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.
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.