Saturday, January 03, 2004
Not safe for a woman to be out so late?
I suppose I've got to start thinking in those terms. I suppose I should have for the past few months, but even when feeling sorry for oneself, or lamenting all the things that I don't like about being a girl, it's tough for me to make the leap and think of myself as a "potential victim".
And I don't know if last night's a good example; I went to see the midnight kung fu movie at the Coolidge in Brookline (since the Weekly Wednesday Ass-Kickings are probably kaput), mostly enjoyed it - there was, thankfully, more actual people punching and kicking each other than the last few things from the WWAK - and then, when it got out at one-thirty, saw that the "Night Owl" bus didn't even start its route until one-fifty, and would take at least fifteen minutes to get to where I was. So I figure, hell with it, I'll just start walking.
Truth is, I didn't really have much reason to feel threatened until I got close to my own neighborhood. Heading north on Harvard Street out of Coolidge Corner is, quite frankly, one of the cleanest, most well-lit areas I've seen in and around Boston. By the time I got to my apartment, I just dropped, and didn't really consider until I woke up this morning (OK, afternoon) that I hadn't gotten in until two AM, and had walked past a bunch of bars and stuff like that. Guys had probably been whistling at me and I'd just assumed it was someone else.
I'd have freaked out if Mags had told me she'd done the same thing eight months ago, and she lives in one of the nicer parts of Cambridge. Does that make me a hypocrite, just ignorant, or friggin' lucky? I don't know. I can't think of any specific place along my route home where a guy could have pulled me into an alley and voilated me, but the thing about criminals is that they aren't particularly concerned about propriety; there's been stories about girls attacked right on the Harvard campus. Compared to that, where I was...
But I don't want to be a victim, either. I don't want to plan my every action based on risk, or what's safe/proper/what-have-you For A Woman. I don't want how I'll get home to be such an important consideration in whether or not I go some place.
Guess I'll have to think on this some.
Friday, January 02, 2004
Getting ready this morning seemed to take forever. Part of it's the whole on-again, off-again nature of the last couple weeks - two holidays in the middle of the work week makes it tough to get a handle on which days are for work and which ones are for play. Part of it's the beer I knocked down last night, trying to take the edge off the depression. But I think most of it was just standing in front of the mirror, trying to figure out what I feel.
There's a birthmark on the bottom of the left foot. Nothing pretty or anything, just a red splotch. And this body can grow hair; not just out of the head, but the legs could use shaving tomorrow, and the bush can get away from me pretty quickly if I'm not paying attention. So far, shaving's been all right, even if having a blade down there seems downright unnatural. I could find myself considering waxing at some point, though, depending on how teeny I wind up liking my bikini. That'll depend on my workout plan, I guess, because the butt's starting to get a little extra jiggle again. It's tough to psyche yourself up to go running when it's around freezing.
There's an indentation where a hole for a navel ring used to be, but it's closed up. Has been since I got here, so I guess even the real Michelle decided they weren't so cool any more a while ago. There's a tan line a bit above the belly button, still, from where a lot of the summer or club clothes cut off. Not really a tan line, but my skin fades to white fast enough to see a demarcation. My boobs look good in a fancy bra or swimsuit but seem just a little too big when I'm naked and alone; they're big and round enough to look like something attached to the body, rather than being a part of it. There's no scars to indicate that they're anything other than natural, but I'm starting to think puberty was overly generous to this body, especially now that I really think that I'm going to feel them pulling on my back for the rest of my life, and that they're evenually going to sag and look grotesque. Maybe not if I keep in shape or keep them supported - I seem to recall there's some kind of yoga technique that prevents sagging - but this body's 25. In ten years, they're going to go from an asset to a potential liability, and that's without the lovely thought of getting pregnant and having them bulge further with milk.
The arms are skinny; maybe if I start working on the butt again I can find some what to bulk them up. The shoulders are a little bowed - am I doing that by not standing up straight enough, letting the bra straps pull them down? The neck is nice, the face isn't bad, although some crows' feet are starting to show up. The brain inside seems capable enough; I haven't found that it takes longer to do any math or recall a word or anything than I remember it taking in my old body. There's good enough raw material in there that she could have done pretty well in college if that's the way her life had led her.
