Monday, May 30, 2016

Simon Woodford: The Conference Day Three, The Curse, and Abe

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day where I discovered the Inn's "curse," namely that it transforms people who stay there into the appearance of the person who had visited before. If I weren't living proof, I would never believe it, but I guess looking at this blog I've got years and years of people backing me up. Frickin' crazy. And fantastic, like I didn't have enough to worry about this weekend???

My plan for the day was to track down Abe Fowler at the last day of the conference and take another swing at getting his business. It was all I could think of overnight until I woke up and noticed... something's different. Namely, my 6'1 male frame has shrunk down into a 5'7 female one. A skinny chick with shoulder-length blonde hair and a pretty face. Really pretty - bright blue eyes, cute little button nose and full pouty lips... she looks like a little bunny rabbit, seriously. Except the problem is she's me. I'm her. Whatever. I'm in this body and I don't like it, but right then I just couldn't care.

Because of my little interaction the day before, I figured I had to at least check on Headscarf Girl next door, because she might know something about it. Not that I thought she was responsible or anything, but I'm feeling pretty aggro and I decided I'd go take it out on her if possible, or at least see if she's in the same boat. So I throw on my swim trunks - they feel like they belong to a basketball player compared to this body but it's the only thing I can tighten enough to fit over my slim little hips - and wrap my upper body in a towel, and knock insistently on her door. And the person who answers is... not who I was expecting.

It's another girl. A little shorter than me and a little curvier (in all the right places, I notice) with one of those cool-girl trendy sideswipe undercut hairdos with a pink (well, fuchsia I later learned) slice of hair brushed over the side of her face. And she gives me this look like she recognizes me, and maybe she's been expecting me but is also surprised to see me?

That stops me a moment but I go on. "Hi... My name's Simon Woodford, I've been staying in the room next door... Do you have any idea... what's going on?"

She sighed. "Yes... come in." I asked if she was the girl with the headscarf, and she said yes... her real name is Treena Savoy, not Nazim Khan, but she had to spend 9 months as an Arab girl after staying here last year. This weekend she had returned because her body was "in limbo" all winter while the Inn was closed.

And me? I now appeared to be her roommate, Joy Kershaw. She huffed about the fact that Joy hadn't made it back from her time as "Brian," as they had lost touch over the course of the year. That explained the side-eye I got when I arrived.

Soon we were joined by another young woman, a black girl. This was Cerise, who had been the "cougar" I described earlier, and was the only other "returning" visitor from last September (so I was right about them being vacation friends...) They start talking about what they're going to tell the poor folks who have also been transformed, and I'm politely following along, taking it all in and squirming in my seat (because I can feel my new, um, gear under me...) when my brain decides it's had enough and that I've got more important things to do. Curse be damned, I have my conference.

I know, that seems totally irrelevant at this point, but I figure there will be time to sort out all this transformation mumbo jumbo later, but if I don't produce some results for Aldine, it's my ass - or I guess whoever winds up with my ass. So forgetting what I look like, all my brain can think of is, "How do I land that Texas account??" I mean, why not? If anything, this is a blessing in disguise. Abe has already seen Simon and dismissed him. Maybe Joy would have better luck.

Of course, they look at me like I've just grown a second head (or, y'know, tits,) but they're willing to help. I don't have shit to wear since Joy was going to return and bring her own clothes, but I'm kind of close in size to Cerise's cougar body, so they hook me up. They go through her clothes for ages, thinking "What about this, does this go with that?" And I'm just thinking, "Give me something that fits and let's go!" How hard can it be??

Is it weird walking around in some strange woman's clothes? You bet your ass. Not to mention I looked all frumpy and middle-aged. Anyone looking at me would be able to tell Joy did not look like she was wearing her own clothes at all, in clunky ill-fitting shoes, beige slacks, a floral top and a blue blazer with shoulderpads... the handful of women I had seen at the conference were all dressed to impress. I was dressed like I was dropping the kids off at Sunday School. But it would have to do. I was going to run right out with my hair all messy, but Cerise stopped me and said that if I was going to do this, I would have to do it right, so she did a quick bun which... the oddness of having your hair pulled back behind your head aside (and long enough to do so) helped give me one less thing to worry about. (I asked, why not a ponytail, and she said those were for laundry day and the gym. Ok...) I grabbed my shoulderbag, which later caused me all sorts of neck pain, and ran to my car. Ugh. Having to adjust the seat and the mirrors was just another reminder that I was now small and dainty...

One thing I did not wear was a bra. They could not supply one small enough to fit over Joy's modest bust, so I went without. The last thing I needed was some tight straightjacket thing irritating me sensitive new skin, and besides, feeling them bounce around under there - ever so slightly - wasn't too bad.

After successfully negotiating my way in to the conference without photo ID, I searched the floor for Abe (not too many people are looking to crash trade shows.) Obviously he wouldn't recognize me, but that was hopefully to my advantage. Any intimidation factor I felt while walking the floor as this petite female disappeared once I started mentally preparing m pitch, which I was sure this time I could nail. Abe was hard to miss - at 6'5 he had already towered over me in my natural look. I shadowed him a while, losing myself in the crowd, really noticing how small I had become. I felt like I was disappearing, but I knew I didn't have the luxury of giving in. I was about to make my big move when... woosh. Some jerk spilled his coffee on my top.

