Friday, June 29, 2012

Lisa/Zane: Picking up from there...

"Lisa/Zane." Oh, my God, even after all the stuff we've been through with this Inn, I never expected I would be typing a phrase like that.

I couldn't spend too much time taking inventory, when Shaun called me over to show me what had become of Anthony's "substitute." I don't know why both of us sort of assumed Zane was in my body, since Anth's was between us, and if I took Zane's, then the person next to Shaun would have to be "me."

But going back even further, to the conversation Zane and I had that, I guess, lasted long enough into the night that our transformations kickstarted without us knowing it... I was so pissed off at Anthony. Even moreso now, but even then. Look, none of us have great lives. I'm struggling, Zane's chronically unemployed, and Doug left his life as something of a mess. A year away wasn't likely to make things better for any of us, but Anthony opting out, and leaving us with a new person to explain this whole shitty situation... that was a dick move. And I had to rant to somebody, and Zane and I had been getting on so well all week that s/he was my go-to. If I had been in Shaun's room, maybe I'd be in my own body.

Maybe I'd be in his body, and he'd be in mine. Still a crappy situation, but one we could explain easier.

So we're all faced with this complication, with Burt in my body. Zane, by process of elimination, is now Anthony. When I came to his door, and I said who I was, he got this perverse grin, this shit-eating grin Anthony sometimes gets that makes me want to punch him. It's all very "no time to explain."

So we gathered in Burt's room, where I have the very surreal visual, like watching myself on video doing something I don't remember... it's "me" sitting on the bed, draped in a much larger man's clothes, hair looking stringy, face puffy from lack of sleep. Ugh, I could hardly look.

But Shaun took the leadership role, being the one who wasn't in the wrong body.

He stammered a while. "You're um... you used to be... uh... you're not..."

"Who are you people?" Burt finally asks.

"My name is Shaun," he says, "And this is Zane, and, and, uh, Lisa." I had to hide my eyes.

"What happened to me?"

"It happened to all of us," Shaun answered, "Um, what we know, uh, we don't know everything about this, but, see, the Inn has some kind of curse on it... it's been going on for years. It takes your body... and it gives it to someone else."

I'll spare you the rest of the details. I don't know if I could have explained it any better, but there was so much backtracking and elaborating and contradicting in his explanation it probably made things a lot worse.

Like I said, the thing I hated the most is that we had to explain it.

But basically, we rambled through the whole story of how we found out about the inn last year, spent a year living in these other bodies, and made it back year later.

"But... I'm a woman."

"Yeah... um, see, it's not exact." He gestured to me, "Lisa was supposed to get her body back, but somehow it didn't go... as planned."

Burt was doing weird things, like running his fingers through my hair, trying to piece it all together in his head.

"I have to be a woman for a year... and you people... all went through this already?"

"Look, take your time with it," Shaun said, "This happens a lot, apparently, so... like, just try not to freak out too hard. It's gonna be okay."

I couldn't have done better. It was terrible, but I couldn't have done better.

We had a similar, slightly more well thought out version of the same discussion several times later that day. No one looks to be facing any tragedy in this case. I think a lot of the visitors in the previous block were at a bachelor party - mostly men - whereas half the inn this week was a singles mixer, so... there were a few other women who became guys.

I guess there's a lot to cover here, but I get really weird when I try to write too much of it, which is sorta why I never wrote here too much. I'm trying to get over it, though, because obviously this whole transformation game isn't over for me!

-Lisa...Zane... LiZane.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Shaun: Aftershocks

I don't think any of us, for a year, considered the possibility of not going back to the Inn.

Ethically, none of us wanted to. I had stolen another man's wife. Lisa had stolen a girl's youth. Zane had inherited some very real problems. And Anthony, we all knew, had some level of guilt for bringing us to the Inn. Whenever I spoke to him all year, he's mentioned feeling like it was his responsibility to get us back safe and sound.

Failure was not an option. And as shocking as it was to see Anthony's post, eventually we accepted that he did what he did for us. I wish he would have discussed it with us beforehand, but we can see his reasons for keeping it a secret.

