Transplanted Life
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Really not a nice thing to say
Spent most of the day today trying to research this magic crap. I have to say, if Michelle's claim that she's part of some secret society of sorceresses that pulls this body swapping thing as some sort of intitiation or trial is true, then they've done an awful good job of keeping themselves secret. Everything similar I've found seems to pretty clearly be the work of someone who is at best creative and at worst some kind of wannabe.

So it was kind of a relief when Kate called me at about five o'clock. She had a couple tickets to Randy Newman at the Berklee Performance Center, and the guy she'd expected to take her had, apparently, freaked when he actually heard some of Newman's more satiric material. And, as she said, "who do I know who wouldn't have plans with her boyfriend on Saturday night?"

Kind of mean, but, I have to admit, fair. Part of the reason I'd gotten nowhere with my research was that I couldn't stop wondering what Kurt and Denise were doing right that very minute. I mean, she might not even be coming in to Boston this weekend, but if she weren't, wouldn't Kurt be looking to do something with me, rather than sit at home alone? Especially after Thursday night...

Funny, isn't it, how we act like sex brings with it some sort of obligation? I mean, really, more connections one way or the other is the last thing I want right now, and the ones I've got are disturbing once I give them any thought, but here I am, thinking "how can he make love to me and then see her the next day?" I should be grateful for the ready exit strategy.

...Um, anyway, I told Kate yes.

I enjoyed the concert, I guess. I'm not a big fan; I know he does a lot of film music and has a nasty side that comes out when he's not writing for Pixar. Kate had some fun pointing out a couple kids who probably "came for the Toy Story songs and would be whisked out when 'Rednecks' starts". He's a funny guy, but might have been better off with a band behind him; I don't know.

We got some coffee afterwards and commiserated on our luck with men. Kate can sometimes seem almost as conflicted about this whole thing as me; she's a smart, successful woman who absolutely hates that she feels like there's something missing from her life because she doesn't have a boyfriend right now. The funny part, she says, is that she actually gets no crap about that from her folks the way Jen says she does; her mom remembers how hard juggling a career and a family was and figured if it hasn't happened for Kate yet, no big deal. She's also been somewhat reliant on being fixed up, since she's allergic to alcohol and thus won't get much from the bar/club scene.

"But enough about my problems," she says, "Have you dumped yours yet?"

Well, no, actually, in fact...

"Wait a minute... you'd been going out with him for a month and a half and hadn't slept with him yet? I'm sur.... crap."

One of the reasons she may have trouble sustaining a relationship is that the part of her brain that keeps her from saying blunt, potentially hurtful things is apparently on three-second delay. It would be a cute trait for a character on a TV show, but one-on-one it loses some of its appeal. Fortunately, I know her and recognize that she regrets, but is sort of resigned to, the stuff that she says.

And, hey, probably the only reason I didn't peg Michelle as easy the first night we met was that she established herself as a bitch in my eyes pretty early. And, besides, when Kate first met Michelle, she was still dying her hair blonde. I made some comment about trying not to look that way, but apparently once you're past a certain cup size, you just can't look unattainable.

"I suppose that's true," she said, "though I guess I won't ever find out. Besides, look at it this way - now that he's 'attained' you, so to speak, what's he need her for?"

I agreed, trying to sound like that was what I really wanted, while trying to reassure her that she has a great figure.

"I wonder if men beat themselves up over this stuff? Before he got married, my brother always took a breakup hard, but once he lost his virginity, I don't think I ever saw him get all angsty before or during a relationship. Or any other guy."

"Hey, you'd be surprised what a man will do not to be alone." I was thinking of the Thursday, but opted to give another example. "When I met Kurt, he was all depressed about his friend moving away and how he wouldn't have anyone who was single to hang out with." I smiled, finding the situation amusing, and took a sip of coffee. "I think guys just have to drink something stronger than this for it to come out."

"Lucky them."

I wish I could do more to help her. She's kind of slid into that "best friend" slot now that Kurt occupies the "boyfriend" one. But, I don't think I know anyone to introduce her to - Kurt hardly needs another girlfriend, after all.

Friday, September 19, 2003
What have I done?
I am now officially in over my head.

I'd been all set to drop the "let's just be friends" on Kurt last night, before that damn phone call.

