Tuesday, July 31, 2018
As pleasurable and cathartic as it had been to act on the feelings that had been bubbling inside me since I first laid eyes on the guy, it was extremely tainted knowing that I was going to be leaving Val's life soon, and that bogging her down with more drama was specifically what I didn't want to do.
The feeling seemed mutual, as he was unable to even look me in the eye the next morning. It was then that I realized that as much as it felt like things were over between him and Alexa, they actually weren't yet. He finally admitted later that day, "We were texting today... she wants me to go out to California, and I'm going to."
"Yeah," I said sheepishly, "You should."
It was a tough situation. I couldn't not be hurt, but I had no claim over this guy, no right to mess around with him. This was the closest thing to making good on it that I could offer - to pretend it had never happened.
He went. We've hardly texted.
After that, I set about trying to execute Cynthia's plan.
Originally, she had eyed the end of summer for her trip to the Inn, meaning I would visit in the "last" spot, the one where the body I leave behind is basically nowhere for the better part of a year. I can hardly reckon with the implications of that, nor with the logistics of having to visit that Inn and get my body messed with twice in a year, at least once with unknown results. Scary, but, that's kind of how I do things... leap before I look.
But we had a chunk of reservations at the Inn at our disposal. Not impossible to move things around. I got in touch with Val to see if she would be okay with us shuffling things around.
"You're really going for it, huh?" she asked over coffee. "Taking the deal?"
"What choice do I have?" I shrugged, "I'm a person without a body, and this is the only offer on the table. And it's a pretty good offer."
"I'll say," she said, some kind of envy in her voice. "You just don't seem happy about it."
"Well yeah," I said, "This isn't who I envisioned ending up being, but no matter what I hoped for it's not likely to be as good as this. I just... don't like being backed into it. Feeling like I have no other options."
"No," she said coldly, "I guess not."
I took a breath. "Val, I'm extremely sorry for everything that's happened to your life this year. With Josh, and... well, I just want you to know I did the best I could under the circumstances."
She muttered something to the effect of not holding me responsible for her ex's actions - at one point it felt like she did.
By now, Cynthia will be waiting to turn into her erstwhile husband. He got the body that would have been mine, whatever that may have been. Then it's my turn, and the rest of my life begins as a beautiful blonde mother of three in the suburbs.
Friday, July 27, 2018
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
This post is coming to you from Ryan's bed, where I have chosen to spend the night rather than gathering up my bra and panties and going back to my room. He's sound asleep and I am stealthily writing this on my phone, so excuse any typos please...
Okay, hear me out. Ryan never made it a secret he was pining for me, or Val that is. But with Alexa in the picture I knew I had a buffer. He wasn't the type of guy to stray and I wasn't that type of girl. They were really quite cute together so as much as I was attracted to him I had no desire to break that up. Besides, we're near the end of my term as Val. There was no point in playing with fire, and I had Rafe to play with.
Then I (maybe foolishly?) ended things with Rafe early to spare Val some drama. But with my future somewhat in doubt as I considered Cynthia's offer, I got very very... Lonely.
Coincidentally, Ryan and Alexa were fighting. Not about me, I don't think, just about the relationship in general, the same kinds of stuff I always fought with my partners about, which seems silly and petty from the outside but heavy and important when it's you. They were fighting so much so that she told him not to go with her on their planned trip to California.
So, it's him and me tonight. We were alone. We were drinking. He was talking like they were already broken up. He needed to get his mind off her, so we started talking about "old times." And since they're not my old times, I have to play coy and draw it out of him and not really contribute much. He had the old yearbook out, and I got to see his dorky, skinny, high school self. I wonder if Val still sees him that way, and that's why she doesn't want to be with him.
I blame it on my own problems. Rafe. Career uncertainty. Being on my feet all day.
So, he says, let me give you a footrub. I blush. You had better be very sure you're single before you offer to give someone else a footrub. My feet are aching and Ryan is a hot, charming guy. I just know that if that man touches my foot, we are going to have sex. It's just that simple. If I let him break that barrier, there's no turning back.
I stall a minute - as long as I can, really, but probably only five seconds before my foot is propped on the stool. And it felt good. It was so good to be touched, and it hasn't even been this long, and God knows I've gone longer. After a while I offer him a backrub in return. Well it doesn't take long before that becomes a makeout session, and we both know it's quickly becoming foreplay.
