, be my guest, but I have my doubts they'll let your boyfriend resume his duties--"

"You don't say a word about my boyfriend, you don't even talk to him!" she shrieked.

"Woah, calm down, okay? I just want you to know why you're here."

"Uh huh. Why am I here?"

"Because this is what yuor life has become. For better or worse, your life isn't that anymore. Not for now. It belongs to someone else. You can get it back... if you're lucky. But not for a long while. So I'm sorry we got off on the wrong foot."

She muttered, "Yeah," agreeing sarcastically.

It was a tense few days after that. I couldn't speak to anyone in the house. The official story was that "Tanya and Max" had broken up, but Mrs. Kearn was at least willing to let me keep sleeping in the basement, albeit with extreme reluctance. Tanya and Melanie weren't all that interested in sharing the details of the trip with their new mother, who still believed I had traumatized them somehow. Melanie still seemed shellshocked and led around by Tanya, who was on bad terms with everyone else.

It was a week or two later that I was walking by Tanya's room and I heard sobbing. I knocked softly. No answer. I opened the door a crack.

Tanya was lying on the bed with her face buried in a pillow, sobbing her eyes out. She looked up at me.

"WHAT."

"Nothing! I just wanted to see if you were okay."

"Do I look okay?!"

"Not really."

"God, don't you ever say the right thing?"

"Apparently not. What's the matter?"

"What's the matter? Are you shitting me? All of this! God, every day that I wake up and I'm still here is just--"

Yeah, she was still taking it badly. I went to sit next to her, to try to break the tension.

She slid just a bit away to make room. She sat up on the edge and rested her elbows on her knees. She wiped some tears and snot from her face with a pink kleenex.

She sniffed, "You must think I'm an overemotional bitch."

"No..." I lied.

"Let me tell you what happened. We got to Washington, we got back to our apartment, and then a week later, we got a call from the new us." I had actually never received a call from the new person in my old body, at least not at that point.

She went on, "They were going to let us stay, Max. They were going to let us stay in our own home and try ti rebuild our own lives, and then for whatever reason [Melanie] changed his mind... and made me come here. I don't understand why."

"Did you ask her?"

"Yeah, but she-- he-- wasn't making any sense. Gave me some of that stuff you were talking about where we belong. I don't know. I was willing to go along with it, but... I can't take this, Max. It's not right."

I rubbed her back and she said, "I guess I've been unfair. None of this is your fault. You're not a bad guy."

"Thanks."

"I just... I don't want to be here."

Nobody ever does.

But she did get a bit better after that. More soon as I can manage.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Tori C: Bedpost Notches

There were a few occasions when I did sleep with Leo -- I mean spend the whole night. They were rare and I always felt like he didn't want me there, like he didn't want someone in his bed with him, which is why I didn't do it often. He never seemed comfortable, like he was just one twitch away from waking up, and he tossed and turned a lot, keeping me up. As a result, those few times we did sleep together didn't feel very... romantic.

The first time I slept with Buddy, it was different. He slept naturally, like we belonged in the bed together. I think when we woke up, we sensed the difference.

We went out to breakfast and he seemed utterly elated by the step forward we'd taken. "Can you believe how much time we wasted?" he said, "All this time we could have... we could have been together! Instead we just wasted more time being lonely and miserable. we should've just gotten over ourselves sooner." I still haven't told him about Leo. I don't sense that he needs to know. He might react badly, whereas if I don't tell him, it's just, well, another pointless thing I don't tell him about myself.

Cutting it off with Leo was one of the loose ends I needed to tie up last month after Buddy and I became more or less official. I had been putting him off for weeks hoping he's get the message, but every few days, I'd get a text, "Hey, you busy?"

Finally, the Thursday after Buddy and I hooked up in New York, he texted me again and I responded, "I think we're done."

The answer back? A few minutes later, a simple "Yeah, guess so. K."

That "K" really bothered me. What was it doing there? Shouldn't he be upset about this? Aren't I hot? Aren't I a decent enough partner? If he was just looking for something casual, was I not as casual as it gets? Maybe too casual since I barely was speaking to him by the end! Ugh, that's what's so frustrating. What a waste of time. Maybe I was telling myself I had to keep going with it because it would hurt both of us to break it off, but apparently not. I'm not hurt at all, but... I was annoyed as hell about it.

But of course I had something to take my mind off it, my next weekend excursion to NYC. Funds are tight, but I'm living a cheap lifestyle so I can afford frequent trips. There was just one thing I hadn't counted on... my parents.

