Saturday, May 15, 2004
All I Know About Being A Girl I Learned From The Movies
I was surprised and pleased to see Carter show up at BioSoft yesterday; I think it was the first time he'd left the apartment on his own since being released from the hospital. He wanted to know what I was up to after work, and I told him I didn't have any plans. He figured maybe we could go see a movie, which always sounds good to me.
So he sat in the lobby, reading trade magazines for a half hour. Maureen gave him a look, but pretty much left Carter alone when I said he was just waiting for me to get off work. Afterward, he said it was really strange to not have people recognize him. Folks he'd known for months passed by, vaguely recognized him as Dmitri's jailbait girlfriend - although even then, it took a second look; Samantha's actually a natural blonde, and when she'd been with Dmitri, she'd had her hair dyed black and gone kind of heavy on the make-up. I don't know whether it was just some weird goth-subculture thing or an attempt to look more grown-up. Carter looks like a totally different person sometimes.
It's kind of funny, that both of us wound up going back to our new bodies' natural hair color, not just out of "I'm a guy inside and don't want to deal with it", but because it kept us from seeing someone else, or at least some specific other person, in the mirror. Just the idea that we went with what was naturally there to diffentiate ourselves, in a way, from the "real" owners of these bodies.
Anyway, as I said, he talked about wanting to talk to Mark or Eric, or Kate or Jen, like they were his friends but catching himself, realizing that they wouldn't know him. That's nothing, I reminded him - I not only dated my old best friend because I had some twisted idea that it would get me my old body back, but I actually made it a physical relationship when I got worried about losing him. And our usual double-date partner was another close friend. And then there was the time I practically rubbed my boobs in Maggie's new boyfriend's face to try to make her jealous. He shook his head, unable to imagine doing any of that. Hey, I told him, despite all the rotten things that have happened to you, you're at least lucky in that no-one has been lying to you, or leading you on that things can go back to "normal".
He asked me if I ever think of telling my Kurt and Wei everything. I point out that I haven't even decided to let the woman who raised me in on the secret, and besides, how do you think Kurt would react if he found out that he had, in a way, slept with his best male buddy Marty, repeatedly? Egos are fragile things, especially male ones. And I don't say this out of disparagement or disdain; after all, I could be said to have a male ego. I told Carter that what he felt when he learned my history would probably be nothing compared to how it would hit Kurt.
He allowed that that was probably true. By that time, we'd reached the theater and had a chance to look at our options.
They weren't quite dire, but we'd arrived too late for Still We Believe, and Troy was already sold out. ("That's fine; I don't think I could stand watching you drool over shirtless men for two and a half hours." Like just looking at pictures, even moving pictures, of men gets me horny) Next up was Mean Girls. We figured, what the heck, he could use it if he needed to fake recent high-school-girl experiences.
Good movie, although neither of us remembered high school being like that. Not just in terms of not having gone through high school female, either; we just can't remember it being that cliquish. Even if people sat at the same tables at lunch, it's not like they had some clever group name or demographic tied to them. It's like no-one in Hollywood actually went to a public school, so they learned about high school from whatching other high school movies.
So, as research, not so useful. Though Carter did ask if it was weird that he still found the girls in the movie attractive.
"Nah; it takes a while for your body to override your experiences. Besides, even real girls have these girl-crush things, though they tend to see those other girls as some sort of ideal they wish they could attain. Or something like that."
It was a warmish night, so Carter figured it would be a good idea to walk home. I warned him that we lived almost an hour away from the Common on foot, but he said he should be able to handle it; he'd been doing nothing but trying to build strength while I was at work for the past couple of weeks. In fact, that's what he'd been doing this afternoon, scouting out local gyms to see what was available. I told him okay, but if he started looking tired, we were getting to the nearest subway stop pronto. And it was a good thing I'd worn flats today.