I think, no matter who I become next, whether it's Cynthia, or a man, or someone else, nothing will quite equal the experience of having sex as Val. It's not that it's so good that it would make me want to stay as her, but there's a thrill in seeing how badly your partner really wants you, that I've never had as anyone else. It's blatantly obvious how Ryan had spent his whole life dreaming of a chance to play with Val's body, and he knew just what he wanted to do with it. (Admittedly, on my end, I have to say Rafe was better, but Ryan was definitely more into it.)
And now I lie here... wondering what my next move is. I feel guilty for doing exactly what I said I wouldn't do to Val, leaving her with drama... but it could be good for her to pursue this, if it's anything. I don't know. My head's still spinning, my legs still shaking...
And he's still fast asleep.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
This is almost certainly a bad idea, but it's too late to turn back now, and if I didn't do it, I'd be second-guessing myself for the rest of my life, but, Jesus, it seems like a crazy leap.
It makes a little more sense if you know a bit about what I left out of the last update. We were "just being friends", but we kind of played at being more. Not by getting all syrupy in public or anything, but whenever something would strike as kind of ironic or funny considering our situation, we'd break out some exaggerated way of talking, with me playing the boyfriend half the time. It was a joke, but it was also a way to accept that we were in a weird situation.
So, Tuesday, it's hot as hell in New York, enough that J.T. had actually mentioned that he missed booty shorts and a halter top being a viable outfit for him, and I decided, what the heck, only a few days of this left, and if anyone got a picture, it wouldn't stick to me. That's kind of the funny thing about being turned into your girlfriend - it's actually not hard to make yourself all sexy in the mirror, even if you do wind up thinking that it's kind of a weird power trip at times, but stepping out the door is maybe twice as hard, because you've got both "do I want guys looking at me like that?" and "do I want guys looking at my woman like that?" going around your head. But, it was hot, and I didn't want J.T. or Pete to think I'd chickened out.
Pete wasn't pay off the group Tuesday night, so I didn't have him to measure my drinks against (I've gotten into the habit of staying even or one drink behind him, since he's smaller and thinner than Elaine as Brigette), and it, uh, enhanced the "singer's girlfriend" thing I was doing, so I wound up shooting "that was awesome baby!" (or, later, "woooooooooo!") rather than kind of saying it to myself. J.T. wound up playing along, pointing at me the first time and comically rolling his eyes by the end.
Eventually, the gig ended, and I helped him move his gear to the car. He hoped that the only thing missing from that was him inviting me up on stage. I laugh, saying there were photographers and phones and Elaine didn't need to deal with any of that shit. He nods, but says it's too bad, because he knows I've got the pipes for it.
It's hard to be modest, because I'd certainly complimented him when he had those pipes, and meant it. But... "Karaoke with friends is different than a stage in front of strangers. Besides, those were y'all's songs, not mine."
"But you're a big part of them."
I didn't know what to say. We'd arrived at his place, and I grabbed the guitar and mic stand while he picked up the amp. We rode the escalator in silence, up to the tenth floor. He unlocked it and I walked in, giving it a good look. "So this is where you live in your real life."
It was nice, bigger than Brigette's, though not huge. There were a couple awards on a mantel, a full-size keyboard, and a separate dining area, all fairly tidy. I wondered how much dust had gathered while he was Elaine.
"Yep, this is me, although it's just starting to feel like home again. And kind of plain." He reached into the fridge and handed me a beer.
"It's nice. Not much of my Elaine in it, though. Or would that be your Elaine?"
"Yeah, I didn't keep any souvenirs. Maybe I should have. But until you showed up, I just..." He trailed off, and then pointed at a blank space on the wall. "Heck, I used to have a Josephine-Baker-in-Paris print over there, but I was having a hard time looking at it. Made me remember and wonder what if."
I used the corner of my top to twist the off my bottle and took a swig before walking out onto the balcony. "I should certainly hope you wondered what if. I thought we had something special."
He walked up behind me. "We did. I told you things that I never told anybody else, and they were true, even if the facts weren't."
I laughed. "So, basically, your parents pushed you into acting rather than math?"
"Pretty much. Figured I'd have become a huge adult star by now, just like Wil Wheaton, Macauley Culkin, and Haley Joel Osment."
I snort-laughed. "Obviously, you should have turned into a girl much earlier. There's Jodie Foster, Dakota Fanning, Christina Ricci..."
"Don't think they wouldn't have considered it. Kind of glad to be a man right now, though."
He put his hands on my shoulders, then kissed the base of my neck, and I felt my temperature go up. "What're you doing?"
"Kissing my girlfriend. Or maybe kissing my ex-boyfriend. Do you like it?"
