Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tyler/Lauren: My Crappy Valentine

I was in a pretty dark place on Valentine's Day.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not depressed. There's just nothing good in my life right now. We're between productions with the Drama club, my friends are drifting away from me (or me with them) Meg and I are working through our differences, but far from the best we've been. I'm behind on my homework. I've got cramps pretty bad. I'm rooming with a messy 11-year-old girl and suppressing the desire to scream at her to get her shit put away because it's so inconsiderate and I work pretty hard to keep my little corner of the house neat and tidy.

I don't know whether it's the weather, the lack of a social life, the pressure of school or the female hormones, but I am about to snap.

Lauren turned 18 on January 23. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about it. In the eyes of the law I am an adult, but to the world, and myself. Lauren's still a "kid." 17 and a half is just a stone's throw from 18. I don't look or feel any different, but I know in my bones, this body exists in the world differently than it did a month ago and that's weird. some kind of protective bubble of "childhood" has disappeared.

I asked for gift cards, so Lauren could get some new clothes once she came back to her body, but ended up getting a lot of clothes anyway: clothes had had to be exchanged because family members estimated my size wrong, on account of what I've done to Lauren. For the record, I don't think I did anything wrong, merely took her from emaciated to skinny. At least, what is considered very skinny in the land of Paula Deen butter-fried bacon. I joke, but I do miss biscuits and gravy.

Saturday night was Valentine's Day, of course, and it felt pretty brutal knowing that Meghan was out there rekindling Tasha's romance with Wade. I don't like admitting I can't get over her. I feel like my body is betraying me by pushing all these hormones through me. Whatever I feel for her feels pretty unhealthy, and yes a little wrong, but consider the alternative - and I know there are alternatives.

It was 3 AM that night and I couldn't sleep. I was lying up in bed, listening to Kylie wheeze, when I heard Phil stumble through the door and into his room. I waited about twenty minutes, then crept down there to see the light peeking out from beneath the door.

I stood in front of it for probably a minute or so, my lungs shaking with each breath. I knew there was a huge risk in what I was about to do. No part of me thought it was smart or sane. But I needed to do something. It was like being a smoker again and lying up thinking about getting a cigarette. At a certain point you just need it.

I knocked. He answered quickly and seemed pleasantly surprised it was me.

"Sorry," he said, "Was I loud?"

"No, no, not really," I said. "I just... I saw you were still up... and this is gonna sound really stupid, but I need a friend right now, and you're the only one around. Would you mind if we talk?"

He looked at me for a second like I'd grown a third arm straight outta the back of my head, but he let me in and shut the door behind us.

He laid down on his bed, and I sat against the wall on the far side of the room. He patted the bed next to him, but it was a pretty unappealing option.

"Come on," he beckoned, "You're the one who wants to be friendly."

"Not like that," I said.

"I know, but I can't hear you from back there."

So I went and sat on his bed, back against the headboard, knees up to my chest in a protective position.

"What's on your mind?" he asked.

"It's hard to say," I said, coming ever so close to blurting out the facts about me before realizing how insane it would sound. "How was your night?"

"Shitty," he said, "Almost hooked up, but the girl was a tease. I'm pretty drunk though."

I shrugged at that. As a guy I would have been rooting for him, but in my current position I can see her reasons.

"Do you feel bad that you're not seeing anyone on Valentine's Day?"

"Meh. It's just another day," he said as if it was insane of me to ask.

"Yeah, I used to think so too," I said, "I guess I'm becoming a real... girl." I stopped and snorted a laugh at how I must've sounded.

"Yeah you are," he said, giving me uncomprehending, narrow eyes.

I decided to try to explain. "I had a fight with my best friend. I dunno how to explain it. It was about a guy."

"She stole him from you?"

"More like he stole her from me," I muttered.

"Friend gets in a relationship, you never see friend again," he surmised. "I got it."

"Yeah, basically," I said. "It's more complicated than that... but not really."

"Well, if she's your friend, you be happy for her," he said, lying back on his bed with his eyes closed, as if in a zen trance, "And if you're her friend she'll come back."

"I guess," I said, "I really don't know why I feel so bad. I just always pictured... something different."

