Meg and I have been dating for a few weeks. Before I became Lauren, it had been a while since I had been in any kind of committed relationship. I never got comfortable anywhere long enough to have anything but casual relationships, sometimes a few at once. (I'm making it sound a lot more glamorous than it was - imagine the stress of a relationship, except without the stability, so it could collapse at the slightest whiff of trouble and it still hurt.) I'm committed to this, though, to making it work.
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.
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