As a 24-year-old girl, they're pretty understanding of my boundaries, and haven't really said anything about my frequent late night trips out to see Leo or to go drinking with Sara and Raine. They're more concerned with Mae, and only police my behavior so far as they want to make sure I don't give Mae the idea it's okay to stay out late, do drugs and have a ton of random sex.

So when they found out I was heading out to New York on the weekends to see my new boyfriend -- and boy does it still sound weird to write that -- their first request was that they meet him.

That wasn't so easily done. His current employer keeps him no retainer so he can't go jaunting out of the city on a whim. He had time off for Thanksgiving, but since we go see family, it'd be such a busy day that it wouldn't be easy to arrange some kind of dinner with the family that involved him. Dad suggested we invite him over for Thanksgiving Dinner at his brother's place, but it was just too damn much pressure for a relationship that's not a month old yet. Besides, I was sure he had plans of his own.

Nope, as it turned out... he has his sister in Philly, which is how he ended up there, but most of his family lives out west anyway, but he agreed to go along with my explanation. In the end we compromised and he agreed to come over to meet the family after dinner.

So after I got to New York, and right as I'm getting into Buddy's hotel room, I feel my purse buzz. I didn't want to answer it, but he insisted I did. I had a sinking feeling in my gut that it was Leo asking me to take him back.

It wasn't. It was Ken, saying "YO VIC! Heard you're in NYC. Why no call?"

Agh! My big brother, the only family member it feels like I can relate to. I hadn't even thought about the fact that he lives in the city with his wife. That wasn't exactly why I'd come all this way. so I discreetly responded, "Getting laid." That's the kind of relationship I have with him.

A moment later, the purse buzzed again. "K, when you're done, let's all go for coffee. Not taking no for an answer."

Buddy laughed, "Your brother's a special guy."

I blushed, "It's... not easy getting away from him. And I do owe him, since I tend to disappear from his life. Would you mind?"

"Nah, it'll be a nice preview for when I finally do meet your family."

So we ended up getting food and drinks with Jana and Ken. Jana was quiet as a mouse, looking like she'd been forcibly removed from her apartment, while Ken interrogated Buddy about how we'd met and how long we'd been together. Buddy looked a bit uncomfortable, but he and Ken eventually found some common ground.

We said goodbye around 11 and headed back to the hotel. After an hour or so of messing around, we were lying there relaxing and he noted, "Your brother calls you Vic."

"Uh, yeah. It's short for Victoria."

"Is that what you like to be called? I've been calling you Tori this whole time..."

"Dude," I assured him, "Don't worry about it. To my family, I'm Vic, but to friends I'm Tori." I don't know why this is, but I didn't say so. "It's just a name."

"Heh, I guess you're right. As long as your name's not really John or something, I think we're good."

Heh, yeah... about that...

Thanksgiving was the usual awkwardness of affair. While Jana joined my mom and aunts in the domestic circle, I stayed with "the kids." There are a couple younguns who like video games, and one who's hit puberty since last year and didn't want anything to do with us. Mae observed, "I remember when that was me."

"That's still you."

"Yeah, but now I at least pretend instead of hiding."

Bored, I picked up a Wii controller to join the game of New Super Mario Bros. Before I knew it, Ken had joined in as one of the Toads. I made some stupid out-of-character comment about how this brought me back to my childhood, and he replied by asking "Since when did you ever play Nintendo?"

I almost had to smash the controller into the TV. It seems stupid, but months of comfort have done a lot to make me forget I ever WASN'T Tori, so when I'm reminded of the difference between Cliff and Tori, it can be very, very frustrating. Add to this the fact that I still haven't gotten the hang of my extended family and the awkwardness expands tenfold.

After dinner, Ken asked me what was up. Suddenly I was playing video games and dating, in his words, "Kind of a geek." I asked what was wrong with any of that, and he said nothing, it was just unusual.

"I'm making changes, Ken," I said, pretending for once that any of this was my choice. "I'm trying to be different from what I was."

"Well don't change too much," he said with a hopeful smile, trying to indicate he didn't mean to accuse me of anything. "We like you plenty for who you are."

I smiled back, "It's too late, Ken. I'm already different. But it's okay. You like me no matter what, don't you?"

"Of course. And as long as you like this new guy... I'm glad you're with him."

