The good thing about these days is that when you need to disappear for a little while, everyone understands it. I've had some communication with Chantelle's office and they've been able to put some of her work onto others while I, the person who'll be living her life, get settled in. I did sense some pressure to go in, which I'm feeling like I will have to bow to sooner than later.
We spent a few days at the hotel, conferring with the other transform-ees about their status. Seems like the place has been mostly a couples getaway since that's who people were and what they remained, although we were not the only ones to have their genders remixed (or their partners...) Since there's room for 13 at the Inn I guess there's one solo person but I didn't meet them and I guess it doesn't matter. All through that time we went through periods of quiet reflection on the situation, punctuated by the necessity of eating and flipping through my phone for distraction, ruing the fact that this place has no cable so I had to miss Celtics-Warriors game 1. Laura went out for a walk once or twice to break the boredom, but I couldn't let the world see me like this.
Obviously I was going to have to eventually, but I wasn't up for doing so recreationally. Get me from point A to point B as quickly as possible, please.
When we left Maine, I was wearing a scoop-neck tee shirt and jean shorts without a lot of give to them, basically the most casual travelling outfit I could piece together from Chantelle's luggage, even if it did display a lot of skin. I made a note of how different the temperature of the air felt on my body, and the fabrics... and of course, having no male equipment to get bunched up in the shorts. I had big sunglasses on to obscure my face, and even though very few people are wearing them anymore, a mask. I wasn't initially planning on wearing a bra, but after seeing how my breasts felt and looked without one, I gave in, and partially as a result I now know what it feels like to sweat under your boobs. I borrowed some of Laura's underwear, the idea of wearing this strange woman's panties seemed very wrong to me so if I was going to wear someone else's garments it might as well be my wife's. I won't lie, there was something a little... kinky about that, as by the time we were ready to go my opinion of this body went from "get it out of my sight" to "hm, let's look a little longer, what's the harm?" Laura also put my hair in a bun, explaining to me what she was doing as she did so that I could replicate.
I have to admit, there was a strange intimacy to her doing this, even though she is not in her own body. It was part discomfort part connection. Knowing that my wife is in that body, and yet she was very close to not being my wife anymore, and that body not being a familiar one or something I find myself physically attracted to, gives the whole deal a weird push-pull that I would rather not deal with, so I tried to subtly keep her at arm's length.
There was something we didn't want to talk about... her being in the body of a married man.
"Marc," she said, trying to put as much feminine sympathy into her voice as would go, "I have to... you know..."
I didn't necessarily want to hear it. I couldn't wrap my brain around it. A two year saga of therapy and hard nights and fights and reconciliations and unanswered questions, and this is what it comes to? The universe reassigns our sexes and splits us up? I'm supposed to let my wife go be with someone else... as a husband?
I know she isn't excited about it or anything, but she feels a sense of responsibility. These are peoples' lives. We can't just toy with them, it's not right. How would we feel if...
I stop her. We've both had the sense for a while that I didn't care what happened in my life.
I say, "It's too heavy, it's too much. We'll talk later." I focused on Chantelle's phone, trying to catch up with her work e-mails and personal texts, of which there are many, especially from "Emma" and "Amanda," who seem to be into telling Chantelle everything about their lives. Their group chat is called "Carey Babes" so I assume they are sisters or relatives.
I spent a lot of the ride fidgeting in my seat. Between my new underwear riding up, my bra digging in, and certain other unique facets of this body, I was scratching and pulling at myself too much for Laura's liking and got scolded for it. Women have entire lifetimes to get used to these sorts of things, can you please give me a week to be a gross, awkward weirdo before I rejoin society?
(This may be TMI but we're all friends here: Chantelle's pubic hair is seemingly just growing back in after being shaved or waxed, and it is very itchy down there. I recognize that I should probably not address that in public, but we weren't near anyone on the train and it was driving me buggy.)
