Saturday, January 17, 2004
It just feels right
Where to start, where to start... I don't want to start at the beginning, because that means describing the movie and what I feel about that doesn't really fit that well with what happened after.
It's funny, but what makes the most impression on me might just be waking up this morning to the smell of bacon cooking. It's been months since something like that has happened, maybe even since I was a man - I don't remember if Kurt ever cooked breakfast for me, and I'm too lazy to check through this right now. But it just feels so good to wake up with someone else making breakfast, a luxury on many levels - it's someone doing work for you while you sleep, it's usually more elaborate than the bowl of cereal I generally suck down while doing my morning email check, and bacon cooking really smells good, even if you're likely the one that's going to have to wash the pan. And, in a studio apartment, you can just look up and see Carter in his boxers doing his thing at the stove.
I can't believe we did it last night - well, this morning. I mean, just yesterday afternoon I was kind of rolling my eyes at the whole flower thing. But after he walked me home from the midnight movie, it was already two, it was freezing out, and there was no way there'd be a bus or train to take him home. And we both had to admit that the movie made us hot, even if some of it was stuff that really shouldn't be turn-ons. And when you've been up for 20 hours, the ability to play games atrophies, and neither of us could say we weren't attracted to the other.
Anyway, he looks good with his shirt off. I'm still kind of training myself on finding guys good-looking, you understand. I respond to being touched and sort of on a hard-wired, instinctive level, and I'm attracted sexually, but my sense of aesthetics is still mostly tuned to feminine curves. I kind of have to take a guy I find attractive apart in my mind, figure out what looks good about them. I was kind of doing that to Carter, staring at him, when he noticed I was awake. He gave me a "hey, you"; I said "hey" back. He doesn't quite have washboard abs, but they are defined, and he's got great pecs. I'm kind of jealous; I had to work hard just to not be fat as a guy, and he can get past that to toned.
I don't have any trays, so he just found the biggest plates he could and set them on the bed. I'd already picked a pair of panties and a t-shirt off the floor, and we ate sitting on the bed. I asked him where all this food came from, since I didn't have any in the fridge, and he said he'd been up for a while and I need to find a better hiding place for my spare set of keys than the silverware drawer. I told him that the idea was to be able to find them quickly if I lost my main set. We talked about a bunch of little things until the food was finished, then we noticed there bits of crumb and egg and grease on my shirt and our undies, so...
Yeah, it's even better when we're not at the end of a very long day. He's fun, and playful, and comfortable enough with everything that he's not trying to prove anything. I've only had a couple other lovers who have actually made me laugh during sex, and its always been the ones with whom I felt really compatible. He said its been the same way with him.
After we finished, I lay in the bed next to him, looked at the calender and started counting weeks off. "10th, 3rd, uh, 34 minus 7 is 27... and 19. Huh."
"What is it?"
"It's just funny. Exactly 26 weeks ago, I woke up in this bed, and well, my whole life had been turned upside down and was out of my control. I was miserable and I hated everything about myself. I just looked around and said 'I don't belong here, this isn't what I'd planned'. I hated people looking at me, and... Everything just seemed wrong. And today... I don't know, everything just feels right today. I don't know everything about what's going on around me, but I can live with it, and I'm not resigned to it. I want to see where things go with you, I like my friends, and outside of dealing with Maureen I like my job. I even feel good about my body."
Carter laughed. "What could possibly be wrong with your body?"
"Nothing, I just, well, let's just say I thought someone else deserved it much more than me. And maybe that's still true, but I don't think anybody's going to take it away from me and give it to them. And... I once heard someone say that who you are is the sum of your physical self and your experiences? I guess, in a very real sense, I'm not the same person I was six months ago, and even though I've got a lot in common with that person, it's not who I should try to be, you know? I should just focus on being the best me I can be."
"Girl, that's all any of us can do."
"I know. Just took a while for it to sink in, is all." I gave him a peck on the cheek. "Thanks for liking me enough to make me realize I'm OK."
"Hey, I was going to do it anyway."
Then he kissed me, and, well, let's just say that I'm only writing this down now because we finally decided he should go get changed before tonights midnight movie (3-D kung fu!). I finally took a shower, and, looking in the mirror, I finally felt all that stuff I was saying to Carter was right. This is a pretty good life I've found here, even if I resent the way I ended up with it and want to know more about the whole thing. So it's not like I'm going to stop looking, but I think the end goal is going to be different. It's going to be more about understanding than changing, I think.