"Mm-hmm. Of course I like it. You're cheating, already knowing where it feels good."
"I suppose so." His hands slid down my sides until they reached my midriff, then moved up underneath my top to cradle my breasts, gently stroking them with his thumb while each nipple rested between two fingers. I gasped and made a half-step back, enough that I could feel him hardening when the small of my back made contact with his pelvis. His teeth found the knot keeping my top on and disengaged it just slowly enough to build some anticipation, giving my brain just enough time to start working the buckle on my shorts.
We turned around and went back into the apartment as a unit; he instinctively knew I wasn't quite ready to be looking in a man's face while doing this yet. Once I had pulled my shorts and panties down and planted my hands on an end table or something, he let go of one breast to work his own belt and zipper, then guided himself in from behind. I moaned as he found my spot again and again, gently thrusting the tip of his unit over it, sending waves of pleasure through my body. I felt something let go inside me as I came, and then he seemed to swell a bit more.
"Hang on," he said, pulling out of me and opening his wallet to find a rubber. I didn't realize that's what he was doing, though, so I turned around, and I see his face go from being a little stained at holding back to being concerned that he'd upset me. Something lightens in my chest and I say "put it on". He does, and I guide him to the corner of the sofa. I sit him down and then lower myself onto him, kissing him and then trying to find the rright rhythm as I moved up and down, thinking how is liked it when the roles were reversed, right down to his face in my rack.
It doesn't take him long to come, and he slumps back, spent. I roll off of him and adopt a similar posture next to him, looking up at the ceiling. "Well, fuck."
He looked concerned again. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No, and that's the problem. Right up until you, you know, got in there, I figured it would feel wrong, but it didn't and you were so nice, and now I know we've got something good. But it's not like I can just steal Elaine's life!" He shook his head in agreement and we had kind of a sad cuddle.
I must have fallen asleep there, because when I woke up I was in his bed and he was making waffles. I figured we'd burned enough calories that Elaine wouldn't mind. Despite all we'd done last night, it felt a little strange to kiss him before leaving to go back to Pete's place and get changed.
Pete was there and waiting for gossip. I told him it had happened and was not what I expected, and he removed me that women always share details. Fortunately, it was interrupted by a call from my own phone, telling me that he knew I must have gotten nervous by now, but there were more than enough people arriving at the Inn to change back tonight.
"That's good, that there are more than enough." I took a deep breath. "So, ______, you've been enjoying my life, right?"
"Yeah, man, and so's my girlfriend, if you know what I mean! Heck, I'm actually kind of jealous of the job I landed for you."
"Good. How would you like to do the full year?"
Pete's eyes billed as my voice on the other end of the phone stammered. "What, dude, I was kidding! Just because I said it would be weird to go home to a family of strangers... and you'd be stuck as a chick--"
"I know, it's just it turns out I've got something to see through."
"If you say so." He tried to sound reluctant, but there was some relief in his voice. He hadn't really been thrilled with the luggage he'd found in his room, even if he had been willing to help someone else get back to normal.
"All right, man. I don't get it, but all right."
We said goodbye and hung up, and Pete exploded. "Are you crazy? This is--" He didn't have words.
I shrugged. "He may be The One."
He shook his head. "That is one severe case of estrogen poisoning you've got there. I can't even." He was even more dumbfounded when I told him the whole plan.
Contrary to what you might expect, J.T. and I went our separate ways after the fireworks; that night was special and not to be repeated as such. I slept at Pete's, and then got on a train to Old Orchard.
Pete was right about my head kind of overflowing with female hormones, and although I had certainly been asking for the ride, I also knew that there were a lot of people out there whose experience with the Inn does not exactly suggest that everything happens for a reason (or at least, not an obviously positive one). But I certainly can't deny that it certainly feels like things have come together for me and J.T. in an unlikely-enough way that is hard not to talk about destiny.
So we're putting it in fate's hands. I go to the Inn and get turned into another man, or a lesbian, or a kid, and it's not meant to be. But if I stay Elaine, or become another woman, and there's still a spark... Well, it's tough to argue with that.
So far, no change, and no luggage in my room, obviously. But I've got a good feeling about this. It didn't all happen for nothing.
Monday, July 09, 2018
Still, a lifetime of being jerked around means that I'm fishy about all this. One thing Cynthia did when we met was show me text messages with her husband that corroborated the idea that he was accepting a buyout, so to speak, and was going away "quietly." That still puts this firmly in "too good to be true" territory.
