Thursday, October 31, 2019

Jonah/Krystle: Costume Season

I don't really think my childhood was weird, or even different in a way that's out of line with being Krystle, but every once in a while, I get reminded that I might be the weird guy in some situations even if I'd never heard of the Trading Post Inn. 

Like, Sunday afternoon, Calvin's friend Annalise had a six-hour layover in Boston on the way from Bangor to Atlanta, so we decided to meet for an early dinner.  She asks what Little Moira is up to, and I say mostly blocks, although she can't decide if she wants to be an architect or Godzilla.  She says that at least that's Halloween sorted, and I chuckle, saying that she add the second person today to talk about getting a Halloween costume for a girl who isn't even three yet, and the first time, can you believe it, was right outside church!

Annalise gives me the "I don't expect people under fifty to mention church" look (something,  thankfully, Calvin doesn't do anymore) before glancing at Calvin, who shrugs and then looking back at me.  "Is..... that weird?"

I shrug.  "Only if you think suddenly talking up a pagan celebration of witchcraft outside the Lord's house is weird."

Annalise half-chuckles and nods, saying that's fair, but Calvin looks like I've just said something ridiculous. 

"If that's how you feel, why'd you say you were up for Big Stu's party on Saturday?"

Because I honestly hadn't given the date much thought when I answered Calvin's text, I thought.

"Because I am!  I'm looking forward to it, I just think Halloween stuff a at church is kind of out of place, is all!" I said.

Don't get the wrong idea, it's not like I don't like Halloween; even though my parents would make annual noises about how it was a gateway to satanism and paganism, they handed candy out and bought me a costume while I was in elementary school so I wouldn't be given a hard time, and what kid doesn't like candy?  It just sort of fell away as I got older, and my friends and I were just getting old enough to, you know, appreciate the particular sort of effort girls were staying to put into their costumes, which got the talk about this being a different sort of temptation started.

Anyway, we weren't building Hell Houses or anything, but Halloween was always kind of four other people, and I was never really in a place to even think of dressing up before now, even though Jordan would always talk about how much fun it was and I should give it a try.

Big Stu's Halloween party, I soon gathered, was not one where folks generally did the minimum, and part of the days activities would be going out and finding a fun, sexy couple's costume.  Which, naturally, somehow manages to be sexier for the girl than the guy, although Calvin was actually pretty cool about that - if I was going to be a French maid, he was going to be the pool boy rather than the butler.  Maybe he wouldn't have before, but all our gym dates have given him some pretty good abs, so he could rock the crop-top without it being a total joke.

I was a bit alarmed when I saw what the pair cost - that is not a lot of fabric per dollar - but Calvin paid, although I was on my own when we stopped to the discount shoe store on account of me not having a pair of black four-inch heels to complete the costume.  Apparently it's something a girl really shouldn't be without, but I never replaced the pair I inherited from Krystle after I dripped something heavy on the box they were in.  Maybe they were expensive, maybe not, but I hadn't paid for them and they looked scary, so I had no trouble throwing them away.

I didn't freak out about all the skin it showed as much as I expected I would over the next week - the bottom is long enough to cover my butt and a pair of pantyhose can make you feel much less naked.  I got good feedback when I sent a picture to Jordan, too - she said I should show my shoulders off a little more next summer, and though I initially groaned when she asked if I had an underwire bra that pushed my breasts up more, I had to admit it seemed to be what the costume was made for.

I got a bit of a self-confidence boost when I changed on Saturday night and made my way into the living room; Moira pronounced "Mommy pretty", followed by Momma Kamen saying "Mommy's something", then saying that if she didn't know better, she'd think I was back at "my" old job.  I stick out my tongue and said it wasn't like Calvin was the only one showing off, because he looked pretty hot in his own costume.

