Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: The Briefest Consideration

One of Lindsey's current favorite ways to mock me is to call me melodramatic, as it is apparently a term I would occasionally apply to millennials like herself, although likely not so often as she implies.  Most of the time, the epithet is misplaced but I cannot deny that, in the aftermath of the man currently wearing my face making me look like a fool at a conference in December, I started to wonder if, perhaps, I should abandon the life I had lived for over sixty years.  Though I would certainly have the opportunity to produce important new work for years to come, would I be able to attract good collaborators or re-engage with the dozens of other academic matters which my substitute had allowed to languish?  The thought of having to rebuild my reputation at this point in my life was dreadful.
It was awful enough, in fact, that I started to think seriously about leaving my life behind.  Under that scenario, I would not remain Alicia Polawski - the thought of living my days out like this sends a chill down my spine - but I would find some other life to live.  The would be an element of randomness, and I might back off once I see what is available, but as the time to start booking rooms in an appropriate chain came, it seemed like a reasonable option to consider.

I did not share this with Lindsey - she has the date reservations open circled on the calendar, a reminder in her phone, and frequent conversations with the Coopers about what they are doing with our lives, commitments being made, and the like.  She has also taken to creating scenarios where somehow the Inn's magic can be acknowledged and legal arguments can be made about how one has acted while living another's life, or steering people to the Inn.  It is complete sophistry that requires one to treat the Inn as simultaneously an unacknowledgeable force of nature and something that can be brought into a court of law, and this pointless.  She claims the ethical considerations are interesting in and of themselves, and that it's a way to quantify what Inn visitors can expect from each other.  As such, she would very likely disapprove of my leaving someone else with my life and appropriating another.

Rather than consider theory, I was instead more ingesting talking to people with practical experience, which was why, when it was time to choose routes for January, I made a request to have a few days off in a row in Boston.  It may not be a particular favorite place to visit, especially in the middle of winter, but it has the biggest cluster of people living lives other than the one that they were born into that I know about, and I thought it might be useful to learn what particular challenges such people faced. 

We met in the Changeling bar, which took some getting to - once I de-planed, it was an expensive cab ride to get across Boston and Cambridge to the suburb of Arlington - but which the people I was meeting said was where they liked to meet for Inn stuff, both because it could be difficult for Ashlyn to get away and because they liked to support each other.  So, that was where I met Ashlyn, Penelope, Ray, Annette, and Yuan-wei.

I was still wearing my uniform from the flight, which made it easy enough for them to call me over.  Given the range of ages and Yuan-wei being Chinese, it was easy enough to match names to faces, although it still took me somewhat by surprise to see that Yuan-wei wore stockings and heels while Annette was wearing denim jeans, with Ashlyn in a tight top with holes at the shoulders.  I knew, intellectually, that they had all been in other shapes longer than I and had acclimated, but it still surprised me that they would choose such feminine attire during their own free time.  Though only Ashlyn truly had the same sort of figure that I had been cursed with, the attention it garnered was enough of a bother that I could hardly fathom wanting to encourage it.  But, of course they are closer to their apparent age than I, so maybe they saw it differently.

They would soon prove unsympathetic to my enquiries.  Initially, they offered their condolences, tempered with surprise that the Coopers would not be relinquishing or lives, since that was not the impression they got from Lindsey's post of a few days before.  As soon as I said that, too the best of my knowledge, they were in fact planning to return to their own lives, the whole group seemed at a loss for words until Annette broke the silence.

"You'd...  You'd just let your real life go?"

"Young lady, ones reputation is ones life in academia.  If that has been irrevocably damaged, is it really my life any more?"

"Well, yeah," she answered.  "I mean, that's not really your whole life.  There's family, and friends, and...  You know, everything but the job."

I shrugged, mentioning that my patents were gone and I had no children of my own.  There are not that many ties that would be severed.

Penelope, the writer, said that may be true in one direction, but not necessarily the other.  "Have you ever heard of Impostor Syndrome?  I know a bunch of successful writers who are almost crippled by it, thinking that their success is an illusion and undeserved, and any minute people are going to see they're a fraud.  Now, I don't get the impression you are anything less than competent confident in your element, but I want as Arthur Milligan, either.  Still, unless you manage to parachute into a complete blank slate, you're going to get hit with the same symptoms, only for real.  My wedding almost destroyed me, for instance, and I need to take pills to sleep any day I've had any sort of meaningful interaction with the original Penny's parents.  And the fear of other moms judging me is...  Look, I'm happy most of the time.  If I hadn't gone to the Inn that first time, I would have never met this guy, and if Germy hadn't stolen my life, I never would have considered trying to make it work, but it's not destiny and it's not easy; it's being lucky and having outlets into which I can channel my other selves."

Her red-haired friend picked that up.  "What she said.  I thought my own life being stolen was a blessing in disguise, justification for continuing to be Ashlyn, which was and is really fun.  But there is something missing sometimes, especially since you never really know what that easy, fun life is going to be like ten years down the road."

"Well, I wouldn't be subjecting myself to the change in sex if I can possibly help it."

"It's not just that," said Annette, "I went from female to male at first, and that made some things easier, but letting go of your identity is hard.  I was so glad when I could be myself again."

I turned to look at Yuan-wei, and she held up her hands.  "Don't look at me to contradict her!  My life has gotten ten times better since my brother's been part of it again, and I still can't bring myself to call Benny by 'Jordan'.  I'm doing really well, but I ain't gonna tell you the decision want fucking difficult!"

I wasn't convinced, but soon the food arrived and ended the conversation.  The people who knew each other wound up playing catch-up, and I eventually wound up waiting with Yuan-wei for a car back to her apartment, where I would be staying the night.  She stared at me, squinted a bit, and then asked my cup size.

"I beg your pardon!"

She then told me about the last few scenes of her student film needing to shoot over the weekend despite the lead actress having walked off the set, leaving a few custom-fitted costumes behind.  I may not be quite as busty as this "Bree" person, but I was closer to fitting her costumes than Yuan-wei was herself.  Ashlyn had apparently been her first choice, but she couldn't schedule it around the bar's needs.  I blanched when he told me what the parts were - mindless sex robots dressed in skimpy costumes, assisting some sort of mad scientist - but it is somewhat difficult to turn down a request from the person offering one her spare room for the evening while waiting for a car to arrive in the freezing cold.

I should have summoned the courage to do so.