I could hardly pick a better life than Cynthia Hutchins' out of a catalog, so long as maleness wasn't on my wishlist. She's close in age to what I'm supposed to be. She's extremely pretty and lives a life of luxury - luxury she informs me will be diminished following her transaction with her current husband, but still a woman of means. There's time and money to build that life into something that I could be happy living. Sort of.
Part of this deal is that Cynthia wants someone who will be good for the kids. Yes, that's a role I've been in before as Judith... I wouldn't say I was the world's greatest mom, but I had the unique challenge of raising a body-swapped and de-aged tween boy who was very willful, but seemed to respect me at least. I don't know anything about Cynthia's stepkids, what they think about their mom or anything... but I do know they think she's who she's always been.
And I know they've already lost their real mom, and unknowingly been abandoned by their real dad. It makes me want to help but I'm not sure it makes me want to raise them. And as much as Cynthia is selling me that I'd be able to do as I please, how can she expect or hope for anything besides me adopting the role of 'mommy'? And then where am I?
I've been lucky in my trips to the Inn, and up until a few weeks ago I felt prepared for even the worst case scenario, since I've seen people get through scenarios way more hellish than anything I've been up against. But it's still stressful. A few weeks ago I would have told you that I would have settled for anything that felt permanent, but now that I'm presented with a choice -- not being forced (not literally anyway) but asked to choose -- I couldn't help but wonder if it would be right for me. If I was slotted into Cynthia Hutchins' life based on the random draw, and told I could keep it if I wanted, once I was in her skin, I doubt you could stop me. But there's such a temptation to take the mystery door.
Temptation that decreased after one conversation.
As I often do when I don't know what to do, I reached out to the only person who's ever really understood me: Meghan Reis.
I asked her to come down to Brooklyn for the weekend and she said she couldn't, but after reading my post she had to call me. We talked all night, too long for me to write-up here, about everything... all my options, all the things that brought me here, how sometimes when I make choices for myself they tend not to work out and how maybe the idea of someone making the decision for me, pointing me at this woman's body and saying "You must be her now" may be my only option.
"You're right," I said, "I've screwed up way too many peoples' lives to take the chance again."
"You never screwed up anyone's life," she said.
"Tell that to Valerie," I sighed.
"Absolutely nothing that has happened to that girl in the past year is your fault."
I started to say, "I dunno Meg... I just keep thinking, maybe this is the one... or maybe if I can just have one more year as a guy..."
"Justin proposed," she cut me off.
"I'm sorry, I... I don't mean to be all egotistical thinking that has anything to do with your decision, because we're both pretty clear that what we had was in the past, but... Justin proposed to me, and I said yes. We're getting married next year. And I just had to tell you at some point and that point wasn't coming any sooner."
"Wow, I..." I was speechless. "Congratulations...!" I said as sincerely as I could.
"I want you at the wedding... in whatever form you have by then. I don't know if it would be appropriate to have you as a bridesmaid... but the thought did cross my mind."
I was speechless.
"But I'm going to have to know where you'll be in a year for that to work," she noted.
I switched the topic over to her and let her fill me in on all the details, paying as much attention as I could as I dug deep into my mind, thinking... how much of my fantasy return to manhood was just me holding out hope for a Meg-Tyler reunion? That I would steal her back from him, even though she's been his longer than she was ever mine? Suddenly I felt very scummy about the whole thing.
That's the crazy thing. I've seen how I can be happy as a woman, but I don't think I could be happy as a man without her. But as a female, those feelings are in check, and my heart and my mind are a little more open. What's more, I seem to like myself more this way.
What a crazy thing to realize...
Clock's ticking on this decision.
Friday, July 06, 2018
Of course with every positive there's an equal or greater negative... flat, humidity-wrecked hair, sunburned cleavage, and of course, underboob sweat. And guys, I've got a lot of underboob to sweat through.
Ripping the Band-Aid Off
I've had a fair amount on my mind since the last time I posted. I was trying really hard to find the "right" time and way to break it off with Rafe. I figured I would be more likely to do it the first time he and I had a blowup about something but somehow he's managed to be a perfect gentleman since I got back from Westchester. Freezing him out for a few days must have really gotten to him. Damn, that meant I had to find a way to level with him, and find some convincing grounds to end it even though, if you asked us both, we'd probably agree we're still having fun.
It's not the best relationship I've ever had (if you can call it that) but it's not the worst, and at it's best it's weirdly very non-dysfunctional, which feels strange.
