Like Missy, I've been a little nervous about posting here, though for me it's more about someone getting the wrong idea of how okay I am with living Krystle's life, but I'm feeling fairly confident right now, and I want to make sure that I let everyone know how grateful I am.
As you might expect, the toy shop where I was working closed up after Christmas, and while I was given a very nice recommendation, looking for work is very difficult for someone with Krystle's history, even if she did keep it together for a couple of months. I don't know whether it's more than her history, but it certainly feels like it took me longer to find work than Benjanin did as a white man. Maybe I'm just impatient.
If so, I'm not the only one; as you might have guessed, Karla started talking a lot about me not pulling my weight about ten minutes after the store closed. I know Momma Kamen isn't going to throw me out, but it's stressful.
One night, I decided I had had enough, stormed out, and caught a bus to Arlington. I don't think I really wanted to drink, but that seems to be what people do when they're this frustrated, and The Changeling was the only bar I'd ever been to.
Fortunately, Ashlyn was working that night and recognized me, and while I was annoyed by that at first - I don't know whether it's me or being in Krystle's body, but I really wanted SOMETHING, and I could tell from the look on her face that she wasn't going to help me do something I would regret. Instead, she got me a plate of the Texas special - beef brisket and corn bread - and waited until I had filled my stomach (I thought I knew what feeling hungry was like before the Inn, but I didn't) and then let me spill.
"Okay," she said, "can you start tomorrow night?"
She laughed at that. "Man, you are young! You do know that most adults would be 'just like that?' or something, right?"
I felt kind of embarrassed by that. "I guess. It's just... I don't know, I was feeling kind of desperate. I mean, why did you offer"?
''Hey, you heard that thing about how there's apparently a special place in Hell for women who don't help other women? I don't necessarily agree with the folks peddling it, but I figure it's double-plus true for men-who've-been-turned-into-women." She gave the bar a quick scan for anybody who might think we were nuts or, I don't know, "conventional" people who might say that, and continued. "You wouldn't be the first Inn person I gave a job since opening this place, okay? Heck, it's one of the reasons I wanted it, aside from missing being my own boss."
She briefly looked like an angel, until I thought about where I was sitting. "I can't tend bar! It's not even legal for me to drink, even if folks think it is!"
She said not to worry. "Either Moira or I will be here most nights, and we're good at tending bar. I just need someone to wait tables, especially during the busy periods."
"Oh." I said. "I guess I can do that."
Needless to say, I felt pretty good when I got back to Momma Kamen's apartment that night, especially since it seemed like she and Karla were expecting me to be drunk or worse.
I got to The Changeling early the next day, telling the guy behind the bar that I was the new waitress, only to be told that Moira would deal with me, and she was always late. So, I sat around the bar for nearly an hour before the loud Irish girl from the first time I visited arrived, and cringed a little as she looked around and asked if the new girl was here yet, looking right at me a couple of times before I raised my hand, and then rolling her eyes. "Of course. C'mon, let's get ye set up."
She pulled me into the back room and pulled a box of t-shirts off a shelf. "'It'll be just like back home', she said! Well, so long as ye ignore the tacos on the menu and the darkie serving them!"
My jaw dropped. "Excuse me!?" I'm not entirely a stranger to people breaking out slurs to describe me, even before the Inn, but I wasn't expecting it that night. If nothing else, I feel like Ashlyn would have warned me.
"What? Oh, fuck." The girl - Moira - banged her head against the nearest wall. "I don't mean anything by it, I just grew up in a town where ev'ryone is this white--" she pointed at herself, the part of her chest above the neckline of her t-shirt, which was in fact pretty pale even for winter in New England, "--and they all say that shit so's you don't think it's a big deal, and then the new neighborhood in America was just like that except that people look both ways after." I must have looted kind of unimpressed because she looked down at the floor and then backup at me. "You know what? That's a feckin' shite apology." Then she reached out her hand. "Hi. I'm Moira Shelley, doing my absolute best not to be a horrible person."
I took it. "Krystle Kamen. So... Shelly? That's kind of a coincidence."
"Not really; Lyn's a distant cousin. Some of her cousins took me in a few years back, we got along, we went into business together." She finished rooting around in the bin and held a t-shirt up to my chest. "There, that looks about right."
I couldn't say I agreed, and asked if there were something without such a scoop neckline, maybe a size up.
She looked at me like I was nuts. "Ye do know that although Lyn pays a decent wage, ye'll mostly be workin' for tips, right? I do well enough off my charming personality, but if I were sportin' what you and my cousin have, I'd be in a higher tax bracket." She got me the bigger shirt, though she smirked when I turned around to change.
