Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jordan/Missy: Happy Birthday, Yuan-wei

Posting from mid-air again. As much as the real Yuan-wei says she's in love and wants to stay Ronan's wife Sandra forever, I strongly suspect that she'll be trying to get me to return her life to her the first time she has to fly coach, especially if it's something like going from Boston to Hong Kong and back again. Between the wi-fi and the comfy seats that turn into beds and the food that doesn't suck, First Class is way better than romance.

It's not my first trip to Hong Kong; my family took a summer vacation there when I was fourteen, seeing some of my parents' older relatives, cousins, and family friends, and also trying to get me and Max a chance to experience it before it was completely digested by the People's Republic.  That's part of the reason that I know Cantonese a lot better than some of my Chinese-American neighbors; in addition to wanting to be able to talk with my Grandmother, I always thought about coming back, although this is not the way I imagined that.

(It made an even bigger impression any little brother, who really latched onto a Chinese identity around that time, and one that's really HK-specific. He has extremely strong opinions on how people from Beijing are buying the city up and pricing its longtime residents out, along with student protests and other points of contention like that.)

It's not easy for a New Yorker to feel overwhelmed, but the airport did so, at least a bit. I speak Cantonese, but as a second language, and it would take a minute for some of the announcements to register in my head. Some got repeated in English, and there was plenty of signage with English on it, but this was my first test of being Yuan-Wei and belonging in this place, and I hated feeling like a tourist. There were a few moments when I would hear an announcement repeat or someone speak and think my languages skills were even more shit than I'd feared, until I realized that there was a lot more Mandarin being spoken than the time I came here as a kid.

(I should probably look into classes for that. I can order food in Mandarin, and know some other words, but the original Yuan-Wei was trilingual, because anyone her social class with her ambitions needs to knew the language of the Mainland, and it would be weird if I didn't.)

I tried to summon confidence while going through Customs, and I think I did okay. I kind of wish I'd been a little more outgoing as Deirdre, just so I had practice at being the smiling, cheerful, pretty girl that guys just wave through, but I settled for answering questions quickly enough that I didn't come across as a terrorist trying to maintain a cover identity. I'm not a terrorist, after all.

I'd gotten a message that ''the driver" would be waiting for me - yeah, I've been gifted a life where the family has a staff; what the fuck is up with that? - and since I only had my carry-on (the same suitcase Yuan-wei left back in Maine), I got to the pickup area pretty quickly but felt like I spaced for five minutes trying to remember the symbols for my name.  I kept looking for "money" rather than "peace".  I may not be anxious to be called "Missy" (is it weird to change your Western name? I mean, Jordan's kind of androgynous), but I would have spotted that.

The car was nice and not too fancy, and the driver was a good chance to practice my Cantonese and get some hint of what was coming up.  He was either glad I had come home for a few days, or very polite, saying he understood how hard it must have been to come back since "my" father's death in the winter.  I didn't recall the original Yuan-wei saying they had been particularly close, but she gave me the information so I could pass as opposed to spilling her guts to me.

I let him take my bag when we got to the house, because that thing was pretty damn big and I had no idea where Yuan-wei's room was.  Of course, I didn't figure on being stopped by "mother", Chen-ai, on the way in.

We hugged, and I said I was sorry for not coming earlier, but it was easier to stay in America for a number of reasons. She shrugged it off, although she made a crack about being surprised I wasn't insisting on speaking English after being there so long.  Then she looked at my outfit - a t-shirt and some ripped jeans - and said it was a good thing that there was a dress laid out in my room.

There was at that, although it was kind of sexier than I'd expect a mother to choose for her daughter to wear to her twentieth birthday party. But looking at some of the photos scattered around the room, if looked like Yuan-wei and her mother were no strangers to fancy occasions - there was my new face with Chow Yun-fat, Josie Ho, and Jackie Chan, and while Yuan-Wei was generally not dressed as sexily as her still-got-it mother, she wasn't wearing bows in her hair or shapeless bags, either.

I looked the door before stripping down, and spent a little time looking at my naked self in the mirror. As much as I was pretty sure that I was going to be into guys as Yuan-wei - even if I never acted on it, that's what set the purely biological alarms in my body, and there was no reason to expect that had changed - I still had a lot of connections in my head between seeing a hot girl and getting turned on, though, and shit, the girl in the mirror is fucking hot. This was the first time I'd seen all of the new me; I'd sort of changed clothes hit by bit at the Inn and in airport restrooms. It kind of hit me, looking at my body and the photos, that Yuan-Wei's movie-star dreams might actually be realistic.

It meant dressing the part, though, so I went for the dress. Picking it up, I could feel that there was boob support built in, so I didn't need a bra. Weird how that made me nervous, after resisting them so much as Deirdre, but these C-cups didn't leave a whole lot of room for doubt. The dress did help, although I don't know that I'd want to wear things like that for more than special occasions.

That doesn't take into account zipping the damn thing up, either! I managed, but I did briefly wonder if the Lee family was wealthy enough to have chambermaids who could come in and zip me up. Heck, maybe asking would be in character for Lee Yuan-Wei, but there was only so far that Jordan Chang from Queens was willing to go.

I looked good in the mirror, but I also knew that the girl in that dress wouldn't be seen in public without makeup. It made me wish Annette/Benjamin was there in my place, even if there were no way he'd get through the airport. Or at least there to help, but then folks would think he was my boyfriend, and we apparently aren't doing that.

Fortunately, there are demonstration videos for this sort of thing on YouTube, and Hong Kong isn't completely behind the Great Firewall of China yet. It went slowly, and I'll have to learn to do it myself eventually, but then all that was the shoes.

Fuck high heels.

They were the only thing in Yuan-Wei's closet that went with the dress (in that they were both red), so I crammed my feet into them and started pacing the length of the room. Pro tip: Don't pay too much attention to your ass swaying the first time you walk in three-plus inch heels or you'll fall on it.  Ex-guys should probably pay some attention because literally putting one foot in front of the other is not natural for us and you look like a total goon otherwise, but it's a tough balance to find in the half hour before you're told guests are arriving and realize, oh fuck, I've got to go down stairs in these fucking things.

Since I'm typing this, I didn't break my neck, and I wound up mostly enjoying the party.  I was never a party person before, but they are a lot more fun when people are constantly coming up to you, telling you that you look amazing, saying they're so jealous of you getting to go to college abroad, with the guys trying to figure out if you're single and the girls asking about the clothes.

After a while, I could tell which ones were probably Yuan-wei's closer friends, because they had specific questions about "Benny", classes, and other stuff, because they'd kept in touch via messaging and Weibo and the like.  I said things had gotten complicated with Benny because of his ex, which was kind of true, and that I was still in the film and theater program at BU, which was true enough from the schedule of classes in my new bu.edu mailbox.  A lot of them wanted to hear me speak English, and were amazed at my accent.  No way to tell them I was cheating there, or any way to ask how my Cantonese sounded.  I mean, it's got to sound weird, and it makes me wonder if this family is so rich/powerful that nobody's going to say so for fear of upsetting us.

I'm glad it was a big party, even if some of the folks there were clearly seeing this as an opportunity to suck up to Chen-ai.  I got to meet a lot of people who were a part of my new life in some capacity, but didn't have to get too in-depth with any of them.

And the cake...  My god, that was the best chocolate cake I have ever had in my life.  I am going to hate not having that sort of thing more often, but having seen this body naked, I don't want to fuck it up.

Anyway, it went pretty late into the night and I didn't feel like leaving, which is kind of a first for me.  It feels really weird to say this early on, but I think being Yuan-wei is going to be fun.  I don't really want to say I've traded up, and I know that the whole Trading Post Inn deal is intrinsically horrifying, but the perks are pretty damn great.

-Jordan/Missy/Yuan-wei

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Annette/Benjamin: Finally made it to Boston

It's not like I haven't been here before - aside from how you have to do a weird subway shuffle to transfer from the train coming from Maine to the one going to New York, I was here for college visits, field trips when I was in elementary and high school, concerts, etc. But I was supposed to be living and going to school here a year ago, before the Inn sent me on a detour.

Obviously, I'm not in the same situation I planned on, either; rather than a cozy dorm room in one of the country's top universities, I'm sharing an apartment in Allston with three other guys. One's a grad student, one's a local, one's trying to scrape by on an internship he probably can't afford, but that's what you've gotta do in his chosen industry.  I suppose I've already got experience sharing a place with guys, although really committing to being one of them and their not knowing that I'm anything but what I seem is new. I also don't really know what they thought of Benny, although I don't seem to have stepped wrong in the first few days.

Of course, before that, I had a couple more days at the Inn, trying to guide eight church youth-group members, their two (married) chaperones, and a retiree from New Hampshire through their changes. "Missy" left pretty quickly, which surprised me a little more than it probably should have; as much as I went off to do my thing before the change, we've been acting like a team, or so I thought. Sure, there wasn't a lot of time for Missy to catch her flight and she wasn't exactly full of patience when the first of them knocked on our door, but it did feel like ten against one at times.

Only ten because the older gent seemed to get a kick out of being ten years dd again, and that his new "parents" were the two teenage girls in the room next to his, now in their late thirties to the outside world and also a lesbian couple. Married, too.

