Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cary: Bored Girl Makes for a Busy Dad

I knew back in August that Krystle was going to be a different sort of Mackenzie than Elaine was, and I probably shouldn't compare them much.  It wouldn't be fair or helpful to Krystle, it wouldn't do me much good, and it probably wouldn't help my friendship with Elaine to thinking of her as a pre-teen.  So I'm trying not to do it, especially since they've supposedly got different goals - Elaine was always looking to return to her real life, while Krystle, not seeing that as possible, is trying to start from scratch.

(And what of the original Mackenzie Mahoney?  I gather she gained a few years, and when her parents realized they would change back but she wouldn't, some sort of arrangement was made for new identities, which apparently involved a clean-enough break that we'll never hear from the Mahoney family again.  Makes me kind of paranoid sometimes, because it's sort of suspiciously convenient.)

Starting from scratch is a heck of a difficult thing if you don't have to, though, and Krystle can't help but be very aware that her old life is going on just a hundred miles away, and the magic hotel that can make her not a kid is only a few miles down the road.  And while being a kid again sounds like fun, the loss of freedom can be a tough pill to swallow, especially when you consider that just a few months ago, Krystle was traveling the world on her own, and while there were certainly parts where she was looked at with some suspicion for being a young black man, being 11 puts a lot of other bounds on her, from where she can ride her bike to what music she can have on her phone when she's around real kids, and that was before school started.

And that's where things got tricky, because it turns out Krystle is pretty bright.  As much as I received a first-person lesson in how people underestimate you when you're black, a woman, or both, I still let myself judge her a bit by my first impression, although I also think she doesn't necessarily know her own capabilities.  She didn't pay much attention at school her first time around, I guess, and she still doesn't seem to really like reading that much, although she doesn't have much trouble with anything she's given at school.  From what she tells me, the fact that she was pretty decent at math during Jonah's senior year of high school is what had her thinking that if she went through school again, she could get into college and maybe do something with numbers when she's an adult again.

But she's bored, which is not a good combination with being used to more freedom and not exactly being able to connect with her supposed peers.  She hasn't exactly gotten in trouble yet - no detentions or me being called to pick her up from school - but her teacher told me she was starting to be kind of disruptive.  Good marks, and often had an interesting perspective during discussions, although she can be kind of pushy with them, but one student with a lousy attitude can derail an entire class.

Folks, it is not easy to have a talk with a 26-year-old woman to encourage her to behave better in the sixth grade.  She wasn't expecting anything like it when I got back, in part because Elaine told her that I more or less just showed up to maintain cover, and just looking at her, I have to guard against the 11-year-old I see dictate how I speak, even after two-plus years of knowing there was an adult in there.  When I said her teachers were worried about her attitude, she kind of laughed at first.

"Don't do that, Krystle.  I've seen bad reputations hang onto people for a long time."

"I know, it's just, when does this get worth the time?  I'm tryna pay attention, but it's so boring!  How did Elaine manage it?"

I told her that Elaine found things easier to accept when she had plans in place to return to her old life and could treat the year as a sort of learning experience, and that she also made a project out of helping me with the hot dog truck.  "Maybe you should just not worry about beyond this year; growing up again is quite a commitment."

She grunted, saying she would try harder, but looked kind of defeated the next few days.  I racked my brains trying to figure some way to help out, until I saw something on the bulletin board at the supermarket and dropped a card in front of her during dinner.  "What do you think of this?"

She read it and gave me a look.  "Piano lessons?  Ain't I little-white-girl enough for you?"

I'd actually looked up Alicia Keys' name to drop, but it didn't seem to much impress her.  "I just figured it was something you could start now that didn't involve other kids, and maybe give you something to look forward to.  I dunno, I'm trying to figure out what I'd do in your position.  Maybe try it for a week and if you don't like it, we'll try and find something else. "

She was skeptical, but she was kind of sick of going straight home after school and not really doing much until it was time to catch the bus in the morning.  I don't want to say she loves it, but she's at least busier now, and has something to look forward to a couple times a week.

It costs a bit, though, not just in terms of money, but time - it's a little bit too far to ride her bike, especially now that the days are getting shorter, and there's no buses or trains here.  So I've got to build my day around getting her to and from, which I can do.  The money's a bit trickier - Elaine and J.T. had an arrangement about her dipping into her bank account when she needed some cash, but Krystle doesn't have that with Jonah.  She has a bit of a college fund from selling someone the chance to be the new Jonah, but we haven't really figured out rules about dipping into that.