It's not just that Michelle said "keep going out with your boyfriend". She probably just meant that as "stay the course", "don't make waves", etc., as opposed to "if you break it off now, you'll be sorry". I still think I've made a good-faith effort with him, and if I broke it off so that he could focus on Denise, I wouldn't feel bad about it.

But, that conversation also gave me boundaries. If what Michelle said is true, I'm most likely looking at six or seven more months in this body - two at the very minimum. If I broke it off with Kurt last night, sure, we could try to be friends, but being friends with an ex isn't something I've been terribly good at, and Kurt hasn't either. Especially when you consider that all the rest of Kurt's friends, like mine, are professionals, scientists, writers, college graduates. Where does a five-years-younger girl with a lower income and no degree fit in, even if she does love baseball?

And I just don't feel like jettisoning every link to my real life. I'm afraid that if I do, Michelle's life will start to feel like my real life... I mean, God, look how acclimated I've got just in two months... what will six more months with no link to my past do to me?

So I figure, maybe I can stretch this out a little longer, and file the breakup speech in the back of my head. When I meet him at the restaurant (after running home to change into some jeans and sneakers), I just smile, kiss him, and act like I don't know about the other girl.

Dinner takes forever to come, and by the time we get to the move theater, the one we wanted to see was sold out (last day for American Wedding), and there was nothing else playing within a half hour that he wanted to see and hadn't seen. He asked what I was going to do now, and I said I'd probably just go home and watch the game. In that case, he says, why not come over to his place? He's got a widescreen TV and NESN's just started broadcasting in high definition. Sounds spiffy to me, so we walk to his apartment.

Now, I've already had a beer with dinner, and as soon as we're in the apartment, he's tossed me another. I'm about to sit in one of the chairs when he pats the couch beside him. Just force of habit; I only been there once since being in Michelle's body, and most of the times I'd come as Martin... Well, guys don't usually share a couch unless they're family; just one of those silly little homophobic habits we have.

I feel like stretching my legs, but the roommate has one of those 3-D puzzle things half-constructed on the coffee table, so I rest my legs on Kurt's lap. He doesn't complain.

Pretty soon my shoes are off and he's massaging my feet. He's really not that good at it, but the thought is nice. We're still mostly watching the game, but we've each gotten another beer. He comments on how cool it is to have a girlfriend who's happy to just share a beer and watch the game; I wonder if he's saying that because the redhead doesn't do that. Sometime in, I think, the seventh inning, he stops massaging my feet and starts tickling them. I giggle, but don't notice that his other hand has moved to my bottom. He gives it a squeeze, and I bolt upright in reaction.

His hand moves from my bottom and up under my blouse, holding me upright so he can kiss me. I'm a little surprised, but it feels good, so I respond, putting one hand behind his head and wrapping the other arm behind his back. I know I sort of freaked before, but after the day, it feels good to hold on to something solid. I barely notice that he's not tickling my feet any more, but his other hand has also gotten under my blouse. Give Kurt this - he's good. I didn't even notice he was working on my bra until I feel him pull it away and start on my breasts.

I'm a beer past thinking rationally at this point; all I can think of is how it's been a while. Sure, I've been pleasuring myself, but you can't be surprised that way. I vaguely recall hearing something about the game being over when he whispered in my ear that we should probably get to his room before the roomie came back, and it sounds good to me.

He carries me, and lays me out on the bed. My blouse is somewhere by the bedroom door, and he's licking my nipples, and I don't think what's coming out of my mouth was even words at that point. The end table by his bed has a drawer, and I know what's in it, and even if Kurt had never told "Martin" about his being prepared, I can see the condom pretty clearly.

He turns away to put it on, giving me a few seconds to use Michelle's alcohol-addled brain. I'd like to say I rapidly sobered up and ran, but in truth what was running through my mind was fear of not going through with it. Just hours ago, I'd been planning to break it off, but now I was thinking of the whole "make an effort" thing, but I wasn't scared of what would happen if I backed off - I was looking at it like a dare, and what guy with a few drinks in him refuses a dare?