Off the top of my head, both of the pairs of guys who were sharing rooms became heterosexual couples, and it's amazing how the guys who stayed guys tended to think that God had put them in a position to help these people while the ones who became women thought that this was the work of the devil. I may go by "Benjamin" and "he" now, but come on, guys! Being female is not a punishment!

Let's see, what else? The last two girls seemed a lot more upbeat about beaming a couple than the guys, although it's not like they started making out or anything. I think they are kind of excited about the romantic fantasy of it, mostly - he was about to propose to her and now they have been instructed to keep up appearances so that he can do so when they get back. Meanwhile, the mid-twenties couple that was watching over them kept their sexes, but became father and daughter, with him already getting an earful from his newly-acquired ex-wife about how she was supposed to be home already.
The weird thing is, they're talking like their mission might be to reunite the parents, because divorce is bad. A lot of what we all talked about was what rules applied to relationships - what the Bible would say about who they appeared to be or who they really were. Some got really mad when I said that there wasn't a definitive answer, and that there would probably be times when it was right to do what appearances dictated, when it was right to stay true to your old self, and times when you had to find another path.

They're going to have an interesting time of it, I'll say that.


I was able to hang around and help out as much as I could because Ronan had conveniently quit the job he'd been working as Benny, while also being kind of vague about how much longer he was going to be staying in that apartment. It made sense; thinking he was going to be handing Benny's life back to its original owner, he wanted to leave the deck dear so that Benny could go back home to Old Orchard Beach if he wanted (it's probably a bit more tactful to quit a job before being gone for three or four weeks rather than after) or stick around Boston with me if that's the way we were going to roll, back when Benny was going to go back to being Benny and I was going to be myself again.
I must admit, as the church group left and I started to feel alone in that empty Inn, I started to consider my options. Like, why not head back to New York, actually meet the guy whose life I lived for a year, hang out with Benny and Kareena, go back to the places I'd grown to like? NYC wasn't home after a year, but it was familiar, and I'd be going back with a new perspective.

Heck, "Benjamin" isn't exactly a beast - I don't think Ronan has left this shape quite as sexy as Benny did - but I could probably hitchhike across the country without putting myself in crazy danger like I'd be in if I had become myself again.  Find a place where I can stick around for a while, even if I don't wind up settling down. Meet new people, work odd jobs, and find a place where being Benjamin feels right.

I haven't done that yet. Maybe later, if being in Boston so close to Sandra winds up feeling worse than I expect (and I kind of expect that part is going to suck). I suspect it's going to stay in the back of my mind for awhile.

There was also the idea of sticking around OOB like Benny would have done, getting to know his friends and family, all that. I actually spent a couple of days "visiting"and... They're nice. I like all of them, and they seemed happy to see "him" and kind of proud that he left home to do his own thing, though they don't know that he kind of had to. The guy friends wanted to know where the hot Asian chick was, but nodded like they understood when I said it got complicated.

After a day, though, I really wanted out. Like I said, everybody is nice, and it's surprisingly easy to fake it, but it makes me feel guilty, like I'm cheating on my mom with these other parents. It's an awful thing to say, but at least going to see Ravi's folks was a chance to learn and immerse myself in something new, whereas being with Benny's family feels like just substituting another group of white Mainers for my own, and I really don't want to do that.


So I went "back" to Boston (Allston is kind of its own place, but it's technically part of the city).  I'm quickly learning to hate the 66 bus, which is the one that passes closest to my apartment and sets me to the subway, because it is slow, crowded, and unpredictable. There's enough money in Benny's checking account to pay rent and utilities for a few months, but hopefully the bus will be taking me to a job soon.

I can't say I know my housemates that well yet - honestly, I only know initials most of the time, because that seems to be the thing here.  The guys seem pretty cool, for the most part, though they teased me about my long absense, saying it must be nice having a rich girlfriend.

I haven't scoped out the other guys' rooms, but I think mine might be the smallest bedroom in this apartment that takes up the whole floor. It's kind of apt and spartan right now - Ronan took anything he'd accumulated that meant much to him back to his old life, and never had much of Benny's. The clothes fit, the bed's okay. It's not mine yet, but it's a blank enough canvas that I can make it mine, whatever that winds up meaning.

I kind of can't wait for Missy to get back, though. My roommates will probably never understand why we're just friends, but I kind of can't imagine settling into a new life alone the way some Inn visitors have had to.

-Benjamin (though also still Annette)

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tyler/Alan: First Date

So, for the time being, I'm including Alan's name alongside mine up there. I can't put my finger on the strange compulsion to do that. In adopting Lauren's name, there was the obvious logic of "Oh, well I don't look like a Tyler anymore." And I was stuck living her life. But in taking Alan's appearance, I've already pretty much made it my own. I'm Tyler in all but appearance. Meg even calls me that freely in mixed company (and it makes me feel so good.) But for your benefit, it's a reminder for the time being that I still have two (or more) lives. Still a weird feeling.

The first thing I did after we got to Vermont, was find some work. Every since I started wandering, years before I ever visited any damn Inn, that was already my standard M.O. I was especially motivated to do so here because I've spent the past year as a sponge, actually forbidden by Lauren's parents from working so I could focus on my studies. But it was important to me that I could pay my way and not just leech off of Meg.

It's lucky that Alan's job was basically as a self-employed driver, no boss breathing down his neck to get back to Milwaukee. I could do that anywhere in theory, but it's more suited to an urban environment than a little Vermont college town.

It's not hard to find something, anyway. My knife-skills are rusty, but was easy enough to get in at a restaurant because summer is the busy season and they're used to frequent turnover. I'm worried it's going to dry up by the fall, assuming I'm going to be here that long. I don't know what the plan is. Meg is pressuring me to develop one.

"I mean, I don't have a problem with you staying here for a while," she said, "Gene might, though."

Gene is Meg's roommate. She'd never met him before, but Carrie alerted Meg to the fact that she had gotten a new roomie during her year here, so we knew to expect him. He's a quiet guy, balding in his mid-20s, reads a lot.

From the stinkeye I got when he saw me come through the door itt was fairly obvious that he's got a bit of a thing for Meghan. The fact that she's an entirely different person now doesn't seem to have registered with him. You could see a heavy sigh of disappointment when Meg explained to him that she had made "a friend" in Maine who would be staying over for an open-ended term.

Gene has been pretty vocal about one thing: He wants me off the couch. I couldn't agree more. I'm trying not to take up too much space but it's clearly a focal point for the guy.

"The living room is a communal area," Meg told me he said privately, "It belongs to both of us and it's unfair for you to park your friend there for so long." Meg's imitation of him saying "friend" included finger-quotes.

"It's only been a month," Meg defended me, "He isn't sure if he wants to stay in Vermont, but if he decides to, he'll get his own place. He's working."

"I just don't get why you can't just move him into your room," he sneered.

"That's actually none of your business," Meg retorted.

I told her later, I could find a motel if I had to, somewhere to put down stakes while I sort things out.

"And leave me with him? Please, no," she laughed bitterly. "I'd go with you." I sighed about how Carrie might have flirted with this guy in Meg's body just to keep herself from feeling lonely, probably "harmlessly" in her view. As I was preparing to judge her for this, I thought of some of my behavior as Lauren, and cursed how women are criticized as being teases just because they were being friendly.

Selfishly, I'm pretty glad to be a man again.

"Hey," Meg said to me yesterday as we were having our latest Gene gripe session, this time about whose turn it was to do dishes (mine, which he complained I didn't get to fast enough) "Let's go out tonight."

"Sure," I said immediately, "Where to?"

"No, hold on," she corrected herself, "I mean really go out. On a date." I snickered at her need for specificity, but she explained: "We've been hanging out and it's been really nice. I just... I guess I needed time to shake the image of you as my little sister, to rebuild that... change what our bond means."

I smiled softly, trying not to look completely excited, "Of course. Are you sure you're ready?"

"No," she laughed, "I'm never sure. But I can't take the uncertainty anymore. Either we do this and it goes well, or it doesn't, and we know."

"It'll go well," I said confidently. She smiled back at me: that smile. Oh, man.

We went for sushi, and I struggled with the chopsticks in my now quite large hands. I enlightened Meg, "Everyone thinks simply not having boobs and a uterus is where the strangeness ends, but I grew nearly a foot and gained 80 pounds. I take up so much more space in the world now than I did a few months ago. I'm still tripping over my own feet. Holding pens, utensils... typing, driving. It takes some getting used to. I don't know my own strength."

"Oh, I know," she said with a laugh. "Remember, as Tasha, I was a good deal taller than I am now, and not exactly paper-thin. I keep expecting to knock stuff over with my boobs. Do you know how much food I used to drop on those things?"

"You look smaller than I remember," I told her, "But it's just that I'm taller as Alan than I was as Tyler. Of course, as Tasha you were a giant next to me."

"I was 5'10," she said, "Big for a girl, but... hm."

"What?"

"I guess I was worried that when I got back to my real body, you'd realize you preferred me as Tasha."

I smiled warmly, "I like you this way."

