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 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.