Zane was the most amused. "I can't believe that bitch didn't tell me!" she laughed. "She knows how pissed off Wes was when I said I'd be taking this trip without him. I would've loved to see the look on his face when he saw me grow my cock back."

"So what do we do?" Lisa asked. "Do we, like... go introduce ourselves to him? Or do we just wait for the transformation to explain everything?" She had a point... for at least a year, this person was going to look like our friend. And yet part of me didn't want to see what he looked like, didn't want to face the reality of what we were doing to his life. Didn't want to humanize him.

Besides, we couldn't have warned him his life was about to be turned upside down. In fact, none of us could have known exactly how badly it was going to be turned upside down.

We didn't have to wonder too long, actually. That was the night it happened. The others can describe you their experiences transforming "back," being "ready" for it as ready as you can be... mind was subtle, like being in a warm bath I guess. My skin started to get irritated, then all of a sudden late that night, I had a bit less hair and a bit more of a gut. That's it.

When I was sure it was happening to me, I rushed next door. I know there's some kind of location aspect of who-becomes-who, but once the process was started, I knew. it would be safe to leave my room.

We had four rooms all lined up. To my left was Lisa's room. Beside that was supposed to be Anthony, and on the other side was Zane. Knowing how "out of it" Zane could get, I figured I should go talk to Lisa right away to discuss how to explain our situation to the new Anthony. So I gathered my thoughts, checked to make sure my own changes were finished (right down to the scar on my elbow from when I was ten!) and went over to Lisa's room and knocked. The door opened a crack. Someone looked out at me.

It wasn't Lisa.

When they saw who I was, they opened the door wide, but stayed behind it. "Get in, quick," the voice said.

I turned to see Zane, standing with his back against the wall, wrapped in bedspread.

"Zane? What are you doing in--"

"It's not Zane," he cut me off. He lowered his eyes to the ground. "It's Lisa."

I stared. I felt faint. Despite all our preparations something had gone wrong. Even though I knew I was back in my own body, I was hurt - disappointed, shocked, annoyed - that this had happened.

Lisa began to pace around, frantically explaining - she had gone to Zane's room for a talk. They'd been spending a lot of time together since the trip began, Zane had opened up to her all about his experience as Clara and they bonded. They ended up talking way into the night and hadn't even realized the transformation must have started when Lisa went back to her room... only to be rudely awakened by growing a, er... Zane-part.

I can't even speak to that.

Lisa, however, handled it as only a minor frustration. As much as this was a failure in our plan, at least we knew what was happening. There was somebody next door who needed our help.

I told Lisa to go see what was up with Zane when she was ready, and meet me at "Anthony's" room. I figured it would be reassuring for Zane to see his own face if he ended up in Lisa's body, and that hopefully this next year would be less traumatic than the last.

I went over to introduce myself to "Anthony." Anth had left us with this unfortunate task of bringing this person into the "Inn" world - explaining what we know about the Inn, including how it's possible to change back. I kept going over the words in my head, trying to figure out the exact right angle to come at it.

I knocked on the door. No answer. "Listen, if you can hear me--" I shouted at the door, "I know something has happened to you in there, and I need to explain it to you. It's not... it's no big deal, please don't freak out..."

The doorknob turned.

And there she was. Lisa.

Or, somebody in Lisa's body. Looking at me with murder in her eyes.

That would be Burt Cobb, the 31-year-old man Anthony had intended to give his body.

Suddenly I completely forgot what I was going to say.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Anthony/CeeCee: I'm Sorry For This.

My name is Anthony Levine. Or at least, it used to be.

I've spent the ten months living in the body of a woman named Charlotte Christopoulos. It has not been easy. For any man, adjusting to the life of a woman would be a chore. You can imagine why, and you'd only be halfway there. There is still so much to know about being someone else. Anyone else. I took this challenge and, as I have with a lot of other obstacles in my life, did the best I could with it. It was hard, stressful, nerve-wracking, but I couldn't let on that I was struggling. There was work to do.