The other night we were lying in bed and he asked me how I was feeling. He's never done that before. I literally had to sit up, wide-eyed and startled and ask "Who are you?" And that's a loaded question coming from me of course - it occurred to me for a moment that he might not actually be himself. But he looked at me like I was crazy for even asking, and he just shook it off, like "I'm just trying to be nicer, man."
I told him I was just lost in thought about the future. He asked if I meant "our" future. I said just the future in general, you know I don't really want to pour coffee for the rest of my life. Then I asked, "Is there an 'our' future?"
He shrugged, "Why not? We're having fun, aren't we?"
I winced. "I do want more, eventually."
I thought he might react pretty badly, but he just sighed, "You gettin' tired of me, chickpea?"
"No, I just... think a break might be good."
Shit, I thought to myself as soon as I said it, I can't waffle on this and leave the door open.
I could see him getting upset, but in an understated way: "If you call it off, I'm not gonna wait around for you to change your mind."
"I wouldn't expect it."
He sat and thought for a minute and said something kind of unexpected: "You know if you give me some time... just a little while... maybe... I could... I mean, we could..." he stammered, and I stopped him before he could putter to the end of his sentence.
"I can't explain it, but... we don't have that kind of time."
"What the fuck does that mean?"
"It means I've got to go."
"Fine, go then."
And I had to admit, I was a bit hurt that he didn't fight more, but he did make a bit of a play for... something. And I don't doubt his sincerity, but, well... I had to do what I had to do. I threw my clothes on, trying not to linger too long, stuffed my underwear in my bag, and called for a cab home.
A Good Bad Dream
I tossed and turned all night because I had an important meeting in the morning. And when I finally did get to sleep, I had this really vivid dream that I was back at the Trading Post, and I got transformed into Ryan - I was tall and muscular and I had a dick and everything, and I went to bed with his girlfriend Alexa and... I woke up feeling very guilty about all that, very shaken. I also woke up to find I had started my period, as if to rub it in.
So imagine how I felt when I went out to the Kitchen to pour myself a bowl of Cheerios and she was there already eating.
Things are a little icy between us but I think she could sense I had had a rough night so she asked about it, and I said I had ended things with Rafe. She draped her arm around me and said "Girl, I know it hurts, but I know you can do better!" I barely know this girl, and I was semi-attracted to her boyfriend, and he was/is definitely attracted to me, and she was giving me sisterly love. I felt rotten.
Ryan appeared a little after that, and we all talked, although I was not in a very social mood. Ryan made a big show of cozying up to Alexa, as well he should, and it all served to make me feel like the loneliest guy in the world.
It was around 11 I ended up meeting with "Cynthia Hutchins." I hadn't actually wanted to pursue this but Pete convinced me, saying she had gone to the trouble of seeking me out - I said that didn't necessarily bode well, and she agreed sure, but if she meant ill she could have probably approached it some other way. Then we went back and forth over what someone who meant ill for me would actually do and eventually Pete wore me down (as she has a way of doing) so I agreed to meet. I was definitely more curious than I wanted to be.
After I had been to her place, I realized I had seen her in the coffee shop several times. She always looked very put-together - a well-dressed, beautiful and fashionable 30-something with a slim body, pretty blue eyes and silky golden blonde hair. I noticed her, envied her, resented her - as I do a lot of my female customers. Male ones, too. But she was always nice, and now I realize it's because she knew who I was... despite not mentioning the name of the coffee shop, I had at least given enough of a description of Valerie's body that she must have known the moment she found me.
Her husband is probably average height for a man, so that they're about even when she's in her heels, with a young-looking face for his mid-40's but gray hair. Their kids are 13, 12, and 7 -- Cynthia is the stepmother.
I told her there's another coffee shop around the corner where I prefer to talk about these things, away from my friends, customers and co-workers, and she agreed to meet me there. She was looking very prim and proper, and knowing I was going to meet with her made me want to dress up like I was going for a job interview - pleated black skirt, white blouse with scalloped shoulders, hair tied back.
"You look very nice," she said, seemingly sincere. I said she did too, complimenting her earrings in particular, a pair of dangly gold baubles. She stood up to bid me to sit down and I was immediately put off by how she towered over me in her three-inch heels.
"I guess you're wondering... about everything."
I sighed, "I find in these situations it's best to let someone just say whatever they feel they have to, and then if I have any questions, I'll hold them."
"Very well," she said, offering a narrow smile. "I'll be brief."
"No need, I've got all afternoon."
Her smile broadened.