"With who?" he asked, clearly confused.

"I don't think he's right for her," I said. "That's all."

"Okay," he said, "I see it now. No offense, but that's weak. Like, let her decide for herself."

"You don't--" I started to say, "Whatever."

There was a silence for a while. He was still lying there, not looking at me. He reached up and put his hand on my knee.

I asked, "Do you have many female friends?"

"Sure," he said, "A couple."

"And were they all just girls you wanted to date but couldn't?"

He paused for a while then answered "Mostly."

"Any girls who wanted to date you, but you didn't want to date them?"

He looked at me with a smirk and said "That's not how guys work."

I grimaced.

Another silence passed between us, until I broke it by asking, "Could you date somebody if it meant never having sex with them?"

"What?" he winced, "What would be the point?"

"Company," I sighed, "Companionship. Shared interests."

He sat up, "Sorry, but no. When you get a bit older you'll see that sex has to be part of a relationship."

I got really annoyed by that "When you get older" bit, but it's not the first time I've heard that. I didn't like his take on relationships, either, but as much as I wanted to believe the opposite I have a hard time doing so too.

"I don't think I'm gonna ever have sex again," I sighed.

"You'll find somebody," he said quickly, looking over at me with a smile that suggested he'd be open to being that somebody.

"You're a good dude, Phil," I begrudgingly admitted, "Sometimes you're annoying, but you mean well. You should probably know this can't happen though." I gestured between the two of us.

He scoffed, "Whatever," and rolled over on the bed. I quietly excused myself.

I went back to my room and turned my phone on. I started scrolling through the old text messages. There were several from Meg, random conversations with Lauren's friends, and Mark. There were a bunch of one-off "Happy Birthday" texts, including one from Wade, which would've been right after he and Meg were having those problems, which I found weird at the time because I didn't think he and I were that close. Still nice, though. I hate that I consider him my enemy, because he is basically a good dude.

Scrolling back a ways, I found texts with the real Lauren, and then, my sister Carrie, coordinating our return to the Inn and checking in on how she's doing with Meg's body.

And then just before that, sitting like a brick at the bottom of the list, is a conversation with "New Tyler."

But I really don't want to get into that right now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Meg/Tasha: On the couch

Have I ever told you I've screwed up every relationship I've ever had? Of course not. I guess I've been pretty guarded about myself. Sure, I've had some good ones, but in the end it always goes bad and it always feels like my fault. Dating all the way back to the seventh grade when I liked Tommy Fitzgerald but I was afraid to dance with him, so he danced with Ashley Cooper instead and they ended up dating for two years. She was 5'7 and blonde, how could I compete??

(Checks mirror) Oh, yeah. Well, fat lot of good it's doing me. I mean "careful what you wish for," right?

Then there was high school - the garden variety "he's just not that into you" spiel. I always felt too brainy, too snarky, not approachable enough. I was basically April from Parks & Recreation but with cat's eye glasses and a Kurt Vonnegut book tucked in my backpack. Sometimes guys would think I was their dream girl, then get disappointed with the reality of a testy, introverted bookworm. Sometimes I would just fall for the wrong guy.

I was in a relationship for a year and a half when I had the car accident that left me using a cane. Emotionally, I was a wreck afterwards and I really let it get between us. But I think I just used it as an excuse to push him away. After that I had a few disastrous dates - usually I blamed the cane - and then I stopped trying. Then eventually I went to Maine.

In the past month I feel like I've wrecked three relationships simultaneously, as if that's even possible.

Let's start with Wade. When I first met him, he seemed like, well, not my type to put it mildly. Goofy, boyish, bit of a sophomoric sense of humor (and an immature worldview) I thought I was going to be pulling my hair out the entire way. I could not date this person, and I could definitely not pretend to be some airhead just to make him happy. But a shocking thing happens when you plop yourself into a relationship that has already lasted years: comfort. We bickered, but ultimately he let me have my way on things that I was pretty unflexible about (that Tasha probably wouldn't have.) He saw this seismic change in his girlfriend and decided "She's still my girlfriend and I want to make her happy" and that was touching. It made me want to be a good girlfriend to him.

