I didn't really know what I wanted out of this trip to New York when I got on the plane two weeks ago - I just knew I needed to take it, especially since just sitting in Elaine's life, waiting to be myself again, was going to drive me nuts. It was an impulse, but a good one.
Being impulsive meant that I hadn't actually booked lodging when I made the post about going to New York, but I was lucky - Pete/Brigette has a Google alert on the blog, saw what I was doing, and immediately texted me asking if I needed an open-ended couch to sleep on (apparently, he and J.T. used to text each other white-man/black-woman stuff, so he has Elaine's cell number). Since I was looking at hostels and thinking I wouldn't really like a lot of what I was seeing as a man, I said yes but warned him I was coming in on the red-eye. No problem, he says - city that never sleeps.
And true to his word, there's noise on the intercom when the cab drops me off at his apartment and he buzzes me up, and his apartment is filled with good-looking people. I must look pretty rough, because he immediately raises his voice. "Hey bitches, this is my girl Elaine from Chicago - she all jet-lagged, so I'm gonna need y'all to scoot!" There's a general groan, but they scoot, with lots of hugs and air-kisses on the way out.
As soon as the last one does, he plops into a chair, pulls his foot up so that his knee is sticking straight in the air - making his dress ride up and giving me a clear view of his panties - and starts working the little buckles on his fashionable five-inch heels. "Eighteen hours in these shoes, dude, between the gallery and the club and this little after-party. No regrets--" (one drops to the floor and he switches legs) "--because, honestly, I don't think I've ever actually enjoyed shopping for shoes before." The other one dropped, and he started grabbing his toes and stretching them. "I'm just glad those girls who said I gave good foot massages weren't kidding. Ah, yeah!"
I got pointed to the bathroom so I could brush my teeth, pee, and slip into some pajamas, coming out to find that, though Pete didn't seem to have moved, the sofa bed was folded out and ready for me to slip into. Which I did.
The next morning, I woke up to see Pete cleaning up from last night in booty shorts and crop top.
"Hey, did I wake you?"
"Awesome. Hope you don't mind, but I've already been trying to track J.T. down. You'd think it would be easy for someone who used to be sorta kinda famous, but I guess he had stalkers or something when he was really big, and... well, you've seen how he protects his privacy. I saw a couple things online on gossip sites about where he's had breakfast and stuff, but I kind of didn't want to go full crazy-ex-girlfriend on someone I'd just texted with."
"Hey, I'm not... Am I?"
"Nah, you're totally sane. At least so far as it's possible for us to be. Anyway, let's get to work."
We spent a lot of Saturday looking for how we might get into contact with J.T., but no luck. It went on like that for a couple of days, although Pete was in and out, going to his job at the gallery and hanging out with a whole bunch of friends. They always invited me to go along, but I never felt comfortable doing so, because Pete kind of puts a show on as Brigette, changing how he talks and swinging his butt, and while I get it and have done something like it, but it's one thing when you're trying to get the people with the power to let you in, another when you're treating it like a year-long adventure.
We didn't find where he lived, but we did find the next best thing - where his band would be playing their first gig since reuniting, which gave me a little time to visit New York (with Pete insisting on going to the Studio Museum in Harlem with me and pointing out everything he'd learned about African-American art) before last Thursday's show.
That was interesting. Pete and I got there early enough to stake out a spot where we could see the show but not necessarily be seen, because as much as the idea was to confront J.T., I didn't want to draw attention to myself that Elaine would have to live with. I initially tried to nurse a beer but wound up getting Manhattans with Pete, figuring that he'd become smaller than me, so I shouldn't get into too much trouble matching him. It was probably for the best, keeping my brain kind of buzzed while it tried to process that this guy used to be my girlfriend and there was an undercurrent to some of his newer stuff that 95% of the people in the audience would never get.
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.