Saturday, December 27, 2003
They say stress affects health. Not that a cruddy week can cause germs to somehow magically appear, but apparently it can play living hell with the immune system....
Screw it, I can't concentrate. Maybe tomorrow.
Friday, December 26, 2003
Things with Carter
He and I were two of only about five people at work today. Pretty much everyone else chose to use it as one of their floating holidays or vacation, but I guess he and I were sort of predicting the whole "depressed around the holidays" thing. Not a hard guess; neither of us really had much fun at Thanksgiving. I mean, I had that fun three-way, but the aftermath made me feel about four inches tall and sort of confirmed my outsider status. He had a fight with his ex after dinner and then checked into a cheap hotel to spend the time between the holiday and his flight on Sunday. I guess we both decided we were better off keeping busy today.
Didn't do much good, since the office was quiet enough to hear a pin drop and neither of us had a whole lot of work to do. I surfed the net looking for "Shelley Garber" stuff, since I hadn't really been looking for nicknames lately on my quest to learn more about the other players in this drama. I guess I'd gotten lazy and somewhat complacent. Didn't find much, no matter how I spelled it - "Shelly", "Chelley", "Chelle" (as in her e-mail address), "Shel-E". Just something from a community newspaper about her high-school graduation in '97, from a town near the one listed on her driver's license. Just a name on a list
Around 1:30, Carter asks me if he can grab me anything for luch and Bull Run. Jen and Kate aren't here, so I ask for a steak tip sub with "no pickle of any sort. Not on the sandwich, not next to the sandwich, and for the love of god, nowhere near the fries." He asks me what that was about when he comes back half an hour later, and I told him that anything that touches a pickle absorbs its flavor which is, of course, nauseating. It also makes fries squishy, which is almost as bad as tasting like a pickle.
I convince him to pull a chair up to the desk so we can talk. He apologizes right away for moving too fast Tuesday night, saying that just because he's been nuts over me for a month and a half doesn't mean he should assume I should feel the same way after about a week.
I tell him not to worry about it, that I was about ten seconds from being all over him that night. It was just, there were some things about my past, my life up until I started working here, that I didn't want to tell anybody about. But that by not telling people about it, I felt I was not being myself with my lovers. I didn't like, but was ridiculously vague - it was like a David Mamet scene where the cast is talking about meeting "the guy" at "the place" to get "the thing" so that they could be ready when "the time comes". "I mean, with Kurt, I was sleeping with him because I was afraid I was losing him, like by maybe closing the deal first or better or something I'd 'win'. And then afterward, just limiting myself to guys I'd just met to avoid any intimacy issues... I'm messed up, Carter. I'm really messed up."
"Not to make it a contest, but so am I. Seven foster homes before I graduated high school, then the Force. Shit, I should have stayed there, but I felt too comfortable; I didn't know how to act in a stable situation. All I can say is I'm working on it, and I think things with Annie might have worked out if she hadn't gotten homesick. I'm getting better at this."
A gave a quick chuckle. "Someone once told me that a guy won't score many points with a girl by saying that his last girlfriend may have been the love of his life."
"Ah, see, they just don't teach you this civilian stuff in the service." He polished off his chicken sandwich. "So, where's that leave us?"
"I want to be your friend. Really. I know it may be tough to believe, but this is the first time I can remember that most of my friends have been women. I've always hung out with the guys."
"Ah, so you were the hot girl on the math team? The geek girl who hung out with the nerds and didn't fit in once she got contacts and her breasts grew in?"
"Ha. Not quite. Someday I'll tell you about my life and you'll either laugh or be horrified - I'm never sure which to do. It will explain a lot, though."
"I promise nothing. But I can try not to be such a spaz."
"I'll take what I can get. And I promise not to try to be more than a friend more than once every two weeks."
So that's where we stand, mostly. I'm pretty sure I've just whetted his curiosity, but hopefully it can keep one source of tension on "low" until I figure out this whole Shelley thing.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
Well, not my favorite way to spend a holiday. Didn't even get out to see one of the dozen or so movies opening up today; just sat in bed feeling sorry for myself.
