Monday, September 21, 2015
Saturday, September 19, 2015
I was worried I would feel out of place among them. For Rosie and Erin, this whole thing is brand new. Missy and Benjamin are also at a crossroads. I couldn't get a good read on Benny. It's all in the past for me, and you would think I would be sick of talking about it, and some days I am, but I live in such secrecy that I never shy away from a conversation with someone who's been there too.
I would like to report that Jordan/Missy/whomever she'd like to be exaggerated my flirtatiousness, but what can I say? There's an energy amongst people who are on their second or third body, and with all that testosterone flying around with no real outlet, people get caught up in the energy. Even Rosie, wallflower that she/he is, stole a glance at Missy's figure when he could.
A fellow Inn person, who would prefer to remain anonymous, manages a club in Midtown, so I brought the boys there, and the drinks flowed. I got each of them on the dancefloor - Erin was the most willing, Rosie the least, and made it clear that I didn't mean anything by it. Seriously. All I want is for these folks to find out who they really are, you know? I don't mean to impose my worldview on them, but I don't know where I would be today if I hadn't had people pushing my boundaries from the second I started my new life.
Besides, I already alluded to in my last post, there is a new guy in my life. I call him Cute Hipster Mike, and he is indeed a cute hipster. He's actually my first bearded guy. I mean, every guy is stubbly to some degree, but I've always expressed a preference for clean-shaven boys. I considered it this strange taboo of overt masculinity I simply wasn't ever ready to break. Is that weird? I like my guys thin, less than a head taller than me, and smooth. Hipster Mike is a burly lumberjack-looking fellow, and when I saw him at the wedding, something about him struck me. Like, I want that person to hold me. He reminds me of Chris Pratt. And I do like Chris Pratt.
He texted me a few days after the wedding, saying he hoped I didn't mind if we weren't just a "one off." I said no, I would be quite interested in continuing, and we made arrangements to have a coffee someplace nice the following weekend.
By now I'm very practiced at first dates. I'm very sweet, charming, outgoing, personable... accessible. I share almost anything about my life that the other person cares to know, except things I am unable to mention due to magic curse. It took us a bit to click, though. He asked me about music I liked, and we didn't have much common ground. I asked him about movies, and he said he was "starting to feel fatigued by cinema." A bit pretentious and I could feel myself losing interest. Then we started to talk about work. He said he was bartending for a couple of years, and I was ready with my "Oh, it's okay if you haven't found your way yet" speech from numerous past boyfriends, when he continued:
"My real passion is for animals. I volunteer three times a week at a no-kill shelter, walking and feeding dogs and cats, helping them find homes. It's really rewarding. I'll probably do it for the rest of my life."
Couldn't you just melt?
I told him about Scruff, my family's old English Sheepdog who looked like he was on his last legs. His eyes got noticeably misty and he talked about his own childhood pets. Sensitive guy! Yes! From then on I could really feel the chemistry brewing.
He walked me home and complimented my "FORWARD" tattoo, saying that if there was a story behind it, he'd like to hear it. I sighed: "It couldn't be more cliche'd... I got it after a breakup, of sorts." I sighed a bit, thinking over the details of my life, "Some days it feels like I've just been living through one long break-up."
"Well, whoever he was, he's an idiot for letting you get away," he said.
"That's sweet to say, but it's a bit more complicated than that," I said. "And if he had his way, I'd still be with him."
There was a pause, and I made myself apologize for derailing such a nice date.
He attempted to joke his way out of it, saying "Hey, what's a first date without a little melodrama?"
"Uh huh, sure," I said. Then I took a deep breath and said, "Mike, I'm really liking you."
He fell quiet, like I'd just smacked him in the face.
"Tori," he said in a weirdly grace tone, "I think you're really great, but..." Oh, God, here it comes, "...I'm not really looking for anything serious right now. But I was thinking we could be, like..." Don't say it... "Casual."
The word felt like poison in my ears. I felt tricked, honestly. He came across so well, so sweetly, and then this came out of nowhere. And it was such a cliche, too, but at least the other guys had the balls to say it before we ever met, when we were still in the online profile or texting phase, where I could pretend I was OK with it before agreeing to meet, or (more likely,) avoid them altogether. It wasn't fair.
I spent so much of my old life trying to get attention, and now that I had it, it wasn't the right kind. Cosmic joke.
I almost wanted to cry, just as in impulse, but I kept it together. Instead I just groaned and pulled away from him. I got my bearings, and I unloaded.
"What does that even mean? Can you explain that to me? I hear that from so many guys, as if I'm supposed to be okay with it, like I won't end up feeling used. Yes, I want something physical, but I want something emotional, too. I wanted to be romanced. Cared for. Like I'll just go along for the ride hoping you'll change your mind. Fuck, Mike. Someone's got to want the same thing as I do. And I won't settle for less. Not again. So if you don't see this going anywhere... if you want to just string someone along and have a little fling, find someone else. I'm sorry."
I regretted saying sorry as soon as it had left my lips. If I wasn't entitled to my opinions here and now, who was?
I was on the verge of a serious breakdown. He kept his distance. I wanted to storm off but I stayed put to hear his response. It was underwhelming, but promising.
"Can I think about it?"
"Whatever," I sighed. "We'll see."
The next day he texted me. He gave this spiel about how he just had his guard up, how he's been hurt before, yadda yadda. He isn't sure he's in "the right place." I let him go on for a while, then answered minimally a few hours later. "Uh huh. Ok."
A couple of days later he texts again. "Still thinking about what you said. I was being pretty unfair. Some of my female friends pointed out that's a dick move." Not technically an apology, or even admission of wrongdoing. My response: "Yeah, kind of was."
A week passes. I think about him a bit. What a shame, there seemed to be potential. Then I hear from him. Not booty call messages at 2 AM, but mid-afternoon: "So, I really liked talking to you. Would it be weird for me to at least text you sometimes?"
Guys can be so awkward when you've got them under your thumb. I was feeling forgiving - empowered, even - so I answered. "Give it a try and we'll see."
He starts telling me about his days on a regular basis, and I tell him about mine. His charm doesn't quite come across as well over text, but I'm sensing that spark again.
Those texts become more frequent. He makes tentative attempts to get me to come out and see him. I find myself more and more drawn back to him. But I still resist. I keep it light and friendly and as time goes by - days, weeks - I pepper my conversation with more flirtations and come-ons, to let him know what he's missing out on. But I do find myself looking forward to his responses.