Friday, January 16, 2004
Silly people and things
I don't want a satellite dish. And, more to the point, BioSoft doesn't want a satellite dish. But no matter how many times I press "9" for the company to be removed from DirectTV's call list when their nuisancebot calls, they won't do it. And, of course, their machine only reaches my machine when they call the apartment during business hours, so I never get a chance. There are days when I get called five times between both locations. What must be happening is that there's some huge database of names and numbers, with multiple names per number, and saying "delete me!" only deletes one. Many are probably out of date and they've probably got every employee at BioSoft listed as a different one.
I made the mistake of complaining about it out loud today, and Maureen told me that making purchasing decisions like not buying a satellite dish was not in my job description, but was in fact something for the office manager - her - to consider. After all, it might be a good idea for her to drop cable and subscribe to a digital satellite service to provide more options for blah, blah, and blah. Next time they call, I'm to get information so that she may better review the company's options and not try to unsubscribe... Guaranteeing I'll be answering these calls for months as she "evaluates" (that is, forgets). I swear, it's some sort of deliberate attempt to irritate me.
Then there was the whole flower thing, which I guess was sort of cute. Apparently, Kate had a fight with her boyfriend George, and he's trying to apologize. So he sends flowers. She, however, is still much pissed, and wants no part of them. So they sit on my desk, waiting for Kate to change her mind and giving rise to a whole bunch of misconceptions.
Around two o'clock, I go to the bathroom, come back, and they're gone. I don't see them in the wastebasket, so I figure Kate's relented. Nope. Quarter of three, Carter walks out of his cube with them badly hidden behind his back, and gives them to me, saying that Kate told him that as long as people think they're for me, they might as well be. He's even written a new card in crayon (who keeps crayons at their desk?) apologizing that it might not have been two weeks since he's hit on me, but, hey, free flowers. It's awfully cute, I guess, and he's cool enough to tell people there's nothing to see here, that there's no way we're kissing in front of the whole office.
Of course, that means I have a bunch of flowers to get home on the Green Line in single-degree weather. If I wind up dating again, I'm going to make it well-known that I prefer chocolates to flowers. Easier to transport and when they're gone, it's because you've eaten them, not killed them.
When I got home, there's a sign on the building's door saying not to turn one's thermostat down below 65 because of the extreme cold. I'm looking at that and mumbling, gee, no shit, but it's apparently not for the tenants' safety; evidently they've had heating pipes break. I imagine there have been a bunch of people grumbling about paying to heat an empty apartment because the building's not well-constructed. Can't say I blame them.
But, hey, can't say I'm not doing my part. I think the neighbors are away for the weekend, and I've got plants which are just dying from exposure to what it's like outside, so I cranked the thermostat to 85. Now that it's warmed up, I think I'll get rid of my work clothes and just lie around in my underwear reading comics until its time to head for the late movie. After all, it's fun to be nearly naked when it's really friggin cold outside, and besides, it feels more exciting and dangerous to do that in this body than it did in my old one, where it basically felt, well, lazy.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Hung out with Carter at the comic shop before seeing a couple movies at the Brattle tonight (two movies for the price of one... gotta love it, even if the price of one in this town is $9). It was fun, and the movies weren't bad for a couple of documentaries. Not really Carter's thing, or mine either to tell you the truth. Spellbound and Capturing The Friedmans are good movies, but I was glad to basically pay $4.50 apiece.
Anyway, yesterday an issue of DC's comic "H-E-R-O" came out that involved a guy being turned into a woman. I'd heard about it and picked it up, pleased from an aesthetic perspective that "Electric Lass" doesn't look anything like the cover; that's a butt-ugly cover. I pointed that out to Carter and he shook his head, saying he'd get crap if he bought comics based on the lead female's boobs. I joked that it was an empathy thing with me; I have to admit that it's fun to be able to talk about more or less any body part you want without reprecussions. Besides, I told him that "Vampirella" was one of the biggest sellers among women (hey, I read that once!), and it's okay, because when a woman buys it, the ideal it represents is that you can be strong and sexy at the same time, whereas men... Well, strength doesn't much enter into it. I know.