She hesitated for a moment and said, "Is it weird to say I like you too? You've got someone else's face... is it wrong to compliment you on it?"

I shrugged it off, "I mean, I took pride in my appearance as Lauren. But from a distance, I guess. It didn't matter to me if anyone found me attractive because as far as I was concerned I was off the market. But I liked feeling my look, as the kids say."

"I get that," she agreed, "I didn't relish the attention I got while looking like Tasha, but it was definitely a confidence boost... and as a waitress I learned how to use it. By the way, 'as the kids say?' Boy, don't act like I haven't caught you still speaking teenlish."

"Omigod, I totes don't," I said in response, sampling a California roll, "This soosh is the bomb dot com, bee tee dubs. Hashtag: all the feels."

She stifled a laugh and shook her head, "Stop it now. I can't take it."

"You can't even?"

"I really can't!"

We laughed. "Okay, maybe my brain was warped by prolonged exposure. I was deep undercover. I'm not ready for the outside yet."

We gazed at each other for a while. I just soaked in the look in her eyes. I've been craving that look for a year. As Lauren, she never seemed to see the man inside, she just sort of understood that he was there. At times I played up my appearance, at times I fought it. I went through phases depending on what time of day or week or month it was. Now, she seemed to see me.

I took her hand across the table. "You have no idea how many times..." I said dreamily, "Over the past year, all those lunches, how many times I wanted to lean across the table and kiss you."

She averted her eyes for a second. "That would have been awkward."

"The weird thing is, it would have stopped there. I wasn't, like crazy hot for you or anything. I could feel Lauren's... tastes... pulling at me all the time. Can you imagine how frustrating that is? To want to want something more than your body will let you? But I was more than a bit gay for you. If I thought you would be into it, I would have given it my best shot."

She took a moment to formulate her response and smiled, "I'm glad we waited."

I nodded in acknowledgment that it was the best thing to do.

We walked home hand in hand. She seemed lost in thought, so I asked what was on her mind.

She turned to me and asked, "Are you mad at me for that? For waiting?"

"No, of course not," I said.

"What about Wade? Or Mykal?"

"Ancient history," I insisted.

"I'm mad at myself. All the time," she said, "For a lot of things. I thought I was doing the right thing by sticking with Wade, but I hated myself for it. Then I couldn't even keep the promise to Tasha, as soon as Mykal came along. I'm terrible, Tyler. I don't know why you like me."

I wrapped my arms around her as a tear streaked down her cheek. I told her, "You're not, you're not. You did your best. You're an amazing person."

"Do you know how skeevy it feels to learn you're good at pretending to be in love with someone for a year? Like it's no big deal? I feel like I have no soul."

"No, no, no," I said, "Don't think that way. It was a big deal. You always told me how hard it was. It was hard for you. You only did what you had to."

"I hurt Wade so much," she sniffed, "And you. And Tasha. She shouldn't have forgiven me. I should've... should've... I don't know. And now I've got my body back and you lost yours. That's not fair."

"Don't worry about me, or what's fair," I said, "We're together now, okay? We're in this together. We've got each other, and we can make choices about how to live our lives, choices we couldn't make a year ago. Leave the past behind. We've got the future. Okay?"

She nodded and sniffed again, "Okay."

She hugged me some more and we stood still on the sidewalk for a minute or two before she said, "Let's go home."

We fell asleep on the couch. She woke up around 2 and I felt her roll away from me.

I muttered something and she shook me awake.

"Hey," she whispered, "Come sleep in my bed."

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jordan/Missy Lee Yuan-wei: Me, version 3.0

So, still a girl, but Chinese again. That's something, although I'm not sure what yet.

Even for the last year, it's been a weird week and a half, with the prospect of being myself again giving way to letting Benny be "Jordan Chang" and then deciding to be Yuan-wei instead of Benny because I could do it better than Annette. On the one hand, it's like choosing from the playable characters in a game, right up until you realize that it's potentially the rest of your life this time.

And then there's Annette, who up and disappeared on our second day here so that she could try and talk Sandra into returning her life to her, to no avail.  I am, it appears, pretty shitty at being the encouraging shoulder to cry on, which is a pretty rotten deal for her, because she has been great whenever I needed help with girly shit.  She did not really get back as much as she gave out from me.

We killed the after she got back, hanging out on the beach and at the amusement park, making a trip into Portland, and fretting a bit because we just about had the Inn to ourselves until Wednesday when a bus arrived and spewed out a bunch of teenagers. I felt kind of bad for them - I may not be an old pro at this thing compared to some, but it doesn't take much thought to realize that the number of people there to change back drops as the summer goes on.

Then, after they get settled in, one comes out to the back deck where Annette and I are sitting and asks what I'm reading. I hold up my copy of A Dance with Dragons and get told that it's not good to read those kind of books, with all the sinful behavior and sorcery that is a different sort of affront to God. I just look at her and say "man, you are in for a fucking shock." She says there's no need to be crude to her and the other members of the church youth group and goes back inside.

Annette waits until this girl is out of earshot and the bursts out laughing for the first time since we got to the Inn.  "You are terrible!"

"Maybe, but is it too much to hope that a group of horny gay porn stars stayed in their rooms last?"

"They'd probably see that as some sort of divine mission."

"'True. Can the next group be a bunch of sci-fi fans who love taking selfies of their sexy cosplay, though?"

Annette just laughed. So, mission accomplished, at least there.

We spent part of the afternoon trying to surreptitiously count heads, although we knew that there wasn't much point to it; the change would happen or not without much input from us. It gives you a bit of a feeling of control, but it's not real.

Eventually, though, we did feel the sort of low-key electricity that other repeat visitors have described.  Once that kicked in, we decided to stay up and watch. Ronan had helpfully included a sketch of where he and Missy were when they changed so we didn't have to guess which side of the room to be on, which I guess is a small bit of consideration, though Annette obviously would have hoped for more.

Folks, if you ever make this trip a second/third/whatever time, bring one of those mini-projectors so you can watch a movie or fit your favorite board game into your luggage. We had a deck of cards and by 1AM I was fucking sick of losing to Annette at poker. Apparently Deirdre's face is a completely open book.

(My story and I'm sticking to it!)

Finally, at sometime around quarter past two, it was more than a tingle. I could feel a little mass entering my body, but mostly it was rearrangement. There was a pulling in of my belly that seemed to push my upper torso a bit further upward, along with a stretching feeling in my arms and legs. my hair felt like it was being tagged at, and there were a lot of weird sensations underneath my face, and I'm not ashamed to say that the pinching at the corners of my eyes was a relief that only another person who has lost their ethnicity like this could understand.

That said, it was still a bit odd to see Annette grinning as she held out her hands to see her skin get lighter. To really get the effect, she had to close and open her eyes to compare the different hues. We changed fairly quickly - five minutes or so from Deirdre to Yuan-wei in my case (although I gather that has not been the case for every group, but who knows what in the environment may have an effect on a curse) - but not quite quickly enough for it to fit into a TV commercial.  Still, looking from one spot to another, I could see the changes in Annette's face, especially as the mustache withdrew and the hair grew longer and shaggier, and the arms and legs sticking out from her shorts and t-shirt gained more definition.

Oh, and don't forget my tits.

They pushed out, a constant pressure that got more painful as they did so, until I realized that it wasn't actually my body but a too-small bra causing the pain, so I pulled up the back of my shirt, unclasped my bra, and felt it move up, sitting atop my upgraded rack.  When I looked down, I could see my tee going out and down, with my nipples making an impression on it.  I wasn't sure whether to give it my entire attention or look anywhere else.

Eventually it stopped, and while Annette looked at me appraisingly, my thoughts were more on how weird my underwear felt like this.  Yuan-wei's suitcase was between me and the door to the bathroom, and I grabbed a new bra out of it on the way to the bathroom.  The jiggle didn't quite hurt as I half-ran, but it was more than I was used to.  I pushed the door as I entered the bathroom, but not hard enough for it to close completely, as I was moving toward the sink and mirror.  I dropped the new bra on a corner, pulled my shirt and the old one off together, and then saw my reflection.

"Fuck me!"

"Are you okay?"

"Uh, yeah, fine, just gotta--Fuck!"  I yelled as my first attempt to put the bigger bra on had my tits falling out of their cups before I could fasten the back.

"Need some help?"  Without waiting for an answer, Annette started crossing the room, noisy even in bare feet.  I remembered something about putting it on backwards, turning it around, and then getting "them" settled as I pulled the straps up.  I turned around just in time to see Annette enter and raise her eyebrows.  "Whoa."

I looked down, and they seemed even bigger, and then turned to look in the mirror.  Not only was the first bra I grabbed a push-up, but the cotton shorts I usually slept in were a bit tighter on my ass and my finer hair framed the stunned look on my face amazingly.  "Well, shit.  I can't see my brother ever again."

Annette looked surprised and confused.  "Why?  Do you know this girl?  I thought she was from Hong Kong."

"Not specifically, but, damn, this is exactly what Max masturbates to."

"TMI!"

"Tell me about it."

Annette pointed at the mirror.  "Mind if I--"

"Go right ahead."

I stepped back, and Annette looked in the mirror.  "Yep, that's Benny.  This is just weird.  I wonder..."  She stuck her hand in her boxers.