Since we live at opposite ends of the T, we decided to meet in the middle, but I started feeling like an idiot about halfway through the walk to my station.  It's only couple blocks, but it's uphill, and even though I've seen women carrying shoes by their heels while eating flats that don't match the rest of their outfits all the time while living in the city, I never picked it up as something I should do.  I wasn't going to be that kind of girl, after all, not really thinking that she might be on her way to or from a date with one guy she really likes.  Our even a job interview.

We met at Park Street, trying to figure out the right route because the Orange Line was shut down.  I smirked a bit at his bare legs and flip-flops sticking out from under his coat.  "Looking sexy."

"So are you, for real.  I didn't expect you to get your hair done."

"I apparently own a wig."  I pulled it back to show him the natural do scrunched up underneath the straight hair.  "Nothing else I did worked with the costume, and I ain't getting no perm for no party."

"Fair enough!"

Anyway, it's a party.  Calvin's game night friends are there, as well as a bunch of friends-of-friends.  I've probably met most of them over the course of the past year, although they seem to remember me better than I remember them individually, but to be fair, I kind of stick out in a crowd of white guys who went to college to study how to make money as a subject all on its own. Calvin knows how I look in the middle of this, keeping guys from slapping my butt when we bobbed for apples despite the fact that the whole point was probably scoping out our butts and boobs as we leaned over, although I didn't really think of that until I felt my breasts feeling like they'd slide out of my bra if it given just a little encouragement.  A couple of times I went from feeling kind of glad to have a hand at my back as I tried to chat while standing in four-inch heels after a few drinks only to not entirely be sure what to do as it started moving lower.

Anyway, as much as I don't think I'll ever love Halloween as much as Jordan, I kind of get why she likes it so much.  You spend so much time trying to be just the right amount of whatever - sexy, nerdy, a fan of something, professional - that it's really fun to dress up and say this is part of who you are.  I didn't exactly come by this sort of sexiness honestly, but it's part of me now, and I think Calvin liked playing at being super laid-back as the pool boy.  I mentioned it to him as we got on the train, and he said he knew that the pool boy always stopped by the servants' quarters after his work was done, to which I replied that it was awful close to the nursery, but maybe there was a boathouse where he hung out...

Obviously we got each other out of our costumes at his place with all the role-playing.  That thought vanished from my head the next morning, though, as I woke up and started calculating time to get back to Momma Kamen's, shower, deal with the hair that had become a real mess under the wig, get Moira ready, and head to church.  I'm guessing there aren't a lot of churchgoers at Big Stu's parties, because my schedule would be really tight.

I kissed him as I ran out the door, texting a picture of myself on the subway with my hair a mess and my heels in my hand, saying there ain't no walk of shame like a Halloween walk of shame, smiling a bit when he said I had nothing to be ashamed of.  Not sure Momma Kamen thought the same thing, or anybody in the church where we usually arrive a bit earlier.

Suffice it to say, I did not go with the push-up bra and heels when I took my daughter trick-or-treating last night (a day early, but I both had to work tonight and a lot of people were putting to beat the rain); I wouldn't have gone with the costume at all but Moira's Godzilla costume is now her favorite pajamas, and she said "Mommy too!" a lot.  I will wear them at work tonight to win a bet with Moira's namesake, although it better not give her or Ashlyn any long-term ideas.

And then it goes into the closet for who knows how long, because when else am I going to use it?  Halloween may not entirely be the work of Satan, but I'm not sure it's appropriate to donate something like that to Goodwill or another charity collecting clothes for the needy.

-Jonah/Krystle

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Valerie: Nothing stays secret for long here...

Two Friday nights ago was supposed to be a big night. Kevin was taking me to a ball - an actual damn ball, a fundraiser for a charity he is involved with. I definitely felt strange about accepting the invite. After all, he and I had been in every romantic situation you could imagine - spending quiet nights in cooking together, going on long walks, taking a weekend getaway upstate. We've practically been living in one of those Nicholas Sparks movies for months, but we never get to the big kiss. That's off the table. I'm aware of that. A big elegant ball seemed like it would only be the latest.

