Transplanted Life
Sunday, June 20, 2004
I should have written about the weird experience that was last night's movie this morning, when it was still relatively fresh in my mind. Suffice it to say I'm not sure whether they showed the advertised film or not (no English-language titles, but it didn't look much like the description), one reel was repeated - and it contained a scene where you see some breast, so the second-biggest crowd I can remember for one of these things got all excited - but nobody from the theater acted like anything was wrong. Doug sort of shook his head, saying that when Kate told him that I was into movies, he assumed it was like Kate was into movies. You know, good movies. I said I just have a much broader idea of what a good movie was than she did. He said I certainly must.

Anyway, he drove me home and I crashed, since I had to be at work by eleven. Anyway, we're pretty busy for lunch, so I'm pretty focused on just my tables. I just about jump out of my skin when someone grabs my arm and asks what time I get off work. At first I think it's some guy harassing me, but then I look down and see it's not, it's a blonde girl sitting by herself, eating a salad. It takes me a second to recognize her as Natalya Tartakovsky, since I'd only seen pictures, and she looked different somehow. Maybe it's just seeing her in person.

I was kind of shocked, so I was like, um, okay, I get off work at seven-thirty. She said that was okay and let go of my wrist.

So I was nervous all day. When I got off work, she was waiting at the door, and asked if there was anywhere we could talk. I say I haven't had dinner yet, she asks where there's good seafood, and we wind up taking the T to Legal Sea Food in Kendall Square.

We don't talk to each other on the train. We're seated pretty quickly, and don't say anything for a few minutes. Then she breaks the silence. "So, you know who I am."

"Well, we've never met, but..."

"Right. See, here's the thing. Two months ago, my fiancé disappeared. We'd just gotten back from a nice vacation, I'm bushed but he says he wants to check his email before going to bed, and then when I wake up, he's gone. Just gone. Then later that week the FBI comes looking for him. The FBI! What the hell could the FBI want with him?

"I tell my father about this, and he is, well, pissed. We've only been engaged a couple weeks, and now Martin is some kind of fugitive? Now, I don't want to seem like some spoiled rich bitch, but daddy does have resources. He hires Seattle's best private investigator, and the first thing I find out is that Martin's parents are only half as dead as he said they were. And the weird thing is that there's absolutely no reason for him to lie about it. His mother is... I mean, she's..."


"Nothing! Well, not nothing, but she's just this nice old lady who has no secrets whatsoever, and when daddy's guy talks to her, she's terribly worried about 'her Marty' - and, by the way, Martin hated when anyone called him Marty - who hasn't talked to her for almost a year, since he moved out west! She didn't even know he was engaged to me! It just doesn't add up!"

Well, at least she's okay, I say. Yeah, whatever, she says, looking 80% confused/20% irritated that I'm interested in her hitherto-unknown potential mother-in-law. "Anyway, the trail practically dead-ends after that. It's not totally surprising; Martin is really good with computers, and not only is there nothing on his machine, the PI says his phone records have been, and I quote, 'sanitized' as well. We get a couple of hits on his credit cards, but after a week or so there's no new trail.

"And then, here's the really freaky thing, this PI knows people in the FBI, and he says that the guys who came to question Martin had no idea what they were going to ask him about; they were to take him to the local office so that he could be interrogated by folks who would fly in from the Boston office. And this guy can't find out anything about what these guys were going to ask; the investigation is apparently more top-secret than locating foreign terrorists. There's like ten people in the Boston office who know about it, and then it's ridiculously need-to-know, with maybe the FBI director, attorney general, and head of Homeland Security in the loop. He's never seen the like.

"So, we don't hear anything for like a month. I'm searching my way through my system, to see if there's anything I missed, and I find a deleted email that you sent me back on October 25th saying Martin wasn't to be trusted. I give your name to the PI, and he finds out that you were involved in some shooting back in April which led the FBI to investigate where you work just before Martin bolted, and that there are holes in your phone records that correspond to some of the holes in Martin's. He says he'll fly to Boston to find out what's going on, and I say fuck it, I'm coming with you, because I just don't want to sit around home on the weekend I'm supposed to be getting married and I can't stand just waiting any more. So, here I am.

"Now, you tell me: Who are you, what the hell do you have to do with Martin, and what the fuck is going on?"

And then she starts crying. I didn't know what to do with crying females who liked me when I was a man, much less how to handle them now. "I... he... we..." There's just no reasonable answer. I take a deep breath, and ask her how open she is to a completely ridiculous explanation. She says she'll take any kind.

"Your fiancé's real name is Alexei Gubanov, or at least it could be said to be that--"

"'Could be said to be'? What the hell does that mean?"

That, I tell her, is the weird part. I tell her about the body-switching thing, and that I used to be Martin Hartle, and everything up until January, basically leaving Carter out. What does she care about him. I run on and on, never giving her a moment to interrupt, because I guessed her reaction right:

"You must think I'm completely stupid."

I shake my head. I give her a list of people who can verify what I'm saying. Maggie, Mr. K, Khalil Jones. She pulls a cellphone out and hits a speed-dial. Maybe it's coincidence, but I hear a phone on the other side of the restaurant ring once almost immediately. She talks to the PI, I guess, giving him the names.

Then our food arrives, and we realize that we'd sort of forgotten we were in a restaurant. We eat in awkward silence and don't get dessert. She puts the bill on her gold card, saying she doesn't want my money when I reach into my purse.

We leave, and are about to head in opposite directions. "So, anyway," she says, "I think it's fair to warn you that I think your story is total and complete bullshit, and if I find out that this is some sort of elaborate mindfuck..."

"It's not."

"Right. Sure. If that's the case, and my life is now total and complete science fiction, then I'll owe you an apology." She blows a strand of hair out of her eyes, and then mumbles something about how she'll have a lot of thinking to do.

Me, I'm trying to figure out if anybody's following me.

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