So I'm paying for this, and the new keyboard, and maybe a nicer one if she sticks with this through Christmas, but if I don't find a way to earn more money than usual this off-season, things could get tight.

I guess, in some respects, I'm going to have to be more of a parent than I figured on.

-Cary

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: On the Dotted Line

I don't exactly know how it happened, but somewhere along the way I started actually having a life.

Somewhere among all the 6 AM girltalks with Alexa, sassing Rafe at work, and hunting for apartments with Maddie, I started thinking to myself, I actually like things about this life. I'm starting to take a little bit more ownership of it, beyond just choosing a new place to live: I got my hair cut to a shoulder length wavy Kristen Bell look that I much prefer over the fairy tale princess halfway-down-my-back style I had maintained from Valerie. I started buying more clothes for myself, and not just for functional purposes but because I think they might look good on me. And I'm seeing less and less reasons not to give in to Maddie's insistence that we start some kind of business together.

It gives me a bit of pause because if we're living together and invested in a business, that could easily be too much of each other. But it's my best option to make something of myself right now. I just had to hope before I committed to anything that I didn't end up getting sick of her - I warned her I can be a bit of a house-mother and it's not a role I love.

So we went out and we found someplace that looks good, only we need a third roommate to cover costs. Nobody else we know seems to be looking. All seemed hopeless, until Maddie gave a wincing "Welllll, there is one option..."

Her sister, she explains, is looking to move back to New York after living in Asheville, NC for a while. Getting her to admit this was like pulling a tooth. "We're twins, but she's not really like me... she's a bit wild, impulsive."

"Listen, if you vouch for her, I'm sure she's fine."

Maddie nodded in a way that seemed to say "What choice do I have?"

Charli, Maddie's sister, agreed to the place sight unseen. It was all such a whirlwind because we need to move in on the 1st of November since I already gave Ryan my notice and time was running out when we found this place.

He played dumb as to why I might want to leave, and I generalized that this was no longer the right environment for me, as if it ever was. I thanked him and Alexa for the break they got me on the rent but I'm doing okay now. And I really don't know if I can spend another moment pretending he and I did not have sex behind Alexa's back while I thought they were breaking up, because I gave in to that little crush I had.

Alexa said she was sad to see me go and leave her as the only girl in the house. I said we could hang out anytime, and even though she should hate my guts (if she ever finds out, and doubly so  because I kept it from her) I hope she knows I meant it.

"One other thing," I said to Maddie as we were preparing to sign on the dotted line, "If worst comes to worst and I... give in to temptation and invite Rafe over now and again, you won't judge me, will you?"

She managed a sympathetic smirk. "I would never! Not out loud anyway."

I smiled. "Good friend."

"You said he was good, right?"

"I... very reluctantly admitted he has some talent, yes." Embarrassingly, I will admit to you here that "good" doesn't really cover it.

"Well, every girl has needs. But if you get too carried away - remember, he's totally not boyfriend material - I won't hesitate to smack some sense into you."

"By all means."

"I love you too much not to."

That last bit gave me pause. I'm still getting used to the way women throw around words of affection with each other. It's hard not to feel like my old heterosexual male self is being teased out a little bit hearing it even thought I know that's not what she means.

Off to pack!

-Tyler/Valerie

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Jonah/Krystle: Not officially my first date, buuuuuut...

I've gone out on dates before.  Not really between my high school girlfriends and the man I meet at church this summer (before Krystle blew that up), though I guess you could count the time I got knocked up and the time I met Joseph on the day he got out of jail, but to say that one of us wasn't really into it both times is selling those days short.  But last Tuesday felt different.  It was the first time in three years I've gone out with someone just because I liked them and wanted to get closer without some sort of ulterior motive.  I mean, yeah, I'm kind of looking to see if Calvin is husband material, probably more than most girls would be, but I guess it's less of an immediate priority.  Ashlyn and Moira have convinced me (for now) that is okay to just have a boyfriend.  Or, I guess, find one.

But, anyway, all those other times going out as Krystle never really felt like they were about me really enjoying myself.  They were about trying to make someone else happy - even the one Krystle crashed was kind of about making a sales pitch, like we could get along and be useful to each other, and my daughter needs a stepfather.  They were about being good instead of being happy, and though I think it's really important to be good, more so than being happy, I know you can be both.  Heck, I know I can be happy like this, if only because of Little Moira.