"Five years ago, I did something very uncharacteristic and spontaneous. I took a vacation with a man I hardly knew, to Maine. I was having one of those moments where I wanted to... sorry, you're going to laugh when I say this but it's true... I wanted to quit being myself for a while. Not literally of course, I never would have asked to... well, yes. I just wanted to get away for a while and throw caution to the wind. I met a man online and he suggested we go to Maine. He told me unfortunately, the only place he could get a reservation was thing dingy old Inn, but we'd make the most of it. I had just quit my job, there was no limit how long we could stay.
"After nearly a week of running around like we were teenagers, we woke up in the bodies of the Hutchinses. The original James Hutchins was a widower and was dating a much younger woman, and he ended up choosing to stay with her rather than returning to his children. A disgusting choice, but I benefitted from it so... I can't say I looked unkindly on him for making it."
She cleared her throat. "I'm sure you can relate to trying to make an ad-hoc family work with a person you only barely know." I nodded.
"It was a very appealing life, very much unlike the one I had left. I had chosen career over family... or, it had worked out that way, since I never had a chance at family before. Now I had my youth again, I had beauty, I had money, I had three children who resented me at first, but soon understood that I cared a lot more about them than their ersatz father, even if they didn't quite understand why. For James' part, he... did his best. It was years before the family started to collapse. Or rather, he started to. The pressures of work got to him, and... well, there was an added element because he could only succeed at work with my help, and I started to feel taken-advantage-of, since he worked a job he had no business doing, but that I could, quite easily I think."
"And what's that?"
"James is the Vice President of Research and Development for a Pharmaceutical Company. I was a biochemical engineer, back in Tuscaloosa. It was extremely convenient for him."
"He wants out. He's tired of faking it. And I'm tired of him neglecting the children we inherited, and of the loveless sham of a marriage we were rushed into. But he's not tired of the money. So we've struck a deal. I will become him, and transfer a certain portion of James' salary to the person he becomes as a way of getting him out of my life."
"Uh huh..." I said, skeptical about all this,
"And my hope was... is... that I could find a person who knows the truth about the Inn, who needs a place to live the rest of her, or his, life. Someone with a proven track record of taking care of others. Tyler... this is a match made in heaven, don't you think?"
My face got hot. I didn't know what to say. "You want me... to just... become you -- Her? Cynthia?"
"I believe that would be best, yes."
I couldn't speak.
She went on. "Before you answer, let me assure you, I don't demand much. My hope is that for at least the immediate present, you would put up the charade of being a loving, caring mother to these kids. Our relationship would be strictly business. You would be free to pursue whatever you wanted. And I mean that in the fullest sense... if you wanted to lounge around and collect an allowance from me, I would let you. If you wanted a divorce, I could easily arrange that, and give you favorable terms. If you wanted to leave and go back to the Inn after a year, I would permit it, even though you would be giving up a lot...
"You would have freedom... Opportunity... Resources to do anything you wanted. Say, for instance... start your own business with my money."
It was scary how good this pitch was. There had to be a catch. Well, of course I already knew what it was: I would have to be Cynthia Hutchins. And if I were, I would probably be her forever.
It's no secret I would really rather live out my life in the sex I was born with, even as much as I've adjusted to the female role. I can't help thinking it's still only temporary. But the amount of things that would have to fall into place to get the body and life I actually want, and to be able to keep it... to accept this offer would be to admit defeat, and give up my slim hope of ever finding that perfect life.
Really, though, to stop fooling myself.
"I'm... flattered," I said. "I'm supposed to go back to the Inn in a few weeks, to give Valerie her life back. When are you..."
"End of August," she said, "You would return to the Inn at the beginning of September."
"What if I... become someone who can't come back? What if I become a kid or a... well, anything could happen. It could be out of my control."
"As long as you're willing, we'll find a way. This is my offer to you, no strings attached. I can virtually guarantee that a person in your situation can't hope for anything better."
I suddenly felt cold in the air-conditioned coffee shop, and grasped my upper arms.
"I don't know, Cynthia. There's a lot to think about. Just answer me one thing."
"Are you really from Tuscaloosa?"
She smiled. "Roll tide."
I've got some thinking to do.
-Tyler/Valerie/Possible Future Cynthia
Thursday, July 05, 2018
It's a good thing that the Inn have us this extra day on our stay so that we could watch the fireworks and not be checking out on the Fourth of July, because it looks like I might not have changed back otherwise and who knows how many other people's plans would have also gone awry, but it also led me to hold out hope for one more day that Harmon would do the right thing. But he hasn't, and now I just feel like the last few years of my life were a waste of time and I'm a damn fool.