I messed up. Because it was an accident there is no reason I should feel guilty, but I do. Because of me three of my closest friends were transformed into other people, so I've worked tirelessly to get them, and me, back where we belong. I was single-minded. Survive, thrive, earn money to return to Maine, ignore the voice in my head reminding me of all the people my company - a travel agency - sent to that inn in Maine over the years. How many ruined lives are implicitly on my hands. Atone.

Bad things happen, no matter how good you are at planning. People will make mistakes, or things happen that are beyond your control. In my old life, I was a VP, I had a beautiful girlfriend I was planning to marry, I had money and status. Then I was turned into this, and somebody else had to be turned into me.

That somebody else... was a child. A preteen without enough sense of the world to deal with life at the level I was living. I could do everything right as Charlotte, but there was no way that kid was ever going to be a good Anthony.

He lost everything for me. Shaun has written about how guilty he feels for ruining Doug's relationship. It isn't his fault, and it isn't the Kid's fault for ruining mine, but it happened, and my career and my savings, and everything. It's gone. There was nothing I could do from here to protect it.

If I was going to go back to Maine, if I was going to go back to being Anthony, I would be starting from scratch. Worse off than I ever was before. And these are bad economic times to be trying to rebuild your life. I couldn't take it.

Shaun's a good man. He didn't steal Doug's life, even though Doug has everything Shaun seems to want. I'm not going back to the Inn. The real Charlotte has known this for some time. As far as I know, she will continue living as Wayne Tyson in Scotsdale, Arizona. As Wayne "he" is very much in love with his wife Linda, the original Clara. I don't know who will be claiming her body from Zane. It's none of my business.

My point is that as guilty as I feel for what I did to my friends, I did everything I could to fix it, I got the three of them back to Maine and if everything goes according to plan, they will be back where they belong in no time. I have to stay in Los Angeles. I'm going to be CeeCee for the rest of my life, barring some insane change of plans. I don't mind it here. The job has room for advancement. The body is sufficient for my needs. I'm thinking of getting a cat.

I've known this was happening for a few months now. I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone sooner because I was ashamed. I'm afraid you'll all think I'm taking the easy way out. Worried that you'll think less of me because I see "life as a woman" as better than "life stripped of everything I had." Afraid you'll think I'm some kind of thief. I hope you'll understand that I only did what I had to do.

This is the worst part.

The inn only works when enough people go. I had already made a reservation and couldn't cancel. This was all very time-sensitive. Through this blog, I learned about Travelers, who go back to the Inn for fun, or entertainment, or whatever. I first tried to offer my old body to Greg, but the timing didn't work out with him returning Alexis' body to her. He put me in touch with Fletcher, but he was unable to find any of his friends to visit the Inn that week.

So I took out an ad, and I sold my reservation privately, to someone who hasn't ever been before.

I've lost a lot of sleep over this. One last unwitting soul being put into a new body. I made sure it was a man, roughly my age, unemployed, unmarried, I've done everything I could to vet the candidate. He should be arriving there tonight. I'm not saying it's OK that I've done this, only that it's happened a million times before and there's no way to stop it.

This is the only way.

I'm so sorry.

Shaun/Doug: The Bumpy Road Home

I said I'd be at the inn last weekend. That was the intention. In the end I had to put off the flight to Maine until Thursday.

I had to help Nia move out.

I wanted to keep things tied together. I wanted to keep everything in place until Doug could finally get his body back, but things don't work that way. People don't work that way. I couldn't ask Nia to put her emotions on hold for a month until her real husband returned. And no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't bring her to Maine. It doesn't work that way, either.

Doug is actually livid about this situation. He's not fond of me for messing up his relationship. He's admitted it's the situation not my fault, and maybe nobody could have withstood the pressure I started off with, but it's hard not to use me as a scapegoat. I was the one who had the chance to save their marriage.

He's also not so fond of Nia right now. "That bitch wants to walk out on me? That's how much our vows mean? Fuck her." Wow, it's not hard to see how there was already some negativity built up.