I'm still a little uncertain an hour before, standing in front of my bedroom mirror in my bra and panties, asking my 21-month-old daughter what I should put on.  She has no idea.

It probably doesn't help that I've shed a lot of Krystle's "date" outfits over the past couple years, either not seeing them as essential in a move or giving them away to Jordan as costumes because I'm not ever going to need them.  Or maybe it does; I'm not trying to make a night out a night in.  So I decide on sneakers right away, after I've squeezed myself into a pair of jeans.  It's pretty tight on my butt, but doesn't split when I lift a knee to my chest (don't ask how I learned to do that!), so I figure I'm probably okay.

Then I look at my chest in the mirror and say "what am I going to do with you?"  A couple years ago the answer was always "put on something baggy and hope people think I'm fat", but I'm kind of looking at my breasts different these days.  I used to think of them just in terms of how Krystle used to show them for money and how showing them off reflected on a girl in general, and I did try and change the way I was dressing back when I stopped nursing Moira, but it felt kind of silly - like, the instant they weren't useful, they're something to be ashamed of again?  Like, I know God doesn't want us to be prideful or lustful, but sometimes it's nice to wear something where raising your arm doesn't tug at your chest.  Which is something like half of what I was thinking when I put on a camisole that showed off a fair amount of cleavage; with a fair chunk of "guys like boobs" taking up the rest.  I also threw on a zip-up hoodie, unzipped to start the night, but ready for when the temperature dropped.

Then I headed to the North End; it's where he works and there's a lot of good food there.  We found a place that still had some tables outside and got a fancy-ish pizza.  He did a pretty good job of keeping eye contact, and an even better job of acting like my stories about waiting tables and how Moira has started copying my tendency to do free-throws into the garbage can are as interesting as Bobby Orr visiting the office.

Afterward, I kind of worked out pay off why that paying attention meant so much to me.  It's not that I've had a lifetime of guys not listening because I'm a girl (although waiting tables does let me get caught up), but because he's a cool older guy who thinks I'm worth listening to.  Sure, I've had some life experiences since I was last in high school, but in some ways I kind of still think of myself as being a teenager because my family wouldn't let me forget it and a lot of people treat me like a screw-up, making me feel immature.  Anyway, I often still feel like a kid, and when an adult like Calvin feels like you've got something to offer, it doesn't matter if he thinks you're the same age, it makes you feel good (not that he's really robbing the cradle where 19-year-old me is concerned).

Still, he was generally cool, noticing that I kept glancing at the TV in a nearby bar every once in a while to see how the Celtics' season opener was going, and we eventually scrapped the plan to see a movie and just hung out watching the game with a couple of beers.

Which maybe made me a little chattier than might be wise about certain parts of my life story on the way back to the subway as he made a comment about my really liking basketball.

"Yeah, I used to play, back in high school.  Wasn't bad, but then all this happened..."  I had my arms crossed and used them to push my boobs up just a bit.  "...and suddenly running wasn't so much fun anymore."

"Well, you're still in pretty great shape anyway."

"My friend Jordan got me into yoga while I was pregnant, cause she was never into running.  It's worked out okay for us, but it's not the same."

A quick smile fled across his face.  "What?"

"Sorry, I just thought of a really fun idea for a second date."

"A second..."  I stopped in the middle of the road, not realizing there was a guy on a bike coming straight at me.  Calvin grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the way, and for a moment I looked down at my hand in his, kind of shocked... and then squeezed.  We continued walking that way, not really talking any more, until we got to the station.

"I know I'm picking up on this late, but I find it hard to believe you're surprised by a second date."

"Even before Moira, it had been a while, and it was different.  I've, well, I've never really gone out with anyone like you.  This is, like, a really new experience for me.  But a good one!  I--"

We were waiting for the Green Line by then, and a bunch of people getting out of a bar or something started crowding us, and though I wouldn't have fallen into the tracks, he caught me as I was shoved, the hand that wasn't holding mine resting on my butt and pulling me in closer.  We laughed, embarrassed, and he let go, but then when we got on the car, we were pushed together again.  I looked up at his face, he down at mine, our lips touched...

... and then the conductor hit the brakes and our heads named together.  He made a joke about maybe saving that for solid ground, and I agreed, although inside I kind of wished that we didn't need actual brakes being put on.

