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.