I screeched at him, "Watch it asshole!" - Usually I'm more tactful than that but today I just wasn't up to it - And he responded, "You watch it, crazy bitch!" That made me hot under the collar.

I went to the restroom to settle down. That was my next strange feeling... crossing the threshold to the Ladies' and nobody batting an eye. If I can be honest, it was surreal... public restroom, no urinals, extra stalls... a little shelf for purses and whatnot. A lot of my experience that day was defined by "Close but not quite what I'm used to." I took the opportunity to sit on the toilet seat lid, catch my breath, and count to ten before splashing some water on my face in the sink.

I was a mess. My face was puffy, I had noticeable blemishes that make-up probably would have hidden. The top was not salvageable, so I made a command decision just to chuck it in my bag and button my blazer all the way up. Now I was basically topless. If the button on that jacket failed, it was hello world.

The other women passed me by and I could hear them audibly scoffing at the hot mess staring at herself in the mirror, and tried to ignore their opinions. But they had a point. I didn't look like, or feel like, I belonged. But Simon Woodford isn't a quitter, and I wasn't gonna skulk away in defeat. This was still manageable.

I saw a woman at the next mirror over applying some lipstick. I took a chance and asked if I could borrow some, and she said sure. Then she took a look at me and asked if there was anything else I needed. I gave a smile, "Whatever you've got... a new wardrobe if possible, my... um, bags got lost and these are loaners. And now my top is soaked in coffee"

"Yeah honey, I can tell," she smirked back. "But I think you can work it. Here." She dug some stuff out of her purse... lipstick, foundation, mascara, and eyebrow pencil. I asked if she minded lending a hand, since I "don't normally" wear makeup. She was happy to oblige and I was honestly a little touched.

We chatted a bit, and she asked a few questions about myself... I gave short, mostly truthful answers and turned them around on her in case we had a chance to network. It was the first time I had said my new name out loud, which came out in a weird stammer, like I was guessing: "S'J...oy. Kershaw? Aldine Solutions." Her name was Mary, and she was selling office supplies... nothing much I could do with that but you never know. It was a friendly conversation while I was receiving this 5-minute makeover. I definitely never expected myself to be the recipient of the beauty treatment, but the whole time I'm thinking Eyes on the prize, worry about freaking out later.

Once that was settled I felt like a new man... woman... person. I strode out onto the conference floor with a bit of confidence and found Abe in a circle of men all laughing it up. I was about to barge right in, but I felt like I'd be overpowered. Better to wait for a moment, and finally like 20 minutes later I had my opening when Abe broke off to hit the Men's room.

I met him on the way out. "Abe Fowler right? TexWest Energy?"

He peered down me and furrowed his brow, like he couldn't quite decide what I was supposed to be. I guess I couldn't either, but at least he seemed intrigued enough by how much skin I was showing. His eyes seemed to land on the area just above my chest.

"That's right," he said in his southern drawl, "And who might you be?" The way he said it had this biting sense of condescension that prickled the back of my neck but I fought through it.

I said my new name with more confidence than when I had met Mary. "Joy... Kershaw, Aldis Solutions. I believe one of my colleagues spoke to you yesterday about your supply needs."

"I seem to recall a reedy feller who thought he was real slick."

Again I secretly bristled, but I had to free myself of my ego. "Yeah," I said self-deprecatingly, "He can be a real cocky son of a gun," I said with a smirk, trying to imitate his speech patterns to butter him up.

"Son of a bitch is more like it," he guffawed, "I checked around and the prices he offered were way above what some of the local vendors can promise."

He was bluffing. I'd researched the local vendors. I knew their rates. Lower, but not much lower than ours.

I had to think quick, but luckily my mouth seems to know better than my brain sometimes, because it had a plan, "What if I told you I could waive some service charges for you for your first year, and offer a bulk order discount of 25%, way lower than our usual rate?"

He smiled, "Now why didn't your friend say as much?" Because he hadn't thought of it, and wasn't sure he was able to pull it off. "I'm still a trifle nervous about getting into bed with you folks..." he said, looking me up and down, "But if you're on the up and up I could see us forming a relationship."

The way he looked at me made me feel like a meal on a plate to him. But the sale was everything: "We would love that," I said, only afterward realizing that that wording probably implied more than I meant.

"I'm not signing anything just yet," he said, "And it's real crowded in here. What do you say you and me meet up for dinner tonight at 8?"

For a second I was silent, my breath caught in my throat. I'd had dinner with clients and potential clients hundreds of times, but I knew the guy meant something... else. It had totally escaped my imagination that if I left the Inn that morning I might be propositioned, even though I know women in this line often get that treatment. And I had no idea how they deal with it.

"Thaaaat... would be nice..." I said, my reluctance clearly audible in my voice, "But I'm afraid I've got an early flight back to Cleveland right after we wrap up here." To salvage it, I blamed outside forces, "The stupid airline lost my luggage and I really can't stay any longer. I hope you understand?"

