I've thought about this over the last month. I'm still Tyler inside, no matter what. The fact that I will never be able to look my old face in the mirror again is insignificant. Maybe someday I'll take a new name, but that day is far off.
My life resembles Lauren's a lot more than Tyler's, of course. But most of all since Spring Break it's mostly resembled one of those zombies from the Walking Dead. Shuffling around, not really paying attention, just barely surviving.
After unloading to Meghan, and then to you guys, I feel a fair bit better.
I'm on track to pass, and would technically graduate if Lauren wasn't already registered for next year. She needs biology to get into nursing school - still her objective - and there was no way I was taking it for her. The parents are of course baffled that I didn't just take it this year. I lied and said there was a scheduling error. They said I should fight to correct it, then I said it felt more sensible to come back for an extra semester when "I" could focus on it more.
Just because I'm going to pass doesn't mean I'm doing well. I'm doing the bare minimum in some of these courses, skipping classes when it feels convenient to do so.
One day last week, when I was still somewhat in a funk, I went all the way to school, signed myself out - as is my right as a now-18-year-old - and came home. I laid in bed, just thinking about what as going to become of me in the next months, when I heard the door open downstairs. What the hell? I thought. Both the parents were supposed to be out. Phil had moved out at the end of April. I should have had a few more hours alone.
I heard a voice - a soft, girlish one - "Hello? Laur, you here?"
I poked my head out.
It was Karlee, Lauren's friend from school.
"What are you doing here?"
"We've got that history presentation due on Friday," she said. This would have been Wednesday, I guess.
"Oh my God," I sighed, "I'm so sorry for bailing. I've been feeling really rough lately."
"I got that," she said a bit solemnly, "I'm not gonna pretend I'm not mad that you've been ditching school so much lately, but I know things aren't always easy for you."
That's true. In junior year, Lauren was in the full brunt of an eating disorder - it was an open secret, and something I had to deal with when I got here. To most onlookers, she's made quite a rebound. In reality, down in Houston, things have gotten better for her, so I'm hoping she doesn't relapse upon getting her body back.
Obviously, that has nothing to do with why I skip school so much, but if it helps her understand my issues, I don't correct her.
"We're all pretty stressed out here, Lauren," she said, "If you need help, all you have to do is ask. I didn't really come to work on homework."
"I appreciate that," I said. "I'll be fine, I just... I can't deal some days."
I've never been good at admitting when I need help. At relying on others. Even Meghan. But I was really glad to see her.
I wrapped my arms around her. I didn't tell her I was going through some stuff she couldn't understand.
We didn't talk about it. We didn't talk about my problems or even that much about our history project. We gabbed like a couple of girls - she dished on Seann, Lauren's ex I set her up with months ago, who she's been on and off with since. I let her dow most of the talking, about summer, about the future, about girls a school who think I'm just a fake bitch but who are, themselves, pretty fake.
I didn't feel like Tyler, or Tyler pretending to be Lauren, I felt like this third person that I'm gonna become.
The day wore on. I walked her home. She spilled that she thinks Mark is still planning to ask me to Prom, even though our communication has been low since I quit drama club this semester.
"There's no quit in that kid," I smiled, "Gotta admire that."
As we got to her place, she took me by the hand. "Don't disappear on me again, okay? If you need to talk, I'm always just a text away."
"I'll remember that," I said. We hugged and parted ways.
I passed the school on the way home. There was a flyer up for the school play. The Importance of Being Earnest, on June 4-6.