I was getting frustrated. My feelings weren't dissipating as fast as I'd hoped, and now they were mutating a little bit. Selfishly, the romantic feelings I had for him were starting to twist into negativity, even though it's not his fault he doesn't reciprocate. I had agreed to be his friend, and it started to feel like I was becoming something of a surrogate girlfriend - certain rights and responsibilities without all of the privileges. It leaves me feeling a little empty, like he's using me for this role without being able to give back what I would like for it. And then I feel bad because he's been nothing but honest with me.

I put so much effort in. I had Maddie do my make-up and help with my hair since I'm still amateur at the curling wand and any cosmetics beyond mascara and lip gloss. (Contouring? What is that?) Ariel helped me accessorize by lending earrings, necklace, and bracelets she thought would go with the dress. Neither could help me with shoes since I have the tiniest feet known to man, but we picked some out together. Kevin, flashing his money around, paid for a gown I had picked out, the one thing I didn't hate which would properly cover my proportions. Something sparkly and silky. Years ago I hated dressing this way because it put me on display in a way I really did not want to be. Now... it's still not me, but for the right night it could be. I'm in a body I feel is mine, and it does wonders for my self esteem to see people light up when they get a look at me. I never thought I would say this fondly but, I looked and felt like a princess.

The night was good. He was his usual charming self and I was my usual not-so-smooth self, a roughneck in heels. I probably drank too much and made an ass of myself, but I think that happens to be part of my appeal as I make inappropriately lowbrow jokes around his friends and colleagues. We dined, we mingled, we even danced, although he was a bit stiff, and I am honestly just a terrible dancer anyway. All the guys I talked to referred to me as "Kevin's girlfriend" and neither of us corrected hem. To me, that sexually charged energy was still there. My heart was beating faster at his touch, at his looks, and I was sick about it.

Flash forward to the next morning at my apartment. My gown is on the floor of the living room. The girls are having coffee. I come out in my robe to a thunderous applause and cheers of "Ow oww!" My face goes hot, blushing. I don't really like people knowing when I've had sex as a woman, which is so weird to me, because when I'm actually having it I'm the happiest I've ever been and I shouldn't be ashamed of that. I wave them off. "Really, it's nothing, nothing."

"Nothing??" Ariel coughs, "You've been after this guy for months, and he was like a brick wall. You finally broke through? Damn girl, I knew you knew how to use that body."

"That... I... it's really not..."

"Tell us all about it," Charli said. "We need tea, sis!"

"Maddie, talk some sense into your twin, please," I implored. "I could use just a little bit of privacy."

"If I could control her, I would have years ago..." Maddie shrugged.

"Whatever he was doing in there sounded like it was working," Charli said.

"I don't want to talk about it," I said, "I just want some coffee and to go back to bed."

I crossed over to the coffee maker. Maddie gave me this look. I turned away.

"Oh, no," she said.

"No--" I abruptly said.

"I know that look."

"It's not..." I stammered.

She rushed over to my bedroom door, over my protests of privacy.

She threw it wide open and saw him there, a blanket barely covering his junk.

"Morning Maddie," Rafe said with that stupid, goofy, smug grin he gets. "Where's the coffee?"

"Vaa-aa-aal!!" Maddie shrieked, while Charli and Ariel laughed their damn heads off and I shrunk with embarrassment like a turtle.

The truth is, it had been brewing for a while, and I was fully aware of it. After Rafe came back to the shop, we got into some of our old patterns of bantering and bickering, and basically flirting constantly under the guise of constantly being irritated with each other. And the truth is he is extremely irritating but in all that, he's the one guy I've met in my entire time as Valerie who treats me like a regular person, with faults and flaws as well as my own unique appeal.

