"All right," Tyler said, sitting in the makeup chair for his little display of pageantry. "Give me the works. Don't make me look like too much of a whore, but, like... obviously some whore. Medium whore."
"Lauren," I tell him sternly, barely censoring myself from uttering his real name because sensitive ears are around, "Don't refer to women as whores."
"Sorry. I want a real sophisticated escort look."
I roll my eyes.
In the very short time I've known Tyler, he's become one of the most important people in my life. I think he mainly writes on the blog when he's got a bit of misery about his situation, but when it's just the two of us, he can be funny, goofy, sarcastic... even a bit flirty (and don't think I haven't reprimanded him for stepping over a line here or there.) He has every right in the world to just hate everything about life, and all things being equal he indulges it, but he's quite capable of joking his way through it when he needs to. Crass, sure, but... it's better than moping.
Sometimes he turns it on me, tweaking me when I have to play up my "relationship" with Wade. He knows it irritates me to draw too much attention to it, but he does it anyway. Part of me thinks it's motivated by bitterness -- he and I seemed to be on the verge of becoming something when this happened to us, and now that we are where we are, well, it's definitely not in the cards.
Like I said, though, he's important to me. Being able to talk to him about stuff, about how I really feel, has been an outlet, because I'm a fairly private person who is reluctant to share the details of her life on a blog (I swear, I'm trying to get better.) So his wellbeing means a lot to me, and when he said he wanted to try this pageant, essentially the girliest thing I could think of, I definitely did a double-take.
I got the whole ordeal on camera, and it was mostly how he
presented it... really he didn't do too bad, at least at first,
basically indistinguishable from the rest of the girls, maybe just a tad
less polished. It's not like he got up there, tromped around like a
man, grunted his answer to the question, then spat on the floor. But you could tell he didn't eat, sleep and breathe this stuff like his competitors did after a while, and by the time we got to the talent show, it was obvious how out of his depth he was. There's this look he gets on his face right after his name is announced, and he's onstage waiting for his musical cue, where you can tell it's just... over, and that as much as he looks like Lauren, he is not that person. It's this sad, pitiable, trapped expression. Deer-in-the-headlights times. But of course he stuck it out, and delivered his croaky, unpracticed -- not entirely terrible but certainly not exceptional rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," about the most incongruous song I could imagine the real Tyler singing. Then again, there's no place like home, right?
After it was over, I brought him back to my place. We cracked open a few beers and he enthusiastically scrubbed the makeup off his face. I asked why went through with this so voluntarily. "Surely, you can't be that devoted to keeping up he act as Lauren."
He shrugged and said "Don't call me Shirley." Ba-dum-bum.
He reiterated his point about the money, and I argued that it was a lot to put oneself through for a few bucks.
He grimaced a little, but said he sincerely thought he could help, but after the embarrassment at coming up short, he might not be so enthusiastic in the future. "Plus," he said, "I had to know."
"Had to know what?"
He shrugged, "Had to know if it was for me. God, this sounds stupid, but you know. I've been walking around in Lauren's shoes for a little while now, and I'm starting to identify with her a bit. This was her big thing, and I had to find out if this was something she left with me... if baking my brain in her body's chemicals results in someone who's into all that."
I was going to say that was absurd, but how could I judge? What do I know about how extensive the changes are?
In the months since we got here, Tyler's baggy sweats became jeans, became crop tops, tanks and bralets, became skirts and the occasional dress. He isn't fighting a war against girliness, he's infiltrating. He's testing the waters because... I think... he's worried he's going to be this way longer than a year. I don't know what the situation is between him and the person who has wound up in his body, but the fact that he is not eager to discuss it is not promising. I think he's trying to figure out what kind of girl, or woman, he's going to be, if this is it.
I admire him. He's got the guts to throw himself into this shit and try things while he's here, whether it's permanent or not. He's weathering the storm well, and I still believe it will pass. I just hope this isn't a sign that he's already lost hope. We have so far to go.