"Hey!"

"What?  I just want to know how big it is from this side, and it's not like you wouldn't understand!"

"Yeah, well, look, I'm just going to give you and little Benny some time to get acquainted, while I, uh, get some sleep, cuz it's late."

Funny thing - as soon as I hit the bed, the fact that it was almost three caught up with me almost immediately, and I dropped.


I woke up about four and a half hours later to a banging on the door.  Apparently, Benny's form slept a lot more soundly than Ravi's.  I walked to the door, still in my bra and shorts, and opened it to a couple in their twenties, or at least a couple of church kids in that form.  They both looked away from my chest, the guy pushing a piece of notebook paper at me.

"'Come to Room 6; Jordan and I have been here before and can explain.'  Ugh, did Annette write all these up and slip them under doors after I fell asleep?  Just great--"

"What sort of Satanic--"

"Oh, I, did not fucking sign up for that, chickie."  Apparently a guy before, because she flinched hard at that.  I turned and yelled Annette's name.  Nothing.  "Like a fucking rock.  Shit."

The man stepped forward.  "Look, my friend is, as  you might expect, pretty shocked, so if you could just explain what is happening."

"Let me guess - both boys last night?"  They nodded.  "Look, I can't explain the why of it, but this place is cursed, turning each group of 13 into the last group of 13 that stayed here, or at least, as they were before they changed into the 13 before that, and so on back decades.  No-one knows why or how--"

"How do we change back?"  Apparently not enjoying his first few hours as a girl any more than I did.

"--but, if you'll listen, we do sort of know enough to work the system.  If you're in another group of 13, and the folks who will get your bodies in a couple weeks are in the previous one... or I guess if you hang around long enough to be in the next group, but I've never heard of that working...  And, heck, even making plans doesn't work because this is not what I expected to come back to...  But, anyway, most folks sort of stay who they look like until next summer, because the place is absurdly well-booked for a cursed inn, but you can sort of make a reverse change."

"I'm going to be a woman until next year?"

"Yeah, deal with it, pussy; I've been one for a year and it looks like I'll be a different one for the rest of my fucking life, so shut up and listen!"

Wonder of wonders, they did.  "Look, you just go there, so maybe you didn't notice the luggage left in your rooms, but the clothes should fit, the IDs should work, and the letters should tell you what you're getting into.  If you want - I didn't go live Deirdre's life, and while I'm glad, because it would have meant pretending to be engaged to my jackass roommate in the body of her fiance, her parents did send private eyes after me and while they didn't try and kidnap me or anything, they were a real pain in the ass.

"Anyway, information's all there, although considering that there's been no whoever-you-look-like-now for the past couple weeks, it may be out of date because they've been fired from their jobs or some shit.  So, like, maybe you should get to wherever they're supposed to be and let me sleep."  And I closed the door.

Then I went and sort of pushed at Annette's more muscular abs with my foot until he stirred.  "Hey, I didn't volunteer to brief these brats on everything."

"Sorry, someone's got to, and I didn't fall asleep quite as quickly as you did."  She paused for a second.  "Wow, you're pretty."

That felt a bit weird.  It's not like I didn't get the occasional compliment as Deirdre - and let me just say, for all I wrote about Yuan-wei where all her parts were bigger or smaller as need be, it's not like Deirdre was a bad shape, especially if you like girls who might have been gymnasts when younger - but every time Annette had said it to me before, it was meant to be assuring first and foremost, whereas here I got the impression she was saying it for herself as well.

"So that's how it works; you go from Ravi to Benny and suddenly a switch flips and you're all heterosexual and hot for me?"

"What - no, that was envy!  Like, it would almost be worth going to a country where I can't speak the language and probably have people suspect brain damage because of it to look like that.  Although, I suppose that considering what happened, 'Missy' and 'Benny' have compatible pheromones or something, which is why everyone's going to think we're a couple."

"So, about that--"

"Yeah, it's going to be tricky.  We'll have to convince everybody that we decided to just be friends, but who knows how our bodies will undermine it.  But I do want to be friends; you've sort of grown on me, Jordo."

That was blunter than expected, but I rolled with it.  "Yeah, it would be weird to get to close.  That's why I'm going to Hong Kong."

Annette blinked a couple times at that.  "Oh, right, Missy's birthday party.  Well, a girl does only turn twenty once."

"Except it would be my second time."  We laughed.  "No, because it's important to to get to know the important people in our new lives, rather than just depending on each other and getting weirdly close."

She nodded.  "Yeah, that makes sense.  Isn't the plane ticket for today?"

"Yeah, and the party's Sunday, and with the international date line and stuff, it'll be tight.  I should actually probably get showered and dressed, and they check the train and bus schedules to see how to get to the Boston airport--"

"Logan."

"Right, Logan."  I looked at her, a handsome guy with more than a hint of a girl who had hit pause in some respects right after high school.  "Don't worry, Annette, Benny's friends and roommates are going to think you've suddenly become ten times as awesome in the past couple weeks."

"Damn right they will.  Although...  Could you call me 'Benjamin' from now on?  I've never been one for nicknames, and I'm afraid if you keep calling me Annette, it'll be harder to let go and I might do something stupid."

"Do you want me to call you 'he' on the blog, too?"

"Well, only after this moment riiiiiiight.... now.  It would read funny otherwise."  He shrugged.  "It's important to me.  I was going to be a writer."

"Hey, you still can, you'll have the kind of experience no other novelist does.  And you might as well call me Yuan-wei, and she, or else I might do something even stupider to Benny, er, Jordan."

"Nah, you won't.  Now, c'mon, get dressed and get gone.  Those kids are no reason to miss a party in Hong Kong!"


I left the Inn pretty soon after that, and I've been on trains, buses and then in planes and airports since then.  I'm over the Pacific right now, but apparently "Missy" Lee Yuan-wei flies the kind of first class where you've got wi-fi in the middle of the ocean.

Hell of a perk, and she said I could have it and everything else so she could be a suburban housewife.   But if I can't be me, this isn't bad.

-Yuan-wei (though I still call myself "Jordan" in my head)

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Annette/Ravi/Benny-to-be: Getting some answers from myself

So, yeah, that hit me like a ton of bricks. If you'd told me a year or a little more than a month ago that Jordan would be any sort of lifesaver, I would never have believed it. But now, twice in one week, he's stepped away from the life he had the right to for the benefit of other people. Go figure, right?

That said, the example I figured to learn from wasn't Jordan from this week, but Jordan from last year, who didn't just accept that his life was in the hands of another and that he was going to have to follow some third person's lead for at least the next year.  My thought was that just because passively taking what you are given and hoping that things workout is the traditional way things are done  at the Inn, they didn't have to be. So, when I woke up well before Jordan the next day - Ravi's frame can handle much more beer than Deirdre's - I decided to go see Sandra.

Fortunately, Ravi's ID says I'm old enough to rent a car in Maine, although once I'd done that, I realized that I didn't actually know which direction to drive. Sandra's last post on my Facebook wall was weeks ago - if you ever think your friend has been replaced after spending a few weeks in old Orchard, check for changes in social media activity; I annoyed people with status updates and Sandra, well, does not - and it mentioned spending some time in Maine. Nothing after that, though-no comment about "Benny" being a dick, no relationship status change, no anything. Did she go back to Boston, did she go to my hometown, or somewhere else entirely?

I figured I could only choose one and hope to get back on time if the change was going to trigger that night, so I started driving north.

I don't know if that made a lot of sense, but I sort of figured that in a situation like this, you sort of go for unconditional acceptance and that's more likely to be found at my home than among her friends in Boston, as some of them might be on "Benny's" side or might just think that they've been broken up for weeks, so "Annette" should just get over it already.  Heck, I might have thought that way were the situation presented to me that way.

About a half hour into the drive, I found myself thinking that I really should have invited Jordan along.  I told myself that it was important to keep him there so that Deirdre could get her body back, even if people changed without me, and there's truth to it, but for all that he's been cooler lately, I didn't want him sticking his foot in my mouth.  Given that my hometown is three and a half hours north of Old Orchard, it made for a long drive.  Pine trees may be pretty, but they get monotonous after a while.

Still, it was odd and kind of nice to be back.  Despite not being there for a year, I felt like I was on autopilot driving through town, although when that autopilot took me to the Burger Shack, I laughed and went to the town's other sit-down restaurant, which is an Italian place.  I parked, accepted the sign's invitation to seat myself, and played with my phone until a waitress came over and asked how I was doing.

I looked up and saw that the waitress was Gretchen, my best friend since forever, and replied with a "been better, how are you doing?" that was probably weirdly enthusiastic, and for a second I was sure she would recognize me; as much as I've gotten used to seeing all kinds of people living in New York, someone living in a small town in Maine might not have seen another Hindu guy since the one that claimed to be her female friend last summer.

Gretchen did give me a long look and then asked if I was still into role-playing.  I shrugged, saying I'd grown pretty tired of the game, but asked if she knew whether Annette was around.  It was a really weird question coming from who I looked like and she didn't seem inclined to chat with "Ravi", so she took my order and dropped it off without much fanfare.