Anyway, I wound up being glad I'd worn a skirt, too. By the time we got home a little over an hour later, Carter lunged for the AC and we both flopped down on the bed, too tired to even move. I know I'm just not used to working out that much, and he hadn't built up quite as much stamina as he thought. We both wound up falling asleep in our clothes, and he's just waking up now.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Hashing it out
Carter didn't talk to me over breakfast, or when I got home. I tried to fill him in on some of the legal issues Hastings and I discussed, and he just ignored me. Around 7:30 when I said something related to the ballgame that we were (well, that I was) watching, he just harrumphed and turned away. And that was it. You're being childish, I said. And you must be aware of how childish you're being, right? You've got nearly thirty years of life-experience in your head, and you know the silent treatment is just completely juvenile, and for someone who insists he's not the person that the rest of the world can see, you're certainly acting like a teenaged girl.
Well, that pisses him off, and he turns to look at me with, well, not quite hate, but something close in his eyes, and asks how could I go out with some lawyer when I know how much he loves me?
I kind of wish I could be snappish with him, but I open up my arms and hug him close to me. "I love you too, Carter. I really do. I so wish I was attracted to you the way you are now; it would be so much easier. But this me likes men. You know that."
"I am a man."
"In a lot of ways, but not all. I just don't get aroused by you. I wish I did, because you're a great person and I love you and it would mean that my mind is in total control of this body, but I just don't, and I probably won't, as long as we're in these bodies. It's a bitch, but it's the way it is."
"This just sucks."
"Yeah, but life is what it is. Just think, if none of this had happened, the original Michelle might have had no interest in you. She might have just sat out in the lobby and been a terrible bore."
He admitted that might be possible, but that I underestimated what a powerfully handsome man he was. Yeah, but would she have been as cool as me? Been one of the guys like I could be? He acknowledged that might be true.
"See? You can't live in might-have-beens. Trust me, the present is confusing enough."
"Yeah, I guess. But how do you get over things and move on so quickly?"
I don't, I told him. I was set to move across country in the wake of breaking up with Mags, and look how long it took us to get together, because I was so weird about the idea of dating a guy. And I told him that it's weird that he wasn't there for when our relationship ended, but it ended in anger.
Besides, I said, it's not like I'm really going out with this Hastings guy. I've just got his office number, and he's nice, but he doesn't seem that much nicer than most guys. Still...
"There's a 'still'?"
"He knows everything and still seems to like me. That's something big, you know?"
Hey, I told him, you'll bounce back. You've had relationships collapse before, but you survived. Reinvent yourself, figure out who you are now, get out of the bloody apartment, and someting good will come along. I kissed him on the forehead and told him it worked for me.
I don't know how convinced he is, but he doesn't seem angry any more.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
The problem is, Carter and I never really broke up
I told him last night that I was going to meet Doug Hastings for dinner, to talk about the whole FBI situation and how we really weren't protected. I guess he was still dopey from workout endorphins or something, because he just sort of nodded and said it made sense to do that. This morning, though, when he sees be getting ready for work and putting my Little Black Dress in a garment bag along with another pair of shoes, he decides to get upset. "I thought this was business."
"Yeah, mostly. Business at a nice restaurant."
"And you're wearing that?"
"I don't think Carter Drummond would have minded."
He just shakes his head in disgust, saying he can't believe he went out with me. And I'm like, excuse me, are you saying I'm not good enough for you? And he responds with, oh, I'm great, except for really being a man. And I've just had it with the attitude, so I unbotton my blouse and stick my breasts practically in his face, asking if men have these. He says I should stop lying to myself and remember what I am inside. I point out that inside I've got ovaries and fallopian tubes and different brain chemstry and millions and millions of cells that don't any of them have a Y chromosome in them. And I tell him I may sometimes refer to myself as Martin Hartle, and talk like I'm "still" a man, but I'm not, that I just remember his life and act like someone with his experience would act. I'm the exact same girl he met last October, and I can live with it, and that he doesn't have to share my philosophy, but he's got to let me have it.
He called me a bitch, so I guess he's getting the message.
It was another agitating day at work, so I never really got a chance to totally calm down. Still, by the time I went to the restroom to get changed at quarter past five, I was feeling kind of good. It's been about a month since I went out with a guy, and it's kind of fun to get dressed for a date, put on lipstick, examine yourself in the mirror, even put on the shoes (which are little more than black sandals with an inch of heel on them). I'm not much good at doing anything with my hair yet, but I thought I looked okay.
