Transplanted Life
Saturday, January 01, 2005
What the new year holds
You'd think that going to a couple of New Year's Eve parties with all sorts of people who know who I am would sway Telly a little, but nope, he just thinks it's some huge joke I've arranged with my friends. Nope, he just points out that I'm wearing stockings, heels, and a top that shows an inch and a half of cleavage, saying that no real man would dress like that even with his sister's body. And you're saying that while putting on lipstick! That story would me silly if I was just claiming to be some other girl, but a guy? Come on, it's like I don't really want him to believe me.

Maureen, of course, finds the whole thing hilarious.

Mo and I went our seperate ways at first; she was going to stop in on some of her college girlfriends ("just girlfriends in that we're all, you know, female and were pretty close... I mean, while I was going to school, I didn't even realize...") before stopping by Jen's party later. After all, she says, this is the last chance she'll have to see them before that resolution about being open, honest, and unashamed about her sexual orientation kicks in. I'm not quite sure that the point of making resolutions is so that you can binge on the behavior you want to correct the night before, but, hey, if that's how she wants to play it, why not?

Telly, meanwhile tagged along with me to Wei & Jim's place. They just got finished moving in, and it's nice, although I was kind of taken aback when Wei told us to throw our coats in "the nursery". She's not, in fact, expecting, but her parents had seen the spare bedroom and decided that that was its obvious purpose, and that Wei and Jim moving to a place that had an extra bedroom could only mean that they would be trying to start a family soon. It's become a running joke with them and that I didn't get it obviously meant I didn't see them enough. Which is probably true.

Kurt was there, and I pulled him aside, asking him to explain what was going on to Telly. Of course, what Telly got out of it was that Kurt slept with his sister at the same time he was going out with another girl, and later mucked up the most promising relationship she'd had in, like, ever. No, I said, focus on how we knew each other "before", and he can tell you all sort of things about how I'm more like Marty than his sister. Nice try, the kid says, but I didn't know Martin, so how do I know things aren't all pre-arranged?

I have to admit, the kid is annoyingly smart.

Anyway, Telly went to investigate the punch bowl, so Kurt and I stood there awkwardly, eventually commenting on how awkward it was. Then someone called Kurt's name, and he smiled ruefully, saying it was about to become really awkward. And it was, for a second, as Denise cut her was through the room to stand next to Kurt. "Oh," she says, "it's you."

So, the two of you are back together? Yeah, he says, after that whole thing with me and you and Doug, I did some thinking about what I really wanted, realized I'd broken up with Denise because I resented her for making me choose between her and you, and while at first I thought that meant I really wanted you, it really meant that if not for you, we would have...

I told them that was great, and I meant it. What was the point of hating Denise, and if he had chosen her despite all I brought to the table (everything you like about your best friend poured into this body), hey, she must be pretty cool. Not that I put it that way with Denise standing right there, but, hey, it's ture. Kurt said it was great that we weren't going to hold a grudge, and said he'd let us girls get to know one another while he found the bathroom.

So, hi. Hi. Is all that stuff Kurt said true? Pretty much. And you and he...? Yeah. That's kind of gross. No argument there. So, it's been nice meeting you. You too.

I'd heard Maggie was going to come, so I went looking for her. I bumped into someone else, and as we were apologizing, he asked if I was Wei's friend Martina. Yes, I said, why, is she trying to fix me up? No, no, it's just... He cleared his throat and introduced himself as Stephen Park, a neurologistwho works at the same hospital as Wei and Jim. Back in July, he said, after my coming-out party, Wei had asked him if what I had said was even vaguely possible. He'd said no, of course, not, and that's what Wei had thought, except that she knew and trusted Maggie, who swore up and down that it was true. He'd talked to a colleague who worked for one of the companies Dmitri stole from, and he'd wanted to know how in the hell Pau knew about that. He's been fascinated by my "case" ever since then, and it was an honor to finally meet me in person.

"So, you're just interested in my brain?" Guess what, he'd heard that one before. Not that the rest of me isn't interesting, of course. I blushed a little, saying it was too bad I didn't quite see eye-to-eye with my roommate on the relationship between New Year's Eve and New Year's Resolutions. What do I mean? Well, one of my Resolutions was going to be no dating until I felt confident that I could just be the girl. Ah, he says, but since it's not New Year's yet? Exactly. Well, he says, he's my card. Strictly for professional reasons, of course, if I had headaches that I thought might be that I thought might come from the nanomachines. Or if I was ready to break any resolutions.