We took the Downeaster back to Boston, spent some time tidying up the apartment and gathering a few personal things and spent the night there before proceeding to Albany in the morning by rental car, an awkward drive.
I took myself home, although being on my own, in this body, in a strange city -- even just in the back of a cab -- was eerie as hell. Chantelle has an apartment to herself, and an orange tabby that was staying with a neighbor lady. The cat's name is Hardy and it seems to particularly enjoy pressing on my boobs, sometimes with its claws out. Cats are evil.
The place was neat and very much more decor-oriented than any place I lived on my own, very much a woman's apartment. I felt like a guest walking in, with the distinct fear or messing anything up. Having been in a relationship for years, I am pretty well-acquainted with a lot of the trappings of womanhood. If I were a man on his own -- which I guess I am now -- the place would be minimal. Almost nothing on the walls (not since I outgrew the need for band or Spider-Man posters) no vases or trinkets. I don't even know if I would own throw pillows without a woman's influence in my life. I think about whether I'm going to make this life suit me, or I'm going to change myself to suit this life. After all I've had years of not being that "minimalist" guy anymore. Maybe Chantelle's life is closer to what I'm used to.
After a hot day in transit, I decided it was time for a shower. The water and suds felt good on my skin, although it took me a while to figure out exactly what was the right water temperature now since a good "hot shower" may not involve cranking the knob all the way up anymore. I'm trying to embrace scented body wash since that was what was on hand. I'm not going to pretend to be more sheepish than I actually am -- it's my body, I might as well do what I can with it. If that means spending extra time soaping up my breasts on my first day on the loose, who can judge me? I'm a man, I'm curious what things feel like and while I may not have my proper equipment, there's something pleasurable about it all. Facing it and, in a way embracing it, is a good way to process.
I spent a few days in a bathrobe, or not wearing anything but a pair of light shorts and a t-shirt from the band Twenty-One Pilots, slowly coming around to the idea that I have to be this person. I busied myself by cleaning out the fridge and scrubbing the bathroom. I spent long moments gazing at my new face in the mirror, examining her, trying to get to know her and who I am supposed to be as her. I don't really see myself in it, which is a strange feeling. I took a few selfies, trying to get a feel for what people were seeing when they looked at me, what I might look like when I smile, frown, make a joking around exaggerated expression, etc.
At times, I have thought about where this is all going -- facing the reality of being another person -- and I've been seized by hives, itchy red patches on my arms, neck and chest. Physical manifestation of my own nervousness. Great, just what I need, among surely other fun surprises this body has in store for me.
I still have a suitcase full of clothes to put away.
Bras, panties, skirts, dresses, tops, tights, jeans, shorts... four pairs of shoes. Accessories, hair products, skin products, makeup. The buy-in for womanhood is so high, and I know a lot of it's elective but in certain fields it's not. I wake up and my hair is in knots and I have to brush it out. I'm learning things to do with it. I thought about cutting it off, but... I actually don't want to? I've never had long, flowing hair before and I think it goes well with this body, it's just very hot all hanging off my head and seems like it might be the devil to upkeep.
I don't know where to start with makeup. I think I look okay without it?
I do think I will trim these nails, which are very difficult -- in my male opinion -- to type with either on a keyboard or on a phone. It's very strange to me that women wear long nails and work around them instead of doing what's sensible.
In the three-page double-sided letter I received from Chantelle, I was directed to a very specific nighttime skin care routine that I have adhered to. Following this instruction has added some normalcy to my life. Someone, just tell me what to do. Maybe I'll do it, maybe I'll do the opposite, but either way I'll have a direction.
Laura -- or is it Damon now -- and I have texted a little bit since parting at the train station, but I'm keep her/him at arm's length. I wonder if a clean break is best, as gutting as that is to me. It's true that I was, at times, nearly as ready to end the relationship as she was, but not like this. Now I feel like I need her more than ever and yet I feel it is not right for us to have a lot of communication, and maybe it's not wrong for me to go it alone.
This is my pouty face.