Saturday, April 17, 2004
Talking to Carter
It's weird. It must be what it's like when Mags and I talk, except worse. I don't blame Maggie for anything that happened to me, but even though Carter says he doesn't hold me responsible for his situation, how can he not? I lied to him, I didn't notice when he'd been switched for someone else, and when he came to me for help, he had to watch his original body get shot dead. Plus, he still thinks of himself as a man, but if he thinks of himself that way, he has to think of me that way, and we've been intimate. So he's disgusted with me, and disgusted with himself. And what he really hates is that I'm the only person we know about who has been through what he's going through, and thus the only person he can really trust.
He does like Maggie, though. Mags knows the facts, and she's got a good catalog of my weaknesses from before, so they can give me a hard time. That Mags has for the most part forgiven me makes Carter feel a little better about his bitterness, that it'll pass.
I made a mistake, though, when I came to visit him today. Actually, I made it earlier - I looked out the window, noticed it was a really nice day out, and dressed for it - nothing fancy, just a sleeveless camisole that shows about an inch of cleavage, a pair of capri pants, and some not-quite-sandals, but not-quite-sneakers-either on my feet. I didn't exactly have bows in my hair, but it bespoke a level of comfort with my body that made Carter uncomfortable.
He looked at me, and asked if he were going to turn all girly, showing off his tits. I told him that he'd always liked my tits before. He said that was before he knew I was really a man, and asked me how I could stand it.
"Routine," I told him. A few months putting a bra on when you get dressed, having to look nice for work, you get into the habit. You start to take some pride in your "work". At first I was just telling myself this is what I'd like to see a girl with this body dressed like, and eventually it makes me feel good.
"But that's just me. In a way, you've got a cleaner slate. You don't have to dress up for work; you don't have these big breasts that you have to do something with. You can wear baggy jeans and a sweatshirt every day if you'd like, cut your hair, maybe pass for a teenage boy, if that's what you want to do."
"What I want," he says, "is to get back into my own body. But I can't because it's lying on a fucking slab somewhere, and you, you know your body's out there, and you even know where it is, but you just act like you're supposed to be a girl. You're happy!"
"I'm not happy." I tell him I have good days, but I miss my mother, and my old friends, and I spend so much time feeling like I'm not a whole person, that I'm like two jigsaw puzzles mixed together where someone has forced the pieces to try and make a whole person that I feel like I'm going to fall apart. "I'm not helping, am I?"
"Why didn't you ever tell me you felt this way?"
"I loved you. Maybe in the life I remember, you'd have been my best friend, maybe this body's hormones just changed the way I think, but that you felt I was special, that you liked the things you thought were just tomboyish... Well, it made me feel good about myself."
"So it's my fault."
"That's not what I'm saying! God, remember the first time we made love, and I told you that I liked who I was for the first time in months? I didn't feel good about myself because of you; I was able to be with you because I finally figured out who I was, that I wasn't just Martin Hartle stuck in this body. I realized it was part of who I am now, and what that means."
"So are you saying I should just tell myself I'm not me any more?"
"I'm saying that's what works for me."
We didn't have more to say then, and watched the game for a few innings.
"Michelle... If you found a way to switch back, would you?"
"Maybe. I could live a straightforward life again, not feel like I'm lying to everyone I know. But... I'd be afraid that who I am now would die, that it was some sort of suicide."
"Must be a nice problem to have."
"I'll let you know when I have to make that decision."
Then the nurse came, and we clammed up. When she left, I just filled him in on what had been going on at the office, who'd won the Oscars, the months he'd missed. A reminder that he was doubly a victim.
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