Transplanted Life
Saturday, October 18, 2003
It's gotta be the shoes
I don't know what I did to Michelle's feet, but I'm really sorry. The right one hurts whenever I put weight on it, which is really unfortunate, since feet basically exist to have weight put on them.

Being a girl has not given me much fondness for amassing footwear. My idea of enough shoes is two pairs of sneakers - one that's completely black and plain enough that you can get by with them even at formal occasions, and another just in case the first get messed up. Consider that before the change I had size 10 wide feet, and it was just a matter of going into the store, finding what fit that limited description, and getting out.

I didn't quite inherit an abundance of shoes from Michelle, but she had five pairs, only one of them sneakers. I got a couple more a few weeks ago, but those were work shoes, too (which has a different connotation nowadays, obviously). But once I got home from work or on the weekend, I've been wearing the same shoes every day, never noticing that they're getting pretty worn out. Now that I flip them over and look at them, the soles are pretty much worn out, and while there aren't holes, there's a split or something that lines up pretty well with both where the shoe bends as you step and where my foot hurts.

You'd think women's feet would be tougher, since they have to get contorted and stuck in heels so that the pressure's not evenly distributed or shoes that come to a point for NO GOOD REASON. They wouldn't do that if it were so painful, right? Ha! Now I know why my girlfriends were always going barefoot in the apartment - as much as girls want shoes to look good, they must grow to hate wearing them.

So it looks like I'd better go shoe-shopping as soon as walking doesn't hurt. Time to see how much the old model of "wear shoes until they wear out, get new pair(s) exactly like them at Payless" works for a girl.

Friday, October 17, 2003
Moral victories (and failings)
In the "victory" side of the ledger, I didn't kill Mark, who decided "casual Friday" meant "wear a Derek Jeter jersey to work day". Kindness like that was rampant. Makes me feel good about the people I work with.

It's too bad that such a great season, series, and game came down to that ending. I'm pretty firmly in the "kill Grady Gump" camp. Fortunately, I didn't really feel this strongly until after Jen's boyfriend had left for work at quarter of eleven. He's a cop, and I guess there were a lot on duty last night.

What this meant was that by the time the game finally and painfully ended at 12:20am, I didn't know whether the T would still be running. I know it kicks out sometime around twelve or twelve-thirty, but I'm not sure when. Anyway, I was going to take a cab, but Jen said just to stay there. We spent fifteen minutes trying to fold out her couch before realizing that it didn't turn into a bed. "Am we just really tired," she asked, "or am I exceptionally blonde to not know my own furniture."

"Nah," I said, "You're exceptionally blonde to think anything can be used as a bed." That got me a pillow to the head.

"Ah, well," she said. "My bed's a king-size, so there's more than enough room. Carlos won't be back until nine, anyway."

I was kind of amused that I just can't wind up on the couch. Jen reached into a drawer and pulled out a pair of pajamas. What surprised me, though, was when Jen just started peeling to get into her own jammies.

No big deal, right? We're both physically women, right? Still, first time I've been in a room with a girl in her underwear since this started. And I felt bad, because she didn't think twice about taking off her clothes because she saw no reason why it should be a big deal. Meanwhile, I'm putting "make hot sweaty love with Jen" to my list of Things To Do When I Get My Own Body Back. That's not fair to her, and it's even worse that she doesn't even know I'm doing it.

I bury that, though, and get changed myself. Jen's a few inches taller than Michelle, so I've got to roll the cuffs up to avoid tripping over them, and the top is pretty tent-line (still, I'm glad it's not tight in the chest). She asks me if her 6:30 alarm is okay, since she likes to run a couple miles before getting ready for work, and I say it's fine, since I've got to get home to change anyway. We hit the bed, me drawing an imaginary line across the middle, but we don't go to sleep right away.

She asks me how I'm doing now that Kurt's out of my life. I tell her that I'm so used to him being out of my life during the weekend anyway that I haven't really noticed a difference yet, and there's some truth to that. I ask her how she doesn't freak out with Carlos going out on patrol every night. She says that know Carlos is out there makes her feel safe, and that it balances out the worry a little. I say that I guess that's fair, and we drift off.