Buddy did stop by later that night, but as predicted, the parents were tired and went off to bed after about a half hour of chitchat. That left the two of us alone, for all intents and purposes. Buddy was curious to see my room, and I was... reluctant to let him. But I couldn't say no.

So I brought him up to my supremely-unsexy room. After all this time it's still largely-unpacked boxes, a few personal items, and some piles of clothes here and there.

"This," he chuckled, "Is not a girl's room." There he goes again.

"Then what are all these bras doing around?"

"You're a ladies' man. You collect them," he said.

"Oh yeah," I smiled, playing along, trying to turn it into sexy-talk, "You're just another notch in my bedpost aren't you?" I pulled him close and stuck my hand down his pants. Rock hard. For all his "guy"-talk, he knows I'm all woman. We started to mess around.

He pushed me back on my bed and I undressed as we made out. We did it on my very cushy but very small bed, and spent the night cuddled closer than before. The heat's not great in my room, so I had to re-dress before bed.

It was considerably more awkward than doing it in his hotel room. Especially since he had to get out the next morning without dad seeing him. He didn't succeed but let the guy go without commentary.

Me, however... I got a box of condoms thrown at me. Thanks, pop, for being so supportive.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Alia: Wish You Were Here

This is going to be a quick one, as there's not a ton going up here in Toronto. Todd and I have been going through a hellish November for school, while he juggles his part-time work at the record store, and Brian has been working and hectoring Todd into this whole band thing.

Believe me, it has not been the easiest thing in the world for me and Todd to feel like a couple again. We barely manage to spend time together, and I feel so removed from the days when I was happy being someone's girlfriend. My time as Rob was refreshing... it'd been a long time since I'd dated Todd but for the first time I wasn't moping around heartbroken and single. Happy being single. Happy with myself. As a guy in Philadelphia. Never thought I'd say that.

Maybe I'm over-romanticizing it, because it definitely wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but that level of freedom and independence, I'd never had. I started being with Todd right when I left home, and he was my first love so I spent a lot of time -- probably too much to accurately call myself a feminist -- being sad it was over. Follow that with guilty rebound sex and isolation, and Rob Garcia: Philadelphian High School English teacher sounds like a decent trade.

So the whole dynamic has been different between me and Todd and for a long while I was wondering whether it was even meant to be anymore. I saw the way he was with Shelby, even though she's got a boyfriend, and wondered if he'd be happier with her. Or if I should find Crystal and give her my body back and just leave this place forever (I know a lot of you would love that!) But here's what happened: that stupid ass band.

It doesn't even have a name, they've just been calling it "The Todd and Bryan Epic Band." Funny in a kind of "we're so lame it's cool" way.

Then they coaxed Shelby into playing drums and it became... a thing. And that pissed me off. Whereas it was just them, whenever they got together, with their guitars, it was suddenly a requirement that they spend X number of hours each week at Shelby's place working on their material, because after all she's got the drums and it wouldn't do to transport them anywhere, let alone to their little apartment.

I spent a lot of November ready to say "screw it" to the whole relationship, these friendships I've had for so many years, when The Todd and Bryan Epic Band Featuring Shelby booked a gig in Mississauga (for the curious, that's a town that borders Toronto to the East and is largely suburban with a slight cultural center.) Irritated that it should be so convenient to go all the way down there, I debated even bothering. I hadn't spoken to Todd about my doubts about us but I think he was picking up on them. I went anyway, to show my support.

They went through a number of familiar covers. They're really impressive musicians, Bryan even did a Marty McFly version of Johnny B. Goode, complete with windmills and Jimi Hendrix affecations (although the imitation definitely isn't perfect.) The originals were uneven... the ballad Bryan had written (for Crystal, I think) seemed a bit cheesy, and the uptempo number was a bit clunky. I'm just being honest here.

THen for their finale, Todd stepped up to the microphone. He doesn't sing often, although he's better at it than he gives himself credit for. He looked out into the audience. I was sitting far enough back that he probably couldn't see me, but he dedicated it by saying "This last one goes out to the pretty girl in the back, with her hair in a ponytail." Me (he's often called me "the girl in the back" because of how shy I was when we met.)

Todd exchanged his bass for an acoustic guitar and began to strum. It was Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," a song he'd played for me on one of our first dates and had a special resonance now that we had been apart. Instead of fading out like the recording, it climaxed in a louder, louder, I'll say it -- epic riff to climax the show. The following act actually made a snarky remark that they couldn't follow that and were going home (they actually played a respectable set.)