I had basically decided I was probably going to screw him again weeks ago. At the end of summer a bunch of us from the shop went out to Coney Island. I hadn't been there since my time with Josh, so it still held some associations for me, so I was feeling a bit vulnerable and maybe a little susceptible. We ended up playing some beach games, including a weirdly physical game of capture the flag, and... well, I don't know. I'm there in my one-piece swimsuit with my tits bouncing around, he's there in his shorts and no shirt, and I'm just thinking "Damn, this is working for me." And in all these years I've learned damn well enough not to fight it when I catch myself drawn to anyone or anything.

So at the end of the ball, when Kevin gave me a very chaste, thanks for coming out, you're such a good friend, I really value what we have here, I just thought... that's it. That's as far as it goes. I will be his friend but I am going to have to stop playing make-believe. I texted Rafe to be at my front door, and told Kevin I was texting Maddie to let her know I'd be home soon. Kevin saw me home,  and once his cab was out of sight, Rafe emerged from the darkness, vaping annoyingly (is that redundant or what?)

He had to gloat that he'd been expecting the text for some time, which nearly ruined it, but also made it frustratingly hotter.

Honestly, all this time I had myself convinced he was bad for me and I had to stay away, but for what? When we were first hooking up, I kept him at arm's length because I thought I was going to be a man again sometime soon, and the last thing I needed was to catch feelings. The fact that he was clearly not boyfriend material was a handy shield.

Now, I have a guy who is boyfriend material but doesn't want to touch me. And on the other hand I have a guy who I like being around and really like to have sex with, and any reason I might think he is bad for me is just my brain confusing things. Is he a jerk sometimes, undependable, and in need of some growing up?

Sounds a bit like Tyler Blake circa 2014, and look how he turned out.

The bottom line is, I didn't give in and let myself stay as Valerie to lock myself up in a tower like Rapunzel. It felt so good to be looked at, touched and kissed, after all the foreplay at the ball went nowhere. To be able to strip down to the nice, lacy underwear I was wearing and have the guy in the room gape at me, not awkwardly avoid looking. To have a pair of hands fondle my breasts, and year, to have a guy screw me.

I just... really, really hoped I would be able to keep it under wraps longer than a night so that I could figure out how to handle things. After all my crowing about how he was bad for me and if I ever find myself tempted to go back there you should just lock me up, there was no escaping judgment. Doubly because I think all the girls are rooting for me with Kevin. But as it always seems to be the case with me, the circumstances are too unique, too complicated, for a simple answer.

There's guilt too. If Kevin ain't my boyfriend, and Rafe isn't neither, do I owe either of them anything? They both seem to be getting what they want out of me, and between the two of them, add up to one halfway decent, if problematic, boyfriend type person.

This has been Val's loveline, thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Stephen as Shona - Don't Call Me Cursed

Several weeks ago I transformed into a woman... semi-voluntarily. I had it all explained to me ahead of time, what was going to happen and how I should deal with it. I didn't expect it to really happen - if I did I probably would have taken Jenn's word for it and moved on, but it's true that I never would have believed any of it if it didn't happen to me. I'm living proof.

When it happened, I took as much time as I felt I could spare to get my bearings about it. Try to move through the strangeness of it all. There's the shock of finding out that magic is real, and what might that mean - which my brain filed under "things to wonder about but not expect answers." In the more immediate moment, I had pressing concerns.

As you know, Shona's body is much larger than average for a woman. When you picture men becoming women perhaps you are imagining model-pretty young things with tiny waists and large breasts, but you know very well that women come in all shapes and sizes. I myself was - am, in my normal life - a husky, bearded gentleman, so neither of us are society's definition of perfection. That doesn't mean it hasn't been a major adjustment.

I knew Shona's body very well because I dated her for years. I know her struggles as much as any partner can, and now I've started to know them much more intimately. And as time goes by I'll learn them more. To be a woman who looks this way is very different from being a woman who looks like Jenn as Paola, or some of the others I've read about (some of whom I've seen in pictures.) In some ways it's closer to being a man, but in other ways it's so very, indescribably different.

