Transplanted Life
Saturday, January 24, 2004
I don't like making this about how other readers look at me, but...
As you can see looking at the comments, someone's been threadcrapping. Or blogcrapping, or commentcrapping, or whatever. Basically, coming into a discussion and acting like a jerk.

Not that there isn't a worthwhile point hidden somewhere in his comments, even if they are the sort of thing that I'm long past: Why aren't I trying harder to get my old life back, signing this blog "Michelle", enjoying my relations with men (take "relations" any way you like), etc.? It's a question that probably deserves an answer, and it's something that's been on my mind for the past month or two.

The answer is, I've slowly come to realize I'm not Martin Hartle anymore. And I'm not Michelle Garber; who I am is more complicated than that.

It's easy to think of myself as one or the other, to try and be one of the other, or at least pretend to be at any time. And the title of this journal sort of reinforces that perception, that my mind has been transplanted from my original body to Michelle's. (Of course, it was originally meant to mean I had moved cross-country, but that's just one of life's little ironies) But it's more complicated than that.

Even though I mostly think of myself as Martin, because that's what my continuity of memory says I am, identity is more involved than just memory and personality - the latter of which is malleable and changes over time anyway (as does memory, in some cases). Maybe if my brain had been carved out of one head and deposited in another, I could be said to be totally Martin in another body, but that's not the case. All the "software" that makes up what I'd thought of as my mind is now running on a new "hardware" platform, which affects things.

Sexual orientation is obviously the big one. This brain, and the nose attached to it, responds to different pheremones. The body reacts to touch in different places and ways. The long and short of it is, this body is attracted to men, even though, to a certain extent, a picture of a naked woman can do more for me that a picture of a naked man. Although that's changing; the mind never stops learning and as I create more pleasant associations with naked men, I'm sort of training myself to respond to that in terms of intellect and aesthetics without even trying.

That's just the big, obvious one, though. There are others. Like, I used to be really into eating. I was fat as a kid and it took a lot of effort to get down to the healthy (if unspectacular) state my original body was in when it was taken from me. I would snack all afternoon given half an opportunity. That desire's not there any more, along with some related ones. I find I have much more self-control on Tuesday, when new movies come out on DVD, than I did before. There are periods when I drink more, but I'm under unusual amounts of stress in my state.

And intellectually - I think Michelle's brain is about as good as Martin's in terms of raw power, but it has slightly different strengths. It's a little harder for me to do long division in my head now, for example, and when I'm sitting on the subway, it's not as easy for me to shut everything else out and concentrate on the book or magazine I brought with me. However, when I'm sitting in my apartment or some other quiet environment, I think I read faster. And I think my writing's better, too. I'm not sure, since all I have to compare it to is the first week of this blog, and any improvement may just be coming from daily practice. But the cliche that girls are better than boys at English and not so skilled at math may not be complete bullshit for this girl's brain and that boy's one.

What I've come to realize is that I am a different person than I was a year ago. I'd say I'm 90% Martin in terms of personality, tastes, and abilities, and 10% Michelle. In a way, that makes me some weird sort of offspring, perhaps. It also means that the original Martin Hartle, the original Michelle Garber, the original Samantha Haskins, and whatever other people are involved in this don't exist any more. They were taken apart and put back together to form new people, who just tend to think we're these original people because that's what our memories tell us we are. I call myself "Michelle" now because that's what everybody has been calling me for six months, and I bet it would take me some time to respond to "Martin" again, but it's not strictly accurate.

I do want to find out who did this to "me", and made me what I am. It's a terrible thing to do; just because there are two healthy people after this "switch" thing is done doesn't mean two people's lives haven't been ended, and despite enjoying my daily life, I don't want it done to anybody else. But reversing it? I don't know about that any more. It's selfish, but I'm not sure I want to sacrifice my life so that "original-Martin" can exist again. Not that he could, his personality would have undergone changes based on how I've lived the past six months. Maybe when I wasn't used to this, I would have - hell, I know I would - but now that I'm used to being made out of two different people, I really don't want who I am now to get dismantled.

Friday, January 23, 2004
See, no good comes of drinking
Apparently, for the people who actually have to put one bit of cryptic code after another to produce functioning software rather than answering phones, this was a pretty hectic week at BioSoft. Can't say I miss deadlines that much, especially in the IT field - there's always some last minute changes, and meetings to discuss those last minute changes that keep you from actually working on them during business hours (so you stay late even though you've got tickets for anything), some horrible sort of hardware failure, etc. And people are starting to get wise to people blaming it on Microsoft. Oh, they've had their own Microsoft issues, but not so much lately, with XP being so damn reliable, and if Microsoft is so damn evil why do you keep paying for those expensive MSDN memberships...?