It was only a couple stops to Park Street where I changed to the Red Line and he didn't, so I stepped off, said goodbye, and walked off not quite in a daze.  I zipped up my sweatshirt as soon as I saw someone looking at me too hard, and gave the night some thought as I rope to the end of the line, then let myself into the apartment.  I want sure, but I think that was the first time I really enjoyed being a woman, and as I got undressed I gave myself a good look in the mirror.  It still didn't seem right for me to see Krystle there, it felt a little less wrong.

-Jonah/Krystle

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: Crash Pad

One of the pleasures of my previous life was being given membership to some select group, whether literally or implicitly, by some shared accolade.  A description to be listed as an appositive after one's name conferring authority and respect, or the chance to easily associate with one's peers.  I had attained a number of them before visiting the Trading Post Inn, and I missed them sorely as I acclimated to the life of Alicia Polawski.  The ability to my bypass security at an airport does not make up for their loss, especially when one considers that it is the prelude to a menial shift as a stewardess.

However, for all that I bemoaned the loss of such associations, there are moments now when I most mourn the loss of one that I found to be a nuisance for my first year as a woman:  The immediate presence of another who knew my true identity.  Lindsey may have found my situation too amusing, and Daryl may have been indifferent to my situation, but I could at least expect them to have some understanding when my status as a victim of that cursed place.  It is something that I find utterly lacking in this dormitory where I now reside.

The apartment may not technically be a dormitory - it is neither subsidized by the airline nor in a building whose clientele is restricted - but that the fiction is similar.  It is what is known as a "crash pad", with ten beds in four bedrooms.  Three of the rooms sleep two apiece, with those of us slept there each passing a portion of the rent and utilities, while the fourth has two sets of bunk beds, used by other attendants who either have an overnight layover or are spending a few days visiting the area.  Reciprocal arrangements are available in most cities.

It has been decades some I lived in that sort of cramped quarters, but it could not be helped on such relatively short notice - because being a flight attendant is seen by many young people as a job that offers benefits beyond salary, the pay is unimpressive, making Alicia's decision to stay in her mother's apartment rent-free sensible rather than entirely a Millennial reluctance to cut the cord, and it leaves me with little insured means to place a security deposit on a place of my own here in the Bay Area.  Indeed, quitting this job entirely is not practical, as it is the only line on Alicia's résumé and while I could almost certainly convince somebody that I have qualifications not listed should I start adopting for other positions, I suspect that many would look at me and think I meant this metaphorically, and I am not interested in that sort of work.  Thus, the status quo at work, and the newly crowded house.

As might be imagined from the circumstances that brought Alicia to the Inn at the first place, Alicia had a certain reputation at work, enough that some co-workers have been able to come fairly close to guessing what got her put on "administrative leave" last summer, and while most have been willing to believe that I had something else going on since, they eventually lost interest.  Now that some of them are my flatmates, though, the curiosity about what scandalous affairs I get up to has returned, and the fact that I will often spend time in the library or one of San Francisco's fine museums after a return flight rather than subjecting myself to the cacophony at "home" has many certain that I am meeting with some man on the sly.  I suppose there is some truth to it, but I must say that I hope this interest will pass.

Instead, I spend many an afternoon or evening in those public spaces, changed into civilian clothes but still with the makeup and hair that I put on to emphasize how friendly and helpful we are to the partners, trying to lose myself in something intellectual only to often be interrupted by those seeking to turn me toward more carnal pursuits.  If only I could come home to people who understood that I want nothing more than to quietly unwind with a book and a port, rather than whatever activity they have planned for the night (to add insult to injury, I had lately been doing this in the bath before moving, a welcome excuse to remove my brassiere and let the water support my breasts, but that becomes impossible with as many as nine young women sharing one bathroom with me; though I may not relish the opportunity to see these women in various states of undress as I may once have as a younger man, and in doing so come across as over-eager, I am never certain how these interactions should go.  At least when a young man approaches me, I can remember similar conversations from the other side; this sort of everyday encounter has me constantly having to think of responses that my flatmates think should be second nature.

It is, I suppose, something I will have to get used to over the coming months, as the Inn will not be accepting guests this winter.  I must admit, though, that I rather hope I will never have an easy time answering when a girl sees me in the bath and suggests we make an assortment to get waxed together.

-Harmon Keller

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Jenn/Zack: "Little" Jenn

I guess I've been a little sheepish about sharing my experiences on this blog because I'm still waiting for... well, something. Something about this situation that I can get excited about. But it's been a few weeks and I feel like I'm learning.

