Friday, April 09, 2004
Late to work, since the locksmith came this morning. I'd called my landlord about it Wednesday, because the lease Michelle signed prohibits getting the lock changed on your own. It's costing me a couple hundred bucks, which seems absurdly unfair. I mean, Carter's the one who drugs his girlfriend, and why I need the new lock. I mean, this is valuable money that I'm going to need to spend on meals and movies without a boyfriend to pay for those.
I kid. One must joke about these things, lest swallowing something poisonous start to look reasonable.
Work was tense. It's going to be tense, since neither Carter nor I intend to leave, but we each know that the other knows about why I dumped him. For what it's worth, most of the folks there, not just the women, are taking my side. Jen gossips, it's what she does, but she's generally accurate. Sometime between when she told Lizzie and when Maureen asked me if it were true, the vague nothing I had told Jen & Kate had become rohypnol. I told her that no, Carter had not actually raped me and I could remember everything. She actually awkwardly said that if there were anything she could do, I should call her. Don't see that happening.
So, after work, I met Maggie at the Kendall Square Legal Sea Foods. She was already there, since she works in the area (there's a lot of biotech companies which have sprung up around MIT). We're both hungry, so we don't spend any time at the bar. Neither of us are particularly anxious to have mood-altering chemicals in our systems, anyway. Speaking of them, I had the bottle with the joy juice over to her as soon as the waiter has taken our orders. She asks if I'm sure I want to put all my eggs in one basket with her, and I tell her I don't want it near me, and I imagine safety deposit boxes cost money. She looks at me, says I must really trust her, and I sort of shrug. I mean, I don't want to insult her, but what am I going to say, that the only other people I know are my co-workers and any of them, even Kate or Jen, could be an accomplice? She keeps staring, though, not saying anything, and I start to think that dinner might have been a bad idea, because it means we'll have to talk to each other, and even though neither of us wants to talk about what's in the bottle, we've got nothing else in common, or so she thinks.
Or so I think she thinks.
"I'm just going to say this," she says, "because I'd wondered why you came to me when this city is full of much smarter people. I know why, now. I think that maybe you did it sort of accidentally on purpose, or at least I kind of hope so, but, when you checked your web log the other day, you didn't clear my cookies afterward." She blushes, like she's just said something dirty. "I... I read it all. And god help me, it makes sense. Well, it doesn't make sense, but it holds together, and it can't all be an elaborate hoax, because that solution is some crazy shit that actually reacts to your cells, but the rest..."
She can't bring herself to say it, because it is, quite frankly, ridiculous. It's my life, so I forget how ridiculous it is, but if the tables were turned, I'd never be able to get it out. "It's true," I say. "Ask me anything."
And she does. She grills me about practically every second of her relationship with Martin, everything Wei ever told her in confidence, everything she knew. She tries to trip me up by asking about vacations I never took, things I never did, and relatives I don't have. By the time my scallops arrive, her mouth is just hanging open. "Wow."
"It's just, I remember you lying by the river in a bikini, and you were wearing high heels the other night, and you've... I mean, I'd never guess."
"Thanks, I think."
"How do you stand it? I mean, if I got stuck in a guy's body, I wouldn't know what to do!"
So we talked about it. I told her about being thrust into the situation with Michelle's job, and with Kurt, and not wanting to get the people angry at first, because who knows what they can do? I told her about looking in the mirror and realizing that I wasn't ever going to be able to hide this figure by pretending to be a teenaged boy or something. Then I tried to explain how I came to consider myself a new person, part Martin and part Michelle, though not in the usual way a new person is born. She has trouble comprehending that, but that's okay. I tell her that the email and comments from people who've stumbled onto this blog sometimes indicate an inability to grasp that concept, and they've been reading it for months.
She says she can't believe I'd come to her when I needed help. "I was so mean to you when we broke up... I mean, we didn't break up, but you remember it!" I told her she was justified, that I was a jerk, she said that she had been thinking the very same things I'd said which was why it had hurt so much.
"So," she says, "what should I call you?"
I tell her my name is, for all intents and purposes, Michelle, but she says she knows that it's only a small part of who I am. I say she'll have to call me that in public, anyway, and she understands. So we compromise on "Marta". I don't exactly look like a Marta, but whatever.
