Thursday, March 10, 2005
Carter and I chose the Harvard Square Fire & Ice for our little sit-down. I told him I was bringing Telly along because, well, you know, and he agreed it was fine. I had Telly meet me at the T station so that I could brief him (I guess) about what was going on.
"Look," I said, "I realize it's totally hypocritical of me to ask you to do a brother-type thing and be ready to defend me from Carter-slash-Alan if it looks like he might get upset, because I'm pretty sure that this is going to be about how we're not who we appear to be. But I don't have a lot of guy friends..."
"Don't worry. Doesn't matter why someone tries to mess with my sister..."
"Thanks. But I really want you to understand - even if you find what Carter and I are talking about to be complete and utter bullshit, we do believe it. It is what defines our lives. All my memories up until twenty months ago were formed in that body, and all of his up until four months ago were formed in others. I'm not going to ask that you believe that today, but if you could act like it's true..."
"Whatever you say, sis. I'm still looking for the reality show cameras, but I'll play my part."
I guess I couldn't ask for much more.
We walk to the restaurant. Carter's waiting there, and it's weird. This isn't the first time I've seen him, and it's been almost two years since that was my body, but still. I've gotten used to periods, seeing the world from five inches lower, and wearing bras, panties, skirts, dresses, makeup and heels - not to mention the having sex with men thing - and yet looking at that body from the outside still feels wrong. There's a scar on his chin I think should be on the other side because that's how I remember seeing it in the mirror. Heck, every time I move, I expect him to follow my movements like a mirror image. Ditto when he moves and I don't.
I don't think Carter knows how uneasy it makes me feel. He never really saw Mikhail in his body, and never really grew to consider Sam's his own. He looks anxious, but just because it's awkward, not because his every instinct is crying out to him that something is wrong. So, he smiles nervously, holds out his hands, says thanks for coming. You must be Michelle's brother? He makes it a question.
Yep. Shelley and Telly, as they say.
We get in, order drinks - just sodas, since Telly's underage and neither Carter nor I feels like drinking - then fill our bowls with stuff to be grilled. I load up on swordfish with bits of sausage and some pineapple, Carter goes for a burger, Telly goes for a heaping bowl with noodles, chicken, fish, everything. They grill it, we go back to our seats, and start digging in.
We don't do the pretending we're just there to eat thing for long. Carter has taken only one bite before saying, simply, how do you manage?
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I thought being a guy would make things easier. And it has, but every morning, I still look in the mirror and think I'll wake up soon, but it hasn