And it's all mine. A "gift" from someone who had no more right to this body than I do, and says I should be happy because the alternative is some sort of oblivion. Meanwhile, he's got my body with no plans to give it back. Maybe under the right circumstances I could take it back, but I don't even know what kind of machine switched out minds. I don't think it was some big, B-movie Frankenstein thing with two bodies strapped down and a bunch of electrodes protruding from our heads, but for all I know that's exactly what it was. I don't even know if it's bigger than a breadbox.
And even if the real Michelle - presuming that's who she is - decides she trusts me, and we get a hold of the machine, and I can give her what's rightfully hers back, I'd still wind up having to get used to another woman's body. One that sounded even smaller and frailer than this one, judging from the combination of how far off the ground the voice came from and the click-clack sound of high heels as she walked away. And even the voice wasn't the squeaky sort of thing that already gets on my nerves coming from Maureen, it wasn't the voice of a person confident they can back their actions up with force, either. Barring a miracle where I can dislodge Whoever from my body, this is as good as it's going to get.
And it's not bad. I can live with it, I guess; I've been doing so. After I shower, and I'm staring in the mirror as I brush out my hair, I really do think I can make this work for me. I convince myself that the face has character. I even tell myself that I've got the same eye color I always did, and that if I look hard enough, I can even see a resemblence, and if I can see me in there, maybe others can too.
Then, after getting dressed, I look in the mirror again. "Hello," I say, "I'm Martin Hartle.
"I'm Martina Hartle.
"I'm Marty Hartle.
"I'm Marti Hartle.
"I'm Michelle Garber.
"I'm Shelley Garber."
None of it looks or sounds right. But it's going to have to, eventually.
Thursday, January 01, 2004
I guess it's better to know
It was a strange experience to wake up with a completely clear head this morning. I've always had nasty New-Year's-Day hangovers, completely out of proportion to how much I had to drink. For some reason, champagne always just has a bad effect on me; I'm in trouble if I drink a lot at weddings, too.
I realized this might not be true any more as I was refusing a drink at Jen's party last night. That's kind of a Martin Hartle-specific reaction; my friends always laughed at how I could handle the hard liquor, but add a little bit of bubbly and I'm useless the next day. My first thought was, hey, go nuts; fortunately, it yielded quickly to a thought about making use of this information.
So I watched what I drank last night and got up early this morning. I located the phone number from when "Martin" called me back in September. I made a list of things I knew, things I didn't want him to know I knew, and things I needed to know, so that I would be ready. And then I waited until ten-thirty to make the call.
I was right - seven-thirty Pacific time would be early enough that the ringing phone would wake my body, but the brain would still be fuzzy enough not to check and ignore my number. I heard a mumbled "hello" and grinned. How, I asked, are you enjoying your champagne hangover?
It took him a second to recognize my voice. "You. God damn it, don't you remember what I told you about us communicating? Now we're going to be like this for even longer..."
"Oh, cut the crap. You and I both know that there's no such thing as witchcraft and that you're not Michelle Garber. What I want to know is, who you really are and why you're doing this."
"And what makes you 'know' this?"
Well, maybe I've talked to Shelley Garber. Not that he needs to know that. "Did you think you'd fool me forever? The thing is, you screwed it up. Everyone says 'I' was cranky and surly when I - or you - started working at BioSoft, which was strange, because apparently 'I' had seemed so nice in the interviews. And besides, Michelle doesn't have the education to do the job you stole from me. So you've got to be someone else. I just feel stupid for not seeing it sooner."
"Well, congratulations. Anything else you want to try and impress me with?"
"Not really. Now why don't you try giving me the truth? Who are you? Why did you do this? Why me?"