I couldn't not notice the difference between being me and being her. I couldn't help but feel the new sway of my hips as I walked around the room, the jiggle of pair of breasts if I move too suddenly, the pointed absence of a bundle of external genitals swinging between my legs. It was hard not to focus on that, but I worked to normalize it as best I could. Now, I go all day without thinking it's weird that I'm lacking my penis. I forget a pair of boobs are hanging from my chest until they knock into something. Absentmindedly, I might rub my chin and realize not only is it bare, nothing more than a few wisps have grown there in weeks.

But at the time, I really stood there thinking, "This is going to take some getting used to." Having long hair is strange. Wearing clothes designed for women - and more or less fitting into them - is strange. I am currently wearing jeans that absolutely do not obscure the curve of my hips and ass and the lack of any kind of bulge between my legs. For weeks, wearing these things made me feel like I was on display. Many of Shona's tops are not understated - pinks and yellows and colors I would not choose for myself. Tops for women often come with plunging necklines or strange ruffles or other random design elements that draw attention to themselves, where I'm really more of a basic polo or checked shirt kind of guy.

All the pockets are useless. That's nuts.

My thing is, knowing Shona, and I have this weird desire to be the Shona I knew, not myself-as-woman. I'm lucky to know a bit about what she liked wearing and how she presented herself, but that doesn't mean I am able to recreate it. What do I know about makeup? What do I even know about maintaining long, silky hair? And yet when I look in the mirror and see rough skin, frizzy hair, puffy eyes, I feel like I am failing rather than doing my best to cope with an immensely strange situation. One piece at a time I am figuring out ways to bring that person back.

Some people call the Inn "cursed", and no doubt for those unlucky enough to trip into this lifestyle, that's what it is. For me, it's distinctly not. I walked in knowing there was a real possibility - if not one I necessarily believed in - that all this was real, and took a calculated risk. What did I have to lose? The worst case scenario was that my body was transformed into that of my favorite person in the world. (The possibility that things might go awry and I would become a total stranger never occurred to me either.) That I would spend nearly a year learning what it's like to live as a woman, and then have a safety net of being able to return. I'm a scientist by trade, so having that kind of data is irresistible to me.

Put it this way. You'd be surprised to learn Santa Claus exists - but you've heard of Santa Claus.

You wouldn't be surprised by my observations of course, but it's one thing to know the difference between a female body and a male one, another to live it. For days, I spent hours just walking around feeling my thighs rub together, my hips and butt swaying, going up and down stairs to feel my boobs and belly jiggle. I think constantly about how hungry or thirsty, hot or cold I am, trying to mark it in comparison to what I'm used to from my natural body. How long I go between meals or bathroom breaks, when I get tired, what it feels like to be intoxicated or drink caffeinated beverages. I noted down a nearly hourly journal of my first menstrual period two weeks ago - it was not fun but it was very informative.

If I were more of a sociologist maybe I could observe different peoples' reactions when I enter a room, but so far all I've got is "Sometimes people don't know what to look at when they see me."

For me, this isn't something to sit around and be miserable about. It's a learning opportunity.

My main problem is... it's left me all very lonely. Perhaps I would have been better off thinking Jenn was Shona. I know it would not have been better for her but I could go through life blindly not knowing the woman I love essentially disappeared from my life, and instead I have her face to remind me. There is an emptiness in my gut where it comes to her. And now that I know she really did leave, I hope to find out what became of her, to speak to her about all this.

But so far, nothing.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Daryl/Magda: Wine O'Clock

J.T. is home this weekend, and thank God.  It's not just that I've missed him, but I've started missing me.  Not having someone around who knows that I'm not the same on the inside as on the outside was not quite exactly what I expected it to be, but it does make me wonder how far off the day is when I think of myself entirely as Magda.

That seemed impossible the last time I blogged, but I sometimes think that the Inn wants us to take the places of the people we've become, and the only thing holding us back from doing so is our own stubbornness and attachment to other things.  J.T. is my link to my old life, so while he's away, it's easy to slip into the things a woman in Magda's position does.