The act itself was... Well, it was awfully gratifying. People are hard-wired to enjoy the sensation, and even if my sex organs now seemed sort of inside-out, it kind of felt like that configuration dispersed the good feelings out to my body, rather than focusing it. Not better, not worse, but a different feeling. I came - with all those new erotic sensations, how could I not? - and from the way he went limp, I gather Kurt did too.

I was so glad he fell asleep ten minutes later, though. By then, what I'd done had just hit me, and I really wanted out. I pulled up my pants, put my shirt on, grabbed my shoes and ran. I didn't realize my bra was still in Kurt's living room until I was on the T.

Two months! I hadn't been a woman for more than two months and already I was having sex with a guy. How would I be able to look Kurt in the eye when I got my own body back next year? Or any man, really - I'd crossed a line that I'd never even imagined I would cross, and how could they not be able to tell?

I got to sleep quickly enough - I was exhausted - but woke up a few times in the middle of the night. I've avoided talking to Jen and Kate today. I know girls talk about this stuff in lurid detail, and that's different from writing it down. Besides, I'm afraid Kate will be disappointed in me for giving it up to a guy I know is seeing someone else.

I'm still kind of sick about it. Perversely, I feel kind of insulted that he might be seeing Denise this weekend - I let you inside me and you still have eyes for another woman? - but at the same time, I feel kind of guilty that I may have made that situation more complicated. What if he chooses "Michelle" over her? The Michelle he knows has an expiration date, after all, and he probably won't like the real thing as much.

And the worst part? The worst part is that, despite all of the emotional complication, all the emasculation, and everything else...

I want to do it again.

Thursday, September 18, 2003
For crying out loud, witchcraft???

Let me back up ,and, again, try to get all the specifics down. A real receptionist or secretary would know shorthand and be transcribing it as it happened, but... Anyway, the phone rings, I pick it up, "BioSoft Inc. How may I help you?"

"So, are you sick of that yet?"

My own voice. I almost didn't recognize it at first, since your voice never sounds the same over the phone or on tape as it does when you hear yourself speak, and even though I've been leaving messages on "Martin's" voice mail for the past two months, neither I nor Michelle ever recorded a custom message.

I gasp Michelle's name, and she tut-tut-tuts me, saying she hopes there was no-one else in the room or I'd have some explaining to do. I look around, and I'm alone for the moment.

"Clever of you to get your boyfriend to call me - I didn't recognize his number on my caller ID. But it can't happen again, understand? I've put up with your constant calls and emails, but it's been two months. It has to stop."

"That's easy for you to say. You know what's going on."

I heard a sigh. "I suppose I owe you that much. What do you know of witchcraft?"

"Excuse me?"

"During her twenty-fifth year, a witch must both learn to see life from a new perspective and surrender control of her own. It helps us stay more in tune with the universal powers of the earth, rather than the limiting perspective of one life and one body. Does that make sense?"

"I suppose..."

"Good. Now, the good news is, this usually only lasts about five or six months. The bad news is that every day we communicate adds another two to the length of the test, and you've been sending me an email or phone message every day! I try to delete them without reading them, but the mere fact that I'm aware you're sending them may be enough. Are you trying to make this last forever?"

There's something in her/his/my voice there. I'm not sure what. Annoyance and exasperation, sure, but also some sort of contempt, or amusement, or... I'm not sure. Part of it's the way Michelle's speaking. It doesn't sound like me, or like what anyone I've met from New Hampshire sounds like. It reminds me of Lucy Lawless on Xena, actually - remember how the effort to conceal her New Zealand accent just made her sound like she wasn't from anywhere? I mention this to Michelle, after saying I want to be myself again.

"Then we understand each other. Now, just do your job, go out with your boyfriend, and don't worry about me. That way, things will get back to normal all the sooner."

And then she hung up without saying goodbye.

So. Witchcraft. I'd barely considered something supernatural. Even when I got email suggesting it, I dismissed the idea. I was so sure that it was no coincidence Michelle worked around bio-engineering. Even now, I have a hard time thinking of actual magic. I tend to agree with Arthur C. Clarke, that sufficiently advanced science looks like magic, and even confronted with something as inexplicable as my life the past couple of months, I tend to look for a rational explanation.

And I'm not going to stop. It just means I have to dig through even more information that's just as likely to be spurious.