I was tempted to stay. I could have made it work somehow. If Doug was going to react this harshly, he might as well not even go back to her. I like Nia enough that I feel like I could resolve things. I liked being Doug enough that I felt I could continue. It might've been easiest for everyone.

But that's not how life works. If Doug and Nia are going to break up, they're going to have to. And Doug's going to have to be the one signing the papers, it's the right thing. I have my own responsibilities. I have a responsibility to my friends, to go back to the Inn and reclaim my own life, and help them reclaim theirs. This situation might end with everyone being miserable, but it's honest.

So I stayed an extra few days as a gesture of goodwill. Helped her relocate her necessities to her brother's house. She's still simmering with rage that I prioritized a mysterious vacation to Maine over her, but I had an ace up my sleeve. I told her it was for Clara.

Nia doesn't love Clara. She sees her as a burden, and to be honest, I think Doug might agree, but there's something to be said for family loyalty. Nia knows Clara's had a rough few years. And based on what Zane's experienced in Clara's body, she has seen things have gotten worse. If I tell her I'm going as a gift to my sister, she understands. She doesn't love it, but she understands. She even gave me a kiss goodbye when I left her brother's place. And she left a lot of her stuff, which is encouraging.

I have mixed feelings about this. I wish I had kept a more up-to-date blog so you could have a better sense of the ups and downs of this past year. It's hard for me not to sympathize with Nia, but I also want to defend myself to her, so we fight. But I feel like, without this Inn thing between us, we could have had a strong relationship. But I'll never forget it wasn't my relationship to begin with.

We all want to put this in the past. None of us wants to consider the possibility that we won't get our correct bodies back, but I've heard of that happening. Frankly, I just want anything to get me out of this body, but you know, they say be careful what you wish for.

After all, this time last year, I wished I was married, and I got that wish.

I think it will work out. Anthony was very take-charge in arranging this. He's a planner. Meticulous. I trust him. But the fact that he hasn't arrived yet is still troubling...

Lisa/Eve: Getting back where we started

Yes, I'm back in Maine. No, I'm not back in my own body yet. What I understand about the Inn is that it only works when all the rooms are "filled." I guess that means that if enough people happened to be walking by at the wrong time, they could be counted, but we'll never know how it selects exactly when and how to start changing people.

All I know is that it hasn't happened yet. I've spent a lot of time just staring out the window. I barely want to leave this room. I just sit by the window watching rain fall.

Shaun and Anthony actually delayed in getting here. Shaun's been dealing with his marriage situation and just arrived yesterday. I don't know what Anthony's excuse is. Being that his current body and mine are sisters, you'd think we could communicate more, but he's always so secretive. I hope he makes it here by the end of the weekend.

It's hard to believe I've spent a year in this body, in this life. It hasn't been easier, but it's been a lot easier for me than any of my friends. Even SHaun really started to see some backlash by the end. I'll let him explain to you how that worked out, if he chooses. He's told me a slightly more detailed version of what he wrote here. It's hard to blame him, but he seems really hurt by it.

So for the past week or so, it's been me and Zane up here. I haven't seen much of him/her since last fall when the change rendered him practically catatonic... whether that was due to the depressive state of Clara's body, or his own substances disagreeing with it, I don't know.

It's weird how, as Clara, Zane is both "like" and "unlike" himself. I was thinking of him as this fragile flower, this object of pity, broken by the transformation, when the real Zane had a real resilience. I never saw anything affect him quite the way becoming Clara did last summer and I was worried about spending time with "her."

But it's Zane who has encouraged me to get out of the room the most. I've spent so much of the last year going places and doing things I didn't want to that I liked the idea of staying in and shutting down until I was myself again. It occurred to me that Zane has sort of the opposite: being Clara has kept him from doing things, from going places and enjoying life, because of self-consciousness, depression, and lately, lack of control. These past few days are the last he'll spend as a woman, with any luck. They might be the only ones he enjoys.