That first night went all right, though. It was pretty quiet, and the other girl working was helpful whenever I found myself not knowing the menu or when I didn't know which table was which.
She was right about the tips, but I couldn't justify dressing or acting like some sort of slut just to make a little more money. I tried not to be to overt or preachy about it, but I guess Karla is hardly unique in not having a lot of patience with me when I don't live down to expectations. A lot of the ladies working at The Changeling - and it is almost entirely ladies upfront, though sometimes a man will tend bar when Ashlyn or Moira isn't there, and the cook is usually a guy - act like I'n being ostentatious for not showing cleavage, although Moira says it's all in my head.
And, somehow, Moira has become the person I trust on this. I don't know if she's become my best friend here, but she's someone who looks at me and doesn't see the mess that Krystle is expected to be and doesn't feel sorry for me because I'm not in my right body. She sees someone who is about her age (she obviously doesn't know I'm actually 17) who is also kind of different. Aside from being an immigrant, she's actually the bar's co-owner, though that's a story for another time, and some of the others there resent her for it.
Maybe I've got a bit of a crush on her; Benjamin says that same-sex crushes are actually pretty common for us. I just know she's easily my favorite person to work with, especially after a day of dealing with Karla or visiting Joseph. We at least enjoy working together, and we've hung out on days off when her boyfriend flakes on her. I kind of don't think he appreciates that she doesn't just work here and doesn't want to just leave everything to Ashlyn, but I can't exactly criticize her boyfriend when I'm visiting what everyone thinks is mine in jail.
3. "Jonah" & "Joseph"
I feel a little more confident actually putting this down because I've actually met the guy living my life, and I knew he doesn't want to keep it. Given the other stories I've read and heard, and even taking into account that they're not a perfect sample, that wasn't a given.
The current "Jonah" and "Joseph" came down for a visit over February vactation, and I met them for lunch at The Changeling. It was, as you might imagine, kind of weird, but seeing the guy living my life was kind of encouraging, because he hated it.
My first instinct is that he's wrong on that count, but I guess it makes sense considering where he was coming from. Without getting too specific on his name or other details about his real life, we're talking about a white stockbroker in his late twenties or early thirties who has made a fair chunk of money already, likes to party, and just finds something to dislike coming at him from every direction as me: He thinks Mom & Dad are too strict with curfews and church attendance, finds high school boring and unchallenging, and really doesn't like the guy on the next street over who apparently still greets my family with the n-word. He's pretty comfortable about not liking his skin color, too - he's shaved his head because he can't handle my hair (sure, I've done something similar, but I'm not acting like this is some sort of hardship), and after ''Joe" caught him staring at my chest, said he was sorry because he usually "doesn't like black chicks."
That got him a nudge from "Joe", who it turns out was his girlfriend. She seems to be having fun with the situation, flirting with her boyfriend in a way that made him squirm because she was now a guy a couple inches taller than he is. That height has apparently helped the school's basketball team; she said she always thought she was pretty good for a short person - she was about 5'1" the first time through high school but still got minutes on the girls' JV team before being encouraged to switch to cheerleading - and it was kind of fun to be the surprise star.
Not that I got any impression that she wanted to stay "Joe"; she talked a lot about missing her sisters and how the closest she's gotten to really shopping properly was replacing the clothes she'd grown out of. 15-year-old girls trying to get her attention was kind of creeping her out, too.
We went out to visit Joseph after lunch, and I have to admit, it was kind of the least nervous I've felt on one of those visits. Lamont isn't considered a particularly dangerous criminal, especially since Joseph has been a model prisoner, so we get to visit in a fairly open room rather than on either side of a glass partition. A lot of time, though, I kind of want the glass; "Lamont" may avoid looking directly at me, but a lot of other people there, whether inmates, guards, or other visitors, look hard, even though I don't do anything to provoke them. Having a young man on either side of me makes me feel a bit safer, even if the one with my face could really stand to be a few inches further away.
The two Josephs seemed to bond quickly, at least, with the one telling the other that she didn't think she could have handled jail time, and being able to share mostly good news. I wonder what the guards thought about this nicely-dressed white teenager from a New Hampshire suburb telling Lamont about family stuff, but I suppose they've seen stranger things.
They weren't completely on the same page, though, with "Joe" rolling her eyes and asking me if this was the first time Joseph said I got the rawest deal. I said it wasn't, and I wasn't usually inclined to disagree with him, and she said she was sorry to hear that, but with all of us getting our rooms at the Inn booked, I should try to find ways to see that's not the case.
I don't think I'll be doing that, but I am thankful that at least one of us is finding the experience rewarding as well as educational.