There was a period, from September to December, when I could fake my way through things with Wade. I was happy and comfortable and the sex was fine. (I should note that as Tasha, I'm less sensitive than I am as myself which was actually quite a hurdle to get over.) I was getting almost exactly what I needed, and my best friend was my stepsister who was a man inside. Okay that wasn't ideal but whatever. It was working.

Then came Mykal, the yoga instructor. I got into the habit of going out for coffee with him, since he makes his own schedule and I work nights. We had a lot of really great chats, although his passion for Eastern medicine and spirituality is a bit cheesy. He's still a well-read, worldly guy. But I told myself that there was a line and I would not cross it. As Tasha, I owe it to her, myself and Wade not to screw things up. But if I was smart I would have stayed the hell away. I thought I could have my cake and eat it too. After all, I've had plenty of male friends, and they never had trouble not making a pass at me (see: introverted, not approachable.) Sometimes I forget what I look like, what a smile or a friendly touch on the shoulder could mean to a guy.

And it didn't help matters that the more he turned on the charm, the more I felt butterflies.

And the more I noticed how I didn't feel butterflies with Wade. And then I felt bad about that.

Then one night in January, Mykal was driving me home from the bar, where he had popped in to see me, and we got to my building, and we just kind of looked at each other and decided to do what we both wanted.

We kissed.

And we just couldn't stop kissing.

And I was just so excited to be there that I started playing with his, well, you-know-what... and let him spurt all over the place.

Including, I later noticed, a little spatter that had traveled from his crotch to my pant leg.

Then I crawled into bed with Wade, but I couldn't sleep. I had this anxiety attack that Wade would wake up and decide to look in the hamper for some reason. Or that there was more that I hadn't seen. Or that Wade could smell it on me. So I got up and just started pacing around the living room in tears.

Days passed. Wade didn't seem to suspect anything, but I was pretty reluctant to see Mykal. I was texting Ty every ten minutes, which of course is a no-no because he was in school, and honestly I was abusing his goodwill anyway because, if you've been reading this since the beginning, you might know that Tyler has some pretty serious feelings for me that we've just agreed never to address... which was foolish because I needed some emotional support and he was my only option and that was so, so, so unfair of me.

So I had Tyler getting impatient with my BS, which was fair, and I had Mykal tapping his foot wondering if we were going to become anything, and I had Wade who I couldn't even look in the eye anymore.

So I cracked one night, when Wade and I were both off. I sat him down and started by asking how he felt about "us." He said he thought things were fine. I said I'd been having some doubts. He sat up... he knew exactly what that meant, because he had been suspicious of Mykal for some time.

He flew into a rage, throwing around words like "duplicitous" and "untrustworthy" and spouting off about what he assumed my defenses would have been if I were the real Tasha. I said I had no defense, and he said "No shit."

He told me to get out. I didn't want to go to Paul and Sue's -- there are enough people under that roof and I couldn't face Tyler either -- so I went to Mykal's. The only person I thought would have me.

He let me sleep on his couch, thankfully holding back his obvious curiosity about where that left us, because I simply could not handle any more drama at the time.

The next day he made me breakfast and we talked about what we wanted. I wondered how mad Tasha would be at me if I left her life with a new boyfriend she had never met before. Mykal made a very compelling case for "us," but I told him I owed it to "myself" to try to make it work with Wade.

And he said "Well if you go back to him and it doesn't work, don't bother trying to come back here."

I don't really care for ultimatums, so I told him I would see him around.

I got back to the apartment and stopped at the door. I had to remind myself what I was trying to rescue, not for me, but for Tasha. She obviously loved Wade, she had been with him for years and had a home with him. I couldn't believed I had put it in jeopardy with one careless night. I hoped it was strong enough to withstand this.

I went in and found a bunch of my clothes piled carelessly in the living room. We were not off to a good start.

When I found him, we were both in more of a state of mind to talk, but not by much. I chose my words very carefully. I told him things had been weird with me lately, and he asked why.

I said I couldn't put my finger on it.

He said that wasn't good enough.

I asked if there was any way he could forgive me, anything I could say or do.

He took a long breath and stared off into space. Like he was doing some mental math.

Finally he spoke.

"It was only once?"