I still gave her a pretty nice tip, though.

Then I drove up to my house, figuring Mom would be at work and I had as good a chance of finding Sandra there as anywhere.  My car was in the driveway, so the odds seemed good.  I rang the doorbell and waited, my heart climbing into my mouth.  It seemed like hours but it was probably only a minute or two before the door opened and I saw Annette Grayson standing there.

It was profoundly weird, and I wondered how Jordan didn't go nuts living in the same apartment as Benny for the last year.  It made me start and stop a few times before finally getting something out.  "So, what can we do about this situation?"

She shrugged.  "Nothing to do.  Ronan made his choice, they seem pretty happy, and I'm not rolling the dice again."

"But it's my life!"

"Yeah, I know, and that sucks.  But life are can you offer me in return?  'Benny'?  How can I possibly look at that face in the mirror after what Ronan did to me with it?  'Missy'?  That times a thousand!  Some random person?  Uh-uh."

"But--"

"No!  Look, Annie, you've got to deal with they way things are, rather than what you want them to be.  We've both been dealt a shitty hand--"

"You look like you're doing all right!"

"Really?  Really, kid?  Look, you may think you've got some sort of enhanced perspective because you've gotten to experience different sexes and races and all that, but you're young.  You don't know what it's like to give your entire adult life to a relationship and marriage only to have your husband throw it away, with the only compensation that you've got a chance to start over.  I can't lose that second chance.  It is the only way that the last fifteen years aren't a complete waste of time."

"You can't look at it like that.  I mean, what about the other opportunities you might have?"

"Like I said, you're young.  It seems that way to you.  But eventually you want something you can count on. What am I supposed to do, go back every year hoping to find some life that suits me but which has no claim?  It's just not reasonable."

I tried to talk her out of it, but it was no good.  She had decided my life was hers, and I couldn't exactly force her into doing something else.

So it looks like I'm going to be Benny, and be him for the foreseeable .  Not tonight, apparently, but soon.  I can handle it.

But I just don't get it!  Sandra has a chance to fix something, and she just won't.  Was she always this selfish a person, or did I just not want to believe that the person in my life would be like this?

-Annette

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Jordan: You try to do something nice, and where does it get you?

Annette frets about not writing enough or well enough on this blog like it shows her lack of commitment or ability to be a professional writer someday, but she needs to give herself more credit: Reading that last entry, I was almost convinced that more crying went on over the last couple of weeks than I remember.

Even without the histrionics she put in there, though, I'd be lying if I said our plan didn't scare me some; every moment from waking up to getting off the train in Old Orchard yesterday seemed to present a good reason to turn back, and I'm still not sure now that I shouldn't still go back to New York and tell Benny that the deal is off. Especially since it's not exactly what I expected.

Every time I seemed about to go back, though, Annette would give my hand a squeeze, and I felt a little more like I could do it if (s)he was going to make sure I wasn't going to do it entirely alone. Besides, backing out now would really fuck things up for Deirdre and Gary, who are making new plans to stagger their visits to the Inn to get back to normal.

Or at least try. We got off the train, picked up the keys to our room from the other place (because even if the locals don't realize that the place is fucking cursed, nobody actually wants to work there, apparently), and went back in for the first time in a year. It was eerily the same - after a certain point I guess people just stop trying to improve cursed places - although we were in a different room this time around. We knew that there would be a break in our "chain" because someone wanted to finish their school year, but we didn't really think about that.

As nice as Annette was to me, she was anticipating the exact opposite of me, getting her life back rather than than giving it away, so she dropped her "Ravi" suitcase in the middle of the floor and dashed to the closet. She recognized Benny's and shoved it toward me, the pulled the other one out, commenting that other-Annette must have been shopping, because the one she had checked in with had been a beat-up hand-me-down and this one was nice.

"Isn't this a little like opening your presents before Christmas?"

She shrugged, pulling out the letter that was on top as she opened it. "It's not like I'm ruining some sort of surprise, and besides, there might be stuff we need to do to get ready!" Then she started looking at the letter and the blood drained from her/Ravi's face, and she started reading her letter very intently. Sensing something wasn't right, I opened Benny's suitcase and took out my letter.

Dear Benny,

I'm pleased to present you with your body more or less as you left it, another year of mileage on it but otherwise in pretty good shape. It's been so good to be young again that I almost considered not coming back, but I figured we had done enough damage and you, at least, should be able to come out of this unscathed.

I'm afraid me and Sandra haven't been completely honest with you and Annette about how our lives were going in your bodies, in large part because what we didn't want to talk about was "our lives" as opposed to "your bodies". As you know. we came to the Inn for our tenth anniversary, and though the changes shocked us, we figured it would be kind of fun, like dating again. What we had apparently forgotten was that dating can be a minefield, and her living in a Harvard dorm while I wound up sharing an apartment in Allston with three other young men after a dozen years of living together also did a number on our relationship.

And then, I met Missy.

The exact details don't matter; the point is that I was feeling 32 more than usual that night, and when a 19-year-old that hot shows interest - and your wife is back "home" with her "mom", you respond. And when she stays interested...

Sandra found out, of course. We tried to get past it, but everything we did just made things worse, and Missy is not only determined but also a genuinely great girl. And it's not like she could have known she was destroying a marriage. Or would it be more accurate to say that she was the way I did so?

Sandra and I still planned to meet up here, and figure out what to do afterward. But somehow Missy saw my printed-out reservation, figured I was planning to surprise her with a trip up the coast, and wound up coming along.  When Sandra arrived and saw Missy helping to unload the rental car, there was a screaming match, and Sandra stomped away, saying I was welcome to her.

Maybe if the change didn't happen that first night, we could have fixed things, but it did, and now Missy is Sandra and Sandra looks like she's going to be Annette indefinitely.

Amazingly, Missy seems happy to be Sandra and my wife. I hope that Sandra and Annette can work out some kind of arrangement to make things work out for them soon, but in the meantime, please give Annette all the support she needs. I won't insult her by saying that becoming Missy rather than herself should make her happy, but much worse could have happened to her, and I hope you can help her through it.

Yours Truly,

Ronan

I looked up at a shell-shocked Annette. "Those fucking bastards, not even giving you a heads-up while you've been emailing back and forth.  Sure, at least you'll get to be a girl again, and I guess still from New England so it'll be an easier adjustment--"

She did a double take.  "I don't think Ronan told you everything." Then she handed me her letter.

Dear Annette,

I guess I should get this out of the way before the signature - I'm not Sandra, so you won't be able to become yourself again right away. My name is Lee Yuan-wei, although I use "Missy" as a Western name. As you might guess, I'm not from around here. Hong Kong is my home, or at least it was.

How did I get here? Well, first I decided to go to college overseas - I always wanted to be an actress in both Hong Kong and Hollywood when I grew up, so I figured that going to school here would be good for my English - and it has been! Nobody thinks I speak with a weird accent!

So I enrolled in Boston University; they've got a nice film and theatre program. It's also not that far from the Landsdowne Street clubs, and that's where I met "Benny".

It probably sounds funny to you that his apparent maturity is part of what attracted me to him - little did I know! -but from what I gather, you can understand how I found him hot, too. But he was great, and even though it didn't take me too long to learn that he was "dating Annette", I didn't let that stop me.

That makes me sound horrible, I guess. It's more explanation than justification to say that I was always told to go after what I wanted growing up, and I've always had a leg up in being able to get it; my family does have money and I was quite pretty, which helps if what you want is a guy.

So I did, and "won", or at least "didn't lose", if you figure that Ronan and Sandra were done but I would have wound up with the original Benny after the dust settled.  I don't think that's in any way malicious or uncaring on Ronan's part - he was just trying to make things right as best he could - but I guess it explains a few things about the last few weeks; he didn't think it was going to last much longer.

But then fate stepped in - I saw the reservation at this Inn and assumed it was a surprise trip for the both of us, so I rented a limousine to set us there in style. "Annette" was there, we yelled at each other, and then one last night of great sex later, I woke up a 31-year-old American woman named Sandra - and Ronan's wife!

And I love it!

I guess it's not that strange - everyone tells me I take after my grandmother, who is a big part of the reason why I wanted to be an actress. You might have seen her in some old Shaw Brothers horror movies, but not that many, because she retired when she married my grandfather. I used to think that was crazy, but now, looking at a life with Ronan, feeling that weight of a ring you don't take off on my finger... It just feels right, and when you look at all the strange things that fate has done to get me here, it seems even more meant to be.

So, until and unless you can work something out with Sandra, enjoy my life. It's a good one, just not the one I was meant to live.

Good luck!

Sandra (formerly " Missy" Lee Yuan-Wei)

P.S. Don't worry about the airplane tickets if Hong Kong seems a bit daunting at first; my friends and family will understand even if it is my birthday.

"Holy shit."

''I know! I'm not ready to to China next week! I probably won't be ready next year! I mean, it's one thing to be second-generation Indian-American, mostly in situations where nobody said boo if I only spoke English or didn't celebrate some holiday or something, but she probably hangs out with other Chinese kids at school and there's probably a big birthday party for her in Hong Kong, and that's before getting into how Sandra just decided to keep my life because she was mad at Ronan..."