Got me thinking about what other stuff there was like that, though. I mean, I knew about Ranma, and I vaguely remember "Mantra" from when I was in college (along with an upcoming comic from Broadway Comics called "Makeshift" when there was a Broadway Comics), but it's not like "guy changing into a woman" is a big enough sub-genre to get its own shelf. Sure, you can find dozens of sites for it on the internet - you can find dozens of anything here, except explanations - but it's something you've got to hunt for on the street. I looked through the shelves, telling Carter it was fun to see stories about whether someone like him could hack being turned into someone like me. Got a nice "takes more than a killer body to be someone like you" for it. I fear I'm becoming incorrigible.
Haven't gotten a chance to actually read it yet, though, since the movie went to 11:30. Got to get to work tomorrow morning, so I'll just leave my comics to be read tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Well, that was a day
Did another field trip with Mr. Kraft today, which was... eventful. The day started out pretty fun, as Maureen was practically green with envy. Not that she cares about the cool science we'd be seeing, but just the idea that I'd be accompanying the president of the company. Of course, she had tried to insinuate something first, but made the mistake of insinuating it to Jen. Points for identifying one of the office gossips, but a penalty for not identifying said office gossip's friends so clearly.
Still, it was more than a little annoying to have Mr. Kraft's car break down in Dedham. He called Triple-A, but, well, it's not like he's the one whose boss told him to wear a nice dress today with the temperature in the low single-digits. Black pantyhose can only shield you from so much cold. He was very apologetic and offered me his coat, because he didn't really think he could offer me his pants. That might be the first joke I remember him making. I just tried to stay warm by walking around, especially because the business whose parking lot we pulled into was a boating shop that had, no joke, a bait vending machine out front.
That's right, a box saying "Live Bait" that lets you exchange money for worms. Right next to the one for "Cold Drinks". I imagine it must have been a joke (I didn't go in and ask), but the idea is somewhat disturbing at any rate. I'm not sure why, I mean, we're talking about worms. It's not like there were kittens being kept inside a dark airless machine waiting for a kid to insert five bucks and push "tabby". The other thing was that, yeah, we were right by the Charles, but there wasn't a place for fishing and boating in the immediate area. It's not like nightcrawlers would necessarily be a likely impulse buy there. So it was probably a joke. Weird joke, though, especially when you're already ticked about being out in the suburbs - if less than a mile from West Roxbury - where everything takes longer and you can't just duck into a Dunkin Donuts while waiting for someone to tow your car and send you a taxi (I figure if you can see the next Dunkin Donuts from the one you're standing in, you can see your car). Heck, just needing to use a car to get there drew my ire. Mr. Kraft just shook his head and said I was really a city girl; I guess that would be a fair description now.
We did get to the place, though. A lot of the newer biotech firms are weird to tour; unless you're one of the main experimental scientists, you'd never know they were working with living things. All the modeling at this place was done on computer, and the lab rats are kept way in the back, behind locked doors. Just walking through the place, they could have been doing software development, copywriting, or rendering special effects for movies - just a bunch of high-end workstations with very smart-looking people sitting at them. Most didn't even wear white coats, joking that it was mostly an affectation for those who did.
Super-wierd, though - lots of people I went to college with. I didn't take a lot of bio courses, but I recognized a bunch of Wei's old classmates, a woman Kurt had dated... Even one of my suitemates from freshman year. I must have stopped myself from walking up and saying "hey, Janice, cool to see you" ten times. I was tempted, too, especially when it came to one of Wei's friends who'd struck me as pompous back at WPI. Sure, he wouldn't recognize me, but messing with his mind would be fun. Still, I couldn't figure out a way he'd have known me. This body's clearly too young to have been his classmate, and he was into older guys if I remember correctly. Michelle Garber's just not someone he would have met.
Obviously, I can't discuss much of what I saw there, just that it was a gene-splicing research lab. Not even someplace I could ask about spontaneous memory loss; there were really focused gene guys. It was a neat tour, though - lots of cool science going on, even if I couldn't see the actual lab.