Although I will, I guess, stop calling "me" unless it's an emergency. There is, after all, some chance it does more harm than good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
How to track "me" down
I wish I were really good with computers. It seems like a funny thing to say, since it's how I made my living before being in Michelle's body, but I've been falling out of practice. A receptionist only has to really know Outlook and Word, after all, and not very much more than looking up addresses/extensions, forwarding emails, and typing up letters. Even before, though, I was getting sort of specialized. I'd been doing so much Access work that if you wanted me to do any C or Java, I'd have been lost. And I had books on those.

But what I'm really thinking of is the stuff you see in movies - where the guy working from a laptop hacks through lord-knows-how-many firewalls and pieces of 128-byte encryption and traces someone else's movements directly (via KH-11 spy satellites) or by creating a trail via credit card receipts, cell phone records, and all that great stuff. I've got no idea how to do that. And it's not like they teach classes on it that I could take nights.

And even if I do manage to sort through the mess available on the web, I'm more than a little worried about getting caught. Say I do manage to find ways to track down what Michelle is doing with my body, and even manage to go way beyond anything I've ever done and snoop on her cell phone conversations. That's got to be multiple felonies there, and if I got caught (which is pretty likely - I screw simple SQL queries up on a regular basis), well, I'll be imprisoned somewhere, whether it be jail, a mental institution, or - on the off-chance someone at FBI or NSA believes my story - in some other sort of facility for "observation".

I'm going to have to be very careful with this. In some ways, I'm not sure what scares me worse - the idea of waiting for Michelle to just give me my body back, or the kind of trouble I can get into by pursuing it more actively.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003
This time, I really mean it
I couldn't do it. I chickened out. Which kind of ticks me off, because I can't remember how many times I've been frustrated to see female friends in a bad relationship not break it off. I used to think it was just something screwy in the female psyche, something about being trained practically since birth to look forward to boyfriends and weddings and stuff like that.

On the one hand, Wei and Jim were there the whole time, and I didn't want to make a scene in front of them. And I'd planned to do it after the movie, but without thinking that the Boylston T stop is right there when you get out of the movie theater. What was I planning to do, break up with him in the middle of Tremont Street?

Thinking about it later, though, that doesn't sound good enough. Maybe I just understood where Kurt was coming from too well. If I could have Michelle during the week and Denise on the weekend, would my first reaction be "no, that's not fair to them"? I doubt it. Besides, if I like going out with Kurt more than I'm creeped out by it and neither expect, plan, nor particularly want anything more from it, why should I change things?

Because Kurt's my best friend, is why. He seems to like Denise, and not only is she exactly who she says she is (so far as I know), but she chooses to go out of her way to spend time with him while I, let's face it, was pushed into this relationship.

This time, I'm really going to do it. I'm going to call him up, see if we can go see a movie Thursday night, pay my own way, and not give him any time between me saying "let's just be friends" and Denise coming in for the weekend for him to argue.

Monday, September 15, 2003
When I got back from lunch, there was an instant message on my computer from Kurt, asking if I'd like to go to a movie tonight. Wei & Jim are coming, the message says. It'll be fun.

I just stared at it for a long time. I feel stupid, in a way, being angry at him. All the stuff I wrote last night is still true, and let's not forget my motivations here. I'm going out with him because it seemed like something I had to do to get my own body back. I do enjoy it most of the time, but I'm not at the point where I'd choose him over my old life.

Yet. Maybe. If I'm honest, I'm keeping my options open, just like he is. Well, not just like, but it's not like this relationship's a total sham. I like him more than I did when we were guys, and in a different way. I won't say I love him, but there is something there.

All guys have fantasies of multiple girls, either at once or seperately. One of my college roommates said it was a biological imperative, to disperse ones genes as far as possible and to keep propogating the species even while one mate is pregnant. But that's our animal nature; in a civilized society, how do you say "oh, it's Michelle time now; even though I was just with Denise yesterday, this one's my girlfriend at the moment"? If we go out, and he kisses me tonight, is he just thinking of me? I can't imagine being in that situation.

(And here's something - where's Denise staying over the weekends? In her sister's dorm room? I doubt it. In a hotel? Maybe, but that can add up. At Kurt's place? In his bed? Perhaps with him not on the couch? How do you feel about that, Marti?)