It was not as simple as just slipping on a costume, staring gladly, and saying a few inanities.  Because the performers whose secondary roles I was filling in was quite busty, Yuan-wei arranged to meet the girl doing costumes early, so that she could get a quick look at me before we made our way not to the locations, but to the a butcherie.  There she examined packages of chicken breasts in what seemed like a peculiar manner until buying a few before we continued to the laboratory space Yuan-wei had rented.  There was a small changing area rigged with curtains, and I was handed thong panties, white fishnet stockings, and something like a "sexy nurse" Halloween costume, including a corset.  I initially thought the panties would be the worst part of it, and thought I would get out of it without doing anything because the costume wouldn't zip up.  That when the costumer came in and with an absurdly casual "excuse me" stated paying at my chest, placing the chicken breasts in the costume's cups and arranging things so that someone looking from the outside could find no border between them and my own mammaries.  I thought that would be it until she had me lay down on a table and started sewing the costume up.  After that, someone came to apply make-up and I was given a mirror to look in.  I looked ridiculous.

Yuan-wei intercepted the seamstress as she was approaching with a frightening pair of shoes, bringing them to me herself.  "I'm gonna guess you've never worn anything with this sort of heel before."

"Of course I haven't."

"Well, just see how you do.  I looked over the footage last night and I think we can mostly get away with shooting you in the heels while standing still and maybe rig some 2x4s for you to walk on.  If we can't, try holding your arms out at an angle like this, palms parallel to the floor, and placing one foot directly in from of the other while looking straight ahead."  She demonstrated.  "The arms actually make you look sexier while helping your balance, but it's kind of showy for real life.  Your lines are pretty simple, and if you can't do breathy -- 'is there anything else, Doctor?' -- don't worry about it, I can ADR later."

I could do "breathy", of course - the more Marilyn Monroe I put into my lines, the more she liked it.   Though I stumbled a few times early on and was grateful for the moments between takes when I could sit and rest my feet, the actual shooting was mostly rather dull.  Something like two hours over the course of the day seemed to just be spent on having me stand at a different location and stare blankly so that she could later paste it all together so that it looked like there were a half-dozen of these nurse/lab-assistant robots in the room.  There was also a great deal of tape on the floor, especially when shooting a scene where three of me were helping the main actor implant a man's brain in another robot's body, with some hastily-added dialogue about it being a different model.

I seemed some resentment from the cast, but paid it no heed.  They were just actors, after all, and ones who had to work for peanuts in student films.  I daresay by the end of the day, they had a certain level of respect for the work I was doing the first time around.

It was nevertheless a relief to get to the end of the day, be cut out of that costume and apply adhesive bandages to my ankles after a shower to wash the smell of raw meat and perspiration from my body. 

Sunday would prove an even more peculiar day.  While Saturday had mostly been building one particular sequence from every angle, Sunday had us shooting in Yuan-wei's apartment.  This time, I was given a similarly farcical French maid's costume - once again having my chest augmented and being sewn in - but I worked with different actors, including the director, who served as Bree's double so that I had a proper eye-line and voices to react to.  As a person who feels that work is best done focusing on one thing, this constant shifting was tremendously aggravating, and my cast-mates' occasional impatience entirely unwarranted.  We eventually got all we could done before I had to work a flight back out to the west coast.  It was clear Yuan-wei wanted to do more even if the cast was ready to be done hours ago, especially since I had established early on that I could not stay later than a certain time and all the innuendo withwhich Miss Lee's friend Ernesto and my co-star were peppering their conversation would be for naught.

After I had showered and changed into my work clothes, I saw Yuan-wei smirking.  "Still thinking of spending the rest of your life pretending to be someone else?"

I have her a withering look.  "Was that the point of this, young lady?"

"Nah, I just needed a girl who fit the costume, and you saved my [behind] there.  But, like Annette said a billion times while working on the script, it's never just one thing."

I suppose, I said, that this is true when writing a story, but I nevertheless wished I had more time to speak with the more experienced people about how they had applied their previous life experience to their new lives, but I had opted to give of my own time instead.

I did, perhaps, look at the various passengers on the flight "home" (and on others during the subsequent weeks) and find myself a little less convinced that I could drop into their lives with relatively little complication.  There would be details and obligations that I doubt I would have the stomach for.  In some ways, Alicia's life is relatively simple in that respect - she interacts with different people every day and lives with her mother, who is also someone else - but even more than when dealing with people on the plane, this solidified my lack of desire to have much dealing with the people more interested in Alicia's body than my mind.

My true life may have been somewhat battered, then, with undue setbacks, but it is clearly the best situation to which I can return, and I am quite happy that Lindsey and I have already been able to calculate the proper time to return to Old Orchard Beach and have booked the room where we shall become ourselves again.

-Harmon Keller

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: Moving forward

Ever since I got back from Mobile, I've been dealing with stress headaches, sleepless nights, a twisting stomach... even though what happened technically didn't happen to "me," it still hurt me hard because I liked Josh a lot as a guy, and I have had to live through the fallout. That sucks, especially the part about having to disentangle yourself from the other person. Deciding who gets what furniture, what to do about the joint bank account and phone plan while also not really being able to stomach the thought of being around them... it's a nightmare that kind of, in a sick way, justifies to me my fear of commitment.

What happened was, I had to endure a two-month shitstorm, basically on my own. Val was obviously distraught and I tried to console her, but she didn't want to listen to me because this happened on my watch so deep down, she holds me to blame in a sense. Would this have happened without me in the picture? Is there anything I could have done to prevent it? I don't know. But if Josh was the kind of guy who was going to do this, what did she want with him?

She wanted me to fix it. Early on, once she got over the initial shock, she asked me to go back to him, swallow "my" pride and suck up to him and make it work. And I just... couldn't. I felt like, with an affair and a pregnancy, this relationship is just too broken.

She disagreed and said it was something to work on, a concept that "obviously" I had little experience with. That stung, so I fired back by saying that maybe if she didn't treat her man like a doormat, he wouldn't have felt the need to get back at her this way. Not my proudest moment.

She said she was washing her hands of the situation, that she had "Anna problems" to deal with, and that since I got her into this mess (again, debatable) I could clean it up however I saw fit. Sure, I'm used to it.

In the meantime, Val's and Josh's lease expired, and with no hope for reconciliation... let's just say working 30 hours per week pouring coffee doesn't get you a nice Brooklyn apartment. I was packed up and out on my ass for New Year's.

I didn't have many options. I didn't want to reach out to Val's friends because I still wasn't even sure I wanted to tell people the marriage was a failure before it began - again, I don't know why but it felt like my failure, my embarrassment even though I could still be considered an outside party. My only friend in the area is Pete, and while she was happy to let me crash on the couch for a night or two, her roommate wasn't crazy about it as an ongoing arrangement. And to be honest, I don't think my back could take it much longer either (let's face it, I'm already starting in pretty rough shape, having to lug a pair of cantelopes like these around all day.)