When I finally did get up at around noon, I just had no ambition. It was just a random day off in the middle of the week, where everyone else was having a good time and being happy. I know it's petty to feel angry at the rest of the world for that, but I'm just so sick of not having a handle on my life. I was getting by. I was to the point where I could be amused and philosophical about my situation most of the time. Sure, when I sat down to write about it, the more serious, melancholy thoughts had a way of coming through, but that wasn't the sum total of my feelings. There were things that felt good, funny, enjoyable.
Now, I just feel guilty. Just getting showered and dressed this morning, I felt like some kind of pervert, like I was somehow violating Michelle at that very moment by seeing her body naked and making it do what I wanted. Like this was some kind of sick control fantasy. And maybe it is, but it's not mine. And then, when I think of the sex... Oh, god. If it wasn't Michelle that stuck me in this body, if it was some third party, then it doesn't take a whole lot of twisting semantics to say that I raped her, or was party to it. Sure, I didn't suspect that Michelle might not have been responsible for the whole switching thing, but I should have at least considered the possibility that she wasn't responsible, and that whatever flimsy justification I had for using her body for whatever made me feel good at the time is nothing more than rationalization.
And then it's Christmas, and I've got no presents under my tree. I felt so alone. I spent the afternoon watching DVDs with the directors' commentaries turned on, so that it felt like someone was talking to me. How pathetic is that?
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Well, I'm more paranoid than I ever remember being
OK, how can I tell whether or not that girl last night was really Michelle? And if she was, what body is she in? How did she get there? Who else is involved? If she's not, then what is she accomplishing by making me think she is? And are more people in on this, or is this just some girl Michelle paid to mess with my head?
I'm inclined to think it's genuine. While, on the one hand, what she's saying seems too convenient, especially with regard to the "lost time", she sounded right. She sounded angry and scared, like a real person, not an actress or someone being put up to something. What she said about her last night in her own body sort of matched mine, at least in the having a few drinks, suddenly getting tired, and not waking up yourself department. And also, what she said... It strikes me as being detailed but not organized. Like if she'd was trying to misdirect me, she would have been more straightforward about it. Besides, if this was a put-up, how did whoever was doing it know they'd get a chance to talk to me alone? Even if it was inevitable I'd have to use the little girl's room, she bolted as soon as someone else came in. God, if I were smart, I would have buttonholed the person who came in the restroom and asked her what the girl who left looked like. Anyway, this might not be the first time she tried to talk to me, whoever she is, just the first time she saw a good opportunity.
As much as I hated the "witch" explanation, though, it had the benefit of being relatively simple. Sure, it posited other witches with their weird witchy rituals, but it did safely reduce the people involved to two: Me and Michelle. Now, we're up to at least three. And the two weeks between Michelle losing her body (if she can be believed) and me losing mine complicate matters. Someone was in Michelle's body then - I talked to her - but who?
Now take all those questions, add a sleepless night, and guess what I was like at work today. We closed up shop at noon, and only half the folks were there anyway, but I was a wreck. Carter wasn't talking to me.
I could at least eliminate some people, though. Jen never wears heels; she's 5'9" as it is and she once said she outgrew the need to be taller than guys in college. Kate does, but I don't think she was wearing them yesterday, and besides, I spend enough time with her that I'd recognize her voice. Wei, I've known for years, she's not much of an actress. Mags, I figure I'd recognize her too.
So now I'm thinking Denise. I've only heard her speak once or twice. Whether she's in on it, or Michelle is actually in her body (and in my sleep-deprived state, I'm thinking that would be hilariously ironic), it could be her. Or not. Arrgh.
So what do I do with this half-knowledge. I'm aching to confront whoever's in my body. I want answers, and I want the satisfaction of screaming at him/her for lying to me, making me the pawn in some stupid game where I don't even understand the rules for months. But would that be wise? What if Michelle's only in this other body due to some sort of accident and I'd be putting her in danger? If she's telling the truth, I don't exactly owe her, but causing trouble would not be the right thing to do.