"I'm out with some friends," he says on Friday night in August. "Come say hey?"
"I can do that from here ;) See? Hey."
But I do go, and we have a drink and I meet his friends, and they're all as goofy and pretentious as he is, if not moreso to make him seem down to Earth. (They all talk about how they've traveled Europe and Asia and all I've got is this story about a quaint little Inn I once visited in Maine.)
Eventually, we steal a moment together. "Listen," I admit. "I want a boyfriend. I want something solid. And I know you can't force it. I know that isn't instantaneous. But I want someone willing to give it a shot. Someone who won't run as soon as things get serious, who won't throw fits about how they aren't ready to commit. I can't waste my time, I owe that to myself."
He digested this. "You're right. I really think we'd be good together."
"Mike," I smiled at him and put my hands on his cheeks. "We are good together."
He smiled warmly at me. "Let's give it a shot."
We kissed, and I went home that night walking taller than I have in a long time. Sometimes I don't apply myself towards getting what I really want, and bend to the whims of others, and in the past I might have said "Causal, sure, if that's what's best." But today, I'm a new woman. I'm done floating, because this is my life and it isn't a game. I won't settle. I'm worth it. And I deserve someone who sees it.
We've been pretty happy so far...
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Thursday night around 1 AM I had gotten out of bed unable to sleep due to...ahem...cramps, when I heard the front door open. I did, what was in retropect a stupid move and grabbed a hammer out of the kitchen drawer and went to inspect and/or confront an intruder. This was a case of my brain still having the fight or flight response but not realizing that my body is much more fit for flight than it is for fight. A tiny woman like me would get killed or worse confronting a dangerous intruder, but there I was holding a hammer like some sort of action movie.
Luckily there wasn't some kid in a ski mask trying to take my tv, but rather Ashley. She was wearing leggings that were way too tight for a girl her age and a top that showed way too much cleavage. How do I know what was too much? Again, I have a man's brain and and it wanted to react to things, but I knew that those body parts were attached to a 16 year old and that was a no-go, even if that 16 year old wasn't biologically related to me. She gave me a look of partial surprise. Not surprised that I had caught her coming in late on a school night, but surprised that I had been up that late.
I've always believed that you don't discipline someone else's kid. If a 9 year old is throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of a grocery store you don't intervene or even say something despite the fact that he's 4 years too old to be doing that. You don't even make eye contact. That's how I had been treating Ashley, like someone else's kid. I just didn't want to get involved with what was really none of my business and unless Kari had given specific instructions I wasn't going to stir the pot. But in recent weeks I realized that while I'm not her mother, nobody else knows or would even believe that. If Ashely got in some serious trouble she's still a minor and I'm legally responsible, and a major screw-up could lead to a visit from child services and some very awkward questions asked. Like or not I was going to at least keep her out of jail.
"Where have you been?" I asked in an annoyed tone
She gave me a look that was half irritated have incredulous "Just at Haley's, no big deal"
"In those heels?" I'm still not an expert on female footwear, but a few weeks in business shoes has taught me that any heel higher than two inches is to be avoided unless there are other motives.
"I wanted to feel tall" she said, rolling her eyes.
"You can't be staying out this late" I said firmly "Not on a school night and never without me knowing"
She outright laughed at that one "You aren't MY secretary" saying the last word with an air of unappreciative derision, either not knowing or not caring that I was a receptionist and not a secretary. So much for pro-active parenting.
Whether that kind of attitude is a result of being 16 or not having ever been given a rule like that before I don't know, but it's pretty clear I can't just tell this teenager what to do, because I would have no way to enforce it. I thought about taking her phone away, but in this day and age its a necessity for kid to have one, at the very least as an emergency tether. No, instead of a stick I was going to have to use a carrot.
Kids need an activity to stay out of trouble. When I was in high school I was on the Debate Team, Model UN, and did JV Baseball. Ashley needed to find something to keep her busy which was relevant to her interests, which would be hard to find because I think her biggest interest is Snapchat and I don't think there is a Snapchat team. Saturday morning after she woke up I ambushed her over her cereal.
I explained that I thought she needed and outlet and she should find use for her time and she ignored me until I got to the good part. Ashley doesn't have her Driver's License, she doesn't have a car but like all 16 year olds she wants one. She's passed all her driver's ed courses but she needs hours of drive time with an adult relative and I guess Kari never got around to doing it. I told her that if she joined a club or team and stuck with it, I'd help her get her license and let her use the car two weekends a month. I was especially proud of this deal, since it would also get her out of the house during the daytime where I could let the mask down and not have to be all the Kari I can be.
So we set off trying to find a club or a sport that would interest her. She didn't really play an instrument or sing, or have any acting ability or any desire to work behind the scenes on a play. She also didn't want to do anything too geeky like debate or Model UN (I held my tongue) and by high school most of the kids on the sports teams had been doing it their entire childhoods and it wasn't really beginner friendly. Except for one. Cross Country season had already started, but the girls team didn't have cuts for JV and allowed latecomers to participate, so yay Title IX.
After convincing Ashley that running wouldn't be too awful, and it would help her get in great shape, she agreed to sign up and as of yesterday she is at practice three nights a week and I have my apartment to myself, even if it did require indirectly implying that Ashley needed to get in shape, especially considering the stamina I now possess. However I don't think there's adult Cross Country and I already have enough structure in my life.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
I did my best to help, talking about non-sexy things, and when Benjamin was finally feeling ready to stand, we decided to head out. It seemed Kareena and company weren't done with us for the day, though. She, Benny, and my parents were watching another match that some of my old neighbors were involved with, and while I was trying to think of a good way to come introduce myself, Benjamin was apparently checking out the horizon a little further out and saw something that made him start running. I looked up at the path he was following and picked up my pace once I saw why.
By the time I got through the crowd, Benjamin had apparently already introduced himself, and while the argument wasn't heated yet, I could see it was on the way there, with Ravi saying he didn't care that Benny and Kareena hadn't told my parents everything and that Benny should have thought of that before stealing his girlfriend, with Benjamin answering that he didn't seem to be all about maintaining relationships when he was fucking Gary's ex.
Probably not the best time for me to butt it, but I did anyway, pushing them away from each other and saying this was not the time and place, and that my parents didn't need any part of what was... Well, not even between Ravi and Benny, because the situation was resolved, and it was time to accept things and move the fuck on.