My only other options seemed to be Marie, Val's best friend, and the one she would confide in if her marriage really did crumble, or Val's mother, who adored Josh. Turning to either of them was too heavy for me to contemplate.

Then two days ago, my salvation came in the form of an old friend... of Valerie's.

When you're an Inn-Curse-Person, you get used to recognizing the look people give you when you're "supposed" to know them. So I was working behind the counter at the coffee shop and this guy gives me the look. He stops in his tracks and gives this little gasp like he can't believe it.


I take a quick glance, and there's this guy in the doorway. Skinny, not tall but that's all relative because everybody's taller than me. Short-cropped hair, a nice scarf... kind of handsome, good face.

I get in character quick, "Oh, heyyy man!"

I think to myself, this guy can't be particularly close because he wasn't at the wedding.

"Unbelievable. I just started working on this block, I had no idea you worked here!"

"Yeah, crazy..." I say, trying lightly get him to move along.

"So how's married life? I was so sorry I couldn't make it to the wedding..."

I wince - he s invited, so he's got to be pretty tight with Val. I sigh. "That's okay, it... well, can you keep a secret?"


"Josh... was already married. The wedding was... like... a sham."

I had actually been dying to say it out loud for some time, and it felt like a good opportunity since I hadn't seen this guy before so I was feeling less self-conscious.

He reacted like he was really stunned. "Woah! I can't believe it..." he stammered. "You... are you okay?"

"I'm... handling it. In my own way."

"I mean, you've been in love with that guy for ten years... I can't even imagine how you must feel."

"It's... been rough," I admit, and as detailed above, there's some truth there.

Then he says, "Do you want to... get a cup of coffee or something?"

My heart sinks. I don't know where this guy is coming from. Surely he's not using this as an opportunity to try to hit on me? Or is this just a friendly cup? I start to get anxious about it, I'm not sure how much longer I can fake my way through this conversation, and I need to come up with something.

"I don't know," I start to squirm, "It's a really hectic time..."

"Come on, Val... it's me." He says this with such weight that it seems to mean something.

Then in walks this girl. Beautiful tall, thin brunette. I feel a pang of jealousy for her looks, because after using a stepstool to reach the lowest shelf for six months, I'd love to be a skinny tall brunette, especially one who doesn't have to special-order her bras. She wasn't even that tall, maybe 5'7.

Anyway, she pecks this guy on the cheek and says "Hey babe, sorry I'm late!"

I nod in acknowledgment in case I'm supposed to know this girl, but the guy gestures to me and says "Val this is Alexa, Alexa, Val's an old friend from high school."

She smiles (and I can't help thinking this girl is a bitch even though I'm sure she's perfectly nice) and I return it. But deep down I'm satisfied that these two are an item so of course this guy just wants to catch up.

He orders for the two of them, and then asks again about catching up.

I can't say for sure where my head was at... strategically it made no sense to engage this guy any further. But what do I have to lose? If he wants to reminisce, I can fake it, I've got the curse's protection, and what do I care if he has a problem with my version of Valerie? And the weird thing is, I just... felt like I needed a friend in that moment. someone who wasn't an Ex or my sister, or a hyperactive nut like Pete.

"What the hell," I shrug, "Hey, why don't you text me to see if I've still got your right number?"

He pulls out his phone and within a swift moment he has sent a text of a smiley face.

Ryan Morasca, the name reads. I congratulate myself for being sneaky. The name did ring a bell.

"Meet me here at 8 tomorrow, Ryan," I say, "I'll tell you some stories."


Pete/Brig was obviously excited when I told her, her eyes bugging out. "I can't believe you have a date!!"

"It's not a date. It's coffee with an old friend of Val's."

"Don't be naive," she smirked, "I bet he wants you."

"He's taken," I emphasize.

"I'm not seeing a contradiction..." she hummed, and I tried to laugh it off.

"Well he'd better get used to disappointment," I groaned, "Now, help me pick an outfit that says, 'You seem cool and all but this isn't going anywhere'."

For that, Brig suggested jeans, a cardigan sweater and a big scarf. "It seems fancy, but it limits his opportunities to ogle you since the girls are nicely hidden."

"You've given this a lot of thought," I remarked.

"I hope to get out there one day."

"I'm not out there," I reiterated through gritted teeth.

"Sure, sure," Pete giggled - "How about make-up?"

I said no to that. I really did want to look as plain as possible... although being female has warped my brain so much that leaving the house without at least some foundation on makes me feel naked and wrong.

And the truth was, the coffee really was just pleasant. I didn't have to rely on my small knowledge of Valerie's life, because we mostly talked about what had happened with Josh. And not in a way where he was slobbering on me waiting for a chance to hit on me, just... interested, friendly. I didn't get the sense that there was really anything more to it than that. He also told me about his life, how he had been traveling for work but was back in New York permanently.

"You don't happen to have a line on a cheap apartment, do you?" I asked.

"Funny you should ask," he said, "One of the guys I was supposed to room with left the country. Interested?"

"Seriously? What's the rent?"

He told me, and it was... well, a  bit high.

"Well... what if I helped you out a bit?"

"No, I couldn't."

"Seriously, no strings attached."



I didn't know people still did that.

I asked, "What about Alexa? She won't be jealous you're out with an old friend?"

"Nah, she's cool," he said, brushing it off in a way that suggested to me that maybe he didn't know for sure if she actually was cool.

But hey, I don't have time to go looking a gift horse in the mouth. I've got to get my stuff out of storage.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Simon/Joy: The Cinderella Thing

The details of "Cinderella" are girly as they come, but we all use it on a regular basis, although for guys, it's mostly about underdogs in sports - such and such a team wasn't expected to go to the tournament, but they were "invited to the ball" and... well, you get it.  There's a kind of winking to it, too, because it's funny to refer to the big dudes playing college basketball as princesses; most guys probably wouldn't actually refer to D-III school whose women's basketball team makes it to the finals against UConn as a "Cinderella story"; they'd just be underdogs.  But here's a thing:  In sales, you play on guys playing out Cinderella fantasies all the time.  You don't call it that, but when you get tickets so that a client can sit in the sort of expensive roof boxes that they either couldn't afford or wouldn't splurge for, or when you give them the chance to shake hands with a celebrity - that's total Cinderella stuff.  I don't really get a chance to do that when selling real estate right now - the closest I get is getting an idea of if anybody famous lives in a neighborhood and when they'd most likely be visible - but there was a reason my office back in Cleveland had season tickets for every team, and why I knew the right guy to talk to for special backstage access to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:  Folks dig feeling like a prince(ss), and they will think better of you if you give them that feeling.