When I wake up, I feel a breast in my hand, which isn't that unusual - I've had a ton of weird dreams that end with me waking up, fondling Michelle's body - but not feeling a hand on my breast is. It only take me a minute to realize where my hand is, and it jolts me awake. I remove my hand and get out of the bed as quickly as possible without waking her up. I decide to make myself scarece, but her alarm has gone off by the time I've gotten dressed and found my purse (it's a cruel joke that society tells women they need to have makeup, maxi-pads, and the like with them all the time but gives them clothes with no pockets, or that are so tight that they might as well not have any). She doesn't seem to realize where my hands got to while we slept, though, so we just chit-chat a little before she heads out for her run and I get on the subway.

She doesn't say anything to me, or anyone else, apparently, at work, so I guess it's no big deal. But it is. It's a reminder that my every interaction with other people is affected by what happened to me. Even people who've never met Martin Hartle or Michelle Garber before the switch. I had thought that one of the good things about Kurt dumping "Michelle" was that I wouldn't feel like I was deceiving everybody I came into contact with.

I guess I was fooling myself.

Thursday, October 16, 2003
Why I love sports
Say something terrible happens to you. Something scary and impossible to explain, which turns every aspect of your life upside down. And you can't talk about it with anyone. The only outlet you've got is writing an online diary, but what you write is so absurd that anyone who reads it will assume it's a work of fiction.

But you get used to it. You come to look upon it as a learning experience of a sort, and even start to maybe think of a good friend in a new way, a way that would have been absurd (if not, well, gross) before. You occasionally, late at night, as he's asleep in the bed beside you, wonder if you want things to change back. And then even that bit of happiness is taken away from you. You're alone, with a frightening secret, and once again the world seems chaotic and unfamiliar.

It's no small solace that certain things in the world are unchanged and still exciting. No matter what happens, there are games beign played, as seemingly random and unpredictable as your own life but also, in their way, scrupulously fair. Even if what happened to you is crazy, they provide a sense of order while at the same time showing you that no-one else knows just what is going to happen next, either. As you ride the train home from work, everyone else is intently listening to their radios, all interested in the same thing you are. You're sharing something unspoken with all these people you've never met, with the best friend/boyfriend or girlfriend who dumped you but you still care for, with the mother you can't speak to. And when you talk to the new friends, the ones who think they know you but are missing a huge piece of who you really are, at least on this subject, you can connect completely.

Sports are great. And sometimes, like tonight, they deliver something so exciting, so operatic, that even a life as peculiar as mine can be put aside because it is not, for three hours at least, as interesting as what's going on on the diamond. Those chaotic events, those thousands of baseball games played over the past seven months, have somehow formed a story, a story that millions of people have followed, that's now drawing to a climax.

Tonight, as I sit on Jen's couch and munch on nachos and yell and scream and pray, I'm not Martin, I'm not Michelle, I don't have to worry about whether I'll ever get my own body back or anything related to that. I'll just be a Red Sox fan, just like millions of other Red Sox fans, not terribly dissimilar from millions of Yankee fans, or Marlins fans, or just people who recognize a great baseball game when they see one.


PS: One of those days when I don't mind working as a receptionist as opposed to what I went to school for. How can anybody be expected to concentrate?
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
A slightly more considered reaction
Went to see Kill Bill with Kate & Jen yesterday. Kate's reaction was something along the lines of "dammit, Tarantino tricked me into going to one of your kung fu movies again!" Which is fair enough, I suppose. Still, I don't think a Jet Li kickfest would lead to a conversation about whether the director was going for a girl-power vibe or objectifying women with all the fetish costumes. Or whether QT had taken a subplot that would have gotten the movie an NC-17 and made it palatable by telling that story with animation.