"Uh huh," he said, losing interest. I handed him our information packet and a contract to bring back to his people in Texas. He left me with a really vague "We'll see." He asked for a card and I said I didn't have one - again my "bags" were lost - but Simon did, and "he" could put Abe right in touch with me.

And then what? I guess we'll see.

I slunk out early, my only reason for leaving the Inn having been completed... successfully or not.

It was chaos there as everyone had awoke to find their changes. I'm sure some people got it worse than I did, I even spotted a few old-looking folks, so it sucks to be them I guess.

I just went right to my room, kicked off Cerise's cougar shoes - which had left my tender feet blistered and sore, for all my troubles - slipped off my jacket and laid face down on my bed to rest. I castigated myself for not trying harder - finding some way to convince myself to go to dinner with Abe and worrying about the repercussions of that later. But I was seriously pushing my comfort zone there and I frankly just wanted to be done for the day, as the reality of my situation set in.

I made a few good business contacts on the first few days, with some loose agreements for new business so overall I would say it was still a productive weekend. But landing TexWest would have pretty much ensured the success of Aldine on the East Coast, and I would be the responsible one. Okay, some other bozo is going to get my body and he'd get the credit and probably a promotion, but if he can keep things steady for me when I can get my body back (as Treena and Cerise assure me I can, only next fall...) I'd be set with that company for life, or at least have a nice little plus for me resume. I would hate to think I wasted that chance just because I couldn't play nice with Abe.

I mean, as Simon I've made deals like that hundreds of times and I never had to have them slobber over me at dinner. Why should Joy's life be so much harder?

The rest of the weekend was a blur. I caught up on sleep an soothed my aching feet, head, neck and back. Treena provided me some more info, which I'll share later. Right now I've got to plot my next move.

Simon... aka "Joy" for now

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Simon Woodford: Conference Day Two

Okay, no strip club for me tonight. Got in at 3 AM this morning and couldn't sleep. New Englanders can drink! It was a wild time, for sure... I managed to hook up with this college girl who was there with her friends (I love it when chicks go to strip clubs, they think it makes them so badass!) She was a bit on the chubby side so she wouldn't have been my first choice, but she was all over me so how could I resist?  (And besides, I was wingmanning for my potential clients, so they got dibs on the hottest ones... though I think they struck out.) She asked me to stay at her hotel in Portland, but I needed to get back to OOB. Still, I've got her number...

The downside is, I was feeling like hot garbage all day today and I could barely focus. The worst part is, I met our potential biggest fish and I barely had enough energy to bait my hook.

His name's Abe Fowler, tough good ole boy in his 50's from a Texas energy company. They're also looking to expand operations into the Northeast... which means they don't have any local contacts either, at least nothing set in ink. Problem is I was just so unfocused my pitch was a total miss. I feel like if I approach it fresh tomorrow I can win him over, but my boss is gonna be ticked if I spend the rest of my time on this one guy and walk away empty handed. I need a strategy. I need all the charm I've got. I may need hookers (that's a last resort.)

When I got back to the Inn, I ran into headscarf girl. I gave her a polite nod, and she gave me a similar look to the way the cougar looked at me on Thursday... suspicious, I guess. So I ask, "can I help you?" and she says, "Is that your room?"

I say of course it is. She asks, "Sorry, I thought it was booked by someone else."

Nope, just me. But if she's looking for someone in particular, I say, I've seen most of the people staying here this weekend.

So she says "Yeah, kind of an older gentleman, maybe 60. Goes by the name Brian."

Nope, haven't seen him. She said a quick "thanks" and turned to go into her room. Weird, I thought, but I just went on my way.

I was feeling so beat up, all I want to do is bring some dinner back to my room... I was hoping the rain would clear up enough that something would be happening at the beach, but that doesn't look to be the case.


Lane Kari: Unexpected Day

I had planned to make my next post about going out last Friday night, but it really wasn't all that eventful. Just going out with Rosita, drinking a little to a lot, dancing, and not driving home. I've gotten a lot less nervous about doing that lately, and I probably deep down enjoy the attention. I think it has something to do with no longer being afraid of my body, if that makes any sense. Friday and Saturday nights were mostly just people in outfits that might have been mildly offensive wishing me a happy Cinco de Mayo on "my" holiday. Either way I didn't pay for a shot of tequila once.

Sunday morning Ashley jiggled me awake gently, which was weird because usually if I'm hungover and she's annoyed and needs something she'll either yell to wake me up or violently shake me.

"What time is it?" I asked groggily

"12:30" She said opening the curtains "I'd let you sleep in more but our reservations are at 1:30"

I lifted my head up in curiosity "Reservations?"

"IHOP. I thought about making you pancakes but I forgot how, so brunch will have to do." With that she climbed onto the bed and gave me a big hug.

"Happy Mother's Day"

If you haven't noticed the pattern yet I'm bad with dates, especially ones that aren't etched in stone in my brain. I forgot day of the dead, cinco de mayo, and if it weren't for constant calendar reminders Ashley's birthday would have been forgotten.