Whatever Zane's agreement with this Wes character, it doesn't seem like he's as okay with it as he wants people to believe. It doesn't seem like something an emotionally-healthy person would be able to put herself through, and at the risk of sounding patronizing, I know Zane, as Clara, is not that.

I'm worried that this experience might haunt all of us afterwards, but him most of all.

Anyway, I wrote this because I realized none of us had checked in on the blog. Still waiting on the last of our group. Anthony, wherever you are, get here quick.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tori: Keeping happy

I'm comfortable. I could complain a bit about my financial state or the occasional rocky period in my relationship. I vented a bit in my last post about how Alex didn't want to move in together yet and this somehow tied together with my mind which was all messed up with baby-crazies.

I love him because he likes me. I don't want to be "a girl" about this and start looking for things to go wrong, because we're not getting married (honestly, the stress of having a wedding just sounds awful to me. Sara just put hers off until fall.) At this point, if I'm happy, all I need to do is keep him happy, so if this is all he wants, I can handle it.

It's been some work. I've never been with someone this much for this long. Never shared so much, never made them this big a part of my life. Less and less, that one thing he doesn't know about me seems like a big deal, but it won't go away completely. Some nights we'll be in bed and I'll think "If only a woman loved me this much when I was a guy..." and it's hard to imagine how, after all this time, I'm so comfortable and yet still clinging to past regrets. I would have loved it then, but what I have now is superb so I don't know why I'm complaining.

Every so often, Alex will ask me if there's something bothering me. I try to brush it off and tell him things are fine. And they mostly are: I'm happy with my body. I have a guy to wrap his arms around me, and even if we don't live together, he's still somehow usually here to watch me try on four different outfits before going out. I swear after three years I'm still not an ace at dressing myself in a hurry, but most girls aren't even after a full lifetime. Undressing, on the other hand, I can do.

Luckily, I don't have to spend too much time picking an outfit in the morning. Black pants. White polo shirt. Nametag. I'm the girl who sells cell phones in the mall. I'm trying to take a little pride in this position, because even if it's not corporate, it's still tech-related and appeals to my interests and skill set, but I have no delusions about why I was hired. I'm the eye candy. Given a chance, most guys would rather talk to a pretty girl about their cell phone plan than anyone else working there (not to say some of my male co-workers aren't attractive, but I doubt most of the male customers care.) But it's embarrassing sometimes, because my male co-workers have this perception of me having been hired for my looks and not knowing anything about phones. And there's a lot to keep track of, with features and plans, that sometimes when I stumble or need to be helped out, it feeds their perception of me as "dumb hot (blonde!!) chick." Eye candy.

I've worked retail as Tori before, but that was in a garment shop. The only people I ever talked to were women. I wasn't the hottest one there, nor the least knowledgeable since when I became a girl I was obsessed with finding out the differences in types of fashion.

When a guy screws up around here, it's no big deal. They just laugh it off. But because I'm fighting my reputation, it's really stressful, especially because I haven't had a lot of time to get good at it yet, only working two or three shifts a week. To say nothing of male customers admiring my chest while I'm trying to explain the savings of a 3-year smart phone contract to them.

Sorry for the rambling post, anyway. Sometimes I worry about leaving off on a post like my last one, where I seem like some crazy girl, and I wanted to reassure you guys that things are actually going good. Routine with the BF, stress at the job, but good.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ellie: What I know

Now that the school year is winding down, I can finally de-stress and pay a little attention to this blog. It's always in the back of my head, because from a certain angle thinking about the Inn and my life (and Ellie's and Emily's and everybody else) is way more important than whether I got my homework done. But in the moment, it's easy to get caught up in the day to day facts of being this girl at this point in her life (and mine.)

I never went to high school. I graduated finished the eighth grade, took a vacation with my dad, and woke up one morning in a "real world" where I was a grown woman. It was a mixed blessing because every teenager craves freedom, but hates responsibility. And I didn't have the proper amount of time to grow into myself. Sometimes I hear about people "my age" (whatever age that is) who lost their parents or have had to be self-sufficient for any reason, and I want to tell them I know exactly how they feel, but as Ellie, I'm not supposed to. In my life, this high school chunk was the missing piece of my life experience. It may seem like hell to a lot of the people here, but it works, when you're 16 or 17 to ease you into life on your own. Knowing the alternative, which I lived, I would have gladly gone through this from the beginning.