What a mess. What a freaking mess.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
I kissed Carter at the Christmas party and that's just like a footnote to this day.
I didn't see it coming. I left the house this morning, wearing a backpack because of the other stuff I had to bring for the party - presents to give Kate and Jen at lunch, another for "secret Santa" exchanging at the party (actually sort of a "random Santa", because we didn't know who it would go to), and a change of clothes.
The day started out normal enough - more relaxed than usual, what with all the people leaving after the party for vacations. Lots of joking going on, people walking up to me with misteltoe, trying to get me to sing. Very few phone calls or visitors to deal with. Everything was out of the ordinary, but in an expected way. I should have been paying more attention, damn it.
Then at lunch, I bring my backpack along, which gets some comments. Kate and Jen are really surprised when I give them their presents; they didn't have anything for me, but that's okay. They've got their own family and boyfriends and stuff; it's okay that they're more important to me than I am to them. It doesn't mean I'm slighted, just that they've got more going on.
They seem pretty happy. I got Kate the Trois Coleurs DVD box set, and some gourmet Bloody Mary mix for Jen. They apologize up and down for not getting me anything, especially after I tell them that they were so big for me, being there when the thing with Kurt crashed and burned and just being my friends when I found myself alone in a new job "in a new, um, city" and didn't know a thing about anything. I wasn't trying to make them feel guilty or anything, just trying to be nice. I mean, as much as what I said was heartfelt, there was altogether too much hugging.
I had to leave work early, since I was in charge of decorations and stuff at the bar where the Christmas party was being held. It'd be Judy's job, but, hey, it's her retirement party. No problem, though - I don't mind getting out of the office early. I kind of threw myself into the party-planning a little, because I do like Christmas. Without people to shop for, stuff for work (along with the eggnog in my fridge) is what I've got to work with. Hence the goofy outfit. Peppermint-stick blouse and stockings, a gold mini-skirt, red Santa hat, and, heck, even jingle-bell earrings (clip-on ones. Michelle's ears were pierced when I got them, but apparently five months of not using them causes the little holes to close up). Yeah, I look goofy and girly, but it's a party and I'm supposed to be in charge of spreading holiday cheer.
Setup goes well - the folks at the bar are pros - and people start arriving at five. A lot of people were meeting spouses or significant others, so it's a bigger crowd than the office. I'm introduced to so many people that it's a blur. Grrr. Soon, there's holiday music playing. Judy's the last to arrive. She's surprised as can be, and when they present her with the plane tickets for her vacation in March, she actually starts crying.
After that, we do the random-Santa thing. I get one of those "10-in-one Atari game" things that's shaped like a classic CX40. Erik seems to like his Best Buy gift card.
Then, the drinking starts. I dial my natural instincts way back, remembering my last holiday party. I'm sort of still on the clock, anyway, trying to help keep the place from getting too wrecked, or at least that's what I tell myself.
Carter was not drunk when we bumped into each other, and neither was I. We were just a little loose. Well, we were by the last time. We were sort of continuing to be awkward, for all the conventional reasons. Finally, though, he got up the nerve to ask me to dance, and I figured, hey, it's just dancing. It wasn't a slow dance, which would have been clichÃƒÂ©. In fact, it was the infinitely more dangerous dance where you have something to say but have to speak up to be heard. He started with "see, it's not so bad".
I countered with "what?"
He said "doing stuff socially. Together. Even if everyone else in the office knows about it."
I told him I wasn't worried about what other people think, but I just thought of him as a friend, a good guy. I also looked around to see who was close enough to hear us. Dimitri, Marcello, and their girlfriends. Well, shouldn't have said you don't care what other people think with the possibilty of other people hearing you.
And then, he just lays it out there. "I liked you when I first saw you. Didn't really realize it until after Tana went back home. I like everything about you - your smile, your nerdy tendencies, your smarts, and, yes, your body. You're the total package."