It didn't even take him a second to realize who I was, and he said that was rich coming from me, because if I'd have been so willing to accept things a year ago--
I cut him off. "Nothing would have changed except that we all would have spent the last year even more miserable. You wouldn't have had the excuse of Deirdre not being around when you wound up sleeping with Gary's ex - and you would have, because I can't imagine deciding to actually act like your fiancée - so they would have been left an even bigger mess. Everything up here would have played out the same, except Benny probably gives me my life back and I'm stuck in a fucking love triangle with you and Kareena while Annette winds up with this life but having no way to navigate the Chinese part of it. How the hell is that better?"
"I could have gotten Kareena back afterward."
"You're fucking gay! Seriously, do you realize how much more fucking sense your life makes if you just accept that? I wasn't exactly in any position to act jealous, but he--" head nod toward Benjamin "-- hooked up with some pretty sexy guys when he was you! You could probably even be friends with Kareena again, and you must notice how much happier she is with someone who actually wants her rather than seeing her as an obligation or a way to avoid facing what's goddamn obvious!"
That's when I noticed he was clenching his fist. "What, trying to decide which one of us is the guy you can hit? Do you think that's going to impress Kareena at all?"
He opened his hand, but didn't look like he was particularly buying what I was selling. "It's pretty rich to get a lecture on taking what we're given from you. Guess it's different when the Inn makes you pretty and rich."
"Hey, she was pretty as Deirdre!"
I smiled a bit at that, and smiled at Benjamin by way of thanks before turning back to Ravi. "Yeah, this does make it a little easier, But so fucking what? It's the right thing for me right now, just like staying in New York was the right thing for me a year ago. I probably got lucky there, but if you think leaving my life behind was an easy decision, before or after Yuan-wei was part of the equation, you're out of your damn mind. So why don't you spend some time deciding what's best for you rather than bitching about other people who have already done so?"
And then we stood there, Benjamin texting something along the lines of "Ravi's around and starting shit" to Benny. Eventually, Ravi turned and left, saying we'd be gone tomorrow.
"Man," I said, "dude turned into a fucking creep."
Benjamin's nice, so he tried to make apologies. "It's got to be weird to come back to a life that's not as you left it. I mean, you can't expect everything to be the same, and the three of us did sort of leave his the biggest mess."
I grunted, saying I could use some lunch. So we hit up an authentic Chinese restaurant, which was a little surprising to Benjamin, who still equated "Chinese" with "General Tso's Chicken", and he wasn't sure what he thought of it. I had to admit, I had found myself with a bit more of a taste for it after spending a week in Hong Kong.
I wish I could say we put all that behind us and had fun for the rest of our stay, but both of us were kind of seeing Ravi out of the corner of our eyes for the rest of the day, so we opted to stay in for the evening and then took the train "home" to Boston fairly early on Labor Day. And I guess I am going to have to think of this city and Hong Kong as home now - there just doesn't seem to be as much of a place for me in New York any more.
Friday, September 11, 2015
It's not easy, though. I had to fight her perception of me as her "sister," and convince her to get back to seeing me as a potential partner. Although I never stopped seeing myself as a man, I have definitely had to adjust to the world seeing me that way again. I also had to wait for her to get over spending a year with Wade, and all the baggage left over from that. It will probably still haunt her, but we all have baggage, I'm definitely no exception, but the trick is lightening it so that you can be with someone else. It wasn't an immediate transition, but as my recent post indicates, it did end up happening.
What makes it harder than it should be is just the day-to-day stuff: actually being in the relationship. Right now I'm working the dinner shift at a diner 6 nights a week, and she's working at the University as a TA and working on her thesis. Our schedules don't really line up that much. I remember her noticing that about her time with Wade, and I guess at the time that helped her avoid having to spend too much time with him, which probably kept their "relationship" together for that year. But when you actually want to spend time with someone, it's different. I can feel myself missing her.
I got home around 3 the other night. I wasn't ready for bed yet, so I opened a beer and watched TV for a few hours before slipping in beside Meg. She sensed my presence, rolling over and draping her arm over me.
I can't tell you how amazing that feeling was.
I nuzzled in close to her. She murmured, "What time is it?" I said it was after 5.
"Just getting in?" she asked in her half-awake state.
"I've been home for a while," I said, "Didn't want to wake you."
"Hm, so nice," she said. She pulled me in close and started kissing me. "I should be getting up soon anyway."
"Stay here with me," I said, half-seriously.
She kissed me some more, "I'm considering it..."
We cuddled for a while. I felt a feeling inside pulling me toward her, but I fought it. As much as I want to get to that part of our relationship, this was not the moment. I drifted off to sleep with her in my arms, though, and it was, as always, amazing.
(Actually, sharing a bed with someone after years of sleeping alone has its discomforts and problems, but I'd rather romanticize it.)
I did wake up when she got up to shower. When she returned, I watched her from the bed, as she dressed herself for the day. There's a poetry to watching someone else's routine, watching them in their most intimite moments, that feels so strangely beautiful and intimate. She kissed me goodbye and went to her first tutorial, around 8.
When I woke up around 11, I found a note on the kitchen table written in Gene's handwriting:
"TO THE PERSON WHO WAS AWAKE AT 4 AM
PLEASE BE MORE CONSCIENTIOUS OF THE NEEDS OF OTHERS
WHO NEED TO BE UP AT 7 FOR WORK.
ALSO, MORE CO-OPERATION VIS A VIS DISHES WOULD BE
YOURS IN HARMONIOUS LIVING,
I was livid. Gene knew very well that I was "the person who was awake." And that if he suspected it was Meg, he would never have used such a snide, condescending tone.
It isn't that I thought he was being unreasonable - maybe I had the TV up a bit loud, and it's closer to Gene's room than Meg's. Maybe I was going back and forth from the kitchen to the couch a few many times. I can admit fault. But it just stirred something up in me.
I spent a year as Lauren feeling cramped and confined into little space - a space that shrunk midway through when I had to share it with Kylie. I was really looking forward to having a chance to stretch my (now exceptionally long) legs. I was pissed at this guy for cramping my style.
So, there's something you need to know about me, something I do a good job of keeping hidden from the blog. Meg thinks I'm this zen master, but that's only when it comes to mystical Inn things. I can surrender to the universe when needed, but deep down I'm an easily-angered person, when someone brushes me the wrong way. As Lauren, when I would feel some guy leaning in too close to me or leering too long, trying to force me to pay attention to him, I would get hot under the collar and look around for something sharp, or blunt. I would entertain fantasies of using my combat training to teach him a lesson. But usually I was capable of suppressing that.
