Saturday, April 24, 2004
The new roommate
I'm not sure how I'm going to work this blog now that Carter's living here. He knows of its existence, of course, and it's out there for him if he wants to read it. I told him that it's kind of theraputic to just put yourself out there and write about how you're feeling, what you've learned about your new self, that sort of thing, but he's not interested. He says he's not even going to read this, and he seems to mean it. He's pretty deep in, well, not denial, but shame...
Okay, I just stopped and stared at the screen for ten minutes. I don't want to say something bad about someone I know in case they might read it. To a certain extent, it's the same way with Maggie. She, I know, reads this daily. Which is potentially awkward, because although she's been nothing but great since finding out who and what I am, what if she does something that just pisses me off? She says I should feel free to write anything I want in here, because it serves not only as a personal diary but as a documentation of how I deal with having two identities at odds with each other. She will, she says, try not to take it personally. Let's hope we never have to test that.
But, anyway, I imagine I'll be in for some trouble with what I have to say about Carter, but I'm going to get it down anyway. He's not coping well. There is absolutely no reason to expect him to cope well, and if I had gone through what he did, I doubt I'd cope nearly as well as I have - which, according to Carter, is not coping, but surrendering. I mean, let's review - after getting his mind switched into another body (I tell him it's more complicated than that, but that's how he sees it, so we'll just run with his perspective) on a night he'd intended to spend with his girlfriend, he is told that said girlfriend has the mind of a man, too, and look at her now... that's going to be you in a few months, they tell him. Then he's held bound and gagged in a dark room for two and a half months, half starved, probably only kept alive so that the body he's in can be used to bring another guy into the country, told that I can't tell the difference between him and someone else in his body (true, unfortunately) and in fact like the new Carter better (lies), barely escapes with his life a couple weeks ago, and then has to deal with the Haskinses thinking he's their missing daughter and treating him as such.
Then there's the things I don't know for a fact. Both Sam Haskins and whoever was in his body probably smoked, and being denied nicotine probably drove him as crazy as anything else while he was held prisoner; he gets tense around other people smoking, like Sam's body wants it but he's forcing himself to resist. Then there's the whole macho thing, which with his background is probably a bigger deal. Carter was a black man who grew up poor and made it through college by signing up for the military. From what I gather, being an outsider, there's a more open disdain for gays and transsexuals among minorities, and even though the military is co-ed, so to speak, now, it's still a man's world and "don't ask, don't tell" is still the order of the day. Martin Hartle wasn't the world's most tolerant person, but he tried, and while Carter Drummond tried too, it was harder for him, which makes it harder for him to accept what he's become.
And I think Dmitri may have sexually assaulted him. The docs did a rape kit, and didn't find anything, but that might just mean it wasn't recent or Dmitri was careful. Carter denies it to me, to Sam's parents, and to the police, but we all sort of take it as a matter of faith that it happened. With all that pervert did, you'd almost think it would have to have happened. Which would make things even harder on Carter.
So, even though Carter doesn't own much in his current body, he came with plenty of baggage.
Last night was, as one might imagine, uncomfortable. Maggie and Jen had each suggested a housewarming party, but Carter wanted none of it. So after a teary farewell at the hospital, as Janet Haskins made sure to remind "Sam" that she (Janet) didn't know why her daughter wouldn't come home but would take her back in an instant, we headed back to my place on a damp night.
And then just sat there. I didn't want to leave him alone; he didn't want to talk. Eventually, I asked if it would be all right for me to turn on the baseball game - it was Sox and Yankees, but I think it was more just to have some noise and activity in the space. He said fine, but wound up getting upset when I got excited about the ass-kicking the Sox put on Jose Contreras. How, he said, can I care about that with everything else that was going on.
Carter, I said, I say this as a friend, someone who's been in your shoes, and as someone who loves you. Just because our lives have changed and been redefined doesn't mean they've stopped. I enjoyed baseball "before", I enjoy it still, and if I ever stop, then I'll really be worried that something fundamental about Martin Hartle is gone. I told him that if we spend every day moping about which lives we lead, then those lives will inevitably be empty, and we will have been nothing but victims, and I hate willing victims. And it's especially important for him, because...