It's not until I get home tonight that I realize, that even knowing everything and how I - and it was me, at least partially - treated her toward the end last year, she wants to be my friend.
Thursday, April 08, 2004
Swiping that bottle of stuff from Carter's apartment in JP yesterday was a calculated risk. Obviously, by doing that, Carter's going to know I'm onto him. But I figured that (A) he'd know I was on to him when I dumped him today, and (B) I can't have that bottle out there. I just can't. There are just things in my life I can't expect other people to understand - I read comments (when they're working) and people bag on me for going to a ballgame or movie when there's all this larger-than-life stuff in my life. But until it happens to them, I don't think they can really understand what it's like not to have your self match your self-image to such an extraordinary extent. But I digress. The knowledge that someone can chemically alter your mood and personality with surgical precision without affecting anyone else, can make you pliant and suggestible - it is almost impossible to live with that thought.
And I'm not stupid. I realize that wherever Carter got that stuff probably has the capability to make more. For the rest of my life, I'm going to have to second-guess every time I feel happy, or aroused, or just like someone, and wonder whether it's natural or chemical. Quite frankly, so will everyone else, though they don't know it yet. But, it's like how we know there are guns out there, but we feel safer when we see people get rid of them. They may go right out and buy another, but until then we're safe, and they may not get another.
I got to Carter's apartment at about 3:30 yesterday afternoon, which didn't give me a whole lot of time before he got home from work. I wasn't waiting another day, though. I got there, let myself in, and headed for the bathroom. I pulled the bottle out of the medicine cabinet and was quite frankly thinking of just dumping it down the sink or down the toilet, Maggie wanting more to work with be damned. Thankfully, I'm smarter than that, and got a chill thinking about what the fumes would do to me if I dumped it all at once. I could just see Carter coming home early and finding me blissed-out and horny, willing to do whatever he says. Maybe I'd feel honored to give him a blow job. Gross. I dropped it in my purse and it hasn't left my side since; I know Carter's got a key to my place.
While I was in there, I decided to make a clean sweep. Took my toothbrush. Went into "my" drawer and grabbed the clothes I'd left there. Then, after looking grabbing a garbage bag to take my things home in from the kitchen, I tried to search the place methodically for anything out of the ordinary. I'm no detective, but I didn't find anything. I turned on his computer, but didn't make any headway on that before I heard the key in the door. I turned the computer off, took off my shoes, and ran into the bedroom and fire escape. I barely made it out, and I've never been happier that a lock sticks than I was.
So that was yesterday. I barely slept last night. I watched the Sox game twice, both as it aired and on the midnight "Sox in Two" rebroadcast, but I can't tell you a damn thing about what happened during the game. And I was shaking as I got ready for work this morning. Shaking. I almost decided I'd just stay home again, but it's got to be done quickly. I had to take the offensive; I couldn't just be jerked around any more.
That's why I wanted to dump him in front of everyone. I wanted Kate, and Jen, and everyone to know that if they saw me and Carter going out again, something was wrong. It's self-centered, but I remembered thinking that few times in the history of break-ups was there such a pressing need for a clean break.
I expected yelling. There wasn't. I was talking with Kate when Carter came up and asked if I wanted to see a movie tonight. "No," I said, "never again."
He made some comment about me not being likely to drop movies cold-turkey, and I told him that it wasn't movies I was quitting, but him. I didn't say it loud, but the temperature in the room must have dropped, or people could pick up on Kate's intense desire to be elsewhere, but the area got quiet. He asked what I meant, and I asked if he thought I wouldn't find out. He said he didn't know what I meant, I said I'd found his traveling stash. Then he just nods, and says, oh, that explains it. I grip my handbag, but I don't think he can see it. Then he just walks away.
Kate just looks at me shocked, and drags me into the ladies' room so we can talk. Somehow Jen knows to come too. I'm still holding the purse - no way I'm letting it out of my sight when Carter's in the same building! - and we're barely in there before Kate's asking me if Carter drugged me. I say yeah, sort of, but I can't prove anything, and it's something too new to be illegal yet. Jen says I should talk to Mr. Kraft, but I don't know. I mean, what if he's in on it? He seems nice, but this all started before Carter worked here. I say I'll think about it, but I want to see if Maggie can find something out, first. I've read sometimes genetic engineer types tag their work with inert chemicals; maybe Maggie can get a hit from that.