I've been working in this airport long enough to know my co-workers, so it's not particularly strange when they invite me to join them for a drink after work, although some do raise an eyebrow when I actually accept.  I'm worried that I won't fit in, but it's actually easier in some ways than fitting in with J.T.'s friends, who assume I've got little to say to them.  We've got work, a after all, and if you've ever been standing behind an unreasonable person while waiting in line, you know airline workers are going to have a list of grievances at the end of the day.

On top of that, there's a lot of physical things that I kind of don't realize are wearing me down until I'm not doing them any more.  Just walking down the street with a bunch of 5'6" women in their forties is kind of a revelation w when you spend most of your time trying to match the pace of younger, taller men because you think that you should be able to do so, even if you leave heels completely out of it.  So is ordering a glass of wine instead of beer or liquor.  I gather the health benefits are mostly bunk - most of the benefit ascribed to having a glass of wine or two a day also correlate to the other dietary choices wine-drinkers make - but it seems to match my palate and throat better.  It's strange but true.

They don't just talk about work, though, and the topic turning to kids is where things started getting a little surreal for me.  I can go weeks without giving Harmon a lot of conscious thought - it takes a moment or two for me to recognize that all the selfies and stuff "Alicia" posts on social media is kind of a performance as opposed to just the amounts of some ordinary girl when I'm scrolling through my phone, and then I take a moment to think about whether I'll ever go that native.

I hadn't actually watched his YouTube channel until one of the ladies was talking about how her kids don't listen to the radio or watch TV but just go to YouTube and I mentioned that my daughter had a channel just to have something to say.  Someone got out a tablet and we watched them, and I was kind of surprised how much he seemed to be enjoying himself, even doing a couple in the uniform I remember him taking off as soon as he would get home during our time living together.

(I mentioned them to Lindsey, who I kind of keep in touch with every now and then, saying that Harmon must finally be staying to enjoy his new life, but she doesn't buy it, thinking he'd just found a way to exploit himself or the next person who becomes Alicia just like he always did girls like her.)

A couple of weeks of this made me pretty happy when Jenn texted and asked if I'd take her to a movie because people keep carding her when she tries to buy a ticket to Hustlers.  I kind of laugh but say yes, heading out to the Bronx on my next day off to meet up.

She's not at the theater when I arrive and hadn't sending me messages, so I get a bit worried and walk to her address.

I get buzzed up when I say it's Magda for Paola, but when I open the door, it's her "Mom", adding that she's sorry, but the school confiscates students' phones when they've got detention.  I ask what that is about, and she just shrugs.  "I try to just let Jenn be, but if she's anything like me, she is not taking the whole racism thing well.  Pray you don't ever have to find out just how many awful ways there are to refer to Latinas in general and Puerto Ricans specially!"

I actually smiled a bit at that.  "I am a black man under all this, you know."

"Right!  Sorry!  Jenn told me.  Is it okay if I say you wear your new skin well, though?"

"I hope so; gotta keep a younger man interested, after all."

"I hear that, even if my guy sometimes seems to forget that he agreed just as much as I did overnight."  We laughed, and then she said that maybe we should lean into the middle-aged woman stereotype and have a couple glasses of wine while we wait.  Like I said, I'm willing.

It's more or less like doing the same thing with real middle-aged women; we tell stories and laugh a bit too loud, only hers are about trying to come up with excuses for why a grown man in the body of a ten-year-old girl is acting out at school and mine are about subjecting myself to a mammogram because I'd been wearing bras a size too small.  Maybe it was the wine talking, but I feel like she's the first person to find my story of trusting fate with J.T. romantic without reservation.

We were on our second glasses when Jenn and her "sister" arrived and ditched their things.  The others turned down the chance to come along, much to Jenn's relief.  I guess I technically wound up part of a fake family too, but Harmon/Alicia is not someone I have to deal with regularly.