I haven't lived with my Mom for years, so most Mother's days I'm reminded shortly after waking up what day it is. That leads to overpaying for same day flower delivery and a two hour phone conversation. Today my reminder came with a hug and some very bright sunlight before being told to hurry up and shower.

When I was clean and dressed Ashley drove us to the pancake house. Did I mention she can drive now? I think somewhere in my various gaps in posting she passed her driver's test with a perfect score and can now drive, which I make her do often. Now she's the one who goes to the grocery store when I forget something, or grabs some shampoo at Walmart when we run out, or buys her own emergency school supplies. The novelty of driving hasn't worn off yet so she hasn't complained. After a quick trip that involved a tricky but perfectly executed "Michigan Left" turn we were there.

Like all restaurants on Mother's Day, IHOP was packed for brunch. There was a line out the door of people who hadn't thought to call ahead like Ashley, and thanks to her foresight we were seated quickly, although the service was understandably slow.

While we waited, she was talkative and engaging, asking me questions about boring things like work, or movies, or she's glad I'm finally into Game of Thrones. It was kind of weird seeing her like that.

Many Teenage girls are, have always been, and will always be talkative. I went to high school just before the ubiquity of cell phones and I remember the constant chatter in our high school halls. Girls these days can be just as chatty, they're just doing it digitally. Ashley is constantly texting, several thousand a month, so she's only quiet in the audio sense. Today she had turned her phone off and we sat and had breakfast face to face and it was kind of refreshing.

When the check came I reached for my purse but she waved me off.

"I'll pay"

"Where did you get money?" I asked. She doesn't have a job or an allowance. I briefly though she might have been selling drugs at school but there were no signs of that in her behavior.

"You know how you send me places? I always tell you things cost a little more and keep the change"

I was actually a little proud of her cleverness. I couldn't really faulting her for skimming money when because even though I earned it was Kari's money for the purposes of taking care of her.

When we got to the car she surprised me with a big hug.

"Happy Mother's Day"

"Thank you. It was very thoughtful"

"I know I forget it some years, and others I kind of blow it off. But I wanted to make sure I did something nice this year. To say thank you. You know, for all you've done this last year."

"What do you mean?"

"You've been...I dunno....better somehow? You don't go out drinking on weeknights, you always go into work, you've stopped smoking pot, and I haven't woken up to a strange guy in the bathroom in ages. It's like you've become a whole nother person."

She was absolutely right. She had no idea, nor would she ever, that her mother's body was currently being occupied by someone else but I'm different enough that she had guessed it.

"These last few months have meant a lot to me" She continued "Helping with the driving, letting me hang out with dad, learning math so you could help me with ACT studying. I've noticed the effort"

I hugged her partially because it was a nice thing to say, partially for her to avoid the guilty confused look on my face. This was someone else's daughter, and her she was saying how great a mom I've suddenly become now that the original wasn't there. I was proud of myself and heartbroken for Kari. Ugh, these emotions.

That was obviously almost 3 weeks ago but I wanted to write it down, even though I've had almost no motivation to do so. But with all the other poster's keeping their stories alive, as well as poor Simon who can't know what's about to happen to him, I wanted to make sure I shared it. It was just a bit of a profound moment for me. That was a day I'd never thought I'd have, a Mother's day, and I got to experience the kind of gratitude few men ever will. My time in Detroit is winding down, I head to the Inn next month, and I have to say that of all the horrible things I've had to endure in this life, that day kind of justified my whole approach and the feelings I felt are going to stay with me forever.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Simon Woodford: The Conference Day One

Woof, I am exhausted. I can barely even muster up the energy to go out and grab a post-convention beer. But okay, if you insist...

So that survey said I could continue to post my thoughts. Again, I doubt that 1) anyone is reading and 2) anyone cares but yes, as I said before, I'm a sales rep with an industrial goods company from Cleveland looking to expand our business northeast. The top sales rep, to be exact. Am I an expert in tool and die or HVAC or any of the things I'm selling? Maybe not, but I do consider myself an expert in people... in convincing them they need what I'm selling.

It can be exhausting, pressing the flesh, delivering spiel after spiel about what a great thing it will be to have Aldine in this neck of the woods, and please consider us for all your construction and manufacturing needs. I think I come across as a real honest, upstanding guy... exactly what I want them to think!

Okay, seriously. I just want to do right by my company, and I'm willing to do a lot to make clients... and potential clients... happy. Which is why I'm just about to hit a 3.6-star topless joint down in Portland, to show some of these pigeons a good time. Well, an okay time, since I'm not really sanctioned to go much further than that.

More people have arrived at the Inn, so that noise concern I had is starting to come true. The girl in the room next door arrived today, seemed to be acquainted with the cougar down the hall. They hugged when they saw each other. Guess they were vacation-friends from last year. Facebook and Twitter and whatnot makes it pretty easy to keep in touch with such people, I suppose. She appears to be Middle Eastern, in her 20's (wearing a pink head scarf. She's actually kinda cute besides that) and alone so I'm hoping she doesn't make a lot of noise... but I'm also hoping that if I happen to bring someone back to my room, she won't complain about any noise I make.

I should be so lucky. I'll probably have one drink, followed by water disguised as vodka, then crawl into bed as early as possible so I can get up and start the whole process over tomorrow.