But there was this one time in gym class. It was in the middle of winter and we were running laps around the gymnasium. I was kind of dogging it because I had my period* and Lauren's body wasn't the most well-conditioned anyway. So this heavier girl comes up behind me and, instead of just passing harmlessly, shoulders me out of the way, and I go flying. I hit the gym floor hard, skinning my knee and bruising my chin.
Immediately, I felt tears rush to my eyes. And I got mad because I never cried, but it was a mix of the pain, shame at my reaction to it, embarrassment at being taken out, outrage that she had the gall to do so, and just general frustration that day at my situation - my flimsy body, my confined life.
So I caught up to her and tackled her from behind. She hit the ground like a bag of flour. She looked pretty tough, and she weighed probably twice what I did, I even saw her lifting weights when the rest of us gravitated toward the cycles and rowing machines. I got on top of her and held my fist up, ready to punch her right in the face - I felt few qualms about hitting a girl in that moment, especially such a burly one - but I managed to get a grip on myself. That wasn't me. I gave her a quick rap to the boob instead and told her "Never do that again."
I got sent to the principal's office and got a stern talking to, and a warning that next time my parents would be called. I wasn't so sure I cared, but I acted very apologetic. "She started it" doesn't work any better in 2015 than it did in 2005, and schools have only gotten more sensitive about violence, but they looked at her and at me and decided that a 105 lb girl attacking a 190-pounder probably didn't just happen.
For a while after that, everyone called me "psycho bitch." It hurt, and led to me gravitating more toward the theater people, who either didn't know or care what I was making out of Lauren's life.
So when I saw this Gene note, it stirred some shit up inside me, and I punched the wall outside his bedroom door. It as pretty satisfying, actually. But the more I looked at the hole, the more embarrassed I was, not to mention I didn't really want to go to all-out war with the guy. So I went to Home Depot and got some Spackle and did a quick fix.
When he got home, he passed his room and did a double take. I told him I had noticed a crack there and taken the liberty. He said "Oh, you should probably let the super take care of that. I don't want to lose my deposit."
That night I came clean to Meg about it. She wasn't amused. As much as she doesn't like Gene either, she didn't like this side of me. She told me she needed me to get my attitude under control because she didn't want to stick with some loose cannon. "You can't be like that. If this is going to work, I have to know you won't lose control over stupid small things."
That hurt, but it was right. And drawing attention to how breakable this relationship could potentially be - even after a year of waiting - really hit home.
I spent that night on the couch. She told me I didn't have to, but I felt too guilty to face her. I also wanted to prove to Gene that I could do so without making a sound.
*I originally wrote that as "Lauren's body was on its period" but it was mine, I experienced it, I should own it. I had periods. Big deal.
Friday, September 04, 2015
There are a few reasons for my absence, first was that there has been a flurry of activity on this board, close to 10 other active posters, and I didn't want to bump something important down where fewer people would see it. I didn't want anybody to miss a post about Jordan and Annette having to switch destinations or Meg and Tyler's "will they or wont they" thing because I was saying how unfair it is to have to wear pantyhose at work when you're bloated. (And it totally is).
Second, I've only got one computer in this house, a three year old laptop that I have to share with a teenager. Ashely is online a LOT, despite having a smartphone. She gets home from school before I get home from work and most nights she's got headphones on, skyping with friends while texting. I can't just say "Sweetie, I need to use the laptop so that I can write a blog post to the people who know I'm not really your mother". Not only would she not believe me thanks to the curse, but because "Sweetie" isn't something that Kari would call her. I'm able to write now because Ashley is at the lake with a friend's family for the Labor Day weekend.
The last, and most important one, is that I've been tired getting used to this new life. My average weekday routine consists of getting up, making sure Ashley is going to get up, getting ready for work, driving all the way downtown, working for 8 hours, driving all the way home, and then cooking. After doing all of that in very uncomfortable shoes I'm ready to pass out on the couch and can barely think straight, let alone write a coherent blog post. Weekends are spent mostly catching up to the things around the house that I didn't have time for: shopping, running errands, paying bills, cleaning. I've thought about asking Ashley to help out, or even just ordering her too but it doesn't seem like Kari is that kind of parent.
How do I know this? Because I found Kari. Or rather she was found for me, thanks to this blog. A very nice woman named Marta, I don't know if that was her real name or her current name, was at the inn at the same time as her. Marta said it took a couple of weeks to piece the timeline together but when she did she realized that the quiet former single mother who had been on the flight back LA with Marta and her "husband" was in fact the one I had been searching for. Through the very useful email address on the sidebar she gave me the contact info for Erica Jensen, which is who Kari had become.
The real Kari is pretty quiet, and didn't seem to want to talk to me in too much detail. I don't know if it was because it was weird for her to talk to her own body or what, but she was mostly one word answers. The gist of our conversation was basically "Send me an email if you need anything, don't screw up too badly." Which is really any of us can hope for from our temporary selves.
I wasn't so lucky with my new self. My body is currently in possession of a 18 year old recent high school graduate named Jennifer. Her plan had been to take a year off after high school to find herself, and she wound up finding my body. In my line of work, one mistake could cost a client millions of dollars if its bad enough and Jennifer didn't even know calculus, let alone finance and I wasn't willing to let her risk my work history by doing something stupid at my job, so I had her quit. As of right now Lane Von Hoekstra is unemployed, but it will be a lot easier for me to get a job when I get my body back after a temporary absence than it would be after a disastrous error. I had enough money saved up for her to survive on or the year, so as long as she doesn't develop a cocaine habit she'll get to have her year off that she had wanted in New York. Maybe I'll see if some of the other Inn folk who live there can check up on her.
I haven't asked her for money yet, it seems like its a bit of a taboo subject among transformees. As far as I can tell the rule is you make do with what you've been given, which for me isn't enough. Kari's job doesn't pay a lot, just enough to cover rent and food and bills but I had to spend the last of the thousand I brought back with me from Maine on back to school supplies and clothes for Ashley. She hadn't asked me to do it, in fact she hadn't really mentioned to me when school was going to start until I found an announcement in the mail. She was prepared to just show up with a torn up backpack and none of what was on the required materials list. Absent any useful credit cards to give her, I gave her what was left of the cash and told her to get what she would need. She seemed grateful, if not a little bit confused. I think back-to-school shopping isn't an annual tradition in the Cruz household, so I was glad to do something nice for her. I think she even smiled a bit, or at least let up on the scowl.