"Because I'm stuck like this. You could someday become yourself again, but Carter Drummond is, as far as the world's concerned, dead."
I told him I didn't mean to go there, but he just got angry and tried to stomp off, but there's not much to stomp off to in a studio apartment. He wound up settling in front of this machine while I finished watching the game, running internet searches for stuff about body-switching.
Today was about the same. Not just because there was another ballgame (there's always another ballgame), but in that there was just no pleasing him. I got up first, because he's still gets tired easily and because the floor's not terribly comfortable. He's cross when I finally come out of the bathroom, since he had apparently had to pee for the prior half-hour. He asks why I was in the shower so long, and I sheepishly tell him I was trying to get the dye out of my hair. He asks why I dyed my hair blonde anyway.
"Because Car-- because he said I should."
That leads to the bathroom door slamming.
Later, around eight o'clock, he points to something he found on the internet. He gets mad when I tell him it's a dead end; I found that site last July. I tell him that a new pair of eyes can't hurt, but...
I don't know what to do. I'm afraid of leaving him alone - afraid that he'll hurt himself or worse - but it's tough to take his anger. I get the feeling that he's staying with me because the only alternatives are the Haskinses and the street. I just hope I don't make him angry enough that the street starts to look better than me.
Writing all this might be the best way to ensure exactly that, of course, but maybe reading it will do him some good. Not that he will. It's pulling teeth to get him to talk about us as individuals, so he'll probably avoid this site for a while.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
It's expected. When I got to the hospital after work today, Carter and Mrs. Haskins were screaming at each other. It was, as most arguments are, kind of stupid. Carter's due to be discharged tomorrow, and the police haven't returned the duffle bag full of Sam's clothes that was found in the self-storage unit, so Mrs. H did some shopping today. Of course, this shopping involved dresses, underwear with lace on it, cosmetics.. girl stuff. This, of course, incensed Carter, and he was telling Janet that she had no right to make those kinds of decisions for him. She pointed out that the way Sam had been dressing brought her nothing but trouble, Carter said he knew that a whole hell of a lot better than she did and could make his own choices, etc. When I got there, the word "ungrateful" was being thrown around.
Thankfully, Maggie was with me, so we broke them up. I told Carter we'd get the receipts, return them, get him something more androgynous that he felt comfortable in. Mags, meanwhile, was able to broach the subject of paying the hospital, since "Sam" obviously didn't have any insurance and "Michelle" really couldn't afford it. Fortunately, the Haskinses had kept up their policy on Sam even after she'd left for just such a situation. I have to admit I was relieved when Maggie mentioned this.
Carter's looking better, though. That he was able to fight with Sam's mother standing up was a good scene, and there was no puking after dinner. The docs say he'll still needs rest when he comes "home" tomorrow, but otherwise he's doing pretty good.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Feeling a little frazzled
Another hectic day at work. All the tech guys are working longer hours, I'm trying to field three times as many calls as usual, and Mark pissed me off.
I don't think he meant to, but he's not the most tactful person under the best of circumstances. Today - and I've got no idea how the conversation got there - he asks if I feel bad about dumping "Carter" just a few days before he died for me. Mark and Dmitri had always been friends, and I guess I hadn't noticed that Carter had been becoming tight with the two of them after the original Carter's mind was switched out. So even though he knows why one friend is dead and the other's in jail, he kind of resents me. So, he's trying to be nice, but he's also a little hostile, even though he knows that they were up to no good.
So I say, no, I don't feel bad. He drugged me, he was complicit in hold a scared girl who's still in the hospital hostage. He didn't die for me, he just wasn't as willing to kill me in cold blood as Dmitri was, and took a bullet by accident. Kate and Maureen came to my defense, but it was just one more thing I didn't need.
