I spent a couple days in April apartment-hunting with "Junah", who waited until the last minute to find a place for the summer and next school year because he was so busy just trying to live his new life without a while lot of help from anyone other than me, and while I haven't lost touch with being black or a man, college just seems like another world already. Has it changed so much in ten years, or do you just forget?
Not that she needed my experience as a black man so much as my current self. I was basically standing in for Jonah's parents, who still haven't come to terms with him deciding to stay his daughter's mother, or with a former white woman living his life, so while they're okay co-signing a lease, they don't want to be involved, and a young black guy looking for a place near campus is not going to have the easiest time of it. So I pull a pantsuit out of the closet, come along and let people assume I'm his mother and he's either mixed-race or adopted.
It was weird. I know some folks who, in my position, might get a kick out of puffing themselves up and acting like they're going to call the Better Business Bureau or something if they don't get what they want, or smile at new-Jonah finding out just how many different levels of racism there are, but it's pretty hollow. I think we both kind of feel like we've exchanged one set of obstacles for new ones we aren't quite so sure how to navigate, and it gives us a bit of common ground with each other.
The pronouns probably got confusing there, but that's Inn Person life to an extent. Jonah sees himself as a guy living Krystle's life, and while he won't correct "she" all the time, it feels wrong to him. Juliet, maybe because he's older and because he chose this life much more affirmatively than Jonah did. He figures he's become a man, so he's a man.
And give him credit, he's been working hard to see what that means for him. As much as he initially gravitated toward hanging out with his female classmates, he made an effort to do more "guy stuff", whether it's intramural sports, hitting up action movies, even going to a strip club one night. That Jonah grew up in New Hampshire gives him pretty good cover when going to Harlem and otherwise trying out hip-hop and other black things. It's sometimes kind of funny to watch, but he's out there trying, and you've got to respect that. I'm not out there joining book clubs or stopping wine or otherwise trying to make a lot of middle-aged white lady friends. And, who knows, when his brain finally gets over that "I'm old enough to there be her mother" reaction when a good-looking girl flirts with him. That could totally drag him in a different direction.
Me, I'm still a solid "they" - woman in a lot of practical ways, but still thinking like a guy, and I think that J.T. likes me being kind of a guy at heart, that it cuts out a bunch of drama. I kind of wonder if that will change should I spend more time around "other" folks like Magda. Weird to think about.
Inevitable, though, considering some other recent visitors. Elaine and not-Daryl made a quick trip here over the weekend and wanted to get dinner. It kind of made me dizzy to see them sitting next to each other while I was next to J.T., because when you add it up, I've spent more time with "Elaine" as my girlfriend then I've spent as her and Magda combined, but I've been both of them, and though I know who's who, my brain keeps trying to see Elaine as J.T. and the other guy as me. It's strange for him, too, although he's able to put on more of a facade of just meeting two folks he kind of knows.
And they're dating! They didn't try to hide it, but they waited for me to comment on how they didn't need to hold hands so much, because there wasn't anybody they knew here. Elaine said it started when she told J.T. not to say no to me, so there was definite attraction, so when she got back home and things were kind of in an unsettled place as between them as far as the world was concerned, and friends kept trying to get them back together, so when they wound up in the same place...
She trailed off with a shrug, so I turned to address my own face. "Okay, I get her being attracted to me--" We all laughed. "--but I thought you had a girlfriend, and she was into it?"
"She was, and it got weird, dude. Like, her new life was single and unemployed, so she could just move in with me, and it was fun - she became this really hot blonde - but after a while, she stopped using my name at all, even when we were home alone, saying it was just that she didn't want to slip when we were out, but, like, soon she was only listening to music from this other girl's playlists and... Like, she's not planning to stay, but the way she was okay with assuming this whole other persona, not even looking for ways to be herself. And, like, maybe she'd just switch back when we were ourselves again, but that she could kind of made me wonder about everything, y'know?"
"So when we meet at this business thing and we're able to get alone, and he could be himself and I had someone I could talk to about having been a white elementary school girl for a couple years, it was just this huge relief! How are you supposed to not talk about that? I mean, I can talk to Cary, but then it becomes about him and Krystle, which isn't his fault, but doesn't really help me deal with how this weird shit's gonna be in my head for a while!"
"Not gonna lie - it's kind of weird to find yourself attracted to a girl who sometimes talks about how something is like what happened at recess last year, but kind of special, too."
I look from one to the other. "Is this an 'I want to stay like this' thing?"
He looked shocked. "No! The opposite - we didn't want you to hear it from someone else and get the wrong idea! We weren't sure how well what you've got is working--"
Elaine elbowed him, but I said that was fair. "I mean, there are challenges, but we're pretty happy." I suddenly had a thought. "I should text Pete."
My face looked surprised. "You already promised him, uh, this?"
"I've brought it up, but he... Well, he says a lot of things. 'Why would I want the body you abandoned?' He'll joke about just getting used to being a girl, or say it's different when it's someone you know, but I kind of just think he's been bouncing around long enough that he finds it hard to commit." My hand was next to J.T.'s, and he squeezed it, prompting me to lean over for a kiss. "Anyway, he keeps in touch with a lot of people and has been asking around about something, well, a little more like you." Elaine blushed as I looked at her. "It may be destiny that I became someone J.T. could date, but maybe we could adjust it a bit. People do talk about him and the older woman, and I haven't had a lot of luck looking for a better job."
"Hey, maybe y'all just aren't casting your net wide enough!" Elaine pointed at her boyfriend. "C'mon, I know you fell for this once, and maybe having been to the Inn stretches who you can be after. I mean, everything you did and felt as me is still part of you, right?"
J.T. took a drink. "I'd never know if we were trying to make it work, though. Like, I pretend for a living, and I know that this is real, y'know, the way being yourselves will keep you sure what you've got is real."
"I get that. Just wondering, since it took me so long to get home."
We finished our meal and then they went to their show. We saw a movie and then went home.
It was great to see them, at least. It was a pretty good reminder that this year's Inn season is coming up fast, and even if I don't wind up changing, there's a lot of people who will have their lives turned upside-down - or right-side-up, as the case may be.