What I should do - should - is take the high road. Don't let him know I know, say "let's just be friends", and hopefully manage to make that work. If Michelle holds it against me whenever she gets around to setting things straight, tell her I'd rather Kurt was in a relationship with a future and if she wants to punish me for not living up to my words, fine, my conscience is clean.

I don't want to, though. I want to know why I wasn't enough, or, if I'm "the other woman", where he got off leading me on like that. It's a lousy thing to do.

Whatever I do, I think I'll do after the movie. And make sure he buys my ticket and large popcorn and soda. Sure, it's petty, but it's not like I can beat him up.

Sunday, September 14, 2003
The Other Woman
God damn, I wish I were writing about the movies Kate and I saw to use up the last of her Film Festival tickets this afternoon (girl went through two books of ten!). Or how she told me about this Sunday-morning film series at the Brattle Theater, including the most important part - they serve donuts. How brilliant an idea is that? Every movie theater should serve donuts. Or how annoying it is to go down to the laundry room and find that someone else has taken your clothes out of the washer... I've always hated having other people handle my underwear (and considered it something of a relief when the washer destroyed Michelle's a lot of old stuff).

I wish those were the day's big events. But they weren't.

Kate and I were taking some time between Anything But Love and The Kiss to get something to eat in the Prudential Center's food court. I wasn't quite as impressed with Anything But Love as she was - just because I've got the plumbing doesn't mean I'm automatically going to go for the chick flicks - when Kurt walked into the food court. With someone else.

It was the girl from the bar, the other one, the cute redhead who was in town for a wedding party the night we first met Michelle. Denise, I think her name was, although reading the entry I posted, I was somewhat tipsy that night. She and Kurt were holding hands, kissing, joking around with an 18-year-old girl in a Northeastern University T-shirt who looked enough like her to be a sister and a guy the same age who must have been little sister's boyfriend. I stared, and then quickly turned away when Kurt started to look in our direction. Kate, being awfully smart, picked up on it in about two seconds, and asked what was up.

So I told her that was Kurt (Jen had met him, but not Kate). She asked if we'd had a fight, and I said no, not really, and then suggested that maybe the girl was Kurt's sister. I told her I'd seen pictures of Kurt's family, and she wasn't in 'em. Maybe a cousin, she said, and I allowed her that possibility, even though I knew it wasn't true. After all, how could I explain that I knew Kurt had gotten her phone number a couple hours before he'd hit on "Michelle"? A girl might notice that a guy in a bar is hitting on everything with breasts, but is she cataloguing how he hits on? Remembering it two months later? I kind of doubt it.

Kate wanted to drag me over there to confront him and then, as she said, "dump his ass". I told her no, I'd handle it myself, at another time. She shook her head when I said I'd give Kurt a chance to explain himself, probably having been down that road herself. But it's more complicated than she knows.

The hell of it is, thinking as a guy, which I still manage most of the time even with all the girly hormones and shit running through this body, I can't really fault Kurt that much. He met Denise and Michelle the same night, and for all I know had probably gotten in touch with Denise before I had freaking thrown Michelle at him. And, damn it, I remember liking her - I didn't go for redheads quite the way Kurt did, but she struck me as funny and smart. And it's stupid to decide on one of two perfectly good girls whom you've barely said ten words to, when that relationship could peter out before you'd even had sex.

But at a gut level, in my unwanted female guts, I was pissed. There just seemed to be something calculating about the way he was going about it - Denise lived somewhere in Springfield or something, so she could only come out to Boston during the weekends. So was I some kind of "other woman", his weekday girlfriend? Why couldn't he have been up front with me? Why couldn't he just say "I met another great girl the same night I met you, and just want to make sure..." Okay, it sounds stupid. But the other thing is that Wei must know, and she apparently hasn't seen fit to tell me. She's my friend, damn it, even if she doesn't realize it. Hell, Kurt's my friend, and he should treat me better than this.

I couldn't tell this all to Kate, of course. She just made a show of noticing that the next movie would start soon and getting us out of there.

Needless to say, neither of us enjoyed The Kiss very much. It wasn't a great movie anyway, but we just weren't in the mood for grand love affairs that even outlast death right after that.


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