Which is why I kind of gravitated toward Callahan, when I started learning more about him. It started out as a curiosity, when Iris first mentioned it. A sort of reminder that I'm still a girl in a school half-full of boys, who may want to look t me or get to know me. And even though I didn't consider myself available, that didn't mean I couldn't get lonely. I've spent the bulk of my "adult" life with members of the opposite sex, whichever sex that happened to be. As Ellie I've been both "alone at last" and lonely.

I got myself into situations where I could talk to him. Saying "Hi" in the hallway, later asking about his life. It helped to mend fences between me and Emily. I think she always thought I was bitter because she started flirting and dating almost from the get-go, and maybe I had lingering feelings. I don't know what to say about any of that, but suddenly we related a lot better. If there's anything that brings teenage girls together, it's a crush.

This wasn't a crush, but I maybe tried to make it one. I thought if I was going to like any of the guys at school it would probably be him, and the more I got to know him, the more I liked him. But there's a limit on that. There's nothing special about him. He's not overly funny or smart, but he's not a bad guy. I just find him less annoying than the other boys around here.

And I thought for a little while that was good enough. It was a high school relationship, not some deep romance. If I wanted to hang around with a guy, I could text him and see if he wanted to watch a movie or something. He got the message pretty quickly and we're set to go to Prom together this weekend.

Except I can't help but feel wrong about this. This is my first prom ever, I've got this nice dress, and my date is just some guy "I can put up with." I don't know what he's expecting afterward but even though I've done plenty with worse guys, I can't help but feel like going through with "prom night stuff" would be too wrong, but leading him on, more than I already have, would feel even worse. This situation is very new to me.

My best friend, Iris, is going to be there too, without a date. I kind of goaded her into it because I agreed to go and didn't want to "just" be with him and Emily, I wanted someone I really like there. I also wanted her to have fun, because, aside from going to the Inn you're only young once and I don't like seeing her waste it.

What I've learned is that I'm still going to be here next year. My "father" made the decision that since we don't know what happened to the real Ellie, Emily and Mr. McClay, it would be a bad idea to return to the inn especially since we don't have "real" bodies to return to. This is something that still keeps me up nights sometimes. I'm not much of an investigator. I had some leads back in the fall but the trail went cold and... well, I got distracted. It's not easy leading a double life. I'll talk more about it, hopefully, when I get some time this summer.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Shaun/Doug: Cruise Control

From the outset of this whole "transformation" thing, I felt like a lucky duck. It was easy for me to focus on how much more simple my life was going to be as Doug than, say, Zane's as Clara. Every so often I talk to "her" to lend my support, but it usually ends badly. Since this thing with Wes began, "she" hasn't even been returning my calls. And while I'd love to spend a lot of time worrying about my friend's status, the truth is I have a lot of problems of my own.

See, when you have a relationship, especially one based on a shaky foundation (schedules not lining up, also not having any of this man's memories) it's not good to be on autopilot. If you're in a comfortable place and you know it, it can feel like you can just cruise, but if that's not the case, just eking by lets the cracks that already exist get worse.

I guess Doug had a good reason for hiding this from me, and maybe he didn't even see it this way, but there were definitely cracks in his and Nia's marriage. As "good" as I tried to be, as much as I was along for the ride, the fact that my heart wasn't in it has been obvious to her for a long time.

Which feels bad, because since coming here, I've grown to really care about her. When I say "I love you," it's easy to smile because she's really fun to be around. And after the failure of my engagement, I really wanted this relationship to last.

But I wasn't in the right place to dive in. I took advantage of the fact that we weren't always home at the same time. Instead of making time to see her, I maintained that light schedule of "couplehood." When I began to suspect I really might love her, I kept her at arm's length because I know she doesn't love me back, she loves Doug. I didn't want to get hurt. And I got hurt anyway. In the last few weeks I've had to face the facts that I have handled this situation very badly.