So that means its back to the frugal life for me, which I seem to be managing pretty well. My money-handling training seems to be applicable to a household budget, even if it means cutting out a lot of the "fun" things that Kari used to buy/do. I'm not entirely sure what they were but I'm guessing a lot of the shoes in the closet and bar bills on past credit card statements had a lot to do with it.
While being poor is no fun, being unemployed would be even worse, which is why I've stuck it out at Kari's job despite her lecherous boss. After a couple encounters that were something out of a sexual harassment video, I made it a point never to be alone in the room with him, even if that meant avoiding him by making pointless small talk with my co-workers. On the plus side, a lot of them think that Kari is all of a sudden much more friendly than before, and have started inviting me to lunch with them. I guess they weren't very social with her before, I don't know if its more Kari being unfriendly or them resenting her for the rumored involvement with the boss. Its not a difficult job but its a bit of an icky situation, and if Kari had any sort of formal higher education or qualifications I'd look for another one, but in this economy in this region, low skilled work isn't exactly in high demand.
So that's about it, as far as major stuff goes. Theres a lot of minor stuff going on, typical "I'm someone else" kind of stuff and I'm going to make an effort to post more on this blog. I need to keep my mind straight and my thoughts organized if I'm gonna find away to wrangle me, Kari, and Jennifer to the Inn next year and in the right order, because if there's one thing I've learned from this blog is that one missed detail can cause a world of chaos.
My dad always said I was an incurable optimist. I never liked that because it made me sound dumb. I prefer to think I'm a realist, it's just that in my view, reality is generally pretty ok. At a time like this, it helps. Before "Ahmir" and I set out for Brooklyn, I wrote down a list of pros of the situation. We're still in the same city, so we can look out for each other. Financially, we're not any worse off than we were before. Looking for work will give us a project, to keep our minds busy. We're not upsetting any family dynamics by being here - 25-year-old unmarried guys don't tend to have too many permanent bonds with anyone so if they drop off the grid for a few weeks or months nobody says much. Lastly, what woman has never thought, if just for a day, that she would like to be a man? To be free of all the trappings of womanhood, enter the great unknown of masculinity? To feel the security and self-confidence you can only get in this culture with a penis.
I clicked around the blog at random, favoring summer months when the Inn would be open, and took in the "greatest hits" of, yup, dudes becoming ladies. They're so fearful and panicky it's adorable. Then it almost becomes sweet when they begrudgingly admit it's not the worst thing... but I'll take peeing with an erection over period cramps any day of the week, every week of the year. Ever sneezed while on your period? I guarantee it's happened to 100% of the ex-boys who've written here, and yet they never want to mention it. Hmm.
I kid. I certainly wouldn't expect any man going through the reverse process to be as gung ho about it as I am, at least openly. That even took me a while. For the first few days, I felt overwhelmed and scared: hence the list-making, the self-reassurance. I also ranked the things I was most bothered about: "I'm a guy now" ranked below "Moving to an intimidating new city" and the big one "MAGIC IS REAL??" (Of course, maybe it's science, or maybe magic is science, or... who knows?) The late addition to that list, which I slotted in between 1 and 2, is: "Someone is going to be me."
Like, did you ever pick someone up at a bar, and bring them back to your place, only to realize you've left your dirty laundry in clumps around the bedroom, and a pile of discarded Diet Pepsi cans and Lay's bags on your coffee table? Okay, I'm not that much of a slob, but in my head, it's like that. It dawned on me that someone was about to be privy to all my garbage. I feel so exposed and there's nothing I can do about it.
I only let myself panic about that for half a day, then I decided to be a rock for Rosie, who was quite shaken. She could hardly bring herself to speak those first couple of days, like she was afraid of her new voice. As Meghan and Tyler/Alan/whatever he wants to call himself were debating Kitty on what to do (without letting it slip that they were Inn veterans, a secret I helped conceal) I glanced around the room. The New Jenkins family behind Kitty, and a loose association of women behind me. Before the change, they were catty college girls who I overheard snickering not-quietly when Rosie and I dared to go to the beach in bikinis. Hot Skinny Idiots, I called them in my head, probably being unfair to their intelligence but it helps me to dislike them if I can convince myself they're airheads.
Now a few of them weren't so hot anymore (at least not in the conventionally perfect western ideal way) but one was a gorgeous brown-skinned woman, Saraya, which took her a day or two to get over. Another, Maureen, fretted over her new body's nearsightedness: "My eyes! I can't see anything!" (We helped her find some contact lenses in her luggage but she refused to put them in.) The third was now Lucy, a short, curvy Latina woman and complained about how her newly enlarged boobs had wrecked her favorite nightie.
(Their real names were Lexi, Rebecca and Candice.)
"Saraya" was from Jersey, so she rode down to NYC with us. "Maureen" and "Lucy" went their own ways, reluctantly. As the girls fretted over their situations, I wondered which of us were truly lucky. They couldn't reap the benefits of "a new perspective" that we could. They were just purely stressing. Okay, now I'm hearing that "incurable" part of my optimism.
At the end of that first day, I turned to Rosie and checked in to ask: Are you okay?
She looked at me silently for a few moments. In her new face, she looks like that comedian Hannibal Burress. Then she shrugged and said "I just feel bad for whoever gets my body."
Well, that's the spirit, I guess.
Thursday, September 03, 2015
So here's a fun thing about the Boston area: Because higher education is quite possibly the city's #1 industry, nearly every lease runs from September to August, with September First not actually labeled as "Moving Day" with capital letters on the calendar, but certainly thought of that way. The week around that date, particularly the preceding weekend, August 31st, and September 1st itself, are traffic nightmares because every U-haul, moving van, and other vehicle that can carry cargo, right down to horse trailers, is sucked into the city as if by some sort of vortex. And if you happen to be a reasonably fit guy in his mid-twenties, guess what you're going to be doing for that span, especially if you're between jobs?
It could be worse. There's pizza and beer at the end of the day, and scoping out the stuff you're moving from point A to point B is a pretty decent way to get at least a small measure of the friends you've inherited. And while the "pay" isn't great, it feels better to actually be doing something than just filling out job applications, feeling like you'll get rejected for things that are way below your ambitions.