But you know what?  The actual, literal Cinderella thing isn't so bad either.

Anyway, you may remember that the last time I posted, Joy's ex Iain invited me to a party that happened to be in London.  It was actually surprisingly easy to do on short notice - when Iain's office sent me a first-class ticket to London (connecting through New York), it was for a Friday-afternoon flight, and we'd already planned to close the office early for travel.  Since the airport in San Diego is actually part of the city, it's easy to get to quickly, so I went straight from work, took a domestic flight across the country (idly wondering if Harmon was working it), and actually had plenty of time to get through customs before my transfer.  Both legs were first class, and when I got out of customs, Iain was actually waiting for me, wearing sunglasses and holding up a little sign, grinning at the goofiness of the gesture.  We air-kissed and he handed over a small bag with perfume, toothpaste,  mouthwash, and a few other sundries that TSA doesn't want you to put in your carry-on so that I could duck into a ladies' room and freshen up, all Joy's well-remembered favorites.  Once I was feeling a bit more human, he led me out to his Bentley and said he hoped I didn't mind, but he'd taken the liberty of having a dress made, and although he knew my measurements, it had been a couple years, so they may need to make a few alterations, although I look just the same. 

I took the compliment and allowed myself to gape a little when he pulled up to a very high-end dress shop, where the shopkeepers took me to a back room, had me strip to my undies, made a few measurements, had me try a dress on, and then gave each other a quick, gruff nod before handing me my clothing back and saying "ninety minutes".  This was just enough time to get me down the street to a salon where, as one woman teased my hair, another painted my nails, and yet another told me my pores were fantastic while covering my face with some cream to make them somehow more fantastic.  It took closer to two hours than ninety minutes all told, but when they finally let me look in a mirror, I was kind of astounded.  I still looked like Joy, obviously, but it was like the ideal form of Joy's face.  I trotted back to the dress shop, where they had a taller pair of black heels waiting because the floor-length gown they had made for me would drag on the floor without the extra height.

That's just one indication of how perfect the dress was.  It was black, but shimmered, its pattern all reflective circles.  I don't know if I'd say it made the most of my slender figure - it didn't push my breasts up and out, really - but it had a nice, non-showy curve beneath my underwire, and gave a hint that I had a butt without clinging, before getting comfortably-but-elegantly loose about my legs.  It was strapless, showing off my shoulders and my neck with my hair in a really perfect updo.  Iain beamed like he'd never seen something so beautiful when I walked out, before pulling out a jewelry box and finishing the look with a beautiful necklace and diamond earrings.

There's a bit of a tingle to the cool metal touching my chest, probably just because it had been out in his car, but...  "This doesn't feel like what you do for a 'work thing', Iain."

"Well, it's more a work thing with investors than employees.  I may have accidentally misled you there.  Worth it to see ye all dolled up again, though."

I blush, let him lead me to the car, and then to the party.

It's quite a thing, maybe the first time I've ever seen a ballroom really used for something like a ball.  I get to meet some folks who are fairly well-off trying to sell them houses, but this often seemed like another level.  It's the difference between "rich" and "wealthy", I guess, but everybody I met was very nice and really just had an aura about them, if that's not getting too feminine or deferential.  They all felt connected to power and resources, even the other bits of arm candy, and maybe, having desirable real estate to talk about, I was less there to do nothing but look pretty and make it look less like Iain was somebody people rejected. 

Still, I was glad to get out of those shoes when we got to his London apartment afterward - I've gotten to be a fair hand in walking in those things, but my typical day has more time at a desk or driving or the like, not standing for hours on end and even dancing while still kind of tired because I don't think I got more than four hours sleep in the previous twenty-four.

I actually conked out in Iain's recliner, but it actually had me waking up at a pretty reasonable six AM local time, hoping like hell that winding up spread-eagled with each foot dangling over an arm of the chair and that long, elegant dress hiked up past my knees, like I'd had some sort of nightmare about visiting the gynecologist or something, had happened after Iain had fallen asleep.  Not, I thought, how I'd want Iain to remember me or Joy.  For what it was worth, he was asleep on the couch, facing a different direction, apparently not willing to take the bed and make me decide whether or not I wanted to crawl in with him if I woke up before morning. 

Instead, I checked out the bathroom, wondering if the bottles of shampoo, lotion, and the like in there were bought for me or the property of the girl who dumped him. Being well-used to using someone else's stuff by now, I didn't feel any guilt as I lathered up in the shower, but him having full-sized bottles of women's product there said something, whether that he'd recently been really close to someone, that he was incredibly considerate and organized, or that he figured he'd need them for one lady or another soon enough.  At any rate, it got me clean and smelling nice.

He was cooking some bacon when I'd gotten dressed in jeans, sweater, and sneakers, and smiled as I came out of the bathroom.  "Now, there's a sight for sore eyes.  Why did we break up again?"

Telling him his girlfriend had died but her shape stayed at the hotel room would have sounded absurd, so I mentally dug through Joy's diary and email.  "If I remember correctly, you weren't quite so rich as to fly your girlfriend halfway around the world on a whim a couple years ago, and even if you were, I wasn't really looking to be something that rich guys shipped to and fro like cargo."

"Ach, ye got me there.  As to the first, it turns out that while I don't know shite about horses and I'm not exactly any sort of engineer myself, I am damn good at choosing which firms to invest in using the money the family made breeding racehorses for a hundred years or so.  Dad isn't really sure what to make of it, but when he finally listened to his doctors telling him to step back and then convinced me to become more involved in the business, he said that as long as I didn't risk the house where five generations of the family have lived, I had my head.  And what about you?  How are you different now?"

Oh, if only my life had a laugh track.  "Oh, I don't know.  Trying to build myself up while still not worrying about tomorrow too much, I guess.  I sometimes feel like I was a different person back then, you know?  Although not so different that I'm necessarily down for eight-time-zones-away for a day."

I'd started to pack my things, but moved to the bar as he set a couple plates down.  "Does it have to be just a couple days?  I know, you've got a job, so it's a big thing to ask, but I'd love to have you stay until the new year."

"Uh, wow, okay.  I mean, okay, I'm processing, but I'm sure you've got family stuff, and I don't know if I'd necessarily be welcome."

He seemed to wince a bit.  "Aye, things did get kind of complicated when we split, and they do keep me busy through Boxing Day.  But I've got the whole rest of the week, and I noticed you were planning on going back to California, so you were going to spend the holidays alone anyway...  Might as well do it here, right?  Why don't you call your folks; there's plenty of room!"