I just stood there. It was bizarre, being seen as a total package when I feel like a complete patchwork. "I... You've got to understand, I can't make any promises. I... I think I would really like taking this further, but..."
He took my hand. "It's okay. Nobody's perfect, and I don't know if I can expect this to last forever. Trust me, I have screwed up more relationships than you have. Tana only moved a thousand miles away, and I consider that progress."
To be honest, I'd never given a second of thought to the idea that Carter might be flawed. He'd been the kind of guy I'd always sort of been jealous of as a man. Good-looking, athletic, well-spoken, built his life with a lot less money and stability to start with than I'd had. And as a girl, well, he's still good-looking, well-spooken, and a great physical specimen. "You promise anything that goes wrong will be your fault."
He chuckled. "I can't promise anything, but with my track record..."
"Okay? That's it?"
"I'm like that. I dive into things way too fast."
"Well, in that case, let's go somewhere more private."
"Look, I know you've probably heard I'm easy, but I've got to help with the clean-up..."
"No, you don't. That's why you hold your holiday party in a bar rather than at the office. C'mon, let's go."
"OK... But I've got a bladder the size of a pea. Which means I should probably, well..."
He laughs. "Get going. I'll wait for you."
That's when it happens.
I'm sitting in a stall, letting the Bicardi and Coke drain out. I hear someone else come in, but think nothing of it. I think she has actually said it a second time before I realize she's talking to me.
"Who are you?"
"Who are you?"
"My name's Michelle Garber; I'm with the BioSoft party..."
"Look, I'm really not in the mood for games--"
"You are telling me that you're not in the mood for games? How do you think I feel?"
"I've got no idea what you're talking about."
"I'm Shelley Garber, damn it!"
There's something familiar about the voice; I've heard it before, but I can't be sure where. It's a girl's voice, no question, but it's only half-familiar. Now that I think about it, maybe it didn't have the rural accent or just spoke differently last time.
"That's... Well, I can't say that's impossible, but if it's true, I thought you were in my body, off in Seattle." I stand up and start to pull up my panties and hose.
"Stay in there."
"What... Come on, we've got a lot to talk about. This is a big break. I've been wondering what's going on for five months. Maybe if we pool our knowledge, we can figure out who did this to us."
"Oh, you've been wondering what's been going on for five months. I'm missing six!"
"You're... Wow. Look, we're both victims here, so why don't we step outside, go someplace private, and talk things out?"
"You say we're both victims. All I know is that you've got my body and you're getting all close to that guy, like you don't plan to give it back. And I figure right now the only advantage I have over you is that I know what you look like but you don't necessarily know the same about me."
"Okay, that's fair. That makes a lot of sense. Why don't you tell me what you know?"
"Fine. My real name's Martin Hartle..."
"You're a guy?"
"Yes, I'm a guy. Believe me, it's even crazier from this point of view. Anyway, I was supposed to leave town for a new job in Seattle on July 19th. Instead, I woke up in your apartment, in your body, with some crazy note saying that I should go out with my best friend. He'd been sort of flirting with, um, you that night and you shot him down. Remember that?"
She sounded a little off-balance, as if she'd never considered that I wasn't the big bad guy. "N-no. The last thing I remember was that I had just finished moving into my apartment, getting everything in place, and I was going down to the Esplenade to see the fireworks. I had a few drinks, got sort of tired, and went home and fell asleep. And that's it until tonight, when I find myself in this body and see you..."
The restroom door opened, and she just walked out as someone else walked in. The footsteps leading away sounded like high heels, and the ones coming toward the stalls sounded like flats. I fumbled with the stupid locking thing on the stall door, so by the time I was out there was no sign of her. I pushed my way out into the bar, but there were a lot of women wearing heels. I was looking around when I bumped into Carter.
"You ready to go?"
"Did you see the girl who just came out of the ladies' room? It's important!"
"She's... I have to talk with her. I... have something of hers."
"Just put it in the lost and found; if it's important, she'll come back after it."
Not exactly practical. "Look, Carter, I've got to find her!"