I also feel like I'm becoming accustomed to being a layabout, a live-in housekeeper and a "kept man" - being that my boyfriend, who is living the jet-setting life of home decor mogul Lena Howard, pays for everything, and my "job," Zack's photography career, is really more of a glorified hobby for me.

I started going to the gym. I thought, whatever mysterious force caused that Inn to change my into Zack granted me a killer set of abs, so it would be a shame to lose them. I'm hardly a fitness freak in my regular life - I like low-impact, low-result workouts, I've dabbled in pilates and spin and every New Year I resolve to start running, but really there's not much incentive. Now, I have nothing but time, and a hot new body to flex.

Can I just tell you... it is amazing to be strong. I mean, Zack is not Mr. Muscles by any means but I am impressed with how much lifting I can do! I can just sit there pumping my guns until I get tired, watching that bicep go up and down. It's a bit of a turn on. Which brings me to my next point, of course...

I  have been working on developing a relationship with certain new body part of mine. I know, it's been months, and it's not like this is new-new since I didn't post for weeks, but it did take a little bit of time. When you wake up to this strange equipment situated between your legs, and it's not what you're used to or what you want... and it isn't performing the way you most often experience it... it's strange and off-putting. Gah, I'm getting flustered just trying to talk about it.

I'm a healthy straight girl. I have a love for this organ - in its natural habitat. Normally I only know what a penis was like in a sexual context. I know enough about shrinkage and everything, but in its flaccid form I find the whole thing so goofy that I'd rather not look or think about it. And when I first saw mine, er, Zack's, it was definitely in a relaxed state. And I was certainly not in a position to change that.

Then time goes by. You get comfortable. You've used it for its other purpose enough that putting your hands on it doesn't seem so weird anymore, but as much as you want to regain that sexual attachment it's just... equipment. I worked hard to mentally get over that hurdle and think how cool it should be that I now have access to something I have been curious about since I was old enough to have sex... or old enough to pretend I knew what sex was like! But the thrilling part didn't come because all the stresses and frustrations of our lives were swirling around me. Al my anxieties about my relationship and caring for my boyfriend in the body of this older woman... made me think about him first and me not at all. There were times I would actually forget I wasn't a woman anymore, if you can believe it.

The past six weeks have been sexually frustrating because neither of us had wanted to have sex. David was adamant that he was not interested in letting me explore that region of his new body, and I certainly didn't push the issue because as well-preserved and beautiful in a  "grand dame" kind of way as Lena is, I didn't feel attraction.

Until I did.

We were sitting on the couch - apart, to give him the space he desires now - really not doing anything, bingeing a really bad MTV show I had TiVo'd, when suddenly I became hyper-aware of the person next to me. Something clicked into place that made me think, this is not just an older woman, this is a beautiful woman, and she has the mind and soul of the man I love. When she would get up to get a beer, I would get a peek at her body - her hips, her bum, and think... wow. There's really something going on there.

And then "Little Jenn" woke up.

It was the craziest feeling, good and bad all at once. No wonder guys are so obsessed with their boners, it's impossible to think of anything else when you have one! I tried to adjust myself in my seat, I hoped to God that he wouldn't notice the bulge protruding from my pants, and of course he didn't.

When I could find a moment I excused myself to the restroom to get a look.

It looked huge. Huge and stiff, just like I had hoped. Almost instinctively, I wrapped my hand around it and found it a perfect fit - again, no wonder guys are always doing this, their bodies are designed for it!

Just the sight of it, the feel of it in my hand, the feel of my hand on it, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. It was like a missing piece of me had returned - different from before but most welcome. It was exactly the fantasy of being the opposite sex that you would think, that I wasn't experiencing and didn't think I really would!

And to my dismay... it didn't take very long. I tried to make it last but just as I was getting off and running... I had a mess on my hands.

I felt drained, I felt ashamed... I felt like... the world must surely know what I had done and how wrong it was, and that David would be so disappointed (for some reason, even though it's obvious he doesn't care.) The unabashed, sexy thoughts I had had just moments earlier turned sour in my head and left me. Sex was the last thing I wanted to think about, as my little unit shrunk back up. It felt good, for the moment, and really great for a split second, and then just like that it was over. And in that moment, I really felt like I understood men a million times better than I ever thought I would. Why they are the way they are, how they can treat women the way they do. Just for a moment though, and that doesn't excuse it for them.