This week was nutty, of course, because it was the QA period, so things were just zinging back and forth between the developers and QA, and people were being taken off other projects to help. Maureen practically spent the entire day today on printer patrol, making sure that they were constantly stocked with paper and toner, while I rode herd on a whole bunch of pizza and other lunch deliveries.

But, finally, it was done at 3pm today and the noise from the actual work area was a lot of "hey, this works too! Excellent!" Then lots of high-fiving.

So, we all adjorned to The Place at just about the exact stroke of five. It was a boisterous time. I had to correct a few people who claimed that signing Byung-Hyun Kim to a multi-year deal was a bad idea, but these were people who were bitter about losing Shea Hillenbrand for an above-average pitcher in the first place. One of 'em got really heated; I don't know how long he had been there, but he got up in my face yelling. Actually, sort of up over my face; I'm not really used to being physically intimidated yet; I don't realize that this could be trouble until I realize that I'm tilting my head back to see just how red a guy's eyes are. Kate pulled me away, telling me that I really shouldn't bait people like that. I don't do it on purpose; it just happens.

Anyway, we'd barely gotten back to Carter, Dimitri, and Mark (Mark was ragging Dimitri mercilessly about how great it must be to have an underage girlfriend because it makes a bar like this a complete safe haven) when Kurt and Denise came in. Didn't see us, I don't think - heck, I probably wouldn't have seen him if Kate hadn't pointed him out - but I suddenly decided it would be nice to be elsewhere. I told Carter that I'd show him off another time, and we headed back to his house to kill some time before heading out to the midnight movie.

He must really have been dragging, though, since he was asleep just as soon as he hit the bed. Really, just as soon - I sit down to unzip my boots, look up, and he's snoring away. I wrote him a note, reminding him that we had another double-date with Kate & George tomorrow, and let him sleep.

I've got to say, there are times when I don't miss parts of my old life. Even though I work a full 40-hour week, I get paid overtime if I have to stay late; that's not the case for the salaried guys. And as borning and tedious (and not terribly well-paying) as being a receptionist can be, I haven't had a week at work that has really tried to break my will yet, either.

Thursday, January 22, 2004
Yeah, I guess I understand feeling that way
Went to talk to Sam/Shelly today. It wasn't quite so cordial as last time.

Which is kind of to be expected; I'd sort of hoped we could be friends, or at least someone to talk to who understands the rather unique circumstances that the other is under, but maybe that's a bit much to expect. Maybe it just wasn't the best day to do it - I noticed Dimitri was a little cranky in the office today, so maybe there was some sort of fight at Casa Gubanov last night or this morning.

I was kind of pushy, too, I think. I was asking a whole bunch of questions - did you ever have any sort of problem with these eyes, or had any dental work done, have you ever had a mammogram - and if you're having a bad day, it's not a great thing to be reminded that somebody else is living the life that you're supposed to have, the one that you were born with. That's the way she put it - "I love Dimitri, I do, and I know that it must have been a let-down for you to go from being a successful professional with a college degree to a girl who answers phones and no-one takes seriously, but look at me! I'm selling things on the street and staying at my boyfriend's apartment because I've got nowhere else to go!"

"Shelly," I said, "if I could trade places with you, make you feel whole again, I'd do it. I don't want to be stealing anyone's life."

"Bully for you. But you can't. And how would you like it if the guy who took your body moved back to Boston and was always around, and you had to see people talking about him all the time? Could you stand it?"

"I... I don't know. It's different, though - he meant to take my body, and he's probably the guy who took yours, originally. I'd be worried about what he's up to."

"Oh, so you're above just plain old resentment. That must be nice."

"That's not what I'm saying--"

"But that's how I feel. Look, I think you're a decent person, and part of what I resent is you're probably making a better life with that body than I ever could. I just can't watch you do it. I... I need you to stay away from me, at least for a while."

I tried to argue with her, but she's right. I would absolutely freak if I came face-to-face with "Martin", especially if he was doing well and had his rich girlfriend with him, even if he were as blameless as I am. I made Shelly promise me she'd email me if she learned anything, and she gave me an address to use in case of emergencies, making it clear that it would have to be something huge for me to intrude on her life again.