Still, I'm me again, without a lot of fuss in managing it. One of the nice things about Magda having worked for the same airline for over twenty years is that even though she doesn't actually get paid time off because she's hourly rather than salaried, she can still request a fair-sized chunk of vacation - say, enough to go to the Inn, fall off the map, and then return with a new person behind her face - and her employer will grumble but the job will still be waiting for her when she gets back. That new Magda probably won't have much flexibility to take any sort of non-Inn vacation for another year, but that's how it works. I even got to fly out here for almost nothing.
Harmon doesn't really have that luxury as Alicia; he was able to negotiate a schedule that had him working flights to and from Boston with some days off on that end, but there were a few days early in our stay when he would be SOL if he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In retrospect, I'm kind of surprised he didn't just quit and let the new Alicia fend for herself, but I figured he was trying to do the same thing as I was, leaving things in good shape for the next people living these lives.
(Which won't be Magda and Alicia Polawski; they like Austin, the cupcake business, being sisters, and the guys that the people who originated their new lives became. I'm not sure how far back along the line people are happy with how things worked out, but they're not coming back.)
It made the first few days in Maine pretty relaxing; Old Orchard is a cute little town, and I hope every Inn visitor eventually gets to know Cary - the guy is just there and quietly helpful when he can be. I kind of enjoyed his flirting with me - he's picked up on more of what it feels good for a woman to hear than he claims, although the idea that he's scared that the next person to become Mckenzie might need a strong female role model isn't necessarily the best sales pitch. Elaine is cool too, and really looking forward to being grown up again.
It felt good and according-to-plan enough that I didn't really fret when Harmon didn't show up on the first day he was supposed to. I texted, he mentioned a flu bug taking down a whole flight crew, meaning he was assigned to another for that day, and that made sense. When he didn't show up three days later, halfway through our booking, I called and asked what was going on.
He didn't even have the decency to sigh or hesitate. "I am not returning to the Inn this year."
"WHAT?" I poked my head out of the doorway to see if anybody else at the Inn heard me yelling. "That's ridiculous - you HATE being Alicia, and I do your laundry - I know you're not pregnant!"
"It is not ideal, no, and I hope to upgrade to a better situation next summer, but given that Cooper had damaged my reputation and I would soon be facing retirement and irrelevance, and absent any moral imperative to return Alicia's life to her--"
I cut the oncoming lecture off. "What about your other moral imperatives? Like, to me?"
"I had hoped to avoid a confrontation, but how could or relationship not be broken? After the past year, I doubt you would ever see me fully as a man again, having fallen so easily into taking a maternal role."
"Uh-uh. No, you do not get to blame me. You think that we could no longer be together, fine, but that's on you. I'm sure you could find another student to make you feel admired and desired; I'd totally understand if you felt you didn't need me specifically. Our are you afraid you can't any more? Did seeing Coop using a cane freak you out that much?"
"I would not describe myself as 'freaked out', though it did gone me the impetus to examine what might offer me the most going forward, and there are noteworthy issues related to my old life's physical decline that, when balanced against a the average result of re-visiting the Inn, or even Miss Polawski's situation, certainly suggest that abandoning the identity of Harmon Keller is my best option using the present moment as a starting point."
I just started into the phone for a second. "How can you be so casual about that? I mean, you're taking decades off someone else's life! Maybe not someone at the Inn now, but sooner or later, that's going to catch up with someone!"
He sounded annoyed. "Perhaps. Perhaps not. If it bothers you so much, you know what to do." There was a pause not quite long enough for me to think of a response. "I guess this is farewell, then, Lindsey." And then he hung up.
I just sat there after that, finding ways to blame myself. Did I push him into trying to enjoy his circumstances enough that he decided he could stand being Alicia? Did I play the mom too much and make that life comfortable? Or did I do something to anger him, with Harmon deciding that this was the best way to get back at me? I felt so bad that I slept on Coop's side of the room that night, so that if the change hit, it would make me into the new Harmon.
Elaine was pissed to hear me say that - she's got some pretty strong opinions on beating yourself up because of what a man does on his damn own. She's got even stronger ones on making a martyr of oneself, suggesting I make myself available for future Magdas and Harmons who are going to be dropped into the Middle of this, but telling me it is not up to me to take responsibility for a man in his sixties.