Better than okay; stopped Maureen in her tracks. "Big date tonight?"
"Not really, just talking with a lawyer friend of Kate's. He's getting me dinner, so I figure he deserves a little leg. Guys like that."
"Oh. It's funny, I just never figured you for the dressing for dinner type. The way you talk Star Wars and stuff with the techies..."
"I'm a multifaceted girl." Then Kate came to use the bathroom, and she raised an eyebrow and said something like "Lucky Dougie".
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, why'd you break up with him? Kate says they just weren't compatible in bed. I'm running late, so I head out to the restaurant. We actually meet up in front, and have a couple drinks at the bar before being seated. I admit, I'm kind of flirty, sitting kind of sidewise so that my legs are out there for him to look at, with the shoes kind of dangling from my toes. He keeps sneaking looks at them, which makes me curious. "You like?"
"Yes, yes I do."
"Even though... you know..."
"I find it kind of hard to believe, but aren't you what we all say we want? A girl with a killer body who's just one of the guys?"
"I wish Carter looked at it that way. I mean, that's how he looked at it before he knew just how 'one of the guys' I am, and now... I don't know. Sometimes it's like he wants to pick my brain on how to survive, but can't get past that he slept with me."
Then we're moved to our table, and we order. He notices I still refer to Carter as "he", and I say that it's how Carter thinks of himself, so I try to respect that. He nods, but asks who, if I called him in, he would be representing.
And, gads, I don't know. Physically, there's no test on earth that will say I'm anyone but Michelle Garber. I tell him I sign my blog "Marti", that I tried "Marta" for a while but it didn't seem like me.
We discuss things like that through dessert, when I ask him why he doesn't think I'm nuts. He says he did, until Kate started talking about the FBI being all over the office, and he started hearing about intellectual property lawsuits involving BioSoft through the grapevine. Then he started to wonder if there wasn't something to it. Then he talked to Maggie, who crushed him with science talk, but was really convincing. Then he realized that this case was probably the biggest thing he'd ever have a chance at being involved with, and an old girlfriend had just dropped it in his lap.
I told him that I didn't have much money, but he said not to worry, he would rip me off if punitive damages ever entered the equation. I laughed at that, and he said that, really, he remembered an old professor reminding him that you can make a lot of money in the legal profession, but you can also work a lot of hours, and if you let them get in the way of something you feel passionate about, what's the point?
So, I asked, do you feel passionate about me? He said not yet, but he was certainly intrigued.
In the end, we just shook hands before I went home. I think he was hoping for a kiss, but he knew about the whole Carter/Mikhail thing, so he understood my not quite being comfortable with the boy-girl thing yet.
Carter was already in bed when I got home at 8:30. Whether he was actually asleep or not, I couldn't tell you, but whatever. One ugly confrontation a day is enough, and the day had ended on a pretty good note, so why ruin it?
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
I'm not seeing Kate that much at work right now; she's been incredibly busy, working through lunch and staying late. They've been running her ragged, in marked contrast to the programmers. They haven't had to put me into service, as the contract Dmitri had been working on has been suspended pending the investigation. Indeed, there's been a lot of that, since Dmitri wasn't the only one on that project and his teammates could be moved to fill the slack for "Carter". From the amount of people in the break room whenever I pass by there, I'd almost think we're overstaffed right now.
It doesn't help that the FBI is still coming in every day, and it's not predictable. This makes it worse; I don't expect to be able to schedule a criminal investigation, but it's made everyone edgier and irritable. And they know I know what's going on, but won't tell them. I'd be pissed at me too.
And then Doug Hastings calls to ask if I'm free after work tomorrow. I ask what it's about, and he says Kate has told him that I'm apparently part of an FBI investigation and asks if I'm being advised. I say no, but it's okay, since I'm not the target, and it's not something I really want to talk about in front of the rest of the company. He says it's no problem and tells me to meet him at a restaurant before hanging up.
I grab Kate the next time I can, and ask if she's been talking with her friend about me. Yeah, she has, since she was worried about all the attention I was getting from the FBI without any representation; a college classmate of hers had evidently gone from "source" to "target" in an IRS investigation without any warning, and even if that friend had been exonerated, it had not been a fun couple months. I guess I can see that, but I ask if he said anything, you know, personal.