Our sizes and sexes were not right for her to curl up in a ball and lay her head on my lap, crying, but that's where it went. It was weird, really - I've actually never seen her as a girl, nor she me as a guy, but we still fit our roles, even after a year.

I sighed. "Look, if neither of us are going to be ourselves anyway..."

She looked up. "I can't ask you that."

"Yeah, but, c'mon.  I speak Cantonese - my grandma never totally mastered English and my Dad imported lots of movies from Hong Kong - maybe even some with Missy's grandmother.  You and Benny are both from Maine. It's not like it doesn't make sense. Besides, I've realized that dicks are totally fucking over-rated."

She laid her head back down but didn't look at me. "No, having a dick is awesome. I love being able to use urinals and being on top."

Her and me both, but... "Well, then you keep doing that, then." One of Missy's bras had fallen on the floor, and I gave it a look. "Besides, it looks like Missy has bigger tits than Deirdre. These bug bites were a real letdown."

She laughed, bitterly, and then looked up. ''You are a terrible liar, and kind of a jerk, but you're okay otherwise."

She sat back up, a sad but relieved look on her face. "Well, I guess I'll go wash up, and then, 'Missy', how about I buy you a beer or two while they'll still serve you? I need about five, I think."

"Best offer I've had all day, 'Benny'."

And so we did. It wasn't a huge farewell party, but it left me with a pretty serious hangover. I hope Missy's form holds it better.

-Judo, who can't believe he'll be answering to "Missy" soon.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meghan: Mobility

Sorry it's been a month. Time flies...

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house... with a beautiful wife...

Some days I wake up and I can't believe my life. It's a bit trite to say, but the past year feels like a dream, like it didn't happen. It did happen to me, but there's hardly any evidence around me to say so. I'm back in my own home, wearing my own clothes, communicating with my own friends for the first time in a year. But there is one notable absence: my cane.

In my early 20's, I was in a car accident that left me a little handicapped: standing or walking for long periods caused me a lot of pain. I wasn't a great candidate for surgery, and while physical therapy helped some, I was inconsistent in keeping up with it, unmotivated... resigned to my fate.

When I became Tasha, I remembered what full mobility was like, and relished it. I danced around the kitchen, did yoga, worked on my feet as a waitress. Yes, the weight of Tasha's improbably-sized F-cup breasts caused some back issues, but it was nothing compared to what waiting in line at the DMV could do to my real body. And forget concerts (because everybody stands), amusement parks... leisurely strolls were my maximum. I was never the most athletic girl, but I became very sedentary.

When Carrie arrived in my body, she told me she wasn't using the cane very much. At first we wondered if the Inn had somehow "fixed" me - or at least helped the process along. Then she floated the idea that some of the problem may have been in my head. That upset me, made me feel weak, and I didn't want to give it any credit ("magic hotel" sounds so much more likely than "psychosomatic pain," sure!) Now I'm feeling it for myself - the pain from simply being Tasha dissipated overnight as I felt my melons shrink into little apples, my back muscles ease up, and while I did feel a familiar sting when I first stepped off the bed onto that bad knee, it wasn't nearly as sore as I remember it. I don't know what the truth is behind this recovery, and to be frank, I could hardly care less.

Now that I've picked up some good wellness habits as Tasha, I don't plan on abandoning them as myself.

I knew the body I would be getting back wasn't exactly as I left it. I felt lighter and slimmer to a slight degree, although I hadn't weighed myself recently at the time of the change. My hair was left longer and, to my dismay, bleached blonde (haven't I spent enough time as a blonde for my life? I'm going dark again as soon as I get home.) And I don't even want to get into what she did to my eyebrows.

But it's me. It's home.

That first morning, before chaos erupted around us, I slipped out of Tasha's ugly gray sleep bra and marveled at the fact that it had just fit me quite snugly until the night before.

Then Tyler and I took it on ourselves to round everyone else and try to contain the madness. It was a long, exhausting day. Then again, the first time we did this, it was just Ty and I left to fend for ourselves. Here, we felt we had the obligation to use our experience to help others.

Of course, they weren't all receptive.

I didn't want to tell people what to do. I've read where Jordan has said (often and a little crassly for my taste, but maybe I'm just sensitive) how proud he was that he just went on living his life, and in an ideal situation that would be possible for everyone. But what do you say to a grown man who now appears to be a child? Or his teenage son who now appears to be that child's father? For all the talk of "this is my body, it just looks like someone else's," the world runs on photo ID and the letter of the law: you are who you appear to be. Legally, Trevor's parents couldn't even operate a motor vehicle, and if they're kept out of school, child protective services might feel inclined to intervene. Could Erin simply show up at her job appearing to be a young man from New York and say that he was "filling in?" For a year? No.

Then there's the questionable legality of Kitty and Chet resuming their married relationship while one appears to be a minor. If that's even what they want to do.

These points came up during a lengthy and exhausting debate about whether it was right to live these lives or simply ignore what had happened. Kitty was firmly representing the "We don't have to do what anybody else tells us" camp. Erin and Rosie sided quietly with me. I tried to nudge the group towards acceptance of the situation without tipping the fact that Ty and I had been here before.

Kitty accused me of having a hidden agenda, which made her stand all the more firmly against us. I guess my arguments came a little too fully-formed to be spontaneous. Tyler was not much help, even though I repeatedly brought up how his fate was now linked with Kitty -- if "Greta" goes missing, who are they going to come looking for? The boyfriend.

Kitty argued that this was not her problem.

Finally a little voice screamed at the top of its lungs - "ENOUGH!!" It was Trevor's father, in the body of a ten-year-old girl, stepping into the middle of the ring. My guess is that as a middle-aged white man he was not used to being ignored the way we had been doing.

He (ever aware of pronouns - inside, he is a male) - turned to me and asked, "Are you sure there's no way to get our bodies back right away?"

"We have a couple more nights here," I sighed, "See for yourself. It would just happen, wouldn't it?"

Of course, we didn't necessarily have a couple of nights. Kitty and Chett took off before dark, presumably for their home in Rhode Island. I vented my frustration to Ty, and admitted I was annoyed at him fornot helping the argument more, but he seemed to see their side: "Sometimes I wish we could have done that."

"But we didn't, because we couldn't," I shot back.

"That's something they need to see for themselves, then." I wrapped my arms around him. He's always been so zen when I'm getting worked up about things. It's equally infuriating and reassuring.

I had trouble writing my letter. I tend to be pretty picky about what words I use, and in the case of my experience as Tasha, I found it even harder to express, even though there's a year's worth of blog entries on the subject. I wanted to sum the whole thing up grandly and express my truest regrets about the mistakes I made in her name. In the end, I summed it up with "You and I have a bond, and if you ever need me for anything, even just to talk, I will be there."

With Kitty and Chet gone, the remaining "Victims" (can there please be another word for this?) resumed our discussion the next day a bit easier. The new-Jenkinses, who are mostly already a family anyway, agreed to pick up stakes for Albany. Trevor got quite an earful from his parents about dragging that poor girl into it - not that he would have known what would happen, but obviously they weren't fans of the way he snuck a random girl into his room after dark. Trevor's dad fired off numerous e-mails preparing for his extended leave, and crossed his fingers that his successor would be capable of middle-managing a delivery company. Rosie and Erin didn't seem to agonize too badly over their decision to go to NYC.

Which left me and Tyler. "So where to?" I asked him, nervously.

He sighed. "There's an apartment with the name Alan Schmidt on the lease in Wisconsin... but it can wait."

He took my hand and smiled at me. I told him, "Tyler... I don't know what to say. It's so complicated between us."

"It's not," he said. "It doesn't have to be."

"I never promised anything... I didn't mean to give you the idea that this was... like, a sure thing."

"All I want is a shot... a chance to forget the past year and pick up where we left off."

He looks so different from the man I met last year, and so much more different than the way I have gotten used to seeing him. I felt myself smile weakly.

"There's this smile you do," he said, "It's so unmistakable, like you don't want to admit you're happy. I've seen it on Tasha's face and it looks even better on yours."

I took a deep breath. I may not be sure that he and I are meant to be anything, but I owe it to myself to move on with my life.

"Let's just take it slow... for now.

"In Vermont."

So here we are. At my little apartment in Vermont. Beginning... something, in earnest. He's sleeping on my couch. We're playing house. We have spent long nights just talking, walking around, or watching TV, and I find myself leaning over and drifting off to sleep in his arms. It feels so similar to those times when I let myself feel something for Wade, and yet so much better because I know this is real, this is for me.

I still worry about things. I worry something's going to happen and upend this whole arrangement. I worry about the things I don't know, about Alan or Tyler himself. I spend whole days waiting for the other shoe to drop, and then I worry that I'm going to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, like I did with Wade and Mykal.

But then I realize that's doesn't have to happen, because I'm home.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Annette/Ravi: Should have seen this coming, but, yikes

So Jordan has basically left it to me to catch everyone up on what's happened up to now, and I can't say I blame him.  As much as I sometimes think there's a decent guy under there - for all he'll bitch about a lot of things, and doesn't like being a girl, he's never really treated it as a step down, and I kind of appreciate that - he's not one for introspection, and that last post probably pushed his limits.  And, besides, what has happened since isn't all about him.

