I have to admit, ever since my meet with Cynthia, I've been struggling with this decision. I don't know if I honestly expected just to float around, trying on body after body for years until somehow, somehow I lucked into something, anything, that I could stick with. And it was probably too much to ask that that body be male, but what right do I have to be picky?
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.