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."
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.