Though "since" isn't particularly right.  "Since" is just what we saw, so how it's filed in our heads.  That's not accurate.

Anyway, a few days after our dinner with Deirdre and Gary, the manager at work had screwed up and overbooked staff, so I decided to do some of the silly tourist stuff that guys who have lived here all their lives like Jordan and Ravi probably haven't bothered with since elementary school field trips (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, that sort of thing), putting me downtown at different hours than usual and thirsty for a smoothie.  I popped into a favorite spot.

Thus, I was a bit out of place when I saw Benny and Kareena seated on the other side of the shop. I started to raise my hand to get their attention, thinking nothing of it - we're all friends, after all - when Benny said something, Kareena blushed, and then they both leaned in and kissed!

I stopped right in my tracks, and barely had time to register that I had opened the Camera app on my phone and was getting a picture of it before backing out of the shop, running half a block away and around a corner before calling Jordan. It went straight to voicemail, even though I knew damn well that he was just playing Xbox. I left a message to call back right away and then started peeking around the corner to see if they were leaving the shop yet, not caring how ridiculous a six-foot Hindu man might look doing so.

After a few minutes, I got antsy and called again. I lasted another couple before sending a text to pick up your damn phone, a minute at best before sending one that said "it's important", and then seconds before sending the picture.

That got a response, with the phone ringing and Jordan yelling "what the fuck?" practically before I could get the phone to my ear, just like Gretchen did the time I got a picture of my boyfriend cheating on me, and for a minute I was back in high school again.

''I know! It's..." I stopped for a moment, trying to come up with an appropriately appalled adjective but instead allowing my brain time to think. "It's something we should have seen coming. She's not getting anything from me-slash-Ravi, and Benny's got you looking pretty good, and we all hang out together..."

"Yeah, but-"

I shushed him. "They're coming out now!"

''Are you going to follow them?"

"Obviously!"

Fortunately, I didn't have to play detective for very long as they went into a nearby gym.  Which made sense, as they're both workout fiends.  Who both love volleyball, and come to think of it, they were both reading the same book...

Jordan groaned when I started listing that staff out. "I cannot fucking talk about this on the phone like this.  Let's get a drink."

"Jordan, it's like eleven-thirty in the morning."

''Then we should be very glad you didn't see them kissing after Benny's morning run."

I could not argue with that logic.


Four hours later I was holding back Jordan's hair as he puked in our apartment's toilet. I stepped away for a moment to get him a glass of water, and when I turned back, he was crying.  I don't think I'd ever seen him do that before, and it was like there was no wiseass guy inside the petite girl at all for a second.

"I can't remember the last time I overdid something like that.  I'm not usually one of those pussies on the blog who can't handle periods and I think I've done pretty fucking well not doing anything outside my new capacity - I mean, this girl's taste buds seem to be designed for appreciating good chocolate - but now with just a few weeks left I've drunk myself sick, in front of you, and why? Because Benny might have put me in a position to be with the awesome girlfriend that Ravi doesn't deserve!  What the fuck is wrong with me?"

I almost said it might be something cycle-related, but didn't, and stifled a laugh. Sure, I've been a man for a year, but I still think of myself as a woman, and have had moments of being pissed because men think that explains everything. Instead, I told him that it was just creepy. "You're a dick, but you've done a pretty good job of avoiding the creepy stuff."

"Thanks, I think."

We didn't have time to talk about whether I was calling him a dick affectionately or not. That was when we heard the door open, and Jordan grabbed a towel, wiped his face, and nodded. I thought about how it was a good thing that he didn't wear make-up and followed him to the living room.  He was telling Benny that we had to talk.

"'Bout what?"

Jordan didn't say anything, but just shoved his phone in Benny's face with the picture I'd sent him on the screen.

"Oh. I can explain..."

"What's to explain? I get it."

"Okay, I should have told you, but I thought it was just going to be one time..."

Having heard that from a cheating boyfriend before, I interrupted. "Even if it was just one time, don't you think Jordan should have known? We're going to be going back to our real lives soon-"

"I would have broken it off and then put it in the letter..."

"Oh, and that would have made everything all right!"

"No, but..."

"Do you love her?"

That shut both of us up and had us looking at Jordan. Of all the ways he could have steered the conversation, that was the one I least expected.

He continued. "Look, I'm pissed about being in this situation, but it's the situation we're in, so the question is, what do we do going forward?  But if we're going to get the best possible result, that's the thing we're going to have to know. Do you love her, and does she love you?"

Benny just sat there, seemingly stunned by what Jordan was implying.

I let out the breath I was holding. "Well," I said, "we've got a couple of weeks to find out."


I did my part the next night, which was already scheduled as a date with Kareena.

I switched things up and opted for takeout instead of a restaurant, so that we could find some neutral ground and not have people feel trapped with us if things got ugly. Once we found a sparsely-populated spot in a local park, I just came out with it.

''Kareena, I've got something to tell you. I'm gay."

Just like that. No pause to make her wonder, the first part just so she'd know I was talking and I wouldn't have to repeat it.

She stopped working the latch on her styrofoam box.  "What?"

I launched into what I'd planned to say, a mix of what I had been feeling and what I figured had been going on in Ravi's head. I said I'd never wanted to deceive anyone but had wound up deceiving myself, that I'd only found out myself when my defenses were lowered and I found someone irresistibly attractive, and I wasn't seeing anyone or trying to make a fool of her. I left out any mention of finding out at her friend's New Year's Eve party or anything like doubting it because of how much I liked her; this was not a time to be putting any sort feeling of responsibility on her.

For a while, she just stared at me, not seeming to know what to think.  Then I could almost see her desire to be a modern, liberal woman wrestle a somewhat conservative upbringing down. "I guess that makes sense... We've never... I thought it might have been me..." She paused. "Our parents are going to be so angry."

"Just with me. I think I can take it." I thought of Ravi. "But if I can't, and I come back and tell you it was all a big mistake..."

"It won't matter whether I believe you or not."

I figure that's a fair reaction.

We tried to engage in small talk as we ate our curry after that, but it wasn't really happening. The movie was canceled. I went home to email Ravi; I hope Kareena  wound up crying less than me.

Ravi was furious, saying I had no right, that things were fine with Kareena before I screwed things up, and what if she told her parents who told his...? He made noises like he was going to drive up and sort things out until I pointed out that "Gary" had no standing in this situation and hid come across as some sort of weird ex-lover. He made a vague comment about maybe just keeping this life if I was going to destroy his like this, but I forwarded that to the real Gary and while I don't know what he said, that was the end of that.

I kind of feel like I did the right thing for the wrong reason here; I'm pretty sure that Ravi will be better off after facing the facts about his life, and that he'll be mostly able to do it at his own rate. What little interaction I've had with his family in the last few weeks doesn't seem much different, and Kareena doesn't seem like she'd out someone out of anger. If she's even angry.

That's the "wrong reason" part; we did this so that there wouldn't be anything holding her back with Benny/Jordan, and that's more than a bit creepy. I look back at the older entries in the blog and wonder if this is how the "Pygmalion" who was manipulating Ashlyn got his/her start, giving folks little pushes before really going all-in on arranging people's lives. Jordan and I tell each other that we were helping her, pushing her out of a relationship that wasn't giving her all she wanted and never would, while also giving her the chance to take another seriously in a way she might not have otherwise, and we might have done something similar in other circumstances, but wire doing it based on information she doesn't have and won't, and that's not really cool.

Also not cool: I haven't spoken to her since. I knew I was going to miss her, but this was weeks early.


Benny got to see her, though, and those last few weeks were hard on him; I don't think he'd given any sort of thought to what he was doing until Jordan made him. He's a pretty good guy, but lets not forget he's here because of a one-night stand with me, after all.

The tension spread through the apartment, which never felt smaller. It wasn't much of a relief when we gathered in the living room Sunday night, though.

"So... Me and Kareena...  We haven't... I haven't... I just couldn't be the one to break her heart for the second time in a month! I'm sorry, Jordan, but you'll have to do it."

Jordan forced a pretty powerful stare out of Deirdre's pixie face."So you're saying it would break her heart."

"Well, maybe not break her heart, but it would hurt her."

"And you can't stand to be the one to do that."

"No, but someone has to, unless you just intend to pick up where I left off!"

Jordan took a deep breath, tried looking down, but eventually looked Benny in the eyes.  "What if you didn't have to leave off? What if I took over your life and you kept mine?"

For all that we'd been thinking about it over the previous weeks, as Jordan had implied it pretty strongly when we found out about Benny and Kareena, I don't think any of us expected Jordan to put the actual offer out there.

Benny started to sputter.  "C'mon, that's crazy! I can't just be you on my own! What about your job, your family-"

"He's right," I interjected, "I mean, you still go down to the comic shop every week, pick up staff from a folder that says 'Jordan Chang', and argue about them online as'JordoNYC'!  You've kept a claim on your real life like few others have!"