After feeling sour at the end of the experience, I thought that was it - I had tried it once, and liked it a bit and felt down afterwards so I probably wasn't going to want more of it. But lo and behold, the next day, the feeling came back. My mind started wandering and ideating all these scenarios, pushing this confusing but enticing narrative of myself as a sexy, sexual male and any person I could imagine as a potential partner (I'm trying to steer it at David, but knowing how unreceptive he is to this whole thing makes even the idea of fantasizing about him a little dicey somehow.... which is a whole other issue.) It's all this weird hormonal rush, on a schedule that's all new to me.


Up until all this, I was feeling the lack of intimacy, and the lack of desire to be intimate, but also understanding where I was at and where my partner was at. I accepted the new status quo that, sure maybe we won't be a couple that is intimate, at least for a while. But now I've moved into this new phase and I'm really hoping David can join me in this place and maybe we can explore that together. I love him as a person, as difficult as he can be and as hard as it has been to weather all this. And I want to show that love, and support him, and maybe - if he wants - reawaken this part of him, of "us."


Until then... I guess I'm, just on my own.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: How did I let this happen?

So, I'm still living with Ryan and the guys while I wait for Maddie to get out of her lease. Life, on the whole, is miserable and unfulfilling, and every day I question the wisdom of staying here - especially if this is what I've let become of me.

There has been one unexpected bright spot, which is a little bittersweet. See, I've made a new friend.

One morning, I just couldn't sleep. The guys were being loud and I've gotten so tired of being the "bad guy," the "house mom" trying to keep them quiet and well-behaved that I just let them go and suffered. Surely this must be some kind of female rite of passage, minimizing your own needs because it's too much trouble and you worry about sounding like a nag.

Eventually, they quieted down, but I was stricken by insomnia for the rest of the night. I stayed up reading from probably 3 until 5 AM, at which point I realized I was working at 6:30 and it was time to start getting ready.

So I got up, got in the shower and went to the kitchen to make myself breakfast while I dried off. I was halfway dressed, standing in my jeans and bra when I got caught up reading about the Kavanaugh hearings.

Then all of a sudden, in walks Alexa, just coming in from a morning run.

"Hey," she says, noticing I'm transfixed on my tablet, "What are you reading about?"

For a half a second I felt embarrassed - I'm there in my bra, my tits virtually fully out there - but then I realize she doesn't care, and I don't care, and we start talking. I started to summarize the article for her. And before I know it, I'm really more weirded out that I'm having an adult conversation with Alexa, a girl I honestly didn't think I could stand.

From there, we started bumping into each other more and more and exchanging pleasantries and everything and even having running text conversations. And along the way I realized that maybe I only disliked her because I prejudged her based on her appearance, or because I saw her as competition for Ryan. Now I dislike Ryan (secretly) but Alexa has actually done nothing wrong to me. And I'm realizing she's pretty ok.

Then I realized... I've wronged her.

I mean, I slept with her boyfriend. I thought they were breaking up, but I seriously could have used more discretion. (It's also no excuse that I thought I was getting a new body soon after.) I'm content to lay that at the feet of Ryan since before, I had no personal relationship with Alexa and I was duped, and she is being duped. but now we're all buddy-buddy and every second I don't come clean to her I actually am doing something wrong.

We had this really great conversation the other day sort of clearing the air - at least as far as she knew - about her theory that of why I was really standoffish toward her, how "I" was Ryan's old friend and protective of him and she was the new girl. How she thought I was cool and wished we could become better friends, but it never seemed like a good time to strike up a one-on-one conversation. And now here we are, several mornings per week having coffee together at 6 AM!

It's nice - honestly at this point I really crave female friendship because I love that they don't stare at my chest while we talk (well, some do) - but it feels so tainted and wrong and honestly I deserve to be whupped over this one. This is the kind of shit that always makes me want to run away, only I can't this time.

Dang, y'all.

-Val

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Jonah/Krystle: This Can Be... Nice?

Here's a fun fact:  In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you can't buy cold medicine without a state ID.  I discovered this by finding the medicine cabinet empty half an hour before I had to be at work with a runny nose, going to CVS to get some cough syrup, and discovering the license I inherited from Krystle expired sometime in the last couple months.  It says I'm 26, and the guy at the counter says I should take it as a compliment that he thinks I could pass for 18 (which sounds significantly less cool when you actually are 19), but it means that I'm going to have to make do with a roll of cough drops and bag of tissues.

Moira was sympathetic, sort of.  "That's not gonna be good for the tips, is it?  I can get you a smaller shirt from the office if you want something to counter it."