Then, when I get to the hospital, Carter wants to know what's wrong, and we've already found that talking about his body's death makes him really angry, so I tried to come up with something, but complaining about how it's suddenly gotten cold after a really nice weekend (which I haven't been able to enjoy) is just lame, and makes me look pathetic. My self-pity is nowhere near as valid as Carter's, right?
And I've got to figure out ways to make this place habitable for two people, when I feel cramped by myself. It's just a bunch of petty little things, I guess, but it's starting to add up to more than I can handle.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
People supporting me
It's funny... I've been spending so much of the last week trying to prop Carter up that it's possible to almost forget that I had a gun pointed at me, too. And while the folks at work think there's a degree of seperation between them and Sam - right now, the only outsiders who know that "Sam" is really Carter are Maggie and Kate's lawyer friend, and I doubt Doug believes me - they know me, and apparently it's not just Kate and Jen who are fond of me.
My desk was covered with flowers. All different kinds; apparently, there's not a specific "we're so glad you didn't get shot" bouquet, so everyone just tried to guess what I liked. Kate and Jen knew better and got me chocolate.
But that's not all. Everyone wanted to shake my hand, and had nothing but kind words about how, after all I went through, I was being so supportive of "Sam". It's enough to give me quite the swelled head, honestly. It's easy to say, well, if I didn't help out I'd just collapse myself, but it just sounds so fake, no matter how true it might be.
Maureen hugged me. She hugged me and said she missed me and was sorry she'd been mean to me before. When I said she was just glad that she didn't have to cover for me any more, trying to lighten the mood a little, she tightened her grip and started crying. It was really awkward; I didn't know what to do until the phone started ringing and I told her I had to get it. She went to the ladies' room to clean up and I was relieved to get back to work.
And it was a madhouse. Dmitri and Carter had both been on two or three projects, and now practically everyone involved with those projects wanted to be connected with the new people assigned to them, or to their supervisors, et cetera. Since a lot of them were government projects, that's a lot of layers of bureaucracy. Several called back multiple times, then there were folks at the temp and employment agencies the HR people were talking to to try and get some bodies in to pick up the slack.
Oh, and the reporters. They'd been calling my home, too, but upon learning that one of the "intended victims" had been the receptionist at the firm where both perp and victim worked, they had been calling BioSoft pretty much constantly since last Tuesday in hopes of finding me. Now that they had, no amount of "no comments" would hold them off. Maureen had to back me up, the phones were that lit up.
Finally, the day came to an end, and I headed back to Carter's hospital room. He was at least up and walking around some, but was very unsteady on his new feet. He had absolutely no idea how he had gotten from the self-storage place to his old apartment to my place; now that the adrenaline was gone, he felt like he was being hit with an insane double-whammy of atrophied limbs and unfamiliar proportions.
I told him it was okay, that once he stopped thinking about it, he'd realize that the part of Sam's brain that knew how to walk could do its thing without being micromanaged. He didn't like the idea that there was stuff in his new brain that was basically holdover from the body's previous owner(s), or really being reminded that he was "thinking with a new brain", but he supposed he'd have to get used to the idea, since there was a big hole in his original brain.
Walking around the hospital floor pooped him out - even though he was back on solid food, Sam's stomach had shrunk during the ordeal - so he was back in bed and dozing off by the time Janet Haskins got back from her supper. I told him I'd be back tomorrow, then came back here.
Reading this, I wonder how the hell I am holding it together. I mean, I've never been one to panic, but the events of the past year - I break up with Maggie because I think she might be pregnant, I lose my job, I get a new one that means moving across the country, but instead I wind up in some girl's body, I sleep with my best friend, I find out that the situation is more complicated than I think, I start going out with a guy on my own accord, I find out I'm being drugged into liking this guy, I find out he's not who he says he is, I nearly get shot, the guy I'd actually liked gets stuck in a girl's body too...
Seriously, is Michelle's brain missing the part that panics?