I've been stealing away in my spare moments to see Lisa. Since her college term ended last month, she's been around here more, and bored, so when I can I grab some beers and take her for a drive. We talk, about old times, about our current lives... probably the main reason I don't blog to you guys much is because I have her to talk to.

Well, I guess my little outings were not unnoticed, because Nia was waiting up for me. And she had the one question that you don't want to be asked in a marriage, if you don't have a good answer:

"Where have you been?"

I stammered a response, "I, uh, went for a drive." Not terrible. There's a lot of places to drive to around here. "I thought you were working?"

Bad. So bad. Okay, it's believable that I would go for a drive if she was working, but she noticed I was keeping track of her whereabouts and not in a... good way.

"I switched shifts. Who were you with?"

"Nobody," I said.

"I don't believe you."

"I go for drives sometimes when you're not around."

"Is this a joke? Who are you?"

For a second there - just a second - I thought she actually knew I wasn't her husband. But she uses that phrase as a variation on "Who do you think you are?"

She continued, "You should sit down."

I did.

She leaned in and said how much she had noticed my behavior lately. I forget things about our past. Sometimes I don't even respond to my own name. I never seem to want to be around the house with her.

That last one... it's not that I try to get away from her. I like her a lot, but I guess, early on, I caught on to the idea that manipulating my schedule so that I spent less time with her - working on days she had off, working mornings when she worked at night - would lessen the burden on me to pretend to be in a marriage with her.

It was also for my own good. Guys, last summer, when I got this body, I was in no place to be told "You're going to be married to someone right now." I just had my engagement broken off, I was bitter, I was afraid, I was vulnerable. And when I met Nia, and everything seemed so perfect, because this so-called relationship was all set up for me, I... felt things that I had no business feeling. It took a great deal of self-awareness to remember this is not my marriage, this is not my woman, she doesn't love me even if she thinks she does, I have no right to feel entitled to her.

And as a result, I may have gone too far the other way.

"I don't feel comfortable around you anymore," she told me. "You keep too many secrets, you're too distant. You disappear on nights like this, don't think I haven't noticed."

She said, "I know you've got this trip planned again, with your sister and her friends. I don't know why you didn't even ask me to come along. I'd like to think that if you're having an affair you wouldn't be so goddamned stupid about it."

"I'm not having an affair," I told her.

"Don't talk. If you cared about me you wouldn't be going on a trip without me. If you go, I'm not sure I can keep going in this relationship."

That hurt. I thought I was doing better. I thought I had some leeway, but that's not what happens in relationships. You have a partner, and your partner needs to trust you.

My mind raced. If I go without her, I risk destroying the relationship that's been left in my care, that I really wanted to return to the real Doug intact. If I stay then the relationship is safe... but with me in it, stealing another man's happiness. Then I could get comfortable. I could maybe make her love me.

Then I thought about somehow bringing her along. I don't know how that would work, what strange new body she might get. I'd even accept a body that wasn't my own because then she would fully understand what we've been going through for the past year, forgive the real Doug, even if it meant revealing my identity and probably making her hate me forever.

But that's not an option. I could never put another person, especially someone I care about, in this situation. There has to be another way.

Next Saturday, I plan to be in Maine. I have no idea what happens before or after that.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Greg/Alexis: On the prowl

One of the things I've liked best about living in Burlington is that it has a small town feel with a big city culture. Meaning you get all the progressive ideas of an urban area without all the crowds. It makes working, shopping, and overall living very enjoyable. One thing that's more difficult is dating, especially when youre gay.

There used to be an awful show on Showtime called "The L Word", which was about a bunch of Lesbians in Southern California who really didn't do much besides be gay. I tried watching it on DVD for pointers when I first became Alex, but couldn't get through the first season, thats how annoying the characters were. Anyway, one of the lesbians on that show had a bulletin board with the names of all the gay women she knew and had them connected together in a web by string if they had slept together. Besides being a little psychotic, it's actually a pretty accurate way of representing local gay communities. When you go from having a dating pool of about 45% of people to a dating pool of about 5% of people, especially in a town of less than 40,000, theres bound to be some overlap. That means of all the gay women in Burlington almost all of them either know me, know Sharon, know Annabelle, or know someone who knows us. Its like 3 degrees of separation and it makes it difficult to date when someone can look up on facebook and see that youre married.