Then, another cab back to Boston and an afternoon spent typing up notes and answering phones. Not my dream job, but after a few years of writing SQL queries and DTS packages to move stuff from one database to another, it's pretty cool to at least be near cool science.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
So I go to the movies
Because, it's what I do. And, besides, if this is it - Shelley is happy-ish with where she is (or at least says she won't interfere with me living her life), the guy in my body isn't giving it up, the people who can switch bodies around are very well-hidden - what's a more productive use of my time, seeing a good movie or hunching over a computer screen trying to find information no-one will believe and I can't act on. And if my memory can just spontaneously vanish like I thoerized happened to Shelley, well, I'll at least have left notes to myself here on which movies are worth seeing again.
(Aside: Paycheck may be more fun to see for a second time if my memory vanishes in the interim. Tonight's movie, 21 Grams, was pretty good but nothing you have to spend $7 to see again in such a situation)
Of course, the memory thing is just a thoery, one possible explanation for Shelley's missing time. There are others. Still, if that sort of thing is a possibility, then perhaps living for today becomes more important, because what's the point of making plans you can't remember? You just get more paranoid, and I don't need that.
Besides, it's been a while since I've hung out with Kate. She's got an ambitious list of movies to see before the Oscars so that she can bitch with authority, although she's in no hurry to see, as she calls it, "Midgets versus Jewelry III: The Final Chapter, Thank God". Which reminds me that I haven't seen it myself. Its opening weekend was a busy time for me, then I was sick...
Anyway, we more or less enjoyed the movie. We liked the performances, but found the end a little overly symbolic, one of those things that just seemed to happen because the writers feel it would say something, even though you have to seriously question whether it's something people would actually do.
We talked boyfriends, which is still a little weird to me. She seems to be getting firmly into the "what the hell are you waiting for?" camp, while I get the impression that she and George are having issues. Apparently, George has a kid from a previous relationship, and Kate was kind of appalled that she was just finding this out a couple weeks ago, and is kind of wondering what kind of guy isn't more involved in their kid's life. Says it speaks of not being able to commit or prioritize, and I don't know if I disagree. That he's got an eight-year-old kid is also sort of a reminder that there's a bit of an age difference, which is something I consider kind of weird. As a guy, I'm sort of used to dating women younger than me. Not by more than five years, but still, for some reason, I seldom approached the woman who might be a couple years older than me. I don't know why we're wired that way. I think it may be a societal thing, that by matching (slightly) older guys with younger women, there's a slight imbalance of experience and implied authority, which in a subtle way keeps men on top. Or men are just really shallow.
Gah, it's too late. I was going to write about the movie I saw and wound up here. The mind does wander.
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.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
Where are my flying cars, dammit?
Warm enough to head outside today and take in a movie or two and go grocery shopping. Anyway, I went and saw Paycheck, which was better than I expected - the joke Kate and I had been making when seeing the previews was along the lines of "Why are Uma Thurman and Aaron Eckhart in Paycheck?"/"To earn one, baby, and that's all!" I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, though - yes, there were some extremely stoopid plot points in it, but I have a certain affection for movies that can take obvious contrivances and make a virtue out of it. Serendipity, for instance, is one of my favorite romantic comedies, just because it takes the idea that the genre is built on co-incidence and brings it front and center, rather than trying to make the exercise "believable". Movies contain artifice. Deal with it.
One thing that bugged me, though, was the way it was obviously set in the future - the memory-wipe technology basically requires that - but it sure looks a whole lot like the present. I mean, come on, BMW obviously paid a decent sum for product placement - would it have killed them to whip out some nifty-looking concept cars? Everything involved in the car chase was so twentieth-century it was laughable. It was especially annoying because the premise of this movie is basically "Minority Report Lite", and Spielberg's movie had all kinds of nifty futuristic things in it; they spent a good chunk of the film's budget on set design, talking to think tank people about what life would be like 50 years down the road.
Of course, another possibility is that mind-wiping like that is something commonly known in certain circles, but not discussed outside of them and just commonly passed off as something people would consider nuts or science-fiction... Like reading out the contents of a living human brain and recording it onto another. Is this something that's widespread, but not known outside certain circles? Kind of an open secret, not worth protecting, because by the time people believe some guy/girl writing in a weblog, it'll be too entrenched to do anything about. That would certainly explain why I'm not chased around by people with laser pistols despite my constant blabbing about a fairly advanced, apparently secret technology.