She's right, even if it's hard not to feel guilty. I mean, I woke up feeling GOOD this morning, every ache and pain I had as Magda gone, and Best Possible Person to Live Your Life Debbie Cooper may have spent the last month in the gym before getting me a bikini wax and a cute new Louise Brooks haircut. And of course she left me some new panties and such. And that's just gaining about twenty years back; Harmon got nearly twice that. I can see that being hard to let go of.
That's pretty cold comfort to the poor teenager who got stuck as Harmon, though. Just graduated high school, having a last vacation with his folks, and, wham, forty years. Sweet kid, but he's not hugely thrilled with being on the same flight as me, or knowing that I'm going to be the best one to help him navigate Harmon's life for a bit. As he shouldn't be.
I hope that I'll find something valuable in this experience someday. I was ready to say I would just a couple weeks ago, but this lady bit of selfishness by Harmon really puts a damper on it, and I really wish I'd seen this in him the same way all my friends did.
Tuesday, July 03, 2018
After the set was done, we started to head toward the stage, but it looked like J.T. still had enough fans from his child-start days to form a crowd, so we headed toward the green room. Pete struck up a conversation with the security guys to keep us from being chased away, at least for long enough that we were there when the band finished breaking their stuff down and was heading back, and J.T. stopped in his tracks when he saw me. "Whitney - I didn't expect--"
I shook my head. "Not Whitney."
"Oh. Well, come on back, although I'm not sure how much I can really tell you. How--"
"I wanted to surprise my girlfriend for the long weekend, and her sister thought it would be cool to let me use her hotel room."
J.T.'s bandmates bugged their eyes, but Pete led them to the side of the green room to give them all the gossip. He took a step toward me, looking me up and down. "So... Daryl?"
I nodded, and then before I knew it his arms were around me, pulling me in so tight that my head naturally tilted upwards, and he kissed me on the lips. I'm not sure how long it lasted, but I took a step back, almost stumbling on my heels. "That... was weird."
"Yeah, sorry, I just... I thought I'd never see you again, and--"
"I get it, but I really didn't come here from that."
"So I can dump your lying ass properly!" I slapped him and he looked kind of stunned. I was too - I'd debated it, thinking it was too cliché or that I'd be a man smacking a woman, but there was something about the moment, not so much that he was physically male and I was physically female, but that he figured that was justification for getting so far into my space... Well, a little physical contact back seemed reasonable.
Or at least, that's how my brain worked it out later. At the time, I was more like "Every word you said to me was a lie, you were always planning to leave and just let someone else take over, and the fact that I could surprise you means you didn't even give a shit about what you left behind! I spent weeks missing you when I should have been freaking out about all this! You don't get to stay in my head like that!"
"I was just--" He reached out his hands again, decided that was a bad idea. "You're right. That was kind of shitty of me, and it sucks that you never would have known if you hadn't..." He paused. "I'm sorry."
I kind of hadn't been expecting to hear that. "Well... Okay. I guess--" I looked over at Pete, not sure whether I was expecting a sister telling me not to believe his lies or some advice from someone who had been through the whole Inn process a few times, but he and J.T.'s bandmates were in their own conversation. "So, what now?"
"Well, you dumped me. Or have you? Is just saying why you're dumping me the same as the actual dumping?"
"What else is there? I mean, I gotta - I ain't gonna like guys in a couple weeks, am I?"
"No, things get back to normal pretty quick. But in the meantime..."
"Dude, no. Believe me, I know I'm hot right now, no-one gets it more than me, and Pete did dress me up sexy, but no way."
He smiled. "Yeah, I wasn't ready for That after a month either. Still, we've got a couple weeks before you have to go back to the Inn, so we might as well just try the 'let's just be friends' route."
It felt like a lot to ask, but it kind of sounded better than going back to Chicago and pretending to be Elaine. Pete was okay with me hanging around, so I said yes.
And it's been fun. We've been to the Statue of Liberty, Coney Island, the Natural History Museum, and a few shows; he's been cool about me wanting to hit some of the stuff at the New York Asian Film Festival, too. We have, admittedly, occasionally found ourselves holding hands, and his "been there" jokes about me being late because I couldn't find an earring (one of Elaine's favorites, so I had better not lose it) are something I'll kind of miss, since it's not like I'll have that with my next girlfriend (although I'm terrified I will actually let a "been there" slip sometime a year from now).
Hopefully we'll still be friends once there's no sexual tension between us. He's got a show tonight, we'll watch the fireworks tomorrow, and then it's off to Maine to become myself again. There's nothing I want more, but I must admit, I kind of wish he'd been a dick about it, so that putting this behind us would be easy.