I really don't feel like going back to work today. The past week hasn't been a vacation - far from it - but that's why. I feel like trying to help Carter is much more important than answering phones, but Jen tells me that Maureen was in over her head last week, trying to not only cover for my absense but deal with all the chaos that "Carter" being dead and Dmitri being in jail is causing.
But, man, it doesn't seem right to leave Carter with Samantha's mother, either. He is really new to this being someone else thing, and she know Samantha. I spent yesterday basically getting between them, trying to steer the conversation away from things Carter wouldn't know. Her father going back to Hartford last night is probably going to make things harder, since now Janet Haskins will be able to give what she thinks is her daughter her full attention.
But, if I don't go back to work, Carter and I won't have a place to come back to when he is released later this week. Well, we will, but the future might not be so bright.
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Parents. I remember those.
Samantha Haskins's parents showed up at the hospital today. This was, of course, awkward because Carter had never met them before in his life, and said he didn't want them to know he wasn't really their daughter. This wasn't completely to be kind or anything like that - he felt that if he told them the truth, they would think he was crazy, and would have him committed to a mental institution. Most of us want to avoid that - Carter, who has been imprisoned for the last couple months, is downright adamant.
He told me later that if he had given the matter of Sam's parents any thought at all, he would have told the hospital staff not to let them come, but I'm not quite sure what they would have done. Once you know where a patient's room is, you don't have to sign in or anything. There's not a guard outside the door. All in all, the encounter made him anxious to get out of the hospital and go some place where he could put a lock on the door.
The Haskinses themselves aren't bad folks. Mrs. H is a little more religious than I'm really comfortable with most of the time, while Sam's father tends toward distraction. It's a Sunday and his cell phone rang more than a few times. Sure, a lot of that was family and friends excited about their daughter being found, but a lot was business. Certainly, being a newspaper editor can be a seven-day job, but still, I get a sense of why Sam ran away from home last year. Most parents don't get their kids, not totally, but if her father's general ignorance and her mother's disapproval were what I expect they were, home must have felt unbearable for her. Even the way Mrs. Haskins was talking to "Sam" today, you could hear it - it was all about how much prettier she was without the dyed hair and piercings, and how what happened was terrible but not unexpected when you take up with an older man. She was clearly also very uncomfortable with my proximity - I'd dressed a little more conservatively considering how Carter had reacted yesterday, but clearly having large breasts makes me some sort of godless heathen who would corrupt her little girl.
I felt really sorry for Carter. We're not actors, and I'd never really had to deal with someone who knew Michelle before. Sam's parents didn't seem to notice anything off, though - I think it was a case of how you see what you expect to see, and since their little girl had been traumatized, some distance was to be expected. And it's not like they had been close in recent memory, either. Carter mostly kept quiet, until George Haskins off-hand mentioned something about her coming home. Carter flat-out refused, but was forced to resort to "you can't make me" and "I left for a reason" when they asked why. Eventually, they admitted Sam was 18, but said they couldn't let her just live on the streets. Carter said he wouldn't be, until he remembered he didn't have a lease on a place in Jamaica Plain any more. I jumped in and said "she" could stay with me, which made Carter look relieved.
This, of course, led to the Haskinses demanding to have a look at my place, which, of course, led to them being appalled. It is only a studio, and there's hardly room for the futon I've got in there, much less another. I promised Mrs. Haskins that I'd sleep on the floor until something could be worked out, and though that didn't mollify her much, she did at least admit it was better than the street.
I feel really sorry for them. They're not perfect parents, but to have their daughter missing and now that she's found say she wants, in effect, to stay missing must be horrible. I suppose, though, that it's better than the truth, that their daughter's mind was apparently ripped from her body for being afraid of flying, and as a result of that is trapped in a comatose male body (well, I assume that's the case; I suppose it's an outside possibility that Sam's mental patterns are resident in a man whose name I don't know, somewhere in Eastern Europe). I suppose it's better for them to think she's safe and has someone to look out for her than the truth.
I can't help but think of my own mother, too. Which do I think is worse, Alexei Gubanov pretending to be her son or him cutting off contact with her? And which has he done?