On the other hand, it's an awesomely masculine thing to be doing. Sure, I've been a guy for over a year, but as Ravi, I always thought I was going to get my vagina back, and he wasn't the guy people called on for stuff like this - he helped hook up your new stereo, or did detail-oriented work, but pure hauling-things-around wasn't his thing, and it didn't really occur to me to volunteer. Now, though, I've already been volunteered - Ronan said "sure, I'll help you move if I'm still in town" to one of the guys at "Benny's" job before giving his notice. So I spent Saturday helping him get a truck all loaded up, driving across the river, and then unpacking it.
Fun times. Did you know that Cambridge wants you to get some sort of permit ahead of time so that you can have "No Parking" signs put up (or defy the ones that are already there)? I didn't, neither did Joe, so he wound up with a ticket.
I felt like I should have been pretty exhausted by the end of the day - and, to be fair, I did come right back "home" after being treated to a pretty decent pizza and just chilled for the night - but my first reaction was to marvel about how feeling sore could actually be kind of pleasant, and also to look at the newly-filled apartment and think, holy shit, look at what we just did! I don't think it's specifically a guy thing to get really excited over having accomplished something practical and physical like that, but you set more opportunities.
Like, Monday and Tuesday, when I got pulled into helping flatmate J.K. (he's the intern) move his girlfriend into her new place. Apparently, she and her roommate had been living in the same place since sophomore year - and would have happily continued doing so if the landlord didn't tell them that they were being kicked out at the end of their lease so that the place could be renovated enough to double the rent - and they have accumulated a lot of crap in that time, way more than would fit into their smaller and less open new one. I guess estimating is something folks tend to learn on their first move without parents, and theirs were on the other side of the country. They hadn't even begun packing when J.K. and I arrived on Monday, and they had rented the smallest U-haul in Massachusetts.
(Not that I will necessarily do much better when I move in a way that doesn't involve leaving one bag behind, grabbing another, and parachuting into a place where things are already set up.)
Not that I defended them at the end of the day when J.K. looked at me and said "chicks, right?" Hauling stuff is satisfying when you feel like you're accomplishing something, but when you're waiting around and trying to get the people you've helping to focus, having things drag into a second day when he had to worry about the impression he was making at work... well, it kind of sucks.
And after that, they wanted to partake in "Allston Christmas", which is apparently what they call students (and others) leaving stuff that they can't be bothered to take with them on the sidewalk for anybody to claim. Not that they wanted to leave thing, noooo... they saw some really nice bookshelves!
Did I mention that they were on the third floor? J.K. and his girlfriend owe me.
And, in between, there was Missy.
(She doesn't really like that name, but she's not exactly fond of me trying to pronounce "Yuan-wei", either, and since Ronan always called his girlfriend "Missy". I'm allowed.)
Her flight arrived Sunday morning, and while it was pretty clear from what she'd seen so far that she could spring for a cab (or limo), she's still a New Yorker at heart, and would rather get familiar with public transportation options, and figured she could use some help.
I got to the airport plenty early and hung out around her terminal, watching for her, but didn't spot her until she walked up behind me and tapped my shoulder. I turned around and did a little girly squeal when I saw her. "Spin around!" I said, with matching finger motion.
Somehow, she managed to both scowl and smile. I'd been expecting to see a lot more "Jordan", not really making an effort to be much more than comfortable. Instead - well, her make-up wasn't flawless, but it wasn't awful by any means. Her hair was pulled back into a simple ponytail, but one of those ones that just looks better on Asian girls with their silky hair than any I've ever had. Her outfit, though, was just super-cute! It looked like a dress at first glance, but if she twisted or bent the right way, you'd see that it was two pieces from the midriff that showed up. The skirt went down to mid-thigh, showing some pretty great leg, and while the top didn't display any cleavage, it stopped just short, and you could see a pretty good hint of her shape. Cool blue-and-black tartan pattern, too!
Oh, and her shoes! Chunky platform sandals whose thongs were little silver chains, just loose enough to jingle a little even though there was no danger of them falling off her feet. She even had her toenails painted to match the dress. She had a little trouble turning in place with three inches of shoe under her heel compared to the half-inch under her toes, but she didn't fall over.
I was impressed. "I can't believe you got all dressed up for me!"
She gave me a cute smile. "Typical man, assuming that when a girl chooses to look nice, it's for his benefit."
I laughed, big, and hugged her. "Typical woman, unable to accept a compliment!" We both laughed, and I stepped back a step and made sure I was looking at her face rather than what she was wearing. "This is going to be fun, right? Not sad or scary, but fun."
"That's what I'm hoping. As to the clothes, it appears that this pretty upper-class Chinese girl has pretty upper-class Chinese girlfriends, and when they had Yuan-wei home for a few days, all they could think of doing was shopping." She pushed a suitcase that was a LOT bigger than the carry-on she had left and returned with at me. "And those girls can shop!"
Sucker was heavy. "You don't seem half-bad at it yourself."
"I am apparently weak when attractive women tell me I'm sexy in an outfit. The urge to sleep with them is fairly weak, but, damn, their praise means something, and it's kind of fun to be in a changing room with them. Is that weird?"
I shrugged and started leading the way to the Silver Line. "What isn't with us? I mean, there were pretty girls in high school I wanted to like me, and I didn't have memories of an urge to screw 'em. Doesn't explain how you're dressed today, though."
"It's pretty comfortable, and these shoes get me a little taller without heels that look like they'll break off. And, hey, I've got to look in the mirror."
Compared to New York, the Boston subway is pretty easy, although wrestling Missy's new wardrobe from the Silver Line to the Red line at South Station, and then to Green-Line-C at Park street, didn't necessarily make it feel that way. Then there was a bit of away to roll it up Beacon until we got to the side street with her building.
Which was gorgeous, and that's just talking about the outside. When we actually found her unit, my jaw dropped. Two bedrooms, high ceilings, tons of space, decorated nicely but still looking like someone my age lived there...
"Ho-leee shit!" Missy just mouthed something that looked like "fuuuuuck!", and we both sort of waked around the living room and poked our heads into other areas in what was a sort of daze. "Man, I should have taken some sort of online Chinese course or something."
"Yeah, although...This is fucking ridiculous. I mean..."
He couldn't say what he meant, but I got it. You never hear of the Inn just presenting you all this on a platter, or someone walking away from it. As weird as my own situation is, Jordan/Missy is in another world altogether.
