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)