"Why you? The truth is, you're nothing special. You just happened to be a guy heading out of town doing a job I could handle without a lot of attachments. You just showed up first, and I didn't want to spend one more second with a pussy than I had to. Not that that's apparently a problem for you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you seem to enjoy taking it from men. I'll bet you're secretly glad your tits are so big, so that you can get a man's attention and have him do you. God, that night in the bar, the only reason I could even talk to you and your friends was because I knew it would get me out of that body, but you... You dress yourself up and go looking for it."
I took a deep breath and waited for the anger to pass. And the shame; being scolded by your own voice is oddly effective. "And I bet the whole idea that I'm doing it turns you on, doesn't it? Why else would you have made me think I should go out with Kurt?"
"You should be thanking me for that. I could have said, hey, keep to yourself, don't talk to anybody. But I got in your body, I felt I owed you something. Don't you get it? Because I pushed you to go out, form connections with people, it became impossible to justify putting the girl's mind back into her body as soon as possible. Because where they put her mind... There's nothing, you understand? It's not quite being dead, but it's the closest thing to it."
A chill ran down my spine as I thought of what Shelley had said about "missing" six months of her life. "What did you do to her?"
"You're better off not knowing. Trust me on this. It scares me to think about it."
"Who are you?"
"Who am I? As far as you need to be concerned, I'm Martin Hartle. Period." He actually laughed here. "You know, it actually feels good to cut through all the mysterious bullshit. Cards on the table? This is my life now. I've got a job, a house, and a girl, and I'm not giving any of them up. And you know, I'm glad you can handle all that female shit. Two weeks of it drove me nuts, but if you can adapt to it, good for you. Because you're not getting this body back, so you might as well accept it - you're Michelle now, and you will be for the rest of your life. And I'd suggest you shut up and live with it, because if you cause trouble... Well, I'm sure the original would overlook six months of oblivion to have her life back."
I guess I knew all this. I mean, not all the details, and I don't know that I actually learned all that many new details anyway. The big thing to me seems to be that the left hand doesn't necessarily know what the right hand is doing here - the guy in my body seems to have no idea that the real Michelle is running around somewhere, or at least someone claiming to be her is.
But I guess this is it. This is my life from now on.
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
The art of indecision
"Come by any time", Jen said. So, now it's quarter past ten, and I still haven't decided whether or not I'm going to her party.
She promised it would be smaller than the Halloween party, with just close friends invited. And I'm assured I won't be the only single person there. More importantly, I'm assured that I won't be one of the only two single people there. And I don't really feel like staying at home while everyone else is going out.
But I just feel so lazy. I was just sick this weekend, do I want to head outside when I don't have to? And I really don't feel like putting on a dress. I'm in a real no-girly-clothes mood today. And by now, they probably figure I'm not coming anyway.
And are there things I'm supposed to get done before the end of the year? I feel like I'm forgetting something. Or maybe I'm just looking for excuses.
Ah, I think I'll go. Not putting on a dress or anything, but hopefully by the end of '04, I'll be back in my own body again, and I may not have the chance to party with these friends again.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Back to work
Even with BioSoft only 75% back up to full staffing, it's been a hectic couple of days. Every woman I come into contact with, I'm trying to figure out whether perhaps she was the one who cornered me in that bathroom last week. Of course, I can't let on that I'm trying to figure that out, which means I'm constantly trying to do two things at once. Meanwhile, I'm trying to re-route a bunch of people to voice mail because Mark, Dimitri, Janet, Lizzy and a few others are taking the week off, or the people on the phone don't want to leave a message, they're too important for that, and want to speak to my supervisor or the supervisor of the person they were trying to reach. Telling them that that supervisor is on the phone with the last person who couldn't just leave a message, so suck it up, is probably not what a good receptionist does.
And it's probably a better idea than usual to be a good receptionist right now, because I get the feeling that Maureen is the type that will file anything she considers unprofessional away to use it against whoever she doesn't like when it suits her needs. She's the new office manager the company hired to take over now that Judy's retired, though Judy is sticking around through tomorrow to show the new girl the ropes. Anything Judy misses, I'm expected to teach her. Which means I'm spending more time in her company than I'd like.