I nodded and said an almost inaudible "Yes."

"And you told me right away?"

I shrugged a guilt-ridden "Couple of days."

He nodded slowly. Adding it all up.

"Sleep on the couch for a while, I guess," he said in this wounded whisper. "We'll work on it."

I wiped the tears from my eyes and I reached out to hug him. He hesitated but let me.

He went to work, and I spent the day at home cursing at myself, pacing, excoriating myself because I have more character than that, I'm supposed to be better than that.

The word "Why" rang in my ears for days afterward. That look on his face when I told him things were weird and he asked "Why." Not "why couldn't I put my finger on it," because that goes into the whole backstory of what happened to me and Tasha. But "Why did I do it?"

Why couldn't I just be happy with Wade? Just for a few months? I'm so used to being on my own, and being in this relationship doesn't take that much work, so why couldn't I resist the urge to screw it all up for one measly year?

But I felt that pain of confessing and talking it out with him... suddenly I felt closer to him than I ever had before, as guilty and self-hating as I was. I couldn't stand that I had hurt such a nice guy who was very accommodating to me. I felt the urge to make it work stronger than I had in my entire time in Pittsburgh.

I tested myself, and failed, and became determined not to do so again.

Then I needed to ask... why did he take me back? Why didn't he do the right thing and punish me for my wrongdoing? Why does he think this relationship is strong enough to survive it?

Is it because he doesn't think he can do better? Because of how I look? Is it because he loves Tasha?

Is it because he... loves me?


I don't know, I don't know. Maybe I'm crazy. I'm definitely sick with guilt and still onthe couch after 2 weeks, but we're rebuilding. And Tasha I'm sorry.

As far as wrecking this with Tyler, that's a related issue. I feel like I've taken his friendship for granted with my drama when he's got more serious things going on. When you find yourself fighting with your friend about how to be friends with them, there's a problem. There are things since the new year that he hasn't shared with you, and he hasn't even told me the depths of it, but even so, it's not mine to share.

And now, I haven't seen him almost since this thing went down, and I suspect he's in a lot of trouble but I really don't know what's going on.

But since it could potentially affect me, and the return trip to the Inn, I need him to reach out and tell me what he's got going on. We're in this together, pal. Never forget that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tori: Holiday Report

The last you heard from me, things were not great with Boy-X. The relationship, compared to the passion I have felt in the past, felt like a flatline. It was nice to have someone to think of, to look forward to seeing, and to be intimate with, but I didn't feel special about him. I took a stand, let him know I wasn't feeling it, and walked away. He was hurt, he tried everything to convince me to stay, but I was back to the single life. I felt both strong for sticking up for what I wanted, and guilty for hurting him.

Then I spent the holidays single, decided I didn't want to be alone, and texted him, got back to square one, and had to break up with him all over again.

It was a pretty rough couple of months and I probably wasn't in any place to be attempting to force a relationship. Let me tell you about it.

It was Thanksgiving, and Mae was back from college. She brought her new boyfriend, who is a clean-cut little darling. I say new, only in that I haven't seen them together much, but they've been together a while and are living together. (Perhaps jealousy of my little sister is a factor.) Also present were my older brother Ken, his darling wife, and their two (yes now two!) kids. Suddenly I'm feeling like the screwup in the middle, made worse by the fact that I happen to be, in terms of real life experience, older than either of them.

But okay. That's fleeting. No big deal. I'm a pretty-together chick, I've got a fulfilling job and some friends, I still felt relatively stable in my identity despite being surrounded by happy couples.

Then there was this moment that gutted me. And I'm gonna try to explain it as best I can, because I've been spinning it over in my head since it happened.

While Mae was over, we went through some of her old stuff, looking for boxes and knickknacks she wanted to bring to her new home. We started making piles of keeps and donates. Pretty much all the clothes wound up in the donate pile, because she was chubby in high school and has lost a good amount of weight while away from home (she did get the Freshman 15, but worked hard to lose it, plus an extra 20 or 30. Now she's fricking gorgeous.) She marveled at how much had changed in a few years as she tossed aside gifts I had given her back when I worked in intimate apparels and I looked sadly at it as a physical manifestation of the passage of time.

