I wouldn't say I've never thought about being with a man, in either sense of the word, since the Inn turned me into Krystal. Desire comes into your head in different ways, and while Jordan says it's all in the part of your brain right behind your nose - the way he sees it, that changed with the rest of our bodies, and we've got no control over whether it chemically reacts to the smell of men, women, both, or neither - I still can't help but feel like the Devil has some say in it. Whatever the reason, men feature far more prominently than women in my dreams when I remember them, and I'm Krystle in them when I do.
It's not just a matter of thinking about sex, though. I know it sounds absurdly obvious to say it, but being a single mom is hard! It's an unending series of difficult things that almost always require someone else's help, and you can't adequately repay them. Momma Kamen has been a huge help, but I feel like I'm deceiving her whenever I ask for her to watch Little Moira, and when our schedules don't line up, I have to hire a sitter, and that's a sizable chunk of what I get paid for the work I'm leaving my baby in another's hands for.
I need a husband.
I know, everyone else does the dating or sex as a lark or to try and keep up appearances without thinking beyond that at first, but I have practical considerations. Maybe if I had grown up in this sort of family, single parenthood would come naturally to me, or if I'd been grown up inside and out when I got pregnant, but I just can't wrap my head around this working long-term without two parents.
I'd told myself that for a few weeks but not done anything about it, but it looked like things were going to work out on their own, somewhat. There's a guy at church, a widower, whose five-year-old thinks Moira is just the cutest thing. We talked about raising kids alone, and the Celtics, and some other stuff every week, but I didn't think much of it - this church may not get hung up on unwed mothers the way the one at home does, but I still kind of feel like I don't belong, and people are just being polite. Even though I know I'm attractive before people see the kid, I don't expect anyone to act on it there.
But he did, asking if I'd like to go see a movie. He made it a parent thing even though there wouldn't be any kids around, seeing if that Uncle Drew movie his daughter wanted to watch was kid-friendly. It was a good move; I didn't really think of it as a date until I mentioned it to Ashlyn and Moira at work. Moira high-fived me for getting back out there, and Ashlyn pulled me aside and asked if I was really ready. I said I'd have to be sometime, and this guy didn't seem like a bad one.
I still got nervous dressing for it; as much as I don't not dress for tips at work, I'm usually trying to avoid looks. I'd omit seen this guy in church, but it didn't seem right to wear my church clothes, or that dress is worn for my former best friend two years ago. Eventually I decided I might as well go with the V-neck, slacks, and two-inch heels - mostly loose, but not hiding that the are tight spots.
It got a reaction, although he was polite about it when we sat down at Legal Sea Food. I felt thrilled as we ordered wine - between being scared, pregnant, and breast-feeding, this might as well have been my first drink. I laughed telling him that it was my first IN A WHILE, he said I deserved it, and we laughed until I heard something that went a chill up my spine.
"Krystle, is that you?"
I knew the voice, but I had to look up to see. Yes, it was Krystle-as-me, dressed in cargo shorts and a t-shirt, walking straight at us. As my date looked over his shoulder, I mouthed "please don't", but no such luck, she just smiled, grabbed a chair from an adjacent table, and straddled it. "I knew it was you! It's been months! How's our baby doing?"
My date raised his eyebrows. "You're Moira's... Sorry, you just seem, uh..."
"Young? Yeah, I was actually on a field trip--"
"He was not!"
Krystle looked at me and smiled bigger. "You're right, I must have come down during school vacation, because how would I get into that strip club on a field trip?"
My date turned to look at me. "Is that true?"
"I, uh, had stopped dancing by then, but..." I felt myself sweating. "It was a really weird situation which Jonah here knows I can't explain."
"You can try, can't you, 'Krystle'? You're going to have explain how you let a kid knock you up someday!"
I didn't say anything, since it was suddenly like Krystle wasn't the third person at the table, but my date was, and he knew it. "Well, I'm sure you two have a lot to talk about..." And then he went to find a hostess so he could pay the bill and bail.
Jonah smiled big. "Wow. That was easier than I thought it was going to be. I might have to keep it up." Then he turned his eyes my way and looked me up and down. "So, do you really like him or do you pull my tits out for just anyone?"
I looked down and there really wasn't anything I could pull at to minimize my cleavage a little. Good, what had I been thinking?
Krystle seemed to read my mind. "Yeah, finding the right outfit is harder than just getting knocked up, isn't it? I'll take that problem off your hands though. It's not too late."
"I told you--"
She punched the table hard enough for a water glass to tip over. "Ah, fuck, I didn't mean for that to happen. But I'm not supposed to be like this. Don't get me wrong, it was convenient to be a guy for the last year or so, but I miss all the stuff you guys treat like a pain in the ass, and I don't see why I should have to give it up because you thought God was a substitute for the pill!"
I waited, trying to come up with an explanation. "I can't not be Moira's mom. I just can't."
"You can! You're a 19-year-old boy!"
"Not any more. I'm--" My voice broke.
"You can't finish the sentence. You're going to steal my life but you can't actually say 'I'm Krystle now' to me."
I tried to, but couldn't. I probably could say it to anyone else, but not her.
"Pathetic. You do know that part of being me is just doing shit without whining about it, right? Not caring what people think about who you've fucked or how you dress or any of that? I swear, you're such a sad me that I should keep doing this because you'll break."
"So is that what the rest of my life is going to be like?"
"It should be, it really should be, but you know what I learned both as you and before? My time is valuable. Too valuable to wait for a man to do what he should, too valuable to just fritter away when I could be getting ready for what comes next. I'd like to do that as myself, but I'm not going to wait around until you've gotten me fat with saggy tits.
"So, you keep trying to find yourself a man. Just remember that even with everything you stole from me, you ain't never gonna be woman enough to get a man you don't deserve, and you fo sho don't deserve much after what you did to me."
She got up and left, and I would have loved to sit there and recover, but there were folks waiting for a table and others looking at me. I wanted to get home and into sweats as soon as possible.
As you might imagine, there's been no second date - he won't even talk to me or let his daughter play with little Moira, and don't think other folks at church haven't noticed.
And I can't help but thinking Krystle is right, that if I can't even really say that I'm Krystle now, and if I'd take everything away from someone like this, what kind of person am I, whether man or woman? How can I compound this selfishness by exposing someone else to help take care of me and Moira?
I've been praying on this, but no answer ever comes. And now Krystle has gone back to the Inn and there's a new Jonah who wants my life, and I'm afraid I've ruined everything and stuck Moira with a mother who will always fail her.