It sounded like a crazy idea, although he couldn't know how crazy inviting Joy's parents would be for me.  Fortunately, it was the middle of the night for them and it wouldn't have made sense to call right away (they totally would have answered a call from their daughter at that hour, assuming it was an emergency), so I could put that off.  I had to admit, Christmas in London in what was essentially a really nice AirBNB that I didn't have to pay for had a little more appeal than Treena being judgmental about me having let Iain spend what might have been a few grand on me, so I said yes.

First order of the day was dropping him at the airport so he could head to Scotland, and then I got to go shopping - I had, after all, only brought a carry-on with what I'd thought was a nice dress and something to wear on the flight home.  Finding a department store and buying some basics in a strange city on Christmas Eve is not something I would necessarily recommend as an experience everyone should have at least once, but it was weirdly exciting to be in the holiday crunch despite not exactly having a lot of people to shop for.  I'd sent Joy's parents gift cards and got a thing or two for Treena and Brian/"Simon", but the Inn had me doing even less than usual. 

(Speaking of Joy's folks, I extended them Iain's invitation, figuring they might take him up on it because they were originally from the UK, but between not wanting to leap right into holiday travel or be a third wheel for their daughter when it looked like she might get back together with that nice Scottish boy, they declined, albeit with a list of things for me to pick up and mail them once I was back home.)

I did pick a couple things up to give Iain when he arrived back in London, which aside from being polite also meant I felt like much less of a jerk when a delivery man rang the bell Christmas morning and presented me with a number of little presents from Iain.  Nothing really romantic, but some nice perfume, a funny t-shirt, some chocolate, and a book.  There was a small suitcase, too, since I obviously wouldn't fit all of that in my carry-on. 

One pleasant surprise that Iain didn't have much to do with its that I didn't have any trouble finding a place to eat on Christmas; though most restaurants are closed back home, eating out is a much a Christmas tradition in London as a big family dinner.  Most places were booked up in advance, but there were spots at the bars for both lunch and supper.  Got the number of a sympathetic bartender who heard my accent and figured being so far from home over the holidays was rough, although I never got around to calling it.  Someone told me I had to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special because he was regenerating into a woman, and maybe it's a bigger deal if you're a fan, but, man, he spent an awful lot of time moping over getting a new life and nothing else happened!  I stayed in reading my new book after that - more Joy's sort of thing than mine, I expect, but alright. 

I spent the 26th seeing stuff that maybe Iain would think weren't Joy's thing - the Churchill War Rooms, a Jack the Ripper tour, that sort of thing.  It's not hard to fill a day in London when you're still jet-lagged enough to roll out of bed at 1pm.

Then Iain came, I gave him his presents, and the rest of the week just flew by.  We did a bunch of touristy things - Abbey Road, the Eye, a horse-drawn hansom cab ride, the changing of the guard - ate some crazy good food, enough for me to joke about not fitting in that nice dress he'd bought me anymore ("that's the plan - I just couldn't bear you wearing it for anyone else!"), danced in some exclusive clubs...  It was a whirlwind, and when he leaned in to kiss me on Saturday night, I knew it wasn't just the girl he'd been hanging out with for the past few days that he was kissing, but I didn't care.  I wanted him to kiss me, and then I wanted him to make love to me, not just because I'm pretty straight as Joy and it had been a while, but because this is how the Cinderella story ends, and even if I didn't necessarily realize I was in one at the time, it takes hold of you. 

I worried for a second that he'd realize something was up because while he knew about spots on Joy's body that I hadn't found yet, I can't say her diaries were that detailed.  But, as much as he's a great guy, he's still a guy - pay enough attention to his dick, and he's not going to ask about other erogenous zones.  I maybe seemed a little surprise when I was kind of insistent about the condom - we've all learned Jonah's lesson - but he probably just figured she/I had some sort of scare in the past couple of years.

They weren't happy about me taking a last-minute vacation at work, at least until I came back recharged and excited.  I've got to admit - getting Joy's ex, and not just her ex, but arguably her "one", to go for me despite her having dumped and (from his perspective) ghosted him does kind of make me feel like I can sell anything.   Except, maybe, settling Treena on how our continuing to text in the two weeks since I've returned is a good thing. 


Friday, January 12, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: A honeymoon of my own

After parting ways with Josh after the wedding, I did the only thing that came to mind, the same thing I always do. I left.

He was leaving anyway for the Honeymoon, so you would think I could just hang out in the city by myself. It probably would have made the transition to single life easier, give me time to make arrangements. In fact, that was what Valerie insisted I had to do, feeding me scripts on who I needed to tell and what to say. But this was a situation where, for whatever reason, I needed to get in the driver's seat.

Maybe it's the last remnants of my male pride. Maybe a polecat doesn't change his stripes anyway.

So while Josh was bound for Hawaii I went on a trip of my own... to a place I didn't think I would actually go again.

I went back to friggin' Alabama.

I did it in the stupidest way possible, too, since I didn't give Carrie the head's up before I landed on her doorstep. I wasn't even sure if she'd recognize me. It was a cold, rainy day and all I had was the bag I had packed for Hawaii. Some good it was... reckon I probably wasn't gonna do much swimming there.

I showed up at her apartment, my hair a tangled, dripping mess, my cheeks blotted with rain and tears and smudged makeup, dragging my sad little wheelie bag behind me. I knocked on the door and it opened and for the first time ever, I was looking up at her.

She gave me a look of mixed surprise and confusion but she clicked almost immediately with what was going on, mouthing "Ty?" which I nodded to confirm. She reads the blog, so she did have a sense of my current physical appearance, so when a stranger matching that description showed up at her place randomly, well... she's the smartest Blake of the bunch, I always said.

"Sweetie!" she piped up loudly in away that alerted me she was not alone. "Come in, get dry! I can't believe you're here!" She wrapped me up in a big warm hug and it felt amazing for a moment.

A voice called from the kitchen. "Care, babe? Who's there?"

"Oh, it's just my friend--" she stumbled over the name until I whispered it. "Valerie! I haven't seen her in forever!"

Then he came out to get a look at me, and I saw him there.

Luke Anderson. Carrie's high school boyfriend, who I was not a fan of. I couldn't stop myself from immediately fixing Carrie with a bug-eyed glare of shock, and she responded with a look of mixed embarrassment and fear. I nearly blew my cover by asking what the hell he was doing here.

Luke, who has known Carrie since she was a kid, asked the reasonable question: "How do you two know each other?"