She examined this worn out pair of jeans, calling them "fat pants." I assured her she wasn't "fat" then and she said that standing next to me she felt like a cow, and how I never used to let her forget that I was the hot one.

She started referring to it as my "old personality." My "old self."

I asked if the change was that noticeable. She said yeah, we used to fight a lot, but around the time she turned 17 I started to respect her more and that let her mature too. I said I was glad to have a positive impact on her, and she said "Yeah, you did, eventually."

Then she said "I just wish I knew why that happened."

I looked at her for what must have seemed like an hour, but probably was just a minute, trying to formulate an answer. I knew the truth of course, but I was trying to come up with a response that would make sense to her.

"I just saw what a good person you were becoming and decided to grow up a bit myself," I said.

She gave my this narrow-eyed stare. "It's like you don't even remember how things were. How bad you and I didn't get along when I was 12, 13, 14. Things you did to me, things you said."

"I remember," I said, which was a lie since I only remembered the side Tori shared with her diary, which I hadn't read in years. (Obviously it was skewed towards her but you could tell it was a lot of petty sisterly sniping.) "I feel too guilty to talk about it. I'm embarrassed. I like to pretend I was never like that."

"Sure, yeah," she sighed. "I guess I don't like that you act like it never happened, like we've always been bff's."

"I know we haven't," I said, feeling like I was on slippery ground myself. "There's no reason why it changed, people just do that sometimes. They get over themselves."

I couldn't let go, though, so I had to ask: "Why do you think something happened?"

"It's stupid," she laughed at herself a bit, "I don't even know if you'd remember this, but one time you took this trip up to New England, with some older guy you were seeing, and when you came back, you were... I dunno, in a daze or something. I didn't notice at the time, but years later, when I tried to think of when and why we became close, it came back to around that time, and how you started changing things about your life after that. I always wondered what happened up there? You never saw that guy again and never talked about it. And if it's nothing, or if you really don't want to talk about it, it's fine, I just thought I'd let you know that I saw something in you there that seems... odd. I guess, now that I look back. I don't know, forget I brought it up."

I felt like I had been hit in the face. All these years later, Mae had put the evidence together and drawn the conclusion that Rob Garcia had done something to me - done something to her sister - and while I don't know much about the real Rob Garcia, I know that wasn't the case. I felt like I had to correct her, but...

Well, when this first happened to me, I was told that I couldn't tell anybody, that they wouldn't believe me. I never tested it, because I had nothing to gain. If they didn't believe me, I'd seem crazy. If they did, I'd feel guilty for stealing Tori's old life, for giving up my male one when I did eventually have the chance to get it back, for lying to everyone every day. The idea that I couldn't tell anyone the truth was a comfortable excuse, but now... with Mae starting to put it together, and reaching this troubling conclusion, I felt like not only I could tell her, I had to. I remember reading about that Jessica person, and how eventually she managed to convince her mom, and for a long time I have both feared and hoped I would reach that point. I wondered what I would do if the truth did come out.

It's something I've thought about a lot since that whole business with Alex.

"It wasn't like that," I started to say. "It was just a confusing time in my life, and I'm glad it's over."

She smiled at me and said that whatever happened, she was glad. Tori/Karen, in the off chance you're reading this, I hope you don't take that the wrong way. I like to think you and Mae would have come to terms eventually.

I told her I was glad too, and that felt like the first honest statement I had made all night. If nothing else, I really love and value the sisterly relationship I have forged with her.

Anyway, that scene kind of rolled around in my head all through December... it's been forever since I felt guilty about not being the original Tori, but with Mae apparently eking closer to the truth, suddenly I feel like a thief again. I could hardly look her in the eye around Christmas, and by New Years, I did something drastic with Boy-X. That was a mistake, it didn't work out, it's over now.

So over that I've gotten into something new.

Guys, I got into a bit of a situation. I'm not comfortable explaining it right now, but it's something I feel very strange and guilty about, in a way I haven't since the first times I ever dated men. With Valentine's Day coming up, I may feel the need to spill.

If I can get back to blogging regularly, I will get around to sharing the details, because as private and personal as it is I know you are always there for me. Mwah.