Peace and love,

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Simon Woodford: I found this survey on the floor of my hotel room

"We invite you to post your responses to this survey at any time during your stay, to our online guestbook at the e-mail address provided. The more detail the better, but please note that your responses will be publicly viewable." Ok... seems legit...

Name? Simon Woodford

Age? 31

Place of Origin? Cleveland, OH

Occupation: Sales and marketing, Aldine Solutions... we sell industrial goods (machine parts, construction, etc etc.) Not exactly exciting, and it's not a huge company but we're looking to expand and right now I'm the top representative. Not that I'd say I have a passion for the product, I just like selling whatever gets put in front of me, you know?

Relationship status? I have a few girls I can text back in The Cleve, but nothing serious or long term...

How would you describe your physical appearance? Weird question for a customer service survey. Um... I'm 6'1, short brown hair, brown eyes, stubble... I wear glasses when I drive... if I'm being hard on myself, I have days where I seriously feel the need to measure my hairline, and maybe my abs could be firmer and I could shed a pound or ten, but I do OK with the ladies so I don't really feel the need to worry about it.

Have You Visited The Trading Post Inn Before? Nope

How Did You Hear About Us? Was booked by my company, basically wasn't given a choice... like, "Here's the cheapest room we could find in Maine on short notice, have fun!"

Reason For Visit? Sales convention, networking, and a good old fashioned vacay if I can fit one in. Basically, my company is looking to expand its presence nationally, and guess who got tapped on the shoulder to make that happen. But hey, it's a free week of sun and fun by the beach... if it stays warm.

Are you traveling alone? Yes, the company put all this trust in me... what a big shot I am!

How would you describe your experience with the Inn so far? A little rustic, I don't usually go in for the whole "spooky ancient hunting lodge" vibe... but I guess I could see it as romantic, in a certain light... if I had anyone to bring back here. A lot of rooms jammed into a pretty small space, so I'm worried about noise but so far it appears I'm the third or fourth one here and we're all keeping to ourselves.

Have you interacted with any of the other visitors? See above... except the middle-aged lady two doors down gave me the side-eye as I was heading into my room. She looked like there was something she wanted to say to me, but couldn't bring herself to. Methinks I've spotted a cougar in the wild...

Upon arriving at the Inn, did you discover any luggage left behind by previous visitors? I take it back, that is a weird question. This happens often enough that they need to ask about it? How about a cloak room, guys. No, I've now searched my room from top to bottom and there's nothing there. It's just as well. I'm the kind of guy who will totally skim money from a wallet if I find it. (Should I be admitting that? Pfft, who cares. Nobody's reading this I bet.)

Friday, May 06, 2016

Tyler/Alan: Milwaukee and a fresh(ish) start

Shacking Up

There was some hostility between me and Kitty when I arrived in Milwaukee, mostly stemming from the fact that neither of us expected to see the other. As far as I knew, when Kitty became Greta (and her husband became a 10-year-old boy) they had packed up and gone to Providence, and stayed there. So when I opened the door to "our" apartment and saw her there, I just stood in the doorway, surprised. And she was surprised too, because she was in the middle of a make-out session with some guy - I think his name was Zane or Zack or something.

At first, all she could do was blurt out a panicked "You!" While Zane peeled himself off her and turned to face me. I'm a tall guy as Alan, but I'm lanky and haven't exactly bulked up. This guy looked like he hit the gym often enough, and while I can fight, I have never thrown a punch or attempted a takedown in this body so I don't really know my own (lack of ) strength in that area.

I stammered, trying to cover, "Greta! I'm back!"

"Greta?" said her beau, "I thought you said your name was Kitty."

"That's... what I like to be called," she said, covering embarrassedly, "And this is..."

"Alan," I said, "I'm the... ex, I guess. Roommate."

"You live with your ex?" said the guy.

"No... I live alone," she said rather curtly. "He lives... somewhere else."

"My name's still on the lease, isn't it?" I asked - part rhetorically, part genuinely. I had been paying the full rent while I was in Vermont. "Anyway. Key still works. I'm surprised to see you here."

"I could say the same thing," Kitty sneered. "You won't be staying long, will you?"

I had planned on dropping right into bed, but the last thing I wanted was to deal with this after a long day on the road. "No, just... stopping by..." I sighed, "I see you're busy, I'll come back tomorrow."

"Call first," she said sharply.

It was late, and I didn't know any of Alan's friends or relatives so I stayed in a motel. The next morning I called. She must have seen Alan's name on the call display because instead of Hello, she said "What do you want? I thought you were in Virginia."

"Vermont," I corrected, "And things... went bad for me there. I needed to refresh."

"Well good luck," she said, and then she hung up.

I could see she was being difficult, but I had been paying rent on that apartment for months, and as far as I knew it was unoccupied. I had a right to it, and if I couldn't use it I wasn't going to let her squat for free.

I went over and went right in, dropping my stuff by the door. Zane or Zack's shoes were gone. I called out, "Honey, I'm home."

"Get out of here, you idiot!" she said, storming out from the bedroom in a huff.