"Red, even if I was gonna try and make my living off my breasts, I'm kind of still lactating, so I'm really not into the squeezing."

"Really, after a month?  Is me namesake sneakin' in for midnight snacks while you're asleep or something?"

I shrugged, hoping this was the end of boob talk for the night, although it's better to hear it from Moira than a customer.  Moira, at least, will dash of to get me some DayQuil during her break.

Long story shorter, I wound up at the Registry of Motor Vehicles a couple mornings later, thankful that I didn't actually have to retake a driving test or anything, just get a new ID card that has a chip in it or something.  It was kind of nerve-wracking.

Ashlyn and Penny both say that's kind of natural, that your first time going to some government office and saying "I'm so-and-so, here's proof" after you've decided that's how things are going to be can't help but remind you that you are, really, a fake, and they both weren't getting resistance from the people they were saying they were.  Not that I was expecting the real Krystle to skip fifth grade and come down to mess things up, but it reminds you that this life is stolen, and you stole it.

But on the other hand, when going through all the "bring one from this list and one from this other list", I kind of feel like there isn't enough evidence that I am Krystle and here.  I'm loving with her mother, so I don't have any utility bills, and I don't have a credit card.  There's stuff from doctors, but in a lot of ways, this makes me feel like I'm still a kid rather than living a life of a woman in her mid-20s like the card's gonna say.  Sure, I'm really 19, but unless something even more surprising than getting knocked up happens, I'm not getting that time back.

Which is a thought you have in the RMV, let me tell you.  I got a lot of stuff filed online early, but you've still got to be there to get your picture taken and sign stuff.  Momma Kamen said she would look after Little Moira, which meant I was in a crowded waiting area alone, and that makes me nervous.  Having her to fuss over doesn't quite let me form a little bubble around myself, but she does make me a little less aware of how guys stare at girls who look like me and discourages some of them.  Wait long enough, look bored enough, and someone will decide that means you need them to make things interesting; Lord knows that I'd start thinking that way after I was in a room with a pretty girl for about thirty seconds before the Inn.

So I did what I could to pay rapt attention to Penny's new book on my Kindle, wishing I could put earbuds in as much to say "not looking for conversation" as to listen to the music, but that's a good way to miss your number being called.  I got a fair amount of lines anyway - my own fault for putting make-up on so that I might actually have a decent picture, I guess.  Still, it had been about ten minutes without one before someone jumped up when his number was called, his backpack not properly zipped up, and had a book fall out the back.  I waited a second to see if anybody else would do anything, them picked it up and caught up with him.  "Hey, you dropped this."

He was distracted but said thank you, replacing it and then making sure to zip his bag up properly, then scooted to his window.  I grabbed a new seat, and then five minutes later my number gets called, I hand over my three forms of identification, sign a couple things, and get my picture taken.  It reminded me that Momma Kamen's apartment is where I was registered to vote, which I'm kind of ashamed to admit that I hadn't given a lot of thought to.

I was leaving with my temporary card when I saw that guy waiting.  I took a few breaths and then tried to walk quickly past him.  It didn't work, though, since I hadn't checked for stairs on the way in, and he was able to keep pace anyway.

"Hey, I just wanted to say thanks for getting me my book, and was wondering if I could get you lunch by way of, uh, saying thank you.  Ugh, that doesn't sound right."

"Really, it's no big deal, and I've got to get back home to my baby."  No eye contact.

"That's cool, I get it, but I'm sure whoever is watching her would believe you were stuck here long enough for a sandwich.  Honest, I'd feel bad."

I looked up, ready to say no, but I got a good look at him.  He's white, mid-twenties, with something between five-o'clock shadow and an actual beard, and he's looking at my face rather than my chest with a smile that seemed pretty genuine, and I thought, hey, it's just a sandwich, maybe not blinking when I mentioned a baby means he isn't looking for a girl, and I kind of missed just talking with guys.  So I said yes, and we headed to a Subway.

As we sat down, I told him I didn't think he was coming out ahead on this, because you can pick a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance up just about anywhere.  "Not this one," he said, opening it up to show it filled with highlighter and notes.

"Your copy from high school?"

"My Dad's, actually, but it got, like, passed up.  After my Dad would finish a book, Grandpa would read it to practice his English and try and understand some of these building blocks of American culture.  He's the one who made all the notes, and it's been really interesting seeing these from a different perspective."

