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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