And me... well I'm not made of ice. In that 5 minutes I felt the feeling welling up in me that I haven't had in a long while. That passion, that desire... Goddamnit if I'm not a sucker for a boy with a guitar. More than anything, it made me feel for the first time in years that I was being thought of, that I was wanted, that I was important to somebody.

Our relationship isn't fixed overnight, but that one song went a long way toward that goal, based on what happened between us later that night.

Ta
-Alia

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Max: Migration

I was so pissed off when I found out Tanya and Melanie had gone to Seattle instead of going to New Brunswick with me. It's not easy to step into a new life, it's best to have someone there as a "spotter," someone who can back you up when you don't know what you're supposed to be doing.

Fortunately, it didn't look like I had much to be doing. As Max, I'm 20 years old. He's the kind of guy who works 6 months in a BS job until he gets sick of it and quits or gets fired. Hell, he's still trying to get his GED. And not that attending adult education courses all day hasn't been thrilling, but I'm starting to sense there's more I could be doing with my time and experience, and maybe leaving my life as Sam was a mistake.

Unfortunately, the woman who has gotten my old life seems perfectly fine with it. Now, she hasn't said anything about wanting to stay, but it's not unlikely she would. Because for whatever reason, after I got to Maine, the "original Sam" backed out of our arrangement. And this all stunk to holy hell of manipulation, which is partly why I panicked and pulled the room switch on Roger. There's a lot of reasons why it felt beneficial at the time, as as rough as things are as Max, I'd rather be here than playing as Fletcher's little daughter. Mostly, anyway.

I stuck around because at least in Maine I had Alia to talk to. As awkward as her attempts to play the guru were, her heart was in the right place and she deserved support. Plus it was nice to get a sense of the good that had come out of it. Alia was elated to be female again, to be going home to her man and her life, and despite whatever uncertainties she's felt since then, I haven't seen someone that satisfied with life in a long, long time.

The other guests trickled out to their new lives, and while some contact info has been exchanged I get the sense most aren't the writing type. I didn't think I was either, but the tail end of my time in Maine was the beginning of a number of occasions when I thought to myself "this needs to be written down."

By the third day it started to dawn on me that I was now locked into form as male. I woke up that morning and found that the rough patch of hair on my chin, jaw and upper lip had grown in thicker and darker. I was growing a beard. I hadn't given much consideration to this eventuality. I was wearing a guy's clothes, I had a guy's shape and yet I didn't feel especially guyish. I initially reached into my bag for the razor, but stopped myself. I wanted to see where this was going.

Every day began by looking myself in the mirror. Mirrors play an important role for anyone who's been to the inn. In your first life you take your reflection for granted, but when it changes you can't study it enough.

Max was not an unattractive body to have... a bit on the skinny side, with gangly limbs and bad hair, but if I'd met him in my past life I would've given him a shot. Something in his eyes made him -- me -- look dangerous, but also sensitive, like a short-haired Johnny Depp.

There was just one little aspect I was trying to wrap my head around... the downstairs situation. I had been led to believe by certain jokes and stories, that guys are prone to unwanted reactions down there at any given moment, yet by that day I had yet to experience any measurable reaction... if you know what I mean. It was just hanging there in limbo, and I had no idea what, if anything, it was going to do.

It was a nice day and Alia asked me if I'd wanna hang out by the beach, since with all the worrying about pre- and post-transformational stuff we'd kinda forgotten to have a little fun. I said sure, and dug through Max's luggage for a pair of long, bulky swim shorts, which feature (as I guess all guys' swimwear does) ball-hugging mesh inside that made me feel a little awkward as soon as I put it on. Like everyone who looked at me could tell how tightly-bound my junk was just by the way I walked.

I made my way over to our agreed meeting place. I got there early, watching couples traipse up and down the beach, dudes on the lookout for girls and girls trying to fend of male advances. I didn't concentrate on anything in particular until I saw a shadow approach me. I turned and saw her standing there in a blue bikini. This was a different Alia than I'd seen before. The Alia I'd first met was ragged from trying to keep a lid on the madness. She wore white t-shirts and jeans, wasn't overly concerned with her appearance, but here, now, she was looking... different.

I don't want to say I was attracted by her or turned on by her, but I definitely found it hard to resist looking her over. Maybe it was because I wanted to stare, maybe it was because I wanted to see if something would happen if I did, to test myself. I realized what I was doing about the same time as she did and turned away, looking at the sand or the ocean while she awkwardly fumbled to recoup the conversation.