"Easy, easy," I said, "Let's just talk. I've been paying your rent apparently, so you owe me that much. Money, too, but we'll get to that."

She sunk down to the couch. "Fine, cut me off, I don't care. It doesn't matter."

"Okay, let's not... look, what happened, how did you end up here?"

The story went basically how I expected. She and Chet stayed in Providence for a short while before the police arrived - apparently they had gotten a tip that someone may have been squatting at their house, and lo and behold it's a grown woman with a minor from out of state. Chet agreed to go back to the "Jenkinses," against Kitty's wishes, because he felt Wisconsin was too far from the Inn, and the brush with the cops left him skittish.

"Things were bad before we went to the Inn, and the transformation didn't exactly help," she said bitterly. "I guess we're still technically married - we even e-mail sometimes... but it's starting to feel like it's all in the past. Like it's for the best if we go our separate ways. I'm realizing that we both knew the marriage was in trouble, but we didn't know the other person knew."

"And does he know about this? About Zane, or Zack or whatever?"

"He knows a bit," she said. "He doesn't care about me, He's having the time of his life out there. He's got a ton of little girlfriends, I see them on Facebook and Insta-whatever..."

"Instagram," I said, embarrassed that I both knew and felt the need to correct that. "He doesn't... actually date them, does he?"

"Maybe, I don't know," she scoffed. "It's perverse." (More perverse than whatever they were doing together in Providence? Who knows.) "He's scum and most of the time I want nothing to do with him."

"What about the rest of the time?"

"The rest of the time I cry myself to sleep wondering how I let him get away."

This conversation took almost all day, I'm just paraphrasing and cutting it down. I shared my story, too and we bonded over our break-ups, how badly the Inn had screwed up our (already borderline, in both cases) lives.

She had been living there since October, rent-free thanks to me. She made some money here and there by taking temp jobs that she was not well-suited for but never staying long enough to get really established. "It was just the easiest way, the apartment was just sitting here..." she said, "Don't make me leave."

Begrudgingly, I admitted it would be cruel of me to cast her out, but it wasn't fair to me to have to pay for an apartment I couldn't use. I told her I would take the couch, and that she would have to work hard to find work she could do. Of course, I didn't take into account exactly how long Alan's freakish legs are, so the couch wasn't exactly... ideal.

Weeks pass. True to form, I'm working already, but the only restaurant job I could find was bussing (I had just missed the hiring period for most restaurants heading into summer, and I think I got a bad reference out of one of my Vermont jobs.) To fill things out, I took up Alan's old driving job for Threo, an Uber-knockoff, and Kitty, well... like she said, she doesn't really have many skills, except access to a bit of rainy day savings she and Chet divvied up and kept from the new-them.

What Friends Are For

As to how we went from reluctant roommates to something more, well... it didn't all happen at once. Kitty is a very social animal, so she had already ingrained herself with Greta's friends. Naturally, they all had questions about where I was. Her answer was that I "just vanished with some woman." That definitely didn't make me/Alan sound good and leaves a lot of questions. Still, apparently they weren't so scandalized that I was Public Enemy #1 when Kitty let it slip that Alan was back in town. They wanted to see how I was and get some more details.

I protested at first - these people aren't my friends, and in the long run I wasn't going to be here very long, so why get attached? But she was insistent and brought them around the apartment to run into me.

The first meeting - there was six or seven people there, a few couples and some single friends - was rough, because I was supposed to know these people well and had no prep time. They grilled me about my missing months, but I deflected - a skill I learned well from my time as Lauren. Basically, I alluded to the idea that something (and yes, someone) had gotten between me and Greta, but we were moving past it... and we weren't sure where we stood. When you talk in cryptic terms like that, people don't tend to pry for further details, (if they're polite.)

Of course in reality, I was pretty sure where we stood. Roommates. Fellow Inn Victims. Maybe even uneasy friends, given the fact that I didn't particularly care for her when we first met, but my sympathy for her situation had grown. I wasn't looking for more and although I knew she was right man-hungry, I didn't really see myself as filling that position. But a few things happened over the course of time.

I think having to talk to her friends as though we were "Alan & Greta" (instead of "Alan" and "Greta") made her hungry to establish something concrete between us. I started noticing signals. First I thought they were in my head: a lingering gaze at me, a text to see how my day (or night, if I was out driving) was going. Little signs. I didn't know how to feel about that. First I thought it was in my mind, and then I felt like I didn't want the attention, and then... I kinda did, because hey. I can't deny that looking the way Kitty does... a tall, svelte, cute-faced young woman... getting positive attention from her felt good on a primal level. But still I played it off.

Then we started talking. Really talking. About our lives before the Inn, about my experiences since. I think the conversation that did it for me was when she asked me about the year I spent as Lauren. I wanted to help her understand what her husband might be going through, being a teenager with the mind and experience of an adult. "It's not exactly like being a teen... you know so much more, everything isn't so life-and-death. I kind of had to laugh and roll my eyes at my friends who were constantly coming to pieces over boys and the like. But there's this rush and excitement when things are going well. You're still in a body that's a little out of control, and that's intoxicating."

"What was that like for you? Did you make any... mistakes?"