Jordan looked at Benny first. "Last job's been done for months, and you can make a career change. You get along with my brother better than I did, to be honest.  I'll miss the hell out of Mom and Dad - I can't guarantee that your friend Benny from Maine won't need a place to stay during the holidays - and you'll have to learn Cantonese sooner than later, but I didn't say it would be easy.  "Then he turned to me. ''And where did trying to stay me get me? Nowhere; just more pissed off at what I couldn't do, feeling like you guys trying new things were stupid. And then..."

He stopped looting at me, got up, and walked toward the kitchen area so that he could address both of us. "Do you have any idea what it's like to see yourself get your shit together from the outside - to see yourself get into shape, make real-world friends, and finally be with a great girl - and then feel like there's a really good chance that putting me back in that life would lead to me fucking it up? I'm not saying that I don't want what Benny's made of Jordan Chang, but it also fucking terrifies me!"

I didn't knew what to say to that, and I think it started to scare Benny as well. "Dude, you're smart, you'll figure it out. And I can't just take your life forever for a girl!"

For a minute, I thought Jordan was going to reply, but I guess he'd kind of exhausted what he had to say, and was trying to find something else. I considered holding back, because this was so totally not about me, but...

"Benny, look at the others who have had this happen to them. A whole lot have wound up stuck in bad situations for reasons not nearly as good as Kareena."

The room got really quiet, and then Benny got up, walked over to Jordan, and practically smothered that petite body in a bear hug.  "If you ever change your mind, man. I'll be on the next train to Maine if you say so, don't care who I become. But thank you for however much more time I've got with her!"

We all started hugging and crying after that, and then spent the next couple of days going to Jordan's favorite NYC places, packing, and then having a big blowout bash last night. I wish Kareena could have been part of it, but making it just for us Inn folks made more sense.


It ran late enough that Jordan barely had time to get to the train station before conking back out on the train. I've written this in a sprint, occasionally looking up to see him asleep, looking strangely peaceful.

I wonder what kind of Benny he'll be.

-Annette/Ravi

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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Jordan: Friday night with Gary and Deirdre

Annette has been spending the past couple of months trying to reconcile the way she has chosen to live Ravi's life with having to hand it back over to him, and that's sort of sucked for her. I, meanwhile, have spent last week worrying about being judged, and I've probably done way worse than using a closet case's dick to fuck a few guys (no, I don't think Ravi and I will stay roommates after this, so why not tell it like it is?).  I just ignored Deirdre's life entirely, so when she called up at the end of June, I didn't know what to expect.

On average, I probably keep in contact with the folks before and after me on the Inn's chain-of-change as much as anyone, but it's a distorted average - while Annette has regular emails and text exchanges with both Ravi and the person living her life, I live with Benny (sometimes even sharing a room when he and Annette bunking together would look weird) and seldom talk to Deirdre. At first it was defiance - I probably blamed her for me being stuck as a girl - and then it was just having nothing to talk about. I didn't need to know anything about her life, and we didn't really share any common interests. so why try and force some sort of friendship? She would ask me how things were going every once in a while, but that was it.  Even then, I mostly ignored her.

A few weeks ago, though, they had decided that they would take a trip to New York, and wanted to meet up. My first instinct was to say hell, no, but I made the mistake of telling Annette, and she said we had to (she can make "you" into "we" without much trouble at all).  I said I didn't see the point, and she replied that there needn't be one - it can just be a thing you do. She says I'm lucky to have been able to interact with Benny as he tried to live my life, as most of the other "guests" just get a letter and only see the results of what happened after-the-fact, so I should give Deirdre this one evening.

So, plans were made.  Dinner with Benny & Annette, a walk along the High Line, meeting up with Kareena for ice cream later.  Annette gears up for a "gay best friend" day, but I tell her, no, these people know who I really am and I'm not looking to impress them with how girly I can be or anything.  Just shorts, a t-shirt, and a ponytail for me, because New York can get fucking hot.

We met at around six o'clock, and it must have looked kind of odd to anybody who hadn't been to the Inn - the three of us with our apparent various ethnicities get approached by this couple in their late forties, sort of simultaneously aged a bit prematurely and kind of robust-looking because they have spent their lives working for a living.  They still register as being our age if you've been to the Inn and know that everything is not necessarily as it seems; you don't see that many people pushing fifty simultaneously texting and talking with each other, or stopping to look at certain posters on the walls with interest rather than surprised curiosity. Then again, it is New York, and we do get all kinds.

It takes a while for them to spot me, as I'm easily the shortest and thus most difficult to find in a crowd. They do, though, hustling over and introducing, themselves. The real Deirdre starts to embrace me, but backs off. "A little too weird for me," she says, "and I kind of get the impression you aren't really a hugger." She's not wrong, so we settle for a somewhat awkward handshake.

Annette and Benny introduce themselves, and then we're seated.  There's a sort of prolonged staring-not-staring thing going on with me, Deirdre, and Gary, and I crack first.  "Look, I'm not going to apologize for trying to live my life instead of yours.  I had stuff that needed to be done that Benny here wasn't going to handle and playing the part of Ravi's girlfriend was just not happening.  If that's what you're here for..."

Deirdre bit the side of her lip, something that might have been cuter coming from me, the way appearances were arranged. "It would have been kind of nice, but I kind of get it. It kind of never occurred to us, but maybe if we were going to be separated or something... Anyway, I think Gary is just looking for a peek at your boobs without me knowing."

"I'm not looking at her boobs!"

"Nah, it's okay. They're really my boobs, after all-"

"Actually, they're my tits and only look like yours right now." We had a laugh, but I soon pointed out that I was kind of serious. "It's like everyone who goes to the Inn just automatically thinks it makes sense to abandon their lives to other people, or vice versa, even talking like their body isn't their own any more. It's just, I don't know..."

Annette said something about this experience making a feminist out of me. I snorted.

Deirdre seemed to think it over, though she changed the mood by elbowing Gary and pointing to Benny. "She's got a point, but then again, if I get to stay with him..."

"So long as you're cool with him being me!"

We all laughed, but it had an edge to it.  We've all, to some extent or other, spent a lot of time thinking about lives as pieces to be arranged and reassembled, and assessing the potential combination of that body and that mind is a path that can get you into trouble. Like, if I could get some non-bitch into Tina Chen's life..?

"Well," I said, "you might want to do it for a while, stage a breakup and reconciliation."

"Ugh." Gary cradled his head in his hands. "I set the feeling I'm already going to have to dump Kristina again, and that takes a fair amount of time and effort."

Deirdre sighed, but didn't look as pained by it as Gary. "I'm telling him that we should just go. Find a new place in a new city where I can finish school and he can start studying for the bar again. If there is one thing we've learned from this, it's that we work no matter what our surroundings are."

"And that not being near our families can be for the best."

I fidgeted a bit hearing that. I didn't stay in New York because I was afraid of doing something outside my comfort zone, but I do wonder about what it would have been like to try something a little different. What if I'd gone to Baltimore but broke up with Ravi/Gary for the duration? Sitting at that table, looking at how these two had learned something, Benny had done things to make my life better, and Annette seemed to have found some new knowledge about Ravi and herself, I got the feeling that I had just hidden, and that doing so wasn't much different than how I had lived my own life.

Then Kareena arrived and everybody started doing it.

Annette is naturally the one who talks about Kareena the most, but I found it interesting (at the time) that we all tried to keep the weird Inn stuff away from her. I mean, fuck, I don't ever recall feeling angry about her bailing on the trip and getting me stuck in this situation, and Annette will tell you that a lot of stuff pisses me off. It's an indication of just how much people like her immediately, and even though we know that she wouldn't believe us if we told her the truth, the whole thing would upset her.

It made for the occasional weird moment, though, like when we introduced our guests as the people whose luggage we found left in our room at the Inn and she laughed, saying that she really wished she could have gone on that trip if it was cool enough for "Jordan" to find a girlfriend and make big changes in his life or even to want to hang out with folks that "he" and Ravi had barely met. That drew a big, semi-fake laugh all around.

It also sort of killed the blog-worthy conversation until the end of the night (especially since "blog-worthy" becomes a much higher target a month later; this thing has been sitting in "Drafts" since then). The rest of the night was pleasant but mostly uneventful, at least until I went to the ladies' room and got backed into a corner by Deirdre.

She stared at me hard for what seemed like along time but was probably only about twenty seconds before hissing "you selfish bitch." Then her shoulders slumped, and she continued. "There, that's out. I've wanted to say that for almost a year."

I untensed a bit too; I didn't realize that I was preparing for a woman who kind of had fucking reason to do so to hit me until the moment had passed. "I--I'm sorry." It was a little weird. "It was just - my job, the thought of being Ravi's girlfriend..."

"No, I get it now - Gary and I didn't have it easy, but we were kind of the best-case scenario, relationship-wise - still with each other, no sex-change stuff; maybe I would have done the same thing in your situation.

"But I don't forgive you. I want you to know that, even if we're polite, even if we understand, even if Gary does. You made our lives harder when almost everyone else we connected with during this whole thing has at least tried to help, and I want you to think about that."

I had an impulse to tell her to fuck herself, but didn't. Not sure why. Anyway, that's what's been hard to actually set down in the last month for me.

I'll let Annette tell the rest.

-"Jordo"

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