Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tyler/Alan: I don't live in the past, but sometimes I have to visit there.

I found myself in a Starbucks today. Generally, I only drink coffee at work and home, and if I had my pick I wouldn't set foot in a place that charges more than a buck for a cup, but there I was. Back when I was Lauren, I used to get dragged into those places fairly regularly. It was a favorite escape for Lauren's friends as a teenage girl, and it wasn't surprising that while inside I saw a table full of 15 or 16-year-old girls giggling together, passing their phones around looking at Vines and Instagrams and all the other apps I wish I didn't know about.

I remember being part of groups like that, mostly melting into the background and feeling very much like an outsider, but I also remember a lot of one-on-one times, like helping Karlee decode texts from Seann and try to boost her confidence. I remember helping Ginny phrase a breakup text to a boy she had only been out with once and wouldn't leave her alone ("Get tough, tell him you'll cut his balls off!") I remember study nights that featured almost no studying (for that we would have had to actually carry our textbooks around "Lol ew.") I remember being made fun of for being the only one to just get a regular plain coffee and not something ending on "-cino" or "-iato." Those were moments that helped, I dunno, normalize the whole experience in a way that commiserating with Meg didn't. Not constantly being looked at like pitiful Tyler stuck in Lauren's body was strangely relieving.

It was this weird feeling, like a flashback. Meghan has pointed out that a lot of the time I act like last year never happened, and maybe that's easier for me than facing it. To pretend like I went from being Tyler Blake to being Alan Schmidt with nothing in between, like the rest is just some movie I saw rather than something I lived through. But it's still there in the back of my head, and I had the weirdest feeling of nostalgia being in that place (do they all smell the same or what?) It's not like I treasured my time as Lauren, but it wasn't all bad. Given the crappy circumstances, I feel I made the best of it.

Generally, I prefer to focus on the present, where I'm going and what I'm doing next. Which has its own difficulties.

It's kind of the big sticking point between me and Meg. She wants to know what's next and I honestly don't have it all worked out. I have ideas, but I don't want to discuss them until I know what's going on. But that's not enough for her, I guess, and she hates how I change the subject every time she asks who, exactly, she can expect to be dating this summer. If I'm going to make any arrangements, I'd better work on them soon. That Inn probably fills up fast.

Complicating matters: last week I got a call from my sister, Carrie. Carrie was already the person in the family I was closest to, and her having been through the Inn experience with us has only increased that, but usually talk about "back home" is kept brief, since I did a lot of work to leave Mobile.

She gave me some pretty serious news, and said now might be a good time to come visit. Our father appears to be on his deathbed, and if I ever wanted to see him again I would hurry. I mulled it over. Meg seemed to support the idea: that it might give me some peace to be face to face with him, and I said it didn't matter because he wouldn't recognize me. Like I said, I don't dwell on the past too much. But I think Carrie could use the support, since she was a lot closer with him than I was, and she's going to take it pretty hard when he goes.

If I go, it's for her, and to satisfy Meg's need to be "let in" to my past, to see where I came from. I argued that it's easier for the two of us if we just pretend I have no background at all, but she wasn't having that.

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