We sort of rummaged around, learning where the real Missy had kept all the important stuff and where to put all of her new clothes (not really a problem, as there is plenty of closet space). Sunday was a pretty good day to find the trash room and laundry and such. We started to scope out what the nearest restaurants and convenience stores looked like, but it got crowded in a hurry - a lot of other people, BU students and otherwise, also getting settled. This close to Fenway, we were pretty lucky that it wasn't a game day.
Plus. while I was leading her around, I kind of forgot that she must have been incredibly jet-lagged, at least until she felt her knees start to buckle in Bed Bath & Beyond. I got her back home and into bed. "Now, you set a good night's sleep; it's your first day of school tomorrow."
She smiled at the silliness of that but passed out petty quickly, not really picking up any envy that I felt as she did. She was going to college - again - while I was going to be helping the girlfriend of a guy I just met move.
Exciting new adventures.
Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Suited up, he was a handsome, clean-cut, dashing figure, with a cutely angular face, casually messy short-cropped hair, and pretty, piercing eyes. The fact that that body was once mine made me feel very uneasy about it. Way, way back when I was newly Torified, I had been sufficiently charmed by Willy that I almost let him take me to a place I probably wasn't ready to go. Now, I have experience, restraint, perspective... I know what to do when I find a guy attractive.
In this case, anyway. I admired his looks, but I can only forget "that was me" for so long before it hits me like a cold splash of water, and then suddenly it becomes gross. I didn't bring him here for that, and I kind of smiled to myself as I realized that he was going to be able to go home with any woman he wanted.
I can only speculate whether the same thought was going through his mind as he let his eyes linger on my body. I can't blame him: I made it my business to look stunning. I don't get many chances to go all-out anymore, and I wanted to send a strong message to every single guy at the wedding. I was wearing a black strapless party dress, which made me look fearless (which you have to be to go dancing in a strapless dress and heels!) as it clung to my body at every curve of my hips, butt and boobs... the girls were looking particularly perfect, shaped into perky teardrops by a lacy bra which one lucky guy might be able to unwrap for himself at the end of the night, along with the matching thong. Add to that a just a subtle amount of mascara to give me an available but mysterious look, and I was playing for keeps.
(This blog has been so beset by fearful new-girls for so long, it's nice to be the one who still really loves it!)
The wedding wasn't too long, but the church wasn't air conditioned and I could see Cliff sweating. I looked down at my attire (I wasn't exactly perspiration-free but I was feeling fine) and thought that's one true benefit of ladies' formal wear.
The night was long. When they tossed the bouquet, I stood in the back and pretended to lunge for it, but didn't because I didn't a) want to make a fool of myself and b) want my dress to wind up on the floor. In order to get the happy couple to kiss, we had to tell stories from their childhoods. Cliff actually told me something about Jenn that I should have known as Tori, about getting her ready for her first "date" in high school, and how we had to figure out how to do her makeup on AskJeeves (remember that?) Raine, who was in the bridal party and hadn't spoken to me yet, came over to me laughing her ass off.
Cliff and I danced for a bit. I scoped out guys around the room, and he assured me that being seen dancing with him - only for him to leave me alone - would stoke interest in me. It worked, and I danced with a few other guys, to varying degrees of closeness.
"What about you, Hotshot?" I asked between dances, "Got your eye on any particular girl tonight?"
"That's really not what I came here for," he said, "I'm just happy I get to see one of my best friends get married... especially since I missed my own wedding."
He started getting glum, and he drank a bit, and then I lost track of him. It was 1 AM when I was leaving the place with a handsome hipster guy with a side-shaved haircut, and I texted him to see if he'd be all right taking a cab back to my place alone. He answered that he already was.
I stared at my phone. It was fairly early for him to have come home. I hoped he wasn't feeling bad after that comment, and considered coming after him, but... well, I texted, "Are you OK?" He answered that he was, and... I swear, I'm normally a more caring friend than this, but there was no reason to let it ruin both of our nights.
Cute Hipster was good, and I'll admit I will never get tired of that moment where a man lays eyes on my naked body (and seeing its effect in real time, if the gentleman is already naked, as was the case here... mmm!) but my mind was distracted and I let him rush through the proceedings just to get it over with. I left, promising half-genuinely to text him later.
I gathered my clothes and called a cab, which deposited me at home around 3:15 AM.
And when I opened the door to my apartment, what did I see but Raine bent over my couch, with Cliff standing firmly behind her.
I let out an instinctive: "OH GOD! WHAT THE...?!" before covering my eyes.
"Tori!" they both cried out simultaneously as the scrambled apart. Raine covered herself with a throw blanket, and Cliff found his boxers in a hurry.
All three of us looked embarrassed. I was working my way to "What the hell is happening here?" but I decided it was pretty much self-explanatory. I shook off my shaken nerves and decided to just go right to bed and leave them to pick up where they were interrupted.
In the morning - after a very rocky night of attempted sleep - Raine had left, and Cliff was lying on the couch asleep. She had texted me to say she was sorry for hooking up with my guest, and I told her she had nothing to apologize for. I decided to be a good hostess and make some bacon and eggs. I waited until we were ready to eat before I asked him: "What the hell were you thinking?"
He looked halfway ashamed but defensive. "She... I... I don't know. We hit it off, I guess."
We laughed: "Of course you hit it off," I punched him in the arm, "You've known her since she was 12! Damn, Sara, hasn't she been through enough?"
Cliff recoiled a bit at the sound of his real name. "I swear this wasn't my plan. I mean, the part about maybe meeting someone... sure. I had some hopes. I just really didn't expect it to be her. But you know how weddings are."
Thinking of Cute Hipster, I sighed, "Yeah, I know. But I feel like there's a line. Danny... or whatever his name was... jerked her around for years, in different bodies, and it really messed with her."
"Well, I'm not leaving this body," he huffed. "I am as close as I can possibly be to what she thinks I am, just a regular guy, and if she likes me, she likes me. Let her make her own decisions."
"How can it be her decision if she can't know the full truth about you?" I ran my fingers through my hair, "I can't believe we're having this conversation. Some things should just be off-limits."
We sat quietly for a bit, then he asked standoffishly, "Why are you so against this? Are you jealous?"
I scoffed. "Of her? Being with you? Please."
"What about that whole thing you said about people like us having to stay with our own kind?"