"Oh, that's cool.  Can I see?"  He handed it to me and I flipped through it a bit, kind of amazed by the handwriting in the margins that might have been even more regular than the pronged pages.  "I wish I could do something like this, but even if I had the books, family has been complicated lately."

"I hear that.  I decider not to take the bar exam a year ago, and I don't think they've liked any decision I've made since.  They say they want me to be happy, but 'this just isn't the life we imagined for you, son'."

"Tell me about it.  You should see most of my folks - they love Little Moira, but hate the whole idea of me being a single mother, and most act like I should... uh, just choose for things to be different."

"Well, that certainly puts me driving a ride-share to make up for how my internship pays almost nothing in perspective."

"Sorry!  I wasn't trying to do that - it's just always on my mind, you know?  Drives my old friends nuts.  But enough about me - where are you interning that's worth that?"

"Oh, just a business on Causeway Street, really no big deal."

My eyes narrowed.  "You trying to set up a humblebrag about working for the Celtics?"

"Or the Bruins!  That's cool too!"

"Yeah, I guess."  Truth be told, a lot of the guys I grew up with in New Hampshire would think it was even cooler, but I didn't skate.  "What's that about?"

"Research, mostly, and a lot of trying to boil executives' thoughts down to PowerPoint presentations.  But you learn a lot immersing yourself in that stuff that might help you work your way up to being an executive yourself."

"Neat.  I'm a waitress, so I guess I might try and work my way up to bartender."

"Hey, at least the restaurant eventually closes for the night.  Sometimes I've got to make calls to clear something up about a potential draft pick who grew up in Siberia..."

We talked for what couldn't really have been much more than fifteen minutes, until our sandwiches were gone, and we left the building, both heading to the T station.  He jogged in front of me and turned around, walking backwards for a bit.  "Okay, I want going to make this an asking-you-out thing, but I've got to say - I really want to ask you out."

I stopped dead at that.  "I, uh...  You know, I don't think I'd mind."

"Really?  Okay.  Awesome.  So, here's my card with my phone number and email and stuff, so you don't have to give me any contact info you don't want to.  I don't mean to put the pressure on you, but it sounds like working nights and with the baby, your schedule might be less predictable than mine--"

I took the card, thinking about how this might have never occurred to me when asking a girl out.  "That's really considerate..."  I looked down, realizing we'd never actually exchanged names.   "...Calvin."

"You think?  Some of the guys at work say it looks weak, but there was this thing with my sister..." I must have looked alarmed, because he shook his head to anticipate what I was going to ask.  "No, nothing happened to her, but I figure not everyone's going to build herself an app to create random email addresses the way she did."

"That's good.  Well, like you said, things do keep me pretty busy, but if you get an email where 'Crystal' is misspelled two separate ways..."

He chuckled, and then got on his Green Line train while I waited for an Orange.

I almost flipped his card away a couple times in the days since then.  He's nice, and I guess good-looking if your taste goes to skinny white boys, but he's also a barely-paid intern and not really looking to date so much as find a husband who can help provide for my family, which is what I told Moira when she asked what had me distracted and then proceeded to pull the whole story out.

"That's stupid."  Red is not one to mince words.  "Look, obviously I'm not in your situation, but he sounds like a good'un, who didn't freak out when you mentioned your kid, and have you considered that you might be worth settling down for?  Besides--" She grinned.  "It can't hurt to get some practice going out before you try and land the one who can look after ye, can it?"

"I, uh, just don't know if I can be that type of, uh, again."

Ashlyn had wandered over by then, so Moira rolled her eyes and told her cousin to talk to me.

Which she did.  "It's okay to have a crush on a guy, you know.  Even to act on it.  I know a lot of your experiences that relate directly to being a woman have been difficult and scary, but remember that it can be good enough that a lot of us choose to stay this way.  I can't speak to your beliefs, but I can't imagine that God would want your daughter to have a mother who thinks being a girl is a bad thing."

I've got to admit, she's right about that, and I thought about it while shopping with Little Moira a couple days later.  She's gotten to the point where she twirls and giggles when trying on a new dress in front of the mirror, and I certainly don't want to take that away from her because I look miserable.  When groups of college students get far enough off the beaten path to find The Changeling, I do kind of find myself a little more drawn to the all-girl ones than the all-guy ones, just for the attitude.  And I don't know if I realized it at the time, but I felt something while talking to Calvin.

So as soon as this posts, I'll send him a long-delayed email.  Who knows

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