Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jonah/Krystle: The past four months

Most guests start writing way before now, but I never liked writing in school, and I've just been so embarrassed.  I wouldn't do it now, but Benjamin and that author lady say it really helps.  And with Christmas coming up, I feel like I'm going to need a lot of help to feel normal, so, hi.  I'm Krystle Kamen, and have been since August.

I'm really Jonah Glass.  I was part of the youth group that was at the Inn at the same time as Jordan/Deirdre/Missy and Annette/Ravi/Benjamin, although I don't think they ever referred to me specifically aside from being one of the guys that got turned into couples.  Which was fine, I guess; I didn't exactly want people Googling me and finding that then.  But, I don't know, maybe knowing what I'm going through, even if they don't believe it, will help.  Somehow.

Anyway, like I said, I'm Jonah Glass, and I came to the Trading Post Inn as part of a church youth group from New Hampshire.  We had all sorts of activities planned, but on the very first night, the Inn did its thing.  I went to bed as sixteen-year-old Jonah Glass, male, the only African-American in the group.  And when I woke up, I was older, very female, and no longer the only black person - my roommate Joseph now had dark skin as well, as given that he looked like he was in his late twenties and kind of there by a rough road, I was pretty scared to wake up and see him leaning over my bed, shrieking even before I realized how different my voice sounded and what my body was like.  Fortunately, he turned away when I sat up, which is when I looked down, saw how much I'd changed, and lifted a sheet up to cover my chest, as much from myself as from this other man.  He at least seemed to have some idea what was going on, asking if I was Jonah and then slowly turning around when I said I was and that I was covered up.  He hands me the paper Annette - Benjamin, now - had slipped under the door, and we go look for her - him - and get the lowdown.  That's when we learn our situation.   I had become Krystle, Joseph had become Lamont (you'll excuse me for not using anybody else's last names), and judging from the letters that they left us, the thing we most had in common was not graduating from high school.

Fortunately, they lived in the Boston area, so we weren't stuck traveling too far.  It seemed to take me forever to get dressed before catching the train, though - undressing made me feel really nervous - I nearly threw up a couple times - and it is really hard to put that very-much-needed brassiere on the first time when you can't handle looking at or touching your own body.  It was even more strange when we took the train down to Boston - some of the female members of the group tried to tell me I shouldn't worry, others seemed kind of disgusted that I had this shape, and the guys seemed really conflicted looking at me, like feeling any sort of lust was doubly terrible because I was really a guy inside.

Then we get "home" and, well, things get worse.

Lamont, apparently, was on parole, and if going out of state for a vacation wasn't a violation, then missing a check-in because there was no Lamont for a couple of weeks is.  Police officers knocked on the door of "our" apartment just a couple days after we got back and took Joseph away.  It's apparently a misdemeanor drug possession charge, and if he doesn't cause trouble in jail, he'll be out by the time we can go back to the Inn and get our regular lives back.  But that leaves me alone in the apartment having to pay rent and utilities, and I can't go to work, because Krystle is a stripper.

What am I supposed to do with that?  I talk to my friends, and I get way more "hey, with the body you've got, not knowing how to dance should just be a minor problem" than I'd like, while the others are telling me that God will show me the way if I just pray and do what I know to be right, and I know that's true, but it's so hard when the guy from the club is calling and yelling and not only is Krystle's checking account pretty much empty but I can't even find the paperwork that has the address I should be mailing a rent check to.  I try to find other work, but putting down "exotic dancer" as your last job makes people assume that you're on drugs and maybe Krystle was - it would explain why she's so broke.  Maybe it would explain why I was even more panicked than some of my friends?  I don't really know how withdrawal works, and what I could find online didn't help answer any questions.  Eventually the management company for the building I'm in figures out that they're not getting rent and evicts me.

I've at least got Benjamin's number, but it's not like he can put me up - he's in a tiny apartment that he's sharing with a bunch of other guys, and...  I'm not ready for that, even if he did have room.  He says it's probably not good that I've spent so much time since the Inn holed up in Krystle's place not dealing with people.  We try to get hold of Missy, but I guess the start of November is really busy for her, but for whatever reason, I wind up having to move in with Krystle's family.

I don't want to sound to proud, or be too proud, like that's beneath me, but...  It's not always easy to be black in the part of New Hampshire where my family lives.  Most of the neighbors are great, and I've got a bunch of friends both at school and the church, but there are also a lot of people who may not say it directly, but tend to think of us a certain way, forcing us to prove that we're not trouble.  And that way is kind of like the Kamen family:  Krystle's mother seems to be a saint, but her father is nowhere to be found.  There's a photograph of a brother who is no longer with them.  "My" older sister by a year, Karla, is twenty-five and has three kids with three different fathers.  That's all crammed into two bedrooms, with me on the couch.

I think they can tell that this embarrasses me, that I feel like I should be in a better situation.  Based on how Karla talks, Krystle has always kind of been like that, but it's worse now, because I'm speaking with proper grammar and praying a lot more often than Krystle ever did, and she thinks I'm putting on airs, like Krystle decided she was too good for the family a few years back what she started stripping and now I've decided I'm too good for that.  I don't know, there's a lot of issues between the two of them, and while I'm happy to look after the kids to help earn my keep, she gets mad at that, especially when the father of the baby looks at me, and telling her I don't like that attention does not get me sympathy.

Please don't think I'm ungrateful.  I try to remind myself that this has to be part of God's plan, that maybe I'm supposed to help this family, although I'm not sure exactly how I can.  Maybe it's to help me learn humility.  I could be in the same situation as my other friends who are constantly afraid of messing up someone's life, or even Joseph.  I visit him whenever I can, although this doesn't please Karla or "Momma" Kamen at all, although they can't understand.  It's just so hard.

It's been a bit better lately.  There's a pop-up toy store in a mall out in the suburbs that hired me, and although it's a lot of hours for what is apparently not nearly enough pay for me to find my own place, I'm not nervous when I go to the ATM for right now, and while the employee discount is small, it will get the niece and nephews something under the tree.  Because all of the Kamen women were working some long hours, we didn't get to have a proper Thanksgiving dinner until a week and a half after the holiday, but Karla and I managed to get through it without fighting.

And while I'm sure Benjamin will talk about it more, meeting some of the other people who have been through this in the area gives me a little hope, especially the writer's husband Raymond, who went through all this and eventually became himself again, and says that he understands a lot of people much better than he would have if he hadn't.

Still, right now, I'm reading messages about friends going to movies while I'm babysitting kids who won't go to sleep.  Karla was supposed to be back an hour and a half ago and I've got to take over an hour of public transportation to get to work by nine tomorrow morning, and I seem to need more sleep with this body than I did before.

I know it could be much worse, and I try to remember that Joseph and some of my other friends probably need more prayers than I do.  But I'm feeling really frazzled right now, and I guess this helps a little.

-Jonah

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