"So, detention.  What's that about?"

I was trying to make conversation as we headed to the box office, but she just grunted.  "I'm pretty sure you mean well, Daryl, but can I just hang out with someone who will treat me as an adult and not talk about high school?"

"Sure, no problem.  So, you've been in New York longer than me - should I root for the Knicks or the Nets?"

She didn't really have an opinion on that, but it did get her to talk about the differences between the boroughs a bit, and how there could be bigger differences in traveling a few stops on the subway than across the country, and that was before trying to bluff how good your Spanish was.

The movie itself want bag, although I was expecting a heist more than a scam.  Jenn liked it, although I tried not to look in her direction too often, because I'd feel guilty even though I know she's not really a kid and is not like I've ever really been any sort of prude about what teenagers song some boobs or hearing the word "fuck".  What kind of middle-aged white woman am I becoming?

One who at least can joke about how J-Lo being 50 makes me both feel better about the age that the Inn made me and also kind of saggy in spots, I guess.  Jenn laughed at that, and asked if I'd ever tried any of those shoes, because she once bought a really ridiculous pair to give her boyfriend an anniversary surprise and felt ridiculous.  I said the original Magda had a pair, and I tried them on while sitting on the bed, but knew I'd fall flat on my face if I tried to stand, so they went to Goodwill.  She just pushed hers to the back of the closet and almost completely forgot them, but now she wonders what became of them, since she hasn't heard about new-Jenn breaking her neck.

"That got dark."

"Yeah, I'm just...  I don't know.  You ever wish you could go to therapy for this?"

"Every damn day."

"Now try it when you're not old enough to drink and have to get up for school every morning."  She yawned, and we split up at the subway.

I've got to admit, I'm really excited about J.T. Being back home tonight.  I'm ready to feel like myself again.

-Magdaryl

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: _______ with Alicia

Though I ultimately opted against adding more salacious content to the Instagram amount that I inherited from Alicia, I did find myself curious about what I could do with itbeyond simply treating it as a repository of photographs for future reference.  I may, after all, find my next set of circumstances one where an understanding of the market dynamics of social media could be quite valuable, and the best way to learn new things is through experimentation.

So, if the content was not going to change much, what other variables could I consider?  Engagement seemed the most obvious, so I started replying to comments, and occasionally following the accounts of one's that had something interesting to say.  I would occasionally make notes on what certain people liked or questioned, keeping it in mind when taking photographs.  Look a bit wanton when mostly undressed for the men, excited when trying new clothes on for the women, make sure there is both something familiar and obscure when sightseeing.  When following someone else, especially one with a larger audience than oneself, comment quickly and simply if she just wants validation; ask questions if she seems to be looking for people who share her interests.

It seems simple enough, but with the right raw materials and the discipline to post regularly enough that one's followers don't feel neglected, one can grow an audience fairly quickly; by the end of July I had gone from 20,000 followers to 75,000.

And my roommates treated this as some kind of accomplishment!  I had changed very little about how I lived my life, but having total strangers "like" what they saw apparently made that life noteworthy, rather than cause to roll their eyes and treat me as an antisocial snob.  They started asking questions about what I'd been up to, and recommendations for what to see in cities that they had visited more often than I had.

I did hit a plateau in August, and thought that might be the end of the experiment, which was something of a relief - the amount of time these "influencer" people must spend on targeted interaction and filtering the most grotesque things that people try top attach to their profiles while not coming off as heavy-handed or some such must be extensive, as I found that an account which posted roughly a picture or two a day might need an hour's maintenance every night.  I was quite ready to simply go back to using the site for my original propose and let those other people continue to pay attention or not as they would.

But then one of the comments caught my eye, saying that I should have a podcast or a YouTube channel.  I had given something along those lines some thought, of course, every time somebody said that a place I had visited and my description of it was interesting, but I was thinking more in terms of a book.  This suggestion seemed more in line with what somebody my apparent age would do.