There was a lot of stuff in between, of course - it wasn't just him being a kinky guy who found my unique case history a turn-on. A lot of conventional flirting, talking about baseball (he actually thinks Derek Lowe is a bigger loss to the Red Sox than Pedro Martinez!), sharing funny Wei stories. He's cool. Maybe when I'm ready.

As soon as we went our seperate ways, Telly found me again. "A doctor, huh? I see you can still charm the guys, but you're moving up in the world. Is that what this whole brain-switching thing is, a way to get successful, intelligent men fascinated by you?"

You got me. I came up with this whole ridiculous story to entrap rich men. Gads, Telly, is that what you really think of your sister? And more to the point, is that really something she'd do?

Hey, you always talked about finding some way out of our one-horse town. I don't think you have to trick anyone.

That's sweet, I say, and if we ever find your sister, I'll tell her. He says he thinks I just did, and I'm so glad we finally find Maggie. I introduce him and tell her to please, please, please bring the science so that he'll understand and believe me.

She tries valiantly, but, again, what makes an impression on him is that my story obviously can't be true because what guy like I said Martin was would break up with a girl who was that cool, smart, and hawwwwt?

It was getting on past ten, so we said our goodbyes and headed to Jen's. I tripped once on the way to the subway station, thinking, great, and I'm not even close to tipsy yet. Whose idea was it to connect this kind of footwear to events where you imbibe balance-impairing liquids? Evidently that's a complaint Shelley made, too, although she didn't use the word "imbibe". But, he had gotten her a "word-a-day" calendar a couple years ago.

So, we went to Jen's. I noticed Kate was there alone; she said, yeah, apparently Dennis is a huge mama's boy. Didn't seem like a big deal until she met his parents, but they thought she was just too forward and abrasive for their little boy, and that was it. Well, that sucks. Eh, it'd been almost a year, which was dangerously close to when you kind of have to start talking marriage, so it's kind of a lucky escape. I guess that's a healthy attitude.

And who's my new guy? Hey, I say, I just met Stephen Park tonight and we're not doing anything and how'd you know anyway...? Oh, you mean Telly? Eww. He's Michelle's little brother.

Suffice it to say, Kate thinks that's nearly as funny as Maureen does. Speaking of Maureen, she arrives around eleven, already a little tipsy, saying she's going to miss her old friends when they desert her after learning the truth. Hey, I say, they won't all do that, but she's not convinced.

At around quarter of eleven, Carlos starts banging on his champagne flute, and says its time for us to announce our resolutions. This year, he says, he's going to pass the detective's exam, because Jen's wedding plans are going to require a bump in pay. And, speaking of which, mark your calendars, because they've finally settled on a date - the 21st of May. There's much clapping and cheering and girly squealing (and, for the record, I'm a clapper).

Jen says she's going to find a full-time job and stop contracting; Kate is going to start doing volunteer work. Maureen, nervously, says she's staying out of the closet no matter how mcuh it scares her; she's visibly relieved when people clap.

I say I'm going to make a concerted effort to find the real Michelle. A lot of you, I say, know me and my situation, and of all the questions and loose ends, Michelle is the one I've given the least attention to over the past year, because it scares me - what if I find her and she hates me, or wants her life back? Which would be worse, if that was or wasn't possible? But she's something I haven't paid enough attention to in far too long, and she's probably the biggest victim in the whole situation. And, hey, this young man deserves his sister back.

You could tell who knew what I was talking about and who didn't. Fortunately, the clock chose then to strike twelve, so we all cheered, those with partners kissed, and we downed our champagne, moving on to other subjects.

Except Telly. "That was awesome," he said. "Very metaphorical."

He's a nice guy, and the sibling thing could be neat. But I'm going to be very glad when we start moving him into his new place in a couple hours.

-Martina, wishing everyone a happy new year
Thursday, December 30, 2004
This sibling thing is kind of neat
I don't remember ever feeling particularly deprived as Martin, growing up without brothers or sisters. I think my parents had resigned themselves to not having children until I came along when Mom was almost forty, so that wasn't in the cards. But you can't really miss what you don't have until you know it's missing, and there's something about having Telly around that's kind of neat.