"Vacation!" I blurted out. "We met on vacation a few years ago."

He seemed satisfied, and Carrie excused us saying she had to speak with Val in the hallway.

Soon as the door was closed, I hissed, "What he hell!"

"Nope!" she stuck her finger up. "We'll get to that, but if you want something from me you just need to accept that this is happening and move on."

I closed my eyes tight, took a deep breath and held it in.

"Sorry, I'm a little frazzled and that was... shocking."

"Not as shocking as seeing you here I'll bet," she snickered.

"I just got on a plane and didn't even think... I'm so sorry. I can get a hotel."

"Uh-uh honey. I want you where I can see you."

"Carrie, I don't know what you think I'm gonna... okay, I know exactly what you think, but I've changed."

"Oh, I know you've changed," she said, eyeing me with a suggestive grin. I folded my arms under my chest as if to say, yeah, they're there and we all know it. "And Luke's changed too."

I didn't have anything to say to that, except to note, "Honey... that's a new one."

She shrugged. "It just came out... what can I say? You look like a honey now."

Before I could retort she asked if there was anything else I needed to say as Tyler, or if we could go back in the apartment. The hallway was freezing, so I told her I would explain everything in-character. If he asks any questions about backstory, leave them to me, I've gotten very skilled at that over the years.

"Now come along," she ushered me into the back room of the apartment. "There's somebody you'll want to meet." There lying in a crib was the baby she had given birth to over the summer.

"Tyler," she whispered, "Meet your nephew. Thomas."

I crooked an eyebrow. "You would name him after dad..."

"Think of it as being after Grandpa if it helps."

One of the great ironies of the screwed-up Blake family tree... My dad, Tom Blake Jr., had a similar relationship to his dad that I had to him. Grampy and I always got along well, but Carrie was too young when he died to have known him like I did.

She picked up the baby and passed him to me.

"Oh, I don't..."

"Ty, just... when are you going to be back here again?"

I took the little stinker.

"Hey buddy... I'm..." I said in a hushed voice, "I'm your uncle Ty." I got a little choked up as I said it.

There's a very real chance that I will never, ever be a man again, just based on luck of the draw, and, well, things I will explain later. More and more, since I was Judith, I'm learning to be "okay" using female pronouns and such, and just thinking of myself in those terms, on a potentially permanent basis. But I found myself really wanting to use the phrase "Uncle Ty" one time in my life, at least, just to pretend I'm my old self in that second... even as the kid instinctually nuzzles into my breast.

A gal's heart could melt.

I held him a while, trying not to think about how he would probably never know me, let alone know who I really am, as Luke peppered me with some of the expected questions - who are you again, what brings you here, how long will you be staying... stressful stuff that was not improving my opinion of him anyway. I could tell he wasn't that into having visitors, so I backpedaled with "Oh really, I don't want to impose, I can leave anytime..." but Carrie shut us both down on that front and insisted.

I guess I should explain the backstory between me and Luke. I disliked him from the second he came sniffing around Carrie, because he was a Junior and she was a Freshman. He was a football star and had a reputation around town as a player, so my warnings to her to be careful only made her want him more. I resisted voicing my disapproval because of one simple fact: He's black, and we're not that far removed from the time when that was reason enough for a white guy to want a guy to stay away from his sister. I probably just didn't like I'm because he was cocky and popular and all the things I hated in high school. I kept my mouth shut about it long as I could, never wanted anyone to think it was a race thing, because my dad had a rep for not exactly being progressive, so anything I could do to distance myself from his views, I wanted to. (Oddly enough he did like Luke... Because he was a popular football player.) But Luke always rubbed me the wrong way right from the start and even though I tried to give him a chance, I always heard rumors that he would pick up anything in a skirt.

She was deaf to my warnings, but hey, it's not like I was Mr. Credibility in those days.

Eventually, he got caught redhanded, got her forgiveness, then fucked up again, so she broke it off, but I could tell she never really closed the door there and she even let him string her along when he was with someone else. The guy was her kryptonite and I never liked that.

It took until the next day, when Carrie and I could get away for coffee that I explained what all had happened with the wedding and everything. She was sympathetic, but wondered if it was up to me to dissolve the marriage, if maybe Valerie preferred reconciliation. I pointed out that the "marriage" wasn't legit anyway, and that even if Valerie was sympathetic or still wanted him back, for the duration of my term as her, I would behave as I saw fit. I thought a few years on the merry-go-round ought to have bought me the right to determine that.

"So you may be sabotaging her chances, if she does want him back."

"He's got a kid on the way. You of all people should understand that situation. I know you say Luke's changed..."

She bit her lip. "Luke isn't Tom's father."

"Ah," I said. "That makes sense. That kid is so pale."

"We ran into each other at the Piggly Wiggly a while back and we... reconnected."

I raised an eyebrow. "And the father, the one you said was so stable and in the picture?"

"There isn't one. Tommy's father is a donor. I just didn't want you to worry because I knew you would."

I took a moment to digest this information. "Well, at least it's nice to be able to keep imagining my little sister has never been with a man."

She snickered, "Wish I could say the same about you!"

My face turned tomato red. "Just Kitty! Josh and I never even--"

"Okay, relax!" she said through eye-watering laughter. "Geez, your voice gets high when you're embarrassed."

I could hardly speak. She added, "But it's so amazing to, like... see 'you' in there sometimes. There's no way I would imagine the woman sitting in front of me is actually Tyler's Blake, and yet you did that thing you always did when you're thinking... you roll your eyes back into your head and pucker your lips and your jaw goes all... weird. Exactly the same as you always did. It's freaky."

I stayed long enough to have Thanksgiving dinner at my oldest brother's place... I hadn't meant to but Carrie insisted. It was so strange being an outsider there. I tried to minimize my presence, but being that the family unit doesn't get many outsiders, let alone northerners (my accent has faded to where Mobilians don't immediately recognize me as local.) So I politely fielded many personal questions and tried to make small talk with their wives, and not seem too interested in the whereabouts of the person in my body. It was actually a little weird and sad "Tyler" never came up but I probably prefer it that way.

I still hadn't warmed to Luke, but he was very domestic, helping to cook and prepare more than many boyfriends would. I did see him checking out my rack, but even if that bugs me, it wasn't any worse than the way average guys look at me. Hell, even my own brothers were sneaking peaks, which is a good reason to never, ever, ever come over again.

But if that was the worst of it, it seems pretty innocent to me. I decided Luke's eye really wasn't wandering.

On my last night there, I was up late reading, and Luke came in with the baby, who had woken up. He sighed modestly, "My turn."