So we ran around the bar, asking anyone in heels if they were just in the bathroom. None of them sounded right.
"Look, the party's clearing out. Why don't you just go to the bar, give them whatever this girl left behind, and come home with me?"
"Go home with you." As appealling as that thought had just sounded... Well, unless that girl had been feeding me a line of crap, she was the rightful owner of this body. And sleeping around was fine so long as "Michelle" was in Seattle, blithely living my life, but if its real owner was running around even more confused and victimised than I was, how could I? "I can't Carter. I... this girl, she said some things, some things which applied to me, and I have to sort a few things out before I can even think about sex or relationships or anything." He looked so confused. "I'm really sorry; you're a great guy." He's tall, so I even had to stand on my toes in my heels to kiss him.
Then I went out in the street, yelling for "Shelley" like an idiot. No-one came.
It's taken me a couple hours to cool down enough to get this down. And now all I can think is, what am I supposed to do next?
Monday, December 22, 2003
It's not like this is the first time I've worked with someone where there's an attraction thing going on. It's just, obviously, different this time.
1. Carter's a guy and I'm...not. I know it's a bit late to be weirded out by that, considering all the opening of my legs I've done with Kurt and others, but it's not just that. With Kurt, the attraction came later, after I'd gotten to know him as Michelle and he'd gotten to know me. It was a thing that grew, and might not even have been attraction on my part; it might have been more like comfort. Or not even comfort, maybe just familiarity. I don't know. And the guys I spent the night with, I don't know I felt attraction to them. That was something more clinical, not so much being attracted as saying "that's the best option considering likely unattachedness, not being a danger to me, not being something I've tried before..."
But I like Carter. I like being around him, listening to him, talking to him. I don't quite tingle when I grab his hand to pull him through a crowd, as I had to when showing him to the comic shop, but there's some kind of boy-girl voodoo going on there. It worries me. It means I'm acting different. I've written in this journal about not liking the thought that my actions are as much about chemical reactions going on in whichever body "I" currently reside in as something less quantifiable in my brain, but it's still there. I try to think that all that stuff that's intrinsically me is still there, and it's just always been influenced by something else. Maybe human consciousness is inherently sexless, and the body's genetic programming is always "in the way", and we just don't realize it because most people only get one brain and body per lifetime. That may be worse, though - it means none of us are ever who we "really are". We're just interacting with each other through imperfect interfaces.
And, you know, having an attraction raise scary thoughts about the nature of human consciousness is worse than wondering what it says about your sexuality.
2. I don't know what the future holds. Nobody ever does, but what if what Michelle said was true, I may only have another month or two in this body. So is this really the right time to be starting something, or allowing the possibility of something starting? Should I even be getting used to being attracted to a guy?
Which also brings the honesty thing up. It felt good to break up with Kurt, after a while, because I was no longer lying to a person I cared about just by being. It felt good to sleep with strangers, because with no emotional attachment, because it didn't matter who we were as people to each other. They weren't quite things, and I wasn't quite a thing, but we weren't exactly individuals, either.
But, as I said, I like Carter. We've seen a couple movies together, so we're basically just friends for now. And we're post-switch friends, so it's like with Kate and Jen. I don't worry so much about not telling them everything until it becomes important. You don't ask your friends about their past unless they volunteer; friendship has limits. But before too long, Carter could have a right to know that I'm a man stuck in a woman's body, that someone else currently controls whether that changes, and that anything I tell him about my life before July is either going to sound unreal or be some kind of half-truth.
3. The one that was a really immediate concern today, though, was just our positions within the company. He's a professional, part of what the company is selling. He's got the college education he can talk about and use. I'm just support staff. I'll bet I don't even appear on the company's org chart. Where the employees like Carter are the company's resources, I'm like one of the employees' resources. Not the equivelent of paperclips or a laser printer, but if they need something, they ask for it, and I do it.