I'm still really uncomfortable with him calling me Michelle, Shelley, 'Chelle, or any variant thereof. A couple of times, he's started a comment with "just like when..." and then chuckled when I didn't betray any knowledge of what I'm talking about. Then he'll go "aaaaaaah, you're good, Shelley! You've almost got me thinking you don't really remember! You ought to go into the movies - I always knew you had the body for it, but I didn't realize you had the talent, too."

Typing it out, that last sentence sounds creepy, but that's the thing - it's not. I've had this body for a year and a half, and Telly is the first heterosexual guy who can talk like that to me and have there be no innuendo to it. And it's like something in my brain is combining the fact that we've got the same eyes and sort of similar cheekbones with, I don't know, something in the way he smells or whatever, and just turning off the hormones when we talk. Truth be told, it's an incredible relief. Almost all of my friends are women, and even if none of them are quite so girly as Maureen, it's awesome to be able to hang out with a guy and have there be no sexual tension.

I mean, none at all. Yesterday morning as I was getting dressed, I realized I'd left my hair clip in the bathroom. Completely forgetting Telly was in the living room, I ran to get it with only a bra above the level of my jeans. Telly's in there brushing his teeth, and asks me a few questions about where the laundry room is and stuff without once looking at my breasts. And it's not like he's gay, going from his disappointment upon learning that Maureen is. That's just cool.

In some ways, I feel a little bummed that he'll be moving to his new place on Saturday; this big-sister gig is something I could get used to. But I really shouldn't, because, frankly, I'm not his big sister, and it's not fair to either of us to pretend.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
With a friend like her...
Maureen blew back into town this morning, just as I was getting antsy about what to do with Telly. She saw him stirring in the living room and made a crack about it being unlike me to make a strange man sleep on the couch. First, I said, I can tell you for a fact that other women like that attitude in a girl even less than men do. Second, that's apparently Michelle's brother.

"You have a family? Like, a biological family?"

"Everyone does, right? Michelle's was evidently just better-hidden than most." That and I probably hadn't looked as hard as I could, because if I found them, what would I say?

At that point, Telly shuffles over and extends his hand to Maureen. "You must be my big sister's roommate. She making sure you're on board with the brain-switching story?"

"It's not brain switching, it's molecule-scale machines transferring information between brains!"

"And it's not just a story," Maureen adds. "It's true. The scandal drove the company we worked for out of business, and then there was the whole Carter thing... We're really sorry about Michelle, but Marti's not her."

But, I said, if you go down to the Boston FBI office, ask for Agent Khalil Jones, I'm sure he'd really appreciate all the information on Michelle that her brother could give them. They'd have to work through Interpol, and that's been slow going, but if Michelle is running around Eastern Europe somewhere, then knowing her likes and dislikes could be huge for them. And, I didn't add, it gives you something to do all day to keep you out of our hair.

"Now you're just being silly."

An inarticulate "nnnnnnnngggh" sound came out of my mouth while Maureen did a pretty horrible job holding back laughter. You think he's so cute, I say, you can make sure he doesn't wreck the apartment; I've got to get to work.

"But I've got to head for work in an hour, too! Besides, he's your brother!"

"That's what I keep saying!"

"You are so not helping, Mo."

She apologizes to me without losing the grin, then turns to Telly and says that he seems nice enough, but with all the crazy stuff that's happened to us this year, we're kind of wary about giving some strange man the run of the place. Heck, with all the mind-swapping that's gone on, we worry about giving close personal friends the run of the place. He says that's okay, he'll check out the city today and see if anyone he knows is home, and maybe see if he can crash with one of them. He says it in the sort of completely understanding voice that makes me doubt his sincerity.

And it doesn't look like there's anything to keep me here late and thus make Maureen deal with him. Rats.

Monday, December 27, 2004
This had to happen eventually
For the second time in less than a week, I got home to find a man waiting for me. This time, I didn't recognize the kid (although I suppose an 18-year-old isn't younger than this body by enough that I can call him "kid"). He sure recognized me, though. As soon as I turned into the walkway, he perks right up, yells "Shelley!", runs over and gives me a hug.

I just kind of stand there, stunned, wondering if a real woman would instinctually scream or knee him in the groin or something, when he takes a step back, leaving his hands on my shoulders (it's a long step back; he's over six feet and gangly) and says "you don't recognize me? Come on, you didn't even leave home until two years ago, and I haven't changed that much! It's me! Telly!"

