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 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 that 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 the arrangement 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 searching 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 passengers, 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 appointment to get waxed together.

-Harmon Keller

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