She grins huge, says no, why, do you like him? Because that would be great; that could be something positive coming out of this whole situation. I tell her, geez, no, but I think he may like me, and she wonders why he wouldn't. That's very nice, but I've told him about my history, so I ask if he's ever demonstrated weird taste in women. Have any of his previous girlfriends been mentally ill, for instance? Besides me, she asks. No, I mean, like, disturbed, or delusional. Nuts.
"Look, I'm sure it's just a thing about reminding you of your legal rights. Besides, you're far from crazy."
"Believe me, based on what I told him, he's got no reason to think I'm otherwise."
How about transvestites, I almost ask. I decide it's no big deal, until I mention the name of the restaurant, and Kate's eyes get big and she says to wear a nice dress.
Monday, May 10, 2004
Not a good weekend
Carter had his first period and freaked the heck out.
Obviously, it wasn't his body's first period, or even his first period in that body. But having been kept in a dark room for the first few months of his life as a woman, tied up sitting on a toilet naked, occasionally hosed down by Dmitri and Mikhail, he didn't know when they were happening. So he woke up on Saturday with blood between his legs, he screamed loud enough to wake our neighbors.
I managed to get him to stop screaming and get into the shower while I removed the sheets from the bed. There was a fair amount of blood, which worried me a little, since Michelle's body thankfully doesn't bleed that much and it's the only point of reference I have. It wasn't as bad as it looked, though, getting the sheet red but not getting through the lining to the mattress. Pretty terrifying for people who aren't used to bleeding from the groin on a regular basis, though.
I got the bed changed, and knocked on the bathroom door. "You okay?" I'd noticed the shower had turned off.
"Yeah. Can you get me some clothes?"
I got him a change of clothes and brought them in. He was sitting on the toilet, wrapped in a robe. I opened the cabinet beneath the sink and pulled out some pads. "If it makes you feel any better, I still haven't had the guts to try tampons."
I made some pancakes while he changed, and gave him the first couple off the frying pan. We pretty much stayed quiet until I turned the stove off, and ate in silence. Once we were done, we just sat there for a few minutes until he decided he was sick of it.
"So," he said bitterly, "are you going to take me to get ice cream?"
"Do you want me too?"
"So what do you want to do?"
He thought about it for a second. "I want to go to a park, play basketball shirtless, stop by a bar for a few beers, get the phone number of a woman with an even better body than you have, and get a blow job on top of just screwing her. That's what I want to do. More than anything. Short of that, I'd like to be able to walk around without feeling guilty about this girl, who I thought was really weird and didn't much like and in fact thought was some kind of skank for dating Dmitri, is trapped in that old guy's brain and may never get out. Can I do that? Can I fucking do that?"
"I... I wish you could."
"God, this is going to be the rest of our lives, isn't it? This shit is going to happen every month for the rest of our fucking lives and there's never going to be anything we can do about it."
I didn't make the comment that this would only happen for twenty years or so, but did say that it wasn't hopeless. To which he got even angrier, asking if he'd be just like me in a few months, willing to spread his legs for anything with a penis and glad everything turned out the way it has.
I resisted the urge to yell back at him. I took five or six deep breaths, and tried to be calm. "You might get used to it. Or you might not. But the status quo won't last forever. The FBI, Mags, someone will figure out who was able to do this to us and then they'll be able to switch you back."
"You really think the FBI will share?"
"Even if they don't, someone else will figure out how to do it, and odds are they won't keep it as secret as whoever developed this version. You know what they say about knowledge wanting to be free, right? It'll work for you, eventually."
"That's not terribly reassuring."
"It's what I've got."
He wanted to argue, but what could he say? We wound up staying in all weekend, watching sports, doing a Die Hard marathon, talking about our old girlfriends. It must have seemed kind of surreal from an outside view.
I was kind of worried about leaving him for work this morning, but he seemed to spend it working out. I want to tell him that building up muscle won't make him a guy, but I guess it's about trying to feel in control of his body. Can't begrudge him that.