I say that I don't know any Telly, but before I could explain why, he starts up again. "I have to admit, that hurts, 'Chelle. I mean, I can totally understand why you'd deny being related to Mom, but what did I ever do to you to warrant the 'he's dead to me' treatment? Unless you've, like, got amnesia or something. That would explain the new name; you just chose it at random to make a clean break...."

"I don't have amnesia! Okay, I may, in sort of a technical sense in that the memories that were in this brain aren't any more, but they aren't missing... Hang on. Did you say 'Mom' as in our mother?"

"Well, yeah. You remember, big hair, pack-a-day habit, believes in a reverse allowance? Went after your boyfriend because she thought you'd slept with our stepdad? Absolutely nuts? Mom!"

I quickly grasped that Michelle had good reasons for moving out of Vermont, even if she did initially go to Worcester, although some of the rest took me actually saying them to crystalize in my brain. "You're Michelle's brother?"

"Duh, although knowing our mom, half-brother may be just as likely." He gave me a huge smile like we'd just shared a private joke. When I didn't laugh, he just shook his head. "Wow, I didn't think people really got amnesia. Is it like a bump on the head thing or a psychological trauma thing?"

I was about to tell him it was a drink-filled-with-nanobots thing, but decided that it would take long enough that I'd rather do it inside. I put some water on the stove for hot chocolate and warily noted that he was dragging a couple of large duffles with him. Once the water had boiled, I poured it into mugs and sat across the kitchen table from him. I told him my whole life story, how I'd been about to move cross-country but somehow had my mind yanked from my original body and placed in his sister's, dated my best friend, fallen for another guy (Carter) only to have his brain yanked out of his body without my knowledge, been kind of mind-controlled by some tailored pheremone chemical, seen Carter escape the teenage girl body he'd been in only to wind up in my original one, and now found out that Michelle - who the FBI still hadn't been able to track down in Lithuania - had a brother I'd never seen any mention of. I laid it all out for him, apologizing that I wasn't his sister but hoped we found her soon.

He looked at me, sort of processed it for a minute, and then said "wow". I thought it meant he believed me, but he continued. "I knew it was bad for you at home, but making up this whole other life and saying that the old Shelley is gone... I'm no shrink, but it can't be healthy. Then again, this is a pretty nice place you've got here, so I guess you're doing all right."

No, I said, it's all true. You can call any of my friends, my old boss, these people at the FBI...

"Ah, you always were good at getting folks to do stuff for you. But that's okay; I should have stood up for you more, anyway, so I don't blame you for cutting me out of your life with everyone else. I should have known you just wanted to be left alone, but I figured you'd understand and give me a hand."

Understand what?

"A few friends and me are moving down here, but our lease doesn't start until January, but I couldn't stay in that house one more minute... You get that, at least, right?"

"No, I don't, although you guys' mother sounds pretty frightening. Look, I won't make any promises past tomorrow, but if you want to crash here tonight..."

He jumps up from the table and there's more hugging. "I knew it! I knew I could count on you! Even when you pretend you don't know me, you're still the best sister a guy could have!"

It was a long day of traveling, so he nodded off fairly early. I took that opportunity to go through his bags and wallet, sending the name "Theodore Crispin Garber" to Carlos to see what the system turned up. He seems ridiculously, impossibly sincere, but why take chances (see also the chair wedged under my doorknob)?

Sunday, December 26, 2004
I really should move someplace warmer
We had one of those weird snowstorms today, the kind that drops a couple of inches, but it doesn't really get unbearably cold (at least, not for those of us who grew up in the area) or windy or anything. We just get thick cloud cover so that it gets very dark, very early. I think having a million sources of 98.6-degree heat in close proximity sort of moderates everything, and the tall buildings in this case blocked the worst of the weather rather than forming intense wind tunnels (although I only went out to get a couple slices of pizza this evening).

Still, the city had the abandoned feel which doesn't quite jive with how bad the weather really was. We're New Englanders, after all, we've seen snow. Which makes me suspect that it was pretty bad outside the city, sparing us the worst of it. Maureen's already called to say that she's staying at her folks' house tonight, so I guess things are going at least well enough there that they're not sending their daughter out into the weater. Or, at least, they're not sending one of their other kids (who happens to be Mo's ride) out into the weather.

I hope this doesn't screw my commute up tomorrow. When making up my top ten lists of places to not be during a bad storm, "a train stopped on the tracks somewhere in Watertown or Waltham" isn't in the top ten, but I'm not anxious to try it out, either.


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