"No, no... I was good. I had lots of opportunities, and at times... like, when you want to blow off steam because things are just so crummy, and there's no... goodness. You're still human. You want sex, and you want love and attention and it's like... where are you going to get it? Not grown-ups. But the people who look like you, what they have to offer, you don't want exactly that either. I... don't envy your husband right now."

Being Lauren brought with it a ton of contradictions for me. It sucked feeling so trapped between places, second-guessing every thought I had and wondering if it was coming from my mind or my body. If I had landed in a grown woman's body I might have behaved very differently, relaxed more... but the way things were, I had to be definitely on guard. I wanted attention but I didn't want to want it. Because all my available options were unappealing to me, I focused on the one least realistic but most sought: Meg. Maybe I did idealize her, but the thought that we were meant to be together after all that crap, that I had to keep my slate clean for when I could finally declare my feelings for her, kept me from doing a lot of stupid things.

As I revealed these things, and she didn't judge me for any of them, I felt closer and closer to her. And there was even a moment when I thought "I could kiss this person right now." But I didn't want my actions to be confused by the intimacy of the moment.

It was two days later, after rolling it around in my head for a while, that I phrased it this way, over take-out: "I'm going to come right out and say what I think we're both thinking. You and I should sleep together."

She came off as stunned, but I think she was just playing. "Wow that was very forward of you, Tyler... I don't know what to say."

"Think it over," I said, playing along with her coyness, "I think it would be good for both'a us to have the outlet. If either of us is going to have somebody, it should be... each other."

"You mean like... no strings attached?"

I smirked, "Well... we already got the strings, don't we? Out there, we're Alan and Greta, a couple, but in here, we can just be Tyler and Kitty, two folks having a good time. We didn't ask for this. But I think... well look, I just think it could be good. It will help us both get over what we've been through."

She leaned in and pressed her lips to mine for a moment. Pulling back, she smirked, "You're not a very good kisser."

"I'll be more ready next time."

And so it began.

I'm not going to pretend I don't still feel guilty about things. Meghan might be reading this, and the story of me admitting to her that Kitty and I were having a fling (ahead of revealing it on this blog) was not one of the best feelings I've ever experienced, sure as shit, but it was a necessary awkward conversation so that we could all get on with our lives and maybe I could feel free to talk about things on this blog again.

Sometimes I feel regret, when I'm lying in bed with Greta, because I know it should be someone else. I shouldn't have even gotten here, but things happened how they did and I... I responded the way I did. You can't un-ring that bell.

I'm just someone trying to find the most comfort he can in a shitty life. That may be all I have left, for as long as my days.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Lane/Kari: Facing Myself

It's been a long time sinceI posted last. I tried to write a couple of posts a few times but the words just wouldn't come out right and I couldn't get into the correct headspace. But Tyler's last couple of posts have given me a bit of courage to share the traumatizing event that happened to me last week.

I got dumped.

That must be a big shock to you all, considering I never made any mention of me being in a relationship. Let me back up a little.

My last entry recounted the first time that Darius and I had sex, and it still makes me blush thinking about writing it despite the dozens of subsequent times it happened. My outlook and plan at the time was to keep things casual and exploratory with Darius, but not to get too attached since I was leaving in June. That plan lasted about 3 days.

It was a Friday night and we had just finished seeing a movie and we went back to his place. We we had finished with the sex I was still sorta seeing stars with my head curled up under his arm while he kissed the top of my hair and stroked my side.

"Babe, I know you said you wanted to take things slow" he said soft of voice and firm of tone "But this thing that we got...I want it to be more. I think we should be exclusive"

I was about to recite my practiced and planned response of how I needed to take things slowly and yadda yadda yadda when the words "I'd love that" escaped my lips.

There's this thing I do when trying to pass myself off as someone else where I just sit back sometimes and let my subconscious do the talking or reacting. On some level my brain is swimming in Kari's hormones so I feel like Kari does, so sometimes I just go with my gut instinct. This came in really handy when I first started having sex with Latherman but I've used it in other situations. I'm 99% certain women's/mother's intuition is real.

So just like that I had a boyfriend. A kind, courteous, charming boyfriend who texted me everyday and called me beautiful and gave a self conscious guy in a woman's body a major ego boost and pick me up. This was major news and definitely blog worthy.

But I couldn't write.

I'd sit down, ready to break the news and I would suddenly be rather embarrassed. Writing in this blog is when I'm Lane. Whenever I speak to someone else or am out in the world, I have to be Kari. When I spill my guts here, I'm Lane again. And Lane would never even think about doing some of the things that I did to and with Darius. I'm blushing a little just thinking about them. I know I shouldn't be worried about what you guys think, this blog is filled with the chronicles of former men in women's bodies having sex with men, but even after all these months there's the tiniest bit of ick factor that this blog activates. I had no trouble writing about the affair with Latherman because that was something that I feel I have to do. Darius was something that I wanted to do. That I chose to do. That I kept doing.

So why did I get dumped?

One fine morning a couple of weeks ago me and Darius were tangled up under his covers when we heard a phone vibrating from underneath our pile of clothes. Darius has a busy job and often gets important texts and we weren't sure whose phone was buzzing so he checked. It was mine and he accidentally saw the text.

