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.