Perhaps I should rewind a bit and explain why I was out looking for women. After my conversation with Malinda on Mother's Day I realized that I wasn't just sad about having to break things off with Annabelle, I was sad at the idea of having to be alone again. I've been mostly single for the past three years after being in a very long relationship and I dont really enjoy it. Annabelle gave me someone to go out with and yes, have sex with regularly and I didn't want to be banned from doing that. For the time being, this is my body and as long as I dont do anything that would screw up any friendships or relationships of the real Alex I figure I'm free to date who I want. Sadly dating someone in Burlington who wouldn't spread it around that I'm "cheating" on Sharon is quite difficult.

So this past Saturday night I got in my car and drove about 45 minutes to Montpelier, which despite being smaller than Burlington is still big enough to have a gay bar.

I had never been to a gay bar, I wasn't expecting it to be all bubbles and techno but I did prepare myself for it too be a little different. I vowed to go in with an open mind but found out that I wasn't just ill prepared to pick up women in a gay bar, I was ill prepared to pick up women in ANY bar.

What can I say, I was rusty. And the worst part about being rusty is you dont even know that you are. The last time I went looking for women it wasn't in a bar. I was too young to go to bars; that's how long Amber and I were together before thing's got derailed. So I tried to awkwardly pick up women with a knowledge of "how to pick up lesbians" and "how to meet girls in bars" that was pieced together from various movies.

At first I just sat at the bar, scoping people out. It's weird because only about half of the women there were lesbians, the other half were straight women who came there with their friends to avoid being hit on by guys. The myth that girls can just go to the bar and drink for free because people will buy them for you is incorrect or didn't apply in my case because there was very little action.

Another thing I had forgotten after being out of the dating pool for so long? Rejection. Yeah, it hurts. Not only does it take massive amounts of courage to walk up to a stranger and ask to buy them a drink, its very difficult to look cool or not take it personally when they turn you down.

Of course once they do talk to you you have to very subtly convince them that you are awesome and worthy of seeing again outside of a bar. Which is difficult because who I am is a mix of at least two different people so selling that to someone is hard to do in a smooth manner. I did manage to talk to this one woman, Haley, for about 15 minutes. She was cool, worked for the state government, liked video games and sports, she and Alex would have a lot in common. But when it came time to ask for her number, I totally botched it and made it sound like I was just trying to hook up with her, which in a way I kinda was. So despite not having a penis since 2009, I blew it by thinking with my dick.

So, feeling down on myself I went to Denny's and had coffee till I was sober enough to drive back to Burlington. When I got back I just wanted to lie back and have a nice long sleep but I was still feeling a little frisky.

When I got up to the master bedroom, Malinda had already claimed it. She was taking a bubble bath when I called to her telling her I needed my toothbrush.

"C'mon in and get it, I'm not standing up"

So I walked in and, still a gentleman on the inside, shielded my eyes from the bath while I gathered my stuff.

"I didn't think you'd be home tonight, that you'd be in some hotel room" She teased

"Yeah it turns out I have no game" I said self deprecatingly "Something I'm gonna need to work on"

I grabbed my stuff and very quietly reached for the bottom dresser drawer for what I really wanted. Over the past few months through careful experimentation I've become quite familiar with Alex and Sharon's extensive and exotic collection of sex toys. I couldnt find their Hitachi Magic Wand, which is mind blowing, and hoped I didn't leave it out somewhere. I grabbed the Rabbit and headed downstairs to hop myself to sleep.

when I woke up fully refreshed my head was clearer and I've decided that the bar scene isn't for me. So for the next few months of my adventure I'm going to try online dating for companionship.

I'll keep you posted