I think I heard "it's for the best" about a million times after I said Kurt had dumped me. I'm not sure, though. It's utterly ridiculous that the outcome of this whole body-switching mess should depend on whether or not I obeyed Michelle's instructions to keep going out with Kurt, or, more specifically, on whether she (or someone else) thinks I tried hard enough. "I told you go out with him, and you didn't even put up a fight when he ditched you for that redhead!" Sure, it could have been some weird deal where, aha, if I'd still been in Kurt's bed at the end of six months or whatever, that would have shown that I belonged in this body more than my own.

And that's really the galling part. I got into that thing with Kurt at someone else's insistence, and it's part of why I stayed there, but now that it's over, I don't know what that means, if anything. Will I be punished for it somehow, or will it make me get restored sooner, or was it just meant to be some sort of distraction? It's even more maddening than trying to figure out what possessed him to choose Denise over me/Michelle.

But, in a way, I'm glad it's over. Kurt has been my best friend for a while, and if things go well for him and Denise, that's legitimately great news. When I get my own body back, I'll have experienced having been someone's girlfriend, so I'll have some sort of insight when dating (and, yeah, when making love). I could grow to miss the bit where someone else pays for dinner, of course, but I'll bet I feel much more myself without the sex that comes with it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Didn't get a number or address for Natalya today. Barely noticed the ballgame. Can't sleep.

Because I just can't get past the other thing.

Kurt called at around five, asking me to meet him at the big reflecting pool by the Prudential Center. I thought it was kind of weird, but okay.

I got there, and it takes me a while because even though it's on the Green line, the B-train doesn't go there directly and I always get turned around coming out of the Copley station, and then I must have walked right past him two or three times because I'm expecting him to be alone.

But he's not alone. He's with Denise.

Kurt's all apologetic, but she hates me. Or Michelle. Whichever of us she sees. Even as Kurt's explaining to me that he met us both on the same night, that it was a really unusual situation that he thought would have sorted itself out quicker, she's looking at me like I was trying to steal her boyfriend, completely oblivious to the fact that I've got just as much right to make the same claim about her. But, since she's the one who forced a confrontation, she apparently gets to have exclusive rights to the anger, indignation, and moral high ground.

Apparently, her sister goes to Northeastern, and her boyfriend goes to Emerson, and it was him who saw Kurt and I eating in the North End on Thursday. He told the sister, who told Denise, who thought he must have seen someone else but when she made a joking comment about Kurt's other girlfriend Monday morning, he got all apologetic and promised to break it off. Which is what he was doing.

I don't know if I said ten words during this whole confrontation. I know it sounds arrogant, and like totally misplaced arrogance given that this isn't my real body, but I had honestly never considered this happening. I mean, inside, I'm basically a guy who is a lot like Kurt, and I "knew" from long experience that guys like me don't dump girls like me. It's the other way around. I'd been all worried that my being with Kurt would mess up his chances with this girl who seemed nice enough and wasn't some crazy amalgam of his friend's mind and some hot girl's body, but never considered that when the chips were down, he might choose Denise over "Michelle".

I still honestly can't understand why, either. I've got better curves, and I'm his best friend inside. I'm like a jelly donut, a swimsuit model with a whole bunch of common interests and rapport squirted inside. Sure, our relationship was probably about as healthy as a jelly donut, but who ever turns one down?

I could have spoken up and said that, hey, I've known for a month, but I trusted Kurt to have a good reason you bitch, but I didn't. I don't know if I was just in shock over what had happened or whether I just recognized that Kurt was probably better off in the long run with a girl who wouldn't have another person swapped back into her body or eventually tell him something impossible and insanely creepy about who she actually was, but I just took it. Didn't break down, didn't act like it was nothing. Just... took it.

All I said was to ask if we could still be friends. He smiled and asked if I would trust him to just be friends with an ex-girlfriend who looked like Michelle if I were in Denise's shoes. I said no, I guessed not, but that kind of hurt - like I was first and foremost just this shell to him, that who I was inside wasn't worth it. I don't expect him (or anyone) to see through everything and recognize me for who I am anymore, but I'd just hoped he might see that what's inside was someone he liked.