I nodded in appreciation. "That's gotta suck."

He shrugged. "It's worth it. Look at this kid!"

"Yeah, he's cute. You're pretty happy, huh?"

"More than I've ever been," he said warmly. "I never even thought I wanted this. I was a bit of a player back in the day and I thought I always would be, but when I met this little guy it hit me... I needed that. I needed to grow up."

I smiled.

"Look at him," Luke beamed, "He's gonna be a stud. Quarterback material."

"You never know," I shrugged, "Maybe he'll be artistic. Quiet. Shy
 Maybe he'll prefer boys to girls. Maybe hell be a girl."

Luke looked up at me with this frozen, hundred-yard stare for a second and I saw the wheels turning.

"Whatever makes him happy. Long as I get to be part of it."


I still have my doubts but... well, Carrie's a grown-up. She can handle her own. I should focus on myself...

More as soon as I can get around to telling it!

Friday, January 05, 2018

Jordan/"Missy" Yuan-wei: Oops I Did It Again

Okay, "oops" is probably not the right word; to gender-swap one of the more memorable bits from Shane Black's script for The Last Boy Scout, it's not like I was naked in Ernesto's bedroom for no apparent reason only to trip and have my vagina land on his rock-hard dick.  No, it was a mutual decision, one coming from equal parts seeing each other constantly while we worked on each other's short films, deciding we needed to spend a couple hours drinking and arguing after our third time seeing The Last Jedi (he thinks it is perfect despite the casino stuff going on forever and do not mansplain Finn needing to know the real world in order to become a true rebel because I get it and it doesn't make the actual mission less stupid), and me just being sick of my vibrator with a song dash of knowing Chen-ai would never approve of him.  I fucked him because I wanted to and stayed the night because why go outside in this unless you absolutely have to, and there's only one thing that would have dissuaded me.

That, of course, being the knowledge that he had been sleeping with the star of my movie since day three of shooting.

Now, don't get me wrong - I've been enjoying the fuck out of working with Bree.  She's the only woman who really nailed the "not trying to be sexy but every move she makes is boner-inducing" aspect of the main character in the auditions, she's way more comfortable walking around a set in her underwear than I was, and she's genuinely funny.  I thought we were connecting even though, okay, she sometimes acted like she was doing us a favor consenting to work on someone else's movie because she was used to coming up with her own concept and choreography.  And, okay, I'm not paying a whole lot of money, so she can complain a little about it not being her most satisfying experience, I'll magnanimously allow that.  But, like, was being female supposed to give me some sort of sexual ESP so that I know the complete history of everyone that I go to bed with?  That seems unreasonable.

Almost as unreasonable as her fucking walking off the set.

Needless to say, I'm fucking pissed at Ernesto for putting me in this situation, even though there's still a huge part of my brain that also wants to say, yeah, bitches be crazy, and move on like nothing happened.  His comment that I shouldn't worry, because if she'd walked off a day earlier, we'd really be screwed, is annoying despite how accurate it is.

See, somewhere during the writing, I got the idea that the sexbot body our hero had his brain transplanted into wasn't the only one of that model his buddy had lying around, and another one was programmed to act as the nurse, another as the maid, and so on.  Kind of fun, right?  And aside from one scene which I think I can edit around, that's all that was really left - we kind of let Bree play the one character and then would do the others, even if it messed with our shooting schedule a bit, thinking this would get better performances.  So, okay, we just shoot with someone else, and grumble about how it didn't need to be digitally stitched together.

The only problem is, man, this is not a lot of time.  The insane cold of the last couple weeks made everyone late throughout the shoot (and the exterior shots miserable), I've only got the lab set rented until Monday, the costumes are made for Bree and my wardrobe gal is not really available for alterations, even if I found someone similarly curvy at the last minute (and I am burning up the phones and IMs to do so).  Oh, and I'm supposed to have company this weekend, an Inn person I haven't met and who are likely to be all "why are you busting so much ass on something you inherited from Missy?"

Something will come together, I'm sure of it, but, fuck, this has gone from something I feel really confident about to a potential disaster.

-Jordo/"Missy" Yuan-wei

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Lindsey/Magda: Christmas with Me

I haven't spent a lot of time here talking about the people living my life and Harmon's, in part because I have a fair amount in front of me between me and him to deal with, and while Harmon spent a lot of time getting Coop ready for a conference in the past month, Debbie has been no trouble at all.  I kind of left her a life at a loose end, recently graduated from college but still trying to get into law school, so she's been able to put the LSATs on hold.  She's taken a job as an office assistant so that I don't have a glaring hole in my work history when I get back, and she and Coop have been paying down my student loans like crazy, making way more of a dent in the principle than I would have.  Harmon and I initially felt kind of strange about it, since he'd never offered, but the way Debbie figured it, she and Coop were married, married couples shared the bills, and that my bills were now her bills doesn't change that.

You could do a lot worse than Debbie Cooper living your life, folks.

Perhaps because she and her husband are great people, though, the holidays were figuring to be tough on them; it would be the first one without the chance to spend any time with their kids, even though they're all adults now.  Neither me nor Harmon has any sort of particular Christmas tradition that they had any need to maintain, but they weren't totally sold on the holidays being just the two of them.  I said that I'd invite them if there were any room at the apartment, they said they appreciated the gesture, and that was it for a bit, because it's really awkward to invite someone to come but make them pay to stay at a hotel.  Eventually, though, Harmon pointed out that they'd be spending his money, not their own, so just get a hotel room, though it's not like we'd be around for Christmas.

I relayed that, and Debbie said it was okay if we missed the day so long as we got to have a family dinner and exchange gifts.  So they booked a trip, and I traded a shift so that I was working the terminal when their plane arrived on Christmas Eve, and spent the whole weekend feeling nervous about it because that meant that there would be no chance to duck seeing them if any of us realized this was a terrible idea.  I was downright nervous as the board updated their flight information, and then it landed, taxied, and pulled in.  Half-fortunately, I had to give a few people directions to baggage claim, so I couldn't just watch the people coming off and fret about it.  I wound up just looking up, seeing Coop and Debbie, and raising a hand so they knew who I was.  They stepped up the pace and soon found me.  Debbie started to hug me, like with her arms already on either side, before pulling back and asking if it was too weird.

It was kind of strange, but maybe not as weird as it would have been a few months ago, although Skype and Facebook hadn't prepared me to be looking slightly upward toward my own eyes, even though I had an inch of heel and Debbie was wearing Keds.  That almost made it easier, though, and I pulled her in.  I did only extend a hand to Coop, though; as much as something inside me would have liked the guy with Harmon's shape holding me, it would have felt like taking something that wasn't his to give.