Not that I think Carter would use that to put me in a compromising position, or that he's got any real standing to mess with my employment status. But it's like we're in different castes. Even if I don't work directly for him, we're not equals here. Sure, Kate and I aren't equals, either, but she's kind of a resource, too, working in finance. Jen's not in that category, but there's not as much chance for power inequity in friendship as there is in... well, in what a guy and I could have. You've got multiple friends, but (generally) only one boyfriend/girlfriend. There's not the same type of physical intimacy. The expectations are usually less personal.
Like, when Carter, Dimitri, and Mark went out for lunch today, Carter waved at me, and I wondered how the other guys interpreted that; it's not like we'd snuch out Wednesday or Friday night. Were they judging me as trying to climb some sort of ladder, judging him somehow. Did I have to rethink every interaction I had with these people? If Carter or I acted on what was going through our heads, what would our boss, Mr. Kraft, think?
Ugh. Just writing about it now is making my head hurt. I think I'll go wrap presents, do a little mindless work.
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Too cold for me to be doing that
Over the past week or so, since the Player's Union basically put the kibosh on Alex Rodriguez giving up some absurd amount of money to go from the Rangers to the Red Sox... Well, actually even farther, back at least ten or fifteen years, I've heard a lot of "you know, if I were looking for a contract, the difference between $10 million and $15 million wouldn't matter to me, it would just be about where I felt more comfortable." You point out that the decision might not seem so cut-and-dried if they had (a) already been making something in that order of magnitude (league minimum has gone up from $100K to $300K over the past decade, and by the time someone is eligible for free agency, they're probably in the multi-million range already) and (b) actually been presented with a choice of $10M and $15M.
I mean, it's easy to say what you'd do in a hypothetical situation if it's so far removed from your experience. For example, "if I was a woman, I wouldn't bother with..."
For example, make-up and shaving my legs. At first, both seemed a tremendous waste of time. And, quite frankly, they still do much of the time. But I have to admit, sometimes, when I'm getting ready to go for work after being up late the night before, it's kind of nice to dab a little something on so that I don't have dark rings around my eyes. And, hey, if I'm going to be putting something on my lips to keep them from chapping anyway, why not add a little color? Especially since my job is basically to greet people. But even on days like today, when I'm just meeting up with Kate to do some shopping and she knows what "plain old Michelle" looks like, I think, well, why should I look better for strangers than people I actually like?
As for the leg-shaving thing, it takes too long, but I just don't like the way I look with hairy legs. Maybe if the hair were lighter, but it's not. Besides, shaving one's legs is an excuse for a bath. When you're a kid (at least if you're a guy), graduating from baths to showers is a big deal, if only because it greatly reduces the amount of time your parents see you naked. There's nothing relaxing about it, though, and you wind up doing it at the beginning of the day, when it's "invigorating", as opposed to the end of the day, when you've actually accumulated grime on you that you'd otherwise go to bed with.
Of course, the novelty of my boobs floating hasn't yet worn off. It's kind of neat not to feel them as a weight, though, as they're just bouyant enough to not press down without tugging.
Even though I was wearing long pants today (it's Boston, it's winter, it's cold), I knew Kate and I would probably be hitting the changing room at some point, so I scraped my legs before heading out to meet her at Copley Place.
Anyway, we did a little shopping. She's got brothers and sisters and a boyfriend to shop for, so she's lucky. She didn't see it that way, telling me I should be thankful for all the money I'm saving without them. And I thought girls were supposed to be the ones who loved shopping. Maybe it only applies to shopping for themselves. I took the opportunity to discretely get her sizes; maybe I'll come back after work tomorrow.
One thing that I noticed walking around was the number of women wearing skirts and heels even though it's December. Kate made a comment that, it's Boston, half of them were probably at church earlier, but still... It just doesn't seem practical. Sure, pantyhose is an unexpectedly good insulator and women seem better suited for the cold than men (or maybe Michelle's body just deals with it better than mine; it's sort of like saying "my headache is worse than yours", how can you compare such subjective things), but, man, you're still exposing yourself to some pretty chilly winds in the name of vanity.
Guess there's still some "if I was a woman, I wouldn't" sentences I can still live up to.