Of course, had a Maureen been hired at any of the companies I'd worked at as Martin, I likely wouldn't have felt that way. I might have made a comment to co-workers that she was prettier than the person she was replacing, and enjoyed her being sort of flirty or chatty around me. Heck, it's not even a boy-girl thing; Kate and Jen seemed to be pretty impressed with her when the five of us (including Judy) had lunch yesterday, so she could get to know all the other single young women in the office. She probably would have come along today, but Judy was only going to be in until two and there were a bunch of people Maureen had to be introduced to.
Kate and Jen seemed surprised when I said I didn't much like her, since Maureen had been nothing but nice to them. Of course, I told them, it's not like she can lord her "associate's degree in office management from one of the state's finest two-year Christian colleges for young women" over them. Or pretend to hide her disdain at how there appeared to be something other than collegial cordiality passing between me and that colored gentleman ("Did she really say colored?" "Oh, yeah - but followed it up with 'as in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People'."). Or cluck over how sad it must be to spend the holidays alone - how she can't imagine not having someone who would want her to come. As Jen put it, "Mrooowr!"
I felt a little catty myself, saying this, but does anyone, male or female, like that kind of two-faced person? She seems sweet enough, with her soft voice, girlishly-slim figure (in a professional setting, she almost makes the curves I inherited seem vulgar), and reddish-brown hair that seems to hang straight back in a way that looks completely unaffected. And she's probably no kind of evil mastermind, at least not like whoever stole my body. She's probably just got some friend - perhaps a classmate at one of the state's finest two-year Christian colleges for young women - who's eminently qualified for a receptionist's job and sees me as an obstacle to be removed. She's just striking me as a pain in the ass I don't need.
Have I tried to link her with "Shelley"? Of course. But Maureen's voice is too high by half. So no luck there.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Amazing what 14 hours of NyQuil-induced slumber will do for a body. I needed it, though - I'd sort of been sniffling a little on Thursday and Friday, but figure it was no really big deal, just a cold. Then, yesterday, I wake up feeling hung over. Which, with no drinking involved, couldn't be construed as good in any way.
I'm stubborn about taking medicine, though, in part because it seems like a crutch - especially for colds and flus, they only really treat symptoms. Besides, how am I supposed to know what this body's medical history, allergies, and the like are? I freaked out looking at the long list of possible drug interactions and side effects on the "Drug Facts" before the switch; now, forget about it. Maybe a couple of months ago, when I figured that this might have been intended as temporary or when I was sure that it was Michelle herself in my body, I wouldn't have been quite so unsure - there would be more reasons, both practical and sentimental, for me to get a heads-up on what might be harmful to this body. Now, who knows. Maybe Michelle or whoever is out in Seattle is shocked by my still being alive, wondering just when I'm going to eat some pistachios and drop dead.
The upshot of this, of course, is that by the time I was alarmed enough to actually run to the drugstore, I was too dizzy to get out of bed. Fortunately, Carter called asking if I'd like to see a movie. Normally I might have said "geez, we just did the 'let's just be friends' thing yesterday", but I instead opted to tell him that I was really sick and would really appreciate someone bringing some cold medicine over. The next hour was pretty agonizing, wondering if he was going to expect anything in return, or if he'd even come at all.
He did, though, bringing something called "Lemsip" that he'd discovered while stationed in the UK. It's apparently some sort of nuclear decongestant, melting everything in one's body softer than an eyeball. Five minutes after drinking this vile hot brew, I was standing over the sink and letting snot just drain out of me. Or at least it felt that way; I was still pretty sick, but within an hour wasn't worried about dying without ever finding out what the hell was going on with my life.
He was cool enough to just hang around the apartment and watch the first DVD of Firefly with me. I offered to pay him back, but he just said it felt good to hang around with the only person he knew in Boston who was here this weekend. And, hey, he'd missed Firefly when it was on Fox.
This really cements his status as a good guy to me. I wasn't really thinking about it last night, what with still feeling sick, but it was a really cool thing for him to do, considering how nasty the flu has been this year. If I could even think of getting myself a boyfriend right now, he'd be at the top of the list.