So it's over. Kurt's out of my life, and because he's out of my life, Wei's out of my life, and potentially everyone else I got to know in the past ten years. And if my mom keeps calling him, worried about why I don't call or anything, I don't know about it. I'm totally adrift in Michelle's life now, and even if I don't give in to despair, I don't know how I'll keep from drowning in it and losing any connection I have to who I, Martin Hartle, used to be.

Monday, October 13, 2003
Stupid, selfish...
Sometimes an idea doesn't come to you until you've had a chance to sleep on it. For example, I wrote this last night:

Is Michelle going out with this girl because she sees what she wishes she were in Natalya? This hair was dyed blond when I first met her, and maybe after a decade or so of lugging these breasts around, she might have liked the idea of smaller ones. Michelle came off kind of snotty the night I first met her, and Nat is potentially fabulously wealthy - maybe she likes the idea of entering a higher orbit.
...but I didn't make the obvious connection until I woke up this morning: What if I'm just a stepping stone of some sort so that Michelle could get to this Natalya, or more likely just someone like Natalya?

On the face, this theory seems obvious, but it's got a few problems. I always figured one of the reasons she switched with me was so that she didn't have to learn a lot or risk someone thinking I was acting strange - moving cross-country, I was a clean slate. That would be a whole lot tougher to pull off with her. But, if she insinuates "Martin" into Natalya's life, she can learn more before she pulls it off, and then maybe keep Martin/Natalya around to advise her on anything.

And, of course, if Michelle is just looking to switch with Nat (if she hasn't already), my chances of ever getting my own body back drop almost to nothing.

Damn it! I was going to use the holiday to see Kill Bill and Intolerable Cruelty, and now I guess I'd better spend it finding some contact info for this Tartakovsky girl.

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Well, with the game tonight called on account of rain, I did a little reading up on Natalya Tartakovsky. Apparently, she's the daughter of some sort of clothing mogul in the Seattle area - her family's apparently been there for 150 years, rising from humble beginnings as Russian fur traders, who later stopped trading and started selling their furs themselves, later diversifying into textiles and retail until and de-emphasizing the fur when it became politically incorrect. That is, really, a long line of shrewd businessmen for a family-owned business.

There was another picture with the two of them together last week, in one of the local tabloids, so I gather that first one isn't just a case of them being in the same shot when a society cameraman was taking pictures. I'm not sure what this Natalya does - I gather she's some sort of socialite; she's not listed anywhere on the family business's website, but has shown up in "About Town" sections a fair amount since graduating college in '01, with a degree in English (and a minor in Russian Literature - it's astounding what you can find on the web). She's pretty enough, with almost-white blond hair and a nice figure. Boobs aren't as big as mine, but then again, I'd probably look kind of trashy in some of the clothes she's photographed in.

I wonder if Michelle thinks stuff like that when she's out with Nat (as the papers call her). I don't spend much time judging Kurt's wardrobe or aftershave or stuff; I still sort of appraise his appearance as another guy would. Is Michelle going out with this girl because she sees what she wishes she were in Natalya? This hair was dyed blond when I first met her, and maybe after a decade or so of lugging these breasts around, she might have liked the idea of smaller ones. Michelle came off kind of snotty the night I first met her, and Nat is potentially fabulously wealthy - maybe she likes the idea of entering a higher orbit.

Or, maybe they just met at the ballet and hit it off. I just don't know enough about either of them to jduge.

Still, I'm kind of glad Michelle is seeing a girl in my body rather than a guy. If I hadn't been pushed (OK, shoved) toward Kurt, would I have allowed this body's innate heterosexuality to assert itself? I kind of doubt it. I don't know if I would have just stayed in and mastubated a lot, or started trolling for girls, or what, but I didn't really have much choice in the matter. Michelle did, of course, but it doesn't look like I'll be stuck with a boyfriend when we switch back.


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