I wonder how long she's felt that way. Maybe I just caught her on a good day last week; a lot of what she said had the sound of something she's wanted to say for a long time. But, then again, it's not like I haven't rehearsed what I'd want to say to the guy in my original body if I met him on the street. I don't know if I'd have the nerve to stand up to him, or not just fly into some sort of violent range.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Didn't get a chance to add to this yesterday, since Carter and I went on a double-date with Kate and Geroge to a couple movies at the Brattle. The double feature was The Barefoot Contessa and Sabrina; the first was pretty bad, but the second was wonderful. You can't go very far wrong with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn.

Kate's got to dump George, though. After Carter mentioned that he didn't usually see a lot of old movies, but Bogart and Hepburn were fantastic, George committed the cardinal sin of reminding him that even if Audrey Hepburn were alive, she'd be old enough to be his grandmother. You just don't say that after a classic movie, especially one which involves Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. Yeah, I know, as befits my current body and sexual orientation, I probably should be saying that about Cary Grant and, say, Bogart, but I don't know as they attract me as much as Hepburn still does. I don't want to sleep with a twenty-year-old Audrey, nor do I particularly want to be that sort of elegant girl. I just like the ideal they represent. Besides, Audrey was the one Kate's boyfriend dissed. To the point of saying he liked the Harrison Ford/Julia Ormand remake better. This, as I told Kate at work today, is obviously not someone you're compatible with.

I wound up spending the night at Carter's apartment; although my place in Allston is actually much closer to Harvard Square than his in JP, that would have involved waiting for a bus or taking a taxi. And, hey, we'd just seen a romantic movie and it was a good excuse.

I never had a black girlfriend in my original body - just never worked out that way - and I must say I like the aesthetics of it. I don't know what we look like while we make love, but I caught a glimpse of us in the mirror as we showered together this morning, and it looked neat in an abstract way; when the mirror fogged up a little, my pale skin against his dark skin made for a nice pattern.

He actually took longer in the bathroom than me - "head stubble" is just funny - so I went out to make us some breakfast. I was a little taken aback when, looking through the cupbords for a measuring cup (I cook like a chemist, following directions so anally that I read the meniscus when measuring water), I found a locked gun. Apparently, it's Carter's sidearm from his Air Force days. You don't normally think of Air Force guys having pistols, and he says that he seldom wore it doing base support like he did, but everyone has to test on it, since in an attack everyone can wind up a combatant. Makes sense, but it was sort of an alien thing to me. I don't think I'd ever touched a gun before yesterday; my dad wasn't into hunting, I never did ROTC in college, and my friends and girlfriends were sort of from the same background.

Anyway, we soon found more important things to discuss, like needing to leave some clothes at each others' places if this was going to happen often during the week. As it stood, folks were going to know I spent the night here because I was wearing the same outfit to work. Hopefully the novelty will wear off soon.

Monday, January 19, 2004
News Gets Around
But, then, that's part of the fun of working for a small company; everyone knows everyone else's business and has an opinion. And, admittedly, the prevailing opinion about me and Carter for the last month or so has been "will you two just get on with it?" So there was apparently some small amount of relief when Jen managed to make it known that she suspected we had "got it on with it". After all, she said, sex had to be on our mind after that softcore thing we'd seen at Midnight Kung Fu Madness Friday night (the movie was called Sex & Zen, a movie which switches between raunchy comedy and spousal abuse in a disturbingly carefree manner). Then, when we'd bumped into her at the next night's entry, we weren't exactly kissing at every opportunity, but we were holding hands and not tense around each other at all. It was pretty obvious something had changed.

Some of it was good, some bad. I think Lizzie said more to me about what a great guy Carter was today than she's said to me on any subject over the past six months. Of course, there was the creepy bit with Maureen wide-eyed asking if it was really true what they said about black men's, you know, manlinesses. Sometimes that girl's just weird.

Kate, of course, wanted to know why she had to hear about this as office gossip rather than as first-hand gossip yesterday. Apparently, "we were talking about movies and by the time we weren't, we were talking about how your boyfriend's a jerk and I didn't feel like coming back with 'that sucks, and by the way, Carter is great in the sack'" is not a sufficient excuse. Apparently, "great new boyfriend" trumps all other conversational possibilities except "hey, look at this new engagement ring". I have so much to learn.