"The crowd's thinning out. I think it'll be time to head out soon," she said. I told her I was most nervous about that. Here, we were in limbo, between lives. Physically I was Max, but mentally I had some claim as Sam. Once I got "home," that would be it... "Sam" would be a figure of my past, and Max would be the future. I wasn't prepared for that, I guess. It isn't like I wasn't expecting it, I just forgot to brace myself, with all the plotting and scheming, I left the aftermath out.

The last time I did this, I was so far from in-control of my life that I can barely remember feeling anything except an all-consuming panic about what I was leaving behind. I was 14 years old in the body of a 21-year-old and completely oblivious to what that meant. Now I feel so much older than my years that all I can do is wonder about what comes next. Alia told me there was comfort in the fact that I didn't have to worry about the future anymore, if Max's note was honest. His life was mine to take or leave. In Inn, it seems, will always be there.

She offered to chauffeur me to New Brunswick and I graciously accepted. It was the long way back to Toronto for her, but I think she needed time to collect her thoughts on returning home. The next day we hit the road for Fredericton, a 7 hour drive. We bonded on the way, girl-talked, gossiped, shared more observations about girlhood and manhood.

"I'm not going to say it's easy... you're going to be on your own a lot, even when you're with people, even with fellow victims of the inn. There was this... isolation I felt, as Rob. Even though I had Tori to talk to, I never really felt like I had someone, because I didn't want to... well I just felt like I needed to keep strong. Wow, I guess I became more male than I thought. Maybe it won't happen for you," she said, "But my point is sometimes these experiences can have effects we never would have expected." I guess my first transformation I was so young that I wouldn't have known the difference between the Inn's effect and my own emotional developments. I probably do have a much different perspective than most because of it, but, I don't know if I know anything special. I might even know less because I took so much of it for granted.

Alia saw me off at around 8. It was early August by this point I guess, a warm summer night. She offered to help me get settled but I told her I needed to do this alone. It would be easier to attempt to explain myself without some strange woman at my side.

Max is a 20-year-old guy who isn't living at home, but with Tanya and Melanie, and their mother. I was not looking forward to explaining why her daughters were not with me, and we were much later than expected.

I got in the door and just stood there in the front of the house taking it in. Trying to imagine myself as if I'd walked into it a thousand times before, like it was my own house. But it was disorienting. I saw their mother, Mrs. Kearn, poke her head out of the kitchen: a short, thin, 50-something lady with short hair and good skin, dressed in a hoodie and sweatpants.

"Is that you? You didn't call! I was worried to death!"

"It's just me, Mrs. Kern," I said, slipping my shoes off. She asked where the girls were. "They took their own way home. They'll be along soon enough."

I didn't know this for sure. The last I'd heard of "Tanya" and "Melanie" was that they were headed for Seattle, but I knew this wouldn't last and felt certain they'd be in New Brunswick by the end of the week.

Mrs. Kearn sneered at me. It was clear she didn't care for my response, and she had some tension with Max that wasn't certain to me.

"Well, I didn't make any supper, so we can order something... pizza, I guess..." she said this all very passive-aggressively.

I didn't know any pizza numbers off the top of my head, but there was a yellow pages by the phone, so I called a place called Mario's and had them deliver. We ate in chilling silence sitting across the table from each other. I was becoming desperately afraid for my situation. Finally, she asked, "You guys have another fight?"

"Something like that."

"I never thought she'd take off from you like that. That's not like Melanie..."

"It was Tanya's idea."

"It's not really like Tanya either."

I wondered if maybe, if I told her what had happened at the Inn, she'd be willing to believe me, just based on this evidence alone. I decided against it: the last thing I needed was to be kicked out of my only shelter.

When she finished her pizza, she went back to the TV room to sit. I went walking through the house, first through the bedrooms -- finding the room Max and Melanie had shared, and Tanya's. It was clear Max wasn't such a permanent fixture that the room was part "his." It was very much a "girl's" room, with lots of posters of boys; Twilight and Justin Bieber among them. The bed was tasteful, and there was a dresser split between Men's and Women's clothes. I reached into Melanie's top drawer and pulled out a pair of her panties, just to hold them and remember what I'd lost. They just smelled like laundry.

It didn't feel right to me to spend the night in that room. When the two girls returned, I figured, they'd want their privacy. I opted to spend the night in the basement, a half-finished affair with an old couch and a TV, full of old books and boxes of old objects. There was a single throw pillow and light blanket. I slept in my clothes.

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