Instead, I stood back and looked at Debbie, half-amazed at the reminder that I'm really that young, with some of her choices really driving it home.  "So, has anyone figured out that you're impostors yet because he doesn't freak out about you wearing workout pants in public?"

She laughed.  "Oh, he does that, but if I'm only going to have your legs for a year, I'm getting the most out of 'em, and these leggings don't work unless your legs are actually sticks...  Not that your legs - either set! --"

Coop laughed at that, and I joined in.  "It's okay, Debbie - I've got more curves now than I had six months ago, and I'm okay with both situations, so long as you're not looking to take up permanent residence."

"Tempting as it may be, we're a package deal, and I don't think I could talk Coop into it, no matter how dapper he looks in a bow tie now."

We laughed again, and I told her I had about an hour left on my shift if they wanted to wait, or they could check into their hotel and maybe Harmon and I could meet them for dinner.  They were happy to wait, although when I called Harmon, he said he had a lot to do before his red-eye.  I put in a good word for the Coopers at the airline's VIP lounge, got a flight boarded, and then helped them get to the hotel on public transportation.  I took them to a Thai place that wasn't closing early despite it being Christmas Eve, then left them to their jet lag.

Harmon was just leaving as I got home, and gave me a quick hug as we passed.  I was pleasantly surprised at the number of things he'd left under the tree; maybe a few months as a woman has him enjoying shopping a little more.

The Coopers arrived early in the morning, and I spent the morning learning to make a few of Debbie's family recipes while Coop found some stuff to fix around the house until basketball started at 9am (East Coasters, especially guys, grumble about time zone stuff until they discover that you literally get sports and other stuff all day).  It was a ton of fun, even if the press weren't quite done by the time I had to leave for work.  Debbie promised they'd only sick around long enough to jet them out of the oven, and if you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?

I had the 26th off  (yay inherited seniority!), so they were able to come back over and help me cook a ham.  Coop got involved in the cooking, too, peeling and mashing potatoes, making a supply run or two.  He was seeing the table when Harmon came in and saw his rightful face.


"Professor Keller."

Nothing else was said, and Harmon retreated to his room to put away his work stuff and the grab some other clothes before heading to the bathroom and locking the door.  Debbie looked way more upset at that exchange than the the words would seem to for.  "We shouldn't have come.  I knew he'd still be upset."

Coop looked pained and offered to go back to the hotel.

I surprised myself a bit by stepping in.  "You'll do no such thing.  You did the best you could at that presentation, and he had no business asking you to go through with it.  He had two co-authors on that paper and could have just let them take the lead, but he can be so damn stubborn..."

Debbie put her hand on her husband's shoulder.  "She's right, you know.  Just as you have to accept that Shania can't do all your work, he should have made allowances.  You did the best you can, and I'm sure that he's come to realize that over the last couple weeks!"  I didn't contradict her, because I figured that Harmon not wanting to look bad by throwing a tantrum would have pretty much the same result.

I quickly ducked into my room to change out of my sweats, and Harmon had finished his shower by the time I came out.  He was wearing slacks and a not-really-ugly sweater, and raised his eyes at me in the Santa dress and hat.  "Looking to seduce Cooper?"

"No, I just want to try everything in Magda's closet and figured I wouldn't have another chance to wear this.  I'll go change."

"You'll do no such thing, because if you have to, then I have to."  Debbie was in the candy-cane tights again, with a pleated green skirt and a sparkly red top (she'd taken off her snowman sweater), while Coop looked very un-Harmon-like in jeans and at-shirt that looked like Santa's coat.  "Let's embrace the weird Christmas!"

We sat down at the table, ate, and talked about all the funny things that had happened this year.  I laughed a lot at Debbie's stories of my friends, while Coop nodded sagely at everything I could come up with about how airports and airlines have so many crazy layers of bureaucracy and security.  He talked about how academia was proving similar.  Eventually even Harmon joined in, talking about the "crash pad" apartments, guys who get hammered in first class, and the like.  It was kind of funny, in that we didn't really talk about being changed by the Inn, but just told these stories with a little bit of extra amazement at how bizarre the world could be.

No avoiding Inn stuff when we sat around the tree and exchanged presents.  I got Debbie and Coop a couple articles of clothing where she noted their size and said "I see what you're up to here", but mostly we tried to go for things that were either kind of silly or could work for us in both borrowed and real lives.

My big present for Harmon was a Kindle Fire preloaded with a few things that would make for bulky hardcovers.  I told him I knew he thought reading on a tablet wasn't the same, but this fit in his travel bag a lot better, and it would be easy to switch to Candy Crush in case he was afraid of having to explain why "Alicia" was reading graduate-level economics texts in a crowded apartment.

He surprised me with a pair of gift cards for custom bra fittings, saying that a passenger on a flight from San Francisco to New York had noticed him adjusting his straps during a flight and figured a flight attendant could give really good word-of-mouth for her start-up.  He said he was wearing one of his and was really amazed what a difference underwear that really fit could make in a woman's day, so he got me one for now and one for next summer.  Debbie went aaawwww and said now she wished Coop had been able to spend some time as a woman.

Coop's other present arrived that afternoon; he apparently makes eggnog with, like, a lot of rum in it every year, and got a few bottles speed to us, warning Harmon that he'd made it for some other folks in the faculty, so he may be fielding requests for more next year.

The party broke up at around seven, with Coop saying he hoped his body didn't run down this early ten or fifteen years from now.  It was the last time the four of us got to hang out together; with all the holiday travel, both Harmon and I were working a lot, and our shifts didn't really line up.  I think Harmon meet up with the Coopers once while I was working, and I get it - not only has Coop not fit into his life quite so easily as Debbie has fit into mine, but he both hadn't been in the area as much to show them around and tends to stay home rather than venture out as Alicia anyway.

I had a good time with them, though.  It's weird to say given all of our apparent ages and faces, but I felt kind of jealous of the folks who get to have the Coopers as their real full-time parents.  They're experienced, wise, and kind, and watching Debbie look like she really is my age made me feel like she must never have been out of touch.  She laughed at that - "you're not exactly the first generation to enjoy wearing short skirts, kid - you should have seen my older sisters in the 1970s!" - but I think she appreciated me saying so, even if I do look old enough to be her mother.

I made sure I worked the terminal when they flew out Sunday evening as well, and smiled as I watched them get on the plane holding hands and nobody seemed to be snickering about the age difference.  Sometimes, I guess, no matter what the Inn might do, you can just spot the good people who belong together.