(The internet can't really capture the dry semi-sarcasm of that last statement, so - dry, semi-sarcasm there)

Couldn't help but notice a few of the guys giving Carter slaps on the back and saying "good job", "you're the man", and the like. Fortunately, Carter looked suitably embarassed. The other girls thought it was weird that Dimitri wasn't joining in that, especially since he hadn't been hitting on me for months, since getting a girlfriend. I tried to explain to them that guys are, in fact, more complicated than that; that it could have just demonstrated to him that I was obtainable or drove the point that Carter was more attractive home. Guys do have feelings, you know. Kate told me I only thought that because I didn't have to listen to Erik asking Carter if my tits were real every forty-five minutes or so this morning. I'm trying to convince myself that I wouldn't have done that.


EDIT: Huh. Six months to the day in this body today. I feel like I should be commemorating it somehow.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Movie series not to combine...
... "Midnight Kung Fu Madness" and "The Sunday Eye-Opener". There's just barely enough sleeping time between getting home from Revenge Of The Shogun Women In 3-D - which includes convincing your boyfriend that no, you've got to get up early tomorrow morning because you promised you'd do something with Kate - and getting up in time to shower, dress, notice it's snowing, curse, change shoes, and catch a bus for Harvard Square to meet up with your best girlfriend and register for a film program whose first show starts at eleven o'clock.

(Aside: This embracing who I am now thing is nice and all, but looking at that paragraph, and repeating it in my head, is peculiar. Calling Kate my girlfriend makes it seem like there should be something sexual between us. Maybe I'm not ready to actually use the language yet.)

The Sunday Eye-Opener program at The Brattle Theater is a series of ten preview showings of foreign/boutique films with discussion afterward. Kate did it last "semester" and mostly had a great time - and the one she didn't really go for is the one she teases me about. It is kind of funny that she got to see Bubba Ho-Tep before I did. The price is pretty good if you don't mind paying up front; $50 for ten movies in ten weeks. And, if you're a Brattle member, it's $25. Of course, membership is $75, but it includes ten free movie tickets (which would normally cost $7.50 or $9.00)... So, I made a decision right there to join. What the heck, right; it's not like I'm likely to be jerked out of this body and identity and lose it. Of course, I didn't have $100 bucks on me, so I had to run to the ATM, and almost missed the start of the movie...

Which was good. Solid; a Spanish thing (which, oddly, is set in Paris) called City Of No Limits. It's a nifty little family drama with some thriller elements; I enjoyed it, but was glad I didn't have to pay the whole $9.00 to see it when it opens to the general public this coming weekend. There wasn't much discussion after this week - I guess the entire audience was like "meh" - so Kate and I hit Finagle A Bagel (they're everywhere) for some brunch. I ordered a huge coffee, and she asked me what was up with that.

"Jen, Carlos, Carter and I went to the midnight movie at the Coolidge last night, and I guess I'm still kind of dead-on-my-feet. Speaking of which..." I started putting one hand over one eye, then the other, and switching it around.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Well, it was in 3-D, and they had the good glasses, not the red-and-blue shit they used for Spy Kids 3... I think I've still got 'em in my purse..."

They had a plain white cardboard frame, with tinted eyepieces. "Cool... It's like what they use for IMAX, right? Polarized?"

"Yeah. But it kind of gave me a tiny headache, and I was seeing double images of stuff that was a certain distance - well, a certain apparent distance - in the background. Didn't seem to be a problem for the others, though. Anyway, when I closed my left eye, the image looked okay, if flat, but when I closed my right eye, it was all blurry. So I wonder if maybe one eye's stronger than the other or something."

"Maybe. Want me to hook you up with my eye doctor?"

"I don't know... I mean, if it's just a problem watching 3-D movies... Well, how often is that going to be an issue?"

"IMAX Film Festival next month."

"Shit, you're right. Uh... Yeah, I guess seeing him wouldn't hurt. Does our insurance cover that?"

"Yeah, we've got a pretty good policy."

While I had my purse on the table, I pulled out my wallet so I could stick the "Eye-Opener" card in there (the membership card would be mailed to me). I stuck it in right behind the dental insurance card. Huh. I've had this for six months and not had a checkup/cleaning. Probably should, huh? I started poking around my teeth my tongue, muttering something about wondering if I had any cavities or fillings.

Kate looked at me weird. "I think you'd know if you had any fillings."

"Yeah, of course I would. Cavities, though..."

Then the subject got onto George and how she felt like a jerk for feeling left out while he spent the weekend with his kid. She'd been the one saying he should spend more time with him, after all. Then she was all insecure about how she'd been seeing him for three months, why wouldn't he want her to meet his son? I told her not to worry about it, but that's sort of what she does.

I wonder if there's anything I've got to worry about - eyes, teeth... Gads, I should probably have a gynecological exam. That just sounds nasty. But, it's all stuff I should be aware of, I guess.


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