"Who's Nick L.?" He asked, sounding slightly pissed off

I froze. I stammered a bit but I don't think I said any actual words

"And why is he buying you panties?"

The text he had read said. "Bought you some sexy panties to replace the ones I ripped."

I should explain. I never stopped having sex Kari's boss, even after me and Darius were official. That meant I cheated on him about a dozen times over the course of our short relationship, which was a shitty thing for me to do. I justified it with some serious mental gymnastics and compartmentalizing. I told myself that Latherman was a Kari thing, and not me. It wasn't cheating if my emotions weren't in it. It was purely physical.

But no amount of explanation would make Darius believe that Latherman was having sex with Kari's body, but he was dating the man's mind inside of it at the time.

"Isn't that your boss?!" He asked after he put it together "Are you fucking your boss?"

"Yes." I said softly. Unable to lie. "But it means nothing. It's just..."

"Is he fucking you at work?" Darius said with a look of disgust that still haunts me "Like, is that what your job is there? Is he pressuring you?"

"It's just that with Ashley--"

"That's illegal Kari"

"I'm not forced to..."

"You need to get going" He said sternly. He didn't yell at me. He could have and he should have but he didn't yell at me. This man was in control at all times and that's one of my favorite things about him. "I need to think about this."

While he thought I sat in the bedroom back at Kari's apartment, wringing my hands waiting for the phone to wring. It took about 12 hours before he called.

"We need to take a break" He said coldly and firmly "I'm not trying to fault you or shame you, but I can't trust you right now. So you need to get your shit in order, and you need to do it by yourself."

I sniffled a goodbye but the second he hung up I cried. For hours. And then I stopped. And then cried some more. Did anyone else on this blog ever mention that estrogen makes crying easier? Because I've been dumped before by women who I'd liked more and dated longer than I've been with Darius but I was reduced to a blubbering mess for awhile.

I'm not over it per se, but writing this has helped. I've immersed myself into other aspects of this life and I'll probably write about them now that I've cracked my writer's block. It's just before midnight on Cinco de Mayo, which apparently Kari's family doesn't celebrate because they aren't from the Pueblo State in Mexico and it's really more of a commercialized holiday here in the States. But is a Thursday and me and Rosita will be going out so maybe I'll update on that.

Until then


Monday, May 02, 2016

Annette/Benjamin: Sports

It's been a while since I wrote here, but that's mainly because things are going well but not off-the-charts, this-requires-examination well. I mean, it is in some ways - I've got my favorite writer helping me with what I'm working on outside the blog, although I'm not going to mention her name too often lest Google start sending her fans here which leads to another me winding up someone else - but mostly I'm a happy guy for kind of prosaic reasons.  I've got a smart, sexy girlfriend in Marybeth who shares a lot of common interests; I've got good friends who are also doing well; my job isn't great, but it gives me a fair amount of free time, plus it exists, which not everybody can say.  Being Benjamin is good right now, and I feel like I'm handling all the guy stuff quite well.

And the Red Sox just beat the Yankees to pull into first place, which is actually something I care about. I don't think it's a matter of following sports automatically being more appealling because I've got a penis, so much as I'm living with a bunch of guys, and they've been trained to follow the local teams since birth, and it's a very easy thing to pick up. After all, it's fun!  Especially during baseball season, there's a game practically every night that is only predictable in the very vaguest sense, and the stuff which makes it hard to predict is people doing things that are really difficult. I still haven't gotten into football beyond sort of rooting for Tom Brady in his battle with Roger Goodell the same way I would in a story (even when I'm not working Sundays in the winter, there are better things to do with a weekend afternoon), but I am following the Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox way closer than I ever expected to.

I'm playing more, too. Nothing really organized, but when someone asks if I want to go out and shoot some hoops, I say yes a lot. I almost wonder at times if an affinity for that sort of physical activity and competition is like sexuality - we naturally spend a lot of time on this blog talking about suddenly being attracted to a new opposite sex because our brains have been rewired, and Missy often mentions to me how, even though she will find herself drawn to guys in the same room, she still likes looking at pictures of naked girls more (and I do sometimes look around during movies to see if anybody has noticed me raising my eyebrows when a guy takes his shirt off). But I know Benny was a real jock as a kid - when I went to see his folks over Christmas, there were a lot of trophies in his room - and I wasn't. Oh, sure, I jogged, because I didn't quite have the Rory Gilmore metabolism and (as Missy is discovering) it is not cool at all to be called fat as a young woman, but it didn't feel good the way it does now.

I actually got curious enough about this to email Benny/Jordan the other week.  He's not as obsessively self-examining as some of us, so he hadn't really thought about it, but he says he still enjoys working out even if it's not quite the endorphin-releasing high it was any more, but more the satisfaction of a job well-done. He's got more interests now, although he kind of chalked that up to being with Kareena and picking up what she likes.

It's a little alarming, in some ways; most of the time, most of us like to think of ourselves as the same people in new containers, which may just have different biological imperatives, but if this newfound excitement about the local teams also comes with the change, it really makes me think a bit about just who I am now,

- Annette / Benjamin