Monday, January 12, 2004
I wish I was clever
But I'm not. I'm good with numbers, I remember conversations with insane precision, and I guess more adaptable than some, but figuring stuff out is not my strong point.
This morning, for instance, I woke up and realized that Sam wasn't swearing in Russian prior to her trip to Eastern Europe with Dimitri, and that, let's face it, based on what Jen and company saw on the way to Baltimore, there's no way she was getting near a trans-Atlantic plane. And it took me freaking forever to match her voice with Shelley's.
But what's it all mean? Okay, it explains why I hadn't heard from "Shelley" again - Sam's body has been out of the country. The implication, though, would be that Dimitri is some kind of criminal mastermind, and that's patently absurd, unless he's a damn good actor. He goes out for cigarette breaks without his cigarettes. I call him to tell him a package for him has been delivered, and then I do it again twenty minutes later because he stopped in the bathroom on the way to get it, then returned to his desk, thinking he'd done what he got up to do. I don't want to give the impression that him managing to program device drivers for insanely complicated equipment makes him an idiot savant, but the guy is just disorganized.
And as creepy as his hitting on me before he met Sam was (or the whole deal with Sam, period, is), he's a nice guy. He volunteers. He spends a bunch of time with his comatose father. He sends money back home to a great-aunt. But the Sam == Shelley thing was just there.
So, I told Kate and Jen that I wouldn't be eating lunch with them today, lying about some errands. Then I headed for the Common, seeing if maybe "Sam" was still working at one of the T-shirt carts. It was a long shot, I guess, since there would be fewer of them in the cold, and maybe if she was living with Dimitri now, she wouldn't need to. Or maybe Shelley just wouldn't be doing that, to avoid meeting people Sam knew.
But I got lucky; she was still there, just not lugging her life around in a bag, and wearing a warm coat that Dimitri probably bought her. She still looked kind of cold and fidgety, so I stopped into Finagle A Bagel, grabbing two sandwiches and two hot chocolates (just because I drank coffee as a teenager...). After the light turned, I crossed the street and offered one to her; she seemed genuinely shocked to see me bearing food, but took it. She's still a pretty skinny thing, and wolfed it down. "This is amazing," she said, "Dimitri's friends are so generous."
"Well, I hardly think one sandwich in three months calls for that much thanks. Besides, I'm gonna ask for something in return."
That made her stiffen up a bit (but not stop eating). "I don't have anything. I mean, even the shirts, they're not mine..."
"No, it's not that. Just... Look, if I'm barking up the wrong tree, I'm going to sound so insane."
A bit of the cynical edge returned. "Go ahead. It's an insane world."
"OK. Look, just before Christmas, someone cornered me in a restroom and told me that they were the real Shelley Garber, which surprised me, because even though I'm not, I thought she was in my body on the other side of the country. It took me this long to recognize her voice; it was you. Talking to you now, I'm sure of it. But the thing is, after hearing you speaking some Russian at the movie the other night, I have to wonder: Are you Michelle Garber... or Dimitri Gubanov?"
I spoke rapidly, not giving myself time to breathe or her time to interrupt. I knew, though. I knew because there was nothing in her eyes that said she thought I was nuts. There was a little bit of fear, but also relief. "So you've got it mostly figured out, huh? Well, I'm not Dimitri, no matter how fast I'm wolfing down this sandwich. I picked the Russian up spending the last few weeks in the Ukraine and with Dimitri - everyone was speaking it. So, that makes me Michelle." She laughed, but it was a short, harsh laugh. "Though that seems like an utterly bizarre thing to say now, sitting right across from you." She fidgeted, and there was a little anger and confrontationalness (is that a word?) in her voice when she continued. "It's hard to talk about being in another body, you know, and then seeing you! I mean, for all I know, you're responsible for all this!"
"I'm not. Look, I know this is hard for you, but maybe if we pool what we know... Like, after you freaked out about me having been a man before I was in your body, you said you were 'missing' six months, between the fourth of July and the night of the party. What's that about?"
"I don't know, they're missing!" She took a deep breath, like she was ashamed of losing her temper. "Just, you know, it's like going to sleep and finding out six months have passed. It was weird... I didn't even realize I wasn't in my own body until I saw you. It was then that I realized... well..." She pushed her breasts up, or at least tried - the boobs she has now are much smaller than the ones I inherited from her, and you could barely see the bumps through the coat, which I guessed made the point well enough. "I mean, I'd thought I'd just had some sort of amnesia thing; I even told Dimitri that--"
"Wait... Dimitri knows? He knows and he hasn't brought it up with me?"
"No. No. He - he knows I can't remember the past six months. I... didn't tell him about the rest. It's crazy, you know, and..." She swallowed. "I like him."
"I know, it's crazy, he's huge, and I know I could do better even in this body, but... You've got to understand, he took me in when I had nothing, even if it wasn't really me, and he's taking me to see doctors about the missing time, and he took me to Europe the very first day I can remember since everything and I've always wanted to travel..."
"Huh. You really like him?"
"Yeah. I mean, I don't want to tell him and ruin things."
I laughed. "You were so mad at me at the party."
"Yeah, well... The world's funny, even by our standards." She crossed her legs awkwardly and leaned in toward me. "What about you? You and that black guy at the movie seemed awful friendly."
"Carter? No, nothing's happened there. We're just friends. Which bugs him."
"Good looking guy like that must not be used to taking 'no' for an answer. But, I suppose with you having been a guy and all..."
I laughed out loud. "That hasn't been a problem. Probably no surprise to you, but your body has a strong and very heterosexual sex drive."
She turned pale(r), and said she'd forgotten about that, and was sorry. "And that just, like, overrides the rest of your life?"
"Yeah. I mean, god, I barely even admit it to myself, but there are days when the only thing that keeps me from throwing myself on him is that I don't know how this is all going to shake out."
She smiled conspirationally. "Don't worry about that. I mean, if you like the guy, I certainly won't stand in your way."
"Well, that's awfully nice, but I'm still kind of weirded out by the whole thing."
"Yeah, well, if you find a good man, the who was in what body when thing can be overcome. Like I said, just because it wasn't me that Dimitri took in doesn't make him less attractive to me for doing so."
A chill ran down my spine. "It may have been you."
"Think for a minute. We saw you in early October, and thought you looked like a runaway, and figured you were just some kid run away from her parents, but what if you weren't running away, but you were running to? You were trying to find your body - me - but then for some reason, at least once, you lost your new memories, or maybe even your old ones which would explain why you never knocked on my door if you couldn't remember where it was. Maybe whatever process moved us to our new bodies isn't perfect and..." We just stared at each other.
"That is fucking terrifying."
"How can we find out? I mean, if there's something messed up in our brains..."
"I think I might know someone. Or, more accurately, I knew someone back when I was in my old body who would know the right people. I mean, I know her as you, too, but I don't know if Wei will even talk to me. But you said Dimitri was taking you to see someone?"
"Yeah. Uh, this week. I'll, uh, tell you all about it."
"And vice versa."
The clock struck, making us realize how completely we'd lost track of time. "Well, I'd better get back to the office - I'll be late as it is."
"Okay. See you later."
The rest of the day, of course, was unnerving. I mean, if Shelley had her memory just disappear a couple weeks ago, and she was removed from her body a couple weeks before me...
It's a good thing I'm keeping this journal. A real good thing.
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