I knew, once I opened that door, my life would change. I just wasn't sure how much it would change. Or what that change would look like.
Once I was buzzed in, I was greeted by a nice lady. I told her my name and that I had already called a few minutes before. She gave me a handout of paperwork to fill out and let me stow my bags behind the counter. While I sat in a nice chair in the lobby, another woman walked up and introduced herself. I instantly recognized her name as the person I had spoken with on the phone while I was at the VA housing office. She told me she was on her way out for the day. But, she wanted to wait until I arrived to introduce herself. I later found out she runs the veterans program. So in effect, she is my case manager's boss. She's a really nice lady.
While filling out the paperwork, several women walked up to the front counter and passed me going somewhere else. Some looked at me. Some smiled and some said hello. But, nobody really stared at me. As usual, I dressed kind of androgenously. I wore a plain black shirt from the Gap. And a pair of jeans. I let my hair down. And of course I was wearing a bra. Since I didn't feel completely safe, I chose not to wear anything bright or overtly feminine. But, I suspected that some would see me as a guy. I really don't have a choice in that matter. I know I have a very masculine face. So, most of the time, I see dressing more feminine as something that is both dangerous and a waste of time and money.
And that's what exactly happened after I finished the paperwork. I handed it back to the lady at the front counter and was immediately invited into the office behind the desk. The door was shut and one of the staff looked over the paperwork and asked me questions. She didn't seem at all fazed about my appearance. But, I found out a couple months later from a friend that when she first saw me sitting in the office through the glass window, she thought perhaps I was there to help my girlfriend with her paperwork. So, she at first saw me as male.
Inside the office, I was offered a sack lunch since I had missed dinner. But, I turned it down. I was a little too nervous to eat. The questions she asked me seemed appropriate for what I was getting myself into. There were questions about criminal background and health history, etc. Once all that was done, I grabbed my bags and followed a nice member of the staff as she conducted a semi-complete tour while guiding me to my bed. We walked down a long hall with closed doors on either side. Some appeared to be offices. And on one side there was a conference room. But, as we got closer to the dining room, there appeared to be doors to rooms. After briefly stopping at the entrance to the dining area to get the information about meal times, we back tracked to another hall that led us to the outside. There, we walked briefly outside until arriving at another building. Inside, were two large bays of beds, only divided by waist high walls. It appeared to be a cubicle farm for beds. Mine, however was a little more hidden than the rest. I was given a bed that appeared to be in a closet. It appeared to be one of two that were in this same setup. I had a doorway into my little room. But, no door. I did have full floor to ceiling walls though. So, at least a little bit of privacy. I found out later, they tried to give these beds to handicap women. I don't really think being trans is a handicap. But, I was thanful for the semi-private “room”.
But, that's not where I could keep my stuff. Since this was an open bay, everyone had to keep their stuff locked up. But, that was downstairs in the basement. I was very thankful to unload my stuff finally into a locker. It wasn't the biggest personal space. A vertical locker about the size I had when I was a varsity swimmer in high school. But, I was glad to be able to finally put my stuff away. Also in the basement of this old building was another dining room, my case manager's office, the one restroom in the building, the showers and a room of washers and dryers. The locker room also doubled as a tv room. There were two couches and six overflow cots that didn't appear to be in use at the time.
It had already been a very busy day. And although the sun had yet to set, I was emotionally exhausted. Now that my stuff was properly locked up, I nervously used the restroom and then headed back up to my bed. On the way, my eyes started looking for electrical outlets. I saw two near my little room. But, they were already occupied by gulping mobile phones. Once back up to my bed, I took a look around. I was given a small double bed and a night stand. No luck behind the nightstand. I pulled the bed away from the wall and noticed a box mounted against the concrete wall. It was clearly once an electrical outlet. There was a line leading away from it. But, it had been blocked. My hacker brain, decsended from a family of electricians, immediately started wondering if I could rewire it. But, I quickly thought better of it, not knowing where I could cut the power to avoid shocking myself.
After giving up on that, I decided to just lay down and rest. That didn't last long. I don't think I had been laying there for more than a minute when a small elderly lady who looked vaguely familiar (I later deducted that I had probably seen her on Colfax or the 16th St. Mall downtown) came into my little room to introduce herself. At this point, I was still nervous about saying “Rebecca” outloud. But, I did manage to get it out. She asked if I was hungry. I had to admit that I was a little hungry by then. So, without telling me what she had, came back with a bologna sandwich. She said she had it hidden under her pillow since lunch. I didn't want to offend her by not taking it. After all, I'm sure it was nice of her to give up on her own sandwich she chose to hoard away under her pillow. So, I took it and thanked her. I told her I needed to lay down. She left. But, after a few minutes she came back asking if I needed pajamas to sleep in.
I didn't fall asleep. My mind was still spinning at this new situation. I called my mom from my phone briefly to let her know I had arrived. And I sent a few text messages to friends. I knew I would eventually have to get ready for bed. I usually take a shower at night. But, the showers there were four shower booths in an open little area inside the bathroom. There was one big curtain seperating them from the rest of the bathroom. And a curtain separating each individual shower from the rest. But, I wasn't sure how this would work since I had no intention of letting anyone see me nude. Instead, I chose to forgo the shower this one night and get a better lay of the land after a day. Instead, I headed back down to my locker to fetch my pajamas.
Once down there, I did notice that a few people were looking at me. I didn't know if it was because of my gender. Or if they were just scouting out the newbie. Or both. A couple people came over to introduce themselves. Including one person who I might have wondered if she was a man or woman if we were outside these walls. A couple of them asked me to speak up. I was a little shy. But, I was able to escape too much criticism. I eventually found my pajamas and stuffed my still packed duffle bag back into the locker. I also grabbed my backpack and headed to a stall in the bathroom to change.
Once back up to the bed area, I noticed that there was an open outlet, should I choose to use it. But, I didn't yet feel comfortable leaving my iPhone out in the open while I slept. So, I placed it under my pillow. I also worried about my back pack. But, I felt better having it close to me. I placed it next to my bed and moved the nightstand closer. In effect jamming my backpack in between the bed and the nightstand. I figured once it was this way, you really couldn't see the bag if you were walking by.
I also figured that since I was also a somewhat large anatomical male, that I wouldn't get a lot of trouble from most people. I'm 5'10″ and roughly 200lbs. I have broad swimmer shoulders. And I have a history of not smiling much that most people misinterpret. So, although I don't like my body. This time it would come in handy.
I put my headphones in and tuned in KROQ HD2 on my phone. I didn't really care that my phone would be dead when I woke up. I needed the distraction.
To be continued.