I mentioned this idly to "Barbie" and her eyes practically lit up, and she quickly opened the locker at the foot of her bed to pull out a video camera, then scooted to the other side of the room to point it at me.  The lens moved and then the red light came on, and she asked me about my favorite place to fly.

"I'd rather not."

"No, you totally should!  Come on - what's the place you're always tempted to over-bid on?"

I roll my eyes and start talking about a sculpture garden in New Mexico which is far from my favorite destination, mentioning how the dry air preserves the work although the hippies who live in the area are nearly as amusing.  I expect her to turn it off, but she doesn't, instead waiting until I'm done and saying it was "awesome", and that I must have wanted to be a teacher before getting into this.  I told her I'd given it some thought.

She says this could be the basis for a channel, that there are men who go on for hours on YouTube about how new science-fiction films are evidence of a conspiracy against the male gender, and I am far more interesting and attractive than they are.  Not untrue, I admit, and we eventually start having out the idea of the channel/"show".  She comes up with the title, saying that even if I never actually do anything more risqué than wearing a short skirt, it will get attention, even if it really means I can do shows on whatever I want (and looks at me blankly when I say it's straight out of The Match Game).

The next day is a mutual day off for us, so we crisscrossed the city with her camera, me delivering "lectures" on the various pieces of WPA at in the area, something that one would think people her age would know about, what with their belief that everyone is an artist or a "maker" deserving of support and fondness for politicians who openly identify as socialist, though I suppose their not reading history is why they need videos like these to spoon-feed it to them.  And though I describe them as lectures, they are not much like standing in a classroom.  There s just Barbie and the camera, telling me to smile more, flirt, or "pretend [I am] telling [my] boyfriend about one of [my] favorite things". 

Ridiculous, even if it does apparently make for good Internet video.  We waited a bit to post it, making a few others at various stops and shooting some new footage as we got more familiar with the process, eventually deciding to bank a few before starting to upload them on Thursday mornings and regularly mention them on my social media accounts over the next few days.

We sent the first one out before working a round-trip to Dallas on September 5th, and she was disappointed to see it did not immediately get many views, and just almost forgot about it until my phone started buzzing while I was in the shower.  I didn't recognize the name of the daughter of s some celebrity who has not herself accomplished anything who re-tweeted our link, but Barbie did, her eyes going wide as she opened her laptop.  The counter on my new YouTube channel was incrementing quite rapidly.  "Is this unusual?"

She looked from it to me, eyes wide.  "Is this unusual?  It's huge!  You're huge!"  Or faces were close, and out of nowhere, she kissed me on the lips.

I did not see this coming, but I had not forgotten how to respond, kissing her back and pulling her closer.  For all that the sensation of our breasts together was surprising, it was not unpleasant, and she has a quite impressive bottom which was soon in my hands, being pulled from her seat.  I unzipped her uniform while she worked the buttons on my pajamas, and soon we were on my bed, her back to my chest, my hands spring her breasts while I kissed her neck.  Soon one found its way lower, and I found that I had not completely lost practice in pleasing a woman.

She seemed to come out of her trance when she turned around and kneeled on the floor, her face being level with my pelvis seeming to surprise her.  "I'm sorry, I can't...  I shouldn't have...  I've never..."  And then she started crying.

I was briefly annoyed, but tried to shrug it off.  "Not to worry," I said while replacing my pajama top, "we were excited, and this was something of a first for me as well.  Now, go take your turn in the shower and when you come back, it will be like it never happened."

"Yeah, that's probably for best."  She pulled a t-shirt and sweatpants from her dresser and headed for the bathroom.

We have been cordial since, continuing to work on the channel and mostly assigned to the same flights.  I do, on occasion, find myself curious about what would have happened had she not gotten cold feet - she is the sort of young woman that I have long favored, even if she does not have the same academic background - but this shape obviously makes circumstances different.  In the meantime, we work together both in the air and on the ground.

-Harmon Keller