Anyway, I call Maggie when I get back home; she can't wait to get her hands on more of this stuff to analyze. We're meeting for dinner tomorrow. It'll be weird talking about breaking up with my boyfriend with someone I can't help but think of as an old girlfriend.
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Called in sick today
Which is sort of a lie, but I guess a reasonable one, see as I haven't missed a day of work or taken a vacation in eight months because I might miss something I needed to know which might help me figure out what was going on. I got quite enough knowledge last night.
In short: I was right. Maggie called me at the office, asked me to swing by her office after work, and when I got there she basically confirmed what I was thinking. The stuff in Carter's "Cologne" is actually freaky cutting-edge biochemistry - it's chemically intert until it hits certain receptors on my cells, the kind of things my immune system uses to recognize one type of cell as "me" (like the cultures she took from me last week) and another as "disease". What it does then, though, is break up and release certain enzymes which stimulate dopamine, serotonin, and aphrodisiac production. The amounts created aren't big enough for me to notice a sudden feeling of euphoria unless I take a deep breath of it. But, if I sit in a room long enough with someone wearing it, I'll feel happier, more content, a little hornier. There have been studies linking elevated levels of these chemicals to people in love. Think Pavlov and it's not unexpected that a person could get stimulus and response mixed up - if my brain starts producing happy chemicals when I'm around someone because they're wearing this stuff, it will eventually act like the person, and not the chemicals, are the cause.
It was at that point Mags directed me to the ladies' room so I could vomit.
When I get out, Maggie is talking about how scary this is, because it could be adapted to use as a weapon. Imagine a neurotoxin keyed to Osama Bin Laden; you could saturate the Middle East with that stuff and have no ill effects other than one dead terrorist. Well, probably more than that; I'd have to think people with the same tissue types would be susceptible, too. We're not talking about something that targets you right down to the DNA. And I admit that that's awful and scary, but what we've got right now is a solution that makes me think I love Carter... No, scratch that, I say, it makes me actually love him, without his having to do anything to earn this love. It makes me into a fucking puppy, I practically yell. Then I take the adjective literally and I ask Mags if, aside from making me happy and horny, it does anything else.
She says we don't know that much about how the human brain works, but there have been some studies saying that serotonin is related to the "reward" stimulus in our brains, and that this stuff does act like sort of a natural high. It might, she says, make me somewhat eager-to-please. I want to puke again, but there's nothing left, and I feel a bit dizzy. She asks what's wrong and I just tell her I'd done some things I otherwise wouldn't have, and then I see my reflection in her glasses and I remember that the blonde hair was Carter's idea, too. Maggie can see that it's starting to come in dark at the roots, and she asks just how long I've been exposed to this stuff. I say I've been dating Carter for nearly four months, but it hasn't always been smooth. I was snapping at him just a couple weeks ago, I said, but I had this monster cold...
Maggie's turn to look really horrified; we put together that having that stuffed-up nose probably shielded me from this stuff at about the same time. It's like she suddenly realizes that I'm a real person who's been jerked around, and she starts to get angry. She thinks she barely knows me, but she's no longer coming off as mostly impressed with the science. She starts really targetting her questions like she's a doctor. I actually have to use her computer to check the blog for some of them. The "phantom smell" interests her - she thinks that might have been the first time Carter used this, but it wasn't made right and made me nauseous instead of lovey-dovey. Then he or whatever partner he has refined it.
And he must have had a partner, mustn't he? He's an IS guy, and while that may make him smart, this is cutting-edge biochemistry. Heck, Maggie doesn't have a great grasp on it, being as she mostly works on genetics; she was up late Monday night reading abstracts so she could understand what she was explaining to the blonde receptionist girl.
I know one thing, though. I can't let this go on. Tomorrow, I'm going to break up with him. This is no kind of relationship.