"Don't twist that around. I don't want that to be true. Trust me, that's not a door I'd want to open at this point in my life. I don't want you thinking I asked you here for that."
"Good," he said coldly.
"I just don't want my friend to get hurt."
"Well," Cliff replied, "She's my friend too."
"Sure," I said, "But she doesn't know that."
"I'm not going to hurt her," he insisted. "Look, it's been a strange few years for me. I've changed so much. The love of my life left me because he didn't like being a woman. I got over it. I can move on. I just wanted a connection, with someone I knew I would like, and to see if she would like me too. I'm sorry I have needs, Tori. Sorry I'm human."
"Don't you feel bad for lying to her?"
She answered: "If it was some other girl, would that make it better?"
"That's the question, isn't it?" I said into my eggs. "I've lied to every guy I've been with and I never thought twice about it. And it still went badly. Fine, you have my blessing, but I'm not thrilled, so don't fuck it up."
"I didn't need your blessing, but thanks," he smirked. "Besides, I really didn't mean for it to be her. But that's how it worked out."
"Sure, keep telling yourself that," I teased. "Okay, so... now I'm dying to know. How was it?"
He smiled and tried to play things down. "It was good. A little naughtier than usual given my little secret but... now I just feel like an ass for saying that, after what you said."
"I'll let you have that," I snickered. "Did you know that's the second time I've walked in on you having sex?"
He laughed thoughtfully, "Huh, I forgot about that. Wow, Tor, you're such a creeper."
I got up and hugged him, gave him a little kiss on the cheek and told him it was good to have him as a friend. He agreed, and then we spent the rest of his visit taking walks around the old neighborhood, each of us wondering what our next steps should be.
In my case, it was to text Cute Hipster boy (Mike.) You can't keep a good woman down.
Back in July, I invited Cliff down to Philly for the wedding of our friend Jen. I didn't want to go alone and felt that, if he was up for it, he might enjoy the opportunity to see his old friends. Unsecretly, there's a bit of selfishness to wanting to check in on my original body.
That said, having Cliff around was actually quite weird. I didn't realize how far into my life as Tori I was until I sat down with him and started hashing things out. He drove down on Friday and picked me up from work, making some of the office gals wonder who was this tall, dark stranger I had somehow neglected to mention. I blushed at my old body being referred to in such terms: I never thought of myself as an attractive man (I certainly never had many women say so.) And it's not even really my body to be proud of anymore: I lost it six years ago, and declined an opportunity to take it back.
But hey, a compliment is a compliment. And Sara wears that old body of mine very well.
Over dinner, we started to talk about things I hadn't thought of in years: I reflected on how much it had meant to me, in my early days as Tori, to have Sara and Raine as friends, seemingly accepting me, never able to pick out that I wasn't one of them. It made me feel reassured that, if I could "pass" to Tori's friends, then I could stop thinking of myself as a man in a woman's body and just think of myself as a woman.
"I felt so dumb afterward," he said somewhat jokingly, "They say it's the magic of the Inn, but maybe it's just self-absorption. Like I had no idea what was going on with you because I was so busy with my own life, so I never caught on. But looking back it was so obvious."
"Yeah, my sister says the same thing," I said.
"Oh my God, does she know?"
"No, but... I almost feel like she might figure it out someday. She's sharp, and I don't think I'd lie if she asked. But she won't, because... how could you, right?"
"When did you get used to it? Being a woman?"
"Sooner than I wanted to admit," I sighed, "It just suited me better than being a man ever did. But for the first year, it was just keep from tearing your hair out long enough to get home. Then after that didn't happen... I was shocked, but I came around quickly to, I can make this work and finally, this is better in some ways than what I left behind. I was like a new person from day one, but it took me a long time to learn what that really meant."
"Is Raine going to be at the wedding?"
"Of course," I said, "I haven't talked to her much lately. We try to keep up on social media, but people go their separate ways. I felt bad for her, because she was dating this guy who was... well, one of us, for a long time, and she had no idea."
"What happened there?"
"Um, I don't know," I said, trying to search my memory for our last conversation on the topic: she was vague, probably because she didn't know the full story. "Sometimes I think it's hard for people like us to be with people who haven't... been through it."
"I hope that's not true," he sighed. "I don't want my dating pool to be so limited." I shrugged: I've had my fair share of experiences, but clearly nothing's panned out. Looked like he had the same issue.
"Well, you could probably date any of the women in my office," I said, "You should have heard them coo when you picked me up. Half of them are married, though."
He smirked. "I do okay."
"Part of me wants details," I said, putting on as devilish a smile as I could, "Part of me wants you to keep quiet, because that wasn't my experience when I was in your shoes."
"The details would bore you," he said self-effacingly, "It's not like I was, oh, doing any 3-ways or anything."
I felt my face get hot. Of course, I was spilling the beans about it on the blog while it was happening, so it's not like I had any reason to be shocked or embarrassed or ashamed... but I couldn't help but feel a little bit of judgment in his voice. I called him on it, and he corrected himself, "Hey, you can do what you want with your life. I admire your spirit. You're an adventurous person, and I love that about you. The real T-- old Tori, sorry, would be proud."
"Old Tori." Huh. Wonder how long since I thought of her. They gave her a morning show down in Louisville, but it didn't work out, and last I heard she was kicking around Indiana or Illinois or something. I used to wonder a lot whether I should have given her her body back and taken a chance somewhere new, but I wasn't in any place to start over and she seemed to be having fun.
As I got reflective, Cliff hung his head: compared to me, he's even more in the dark. The people who stole his and Thom's bodies ran away to Delaware together, probably for nefarious purposes. Thom left him the next year, for parts unknown. (Literally, we don't know whose parts he now has!) Willy, who left my old body, disappeared to England with Randi (is she still with him? From what we can tell, Thom did not take care to relinquish her body back.) I told Cliff he could join "our" community, but he felt he had nothing to say. Then I started thinking about more people who've come and gone over the years.
I have derived so much love and support from the readers of this blog, and those who have been able to see their way to adding to it after an experience at the Inn, that anytime I feel like I might have outgrown it, I feel myself pulled back here. But you should know I am around. And do you see that e-mail address on the right hand side of the blog? (It used to be a different one, but I used my Admin access to change it.) I'm on the other side of it. And through it, I've found several more people with some Inn stories, who will be granting me permission to share some of their experiences. Anyone out there who tried to get ahold of us at our old address but couldn't, now is your chance.
More to come...