But first, I'm heading over to his apartment and swiping the big bottle of "cologne". I've got a key, fortunately, and there's no way I'm going to let him use it any more. Hell, I might not be able to break up with him if I don't. Besides, Maggie wants more to analyze, and she wants to show it to one of her old professors at MIT. I'm not sure I'm ready to let other people see this, though.
Anyway, I'd better get going before Carter gets back from work.
Monday, April 05, 2004
So, Petey lost one
Still looked pretty good apart from the second inning. He's had one or two bad games in April each of the last couple of years, and then settles down to remind you that he's Pedro Martinez. So I'm not worried.
Yeah, I know, that probably should be less important to me than the whole Martin-and-Natalya thing. I'm still having trouble processing that, to be honest. It's hard to think of Martin Hartle in the third person. I've more or less been avoiding that by not thinking of him for the last few months; I robotically type the name into a search engine every day or two, but it's sort of like googling myself. I'm always sort of surprised when some new "Martin and Natalya" thing comes up, like I should know about it, or even remember it.
I wonder if I'd like Natalya. I rather want to not like her, I want whatever villain is calling himself Martin Hartle to be tied to a shrew and a harpy, and for her to make his life miserable. I would like Kurt and Wei to go to their wedding and see that she is so not the sort of girl I would go for that they immediately realize something is up. But, I also don't like the idea of my mother being disappointed; she's always reminded me that she's somewhat older than many of my friends' mothers, and would like to see me married before she goes (she's not usually that morbid, of course, but she did seem impatient on that count).
The healthy thing to do would probably be to just put it out of my mind. Just worry about the life I'm leading and not borrow trouble; that would be the path of least resistance.
Speaking of that, I'm sort of nervous about not seeing Sam/Michelle around or having any way to contact her. If I'm going to worry about the life of Martin Hartle's body, I should take an interest in Michelle Garber's mind, too, especially as she's not as comfortable as me, in terms of creature comforts, at least. That's the problem with living in a big city, though - you don't know where to look, especially if she's off the grid, or even (and I shudder to think about this) on the streets. I mean, that's probably where Sam was before Michelle's mind popped into her body, right? If she's no longer with Dmitri, then that's probably where she returned to.
Sunday, April 04, 2004
Everybody's doing it
So, I'm doing my daily web search on the usual names, and something new pops up:
Martin Hartle and Natalya Tartakovsky announced their engagement. It's in the Seattle papers. A June wedding is planned.
It's tough to describe what I'm feeling right now. I've plunged myself into being Michelle Garber, living a life I enjoy, and which I assume will just go on. If someone were to confront me and say they could reverse the swap of memories and personality or mind-patterns or whatever, it's something I'd have to think on. What would the (mostly) reconstituted Martin Hartle do? And quite frankly, if I just woke up in Seattle, mind back in that familiar body, I'd be somewhat pissed, both in terms of someone screwing with my life without asking and the things I've come to enjoy about my life.
Or at least, that's what I've thought. As it turns out, I look at that announcement and I think I should be marrying her. Which is more than a little silly, since the odds are pretty good that if my "mind" (for lack of a better word to describe the non-physical aspects of the original Martin that wound up in this person typing this message) had been in that body for the past eight months, I would have likely never gone to the ballet, or whatever the circumstances were where he met her.
And that makes it worse. He's taken my life, or the life I should have been leading, and messed it up. Maybe it's a good thing, and he messed it up in the way that Pollock messed up a piece of canvas, but he's made that life his own. Whereas I feel like I haven't; I've been living the life the original Michelle would have lived. I've been doing her job, living in her apartment, dating a guy I know she would have met. Would she have gone out with Kurt? I'm not sure on that, but even there, I was following someone else's plan.
And I wonder if Martin-2 has taken her to meet mom. Or maybe brought my mother out to meet her family. Have invitations gone out to Kurt, and Wei, and everyone else I would have invited? I can't imagine them inviting me, just out of fear of a "speak now or forever hold your peace" moment.
Gah, I don't know what I feel about this yet. I wish I had someone I could talk to about it. I'm half tempted to call Jen and Carlos and say I won't be coming to the big opening-night party, but aside from how I'm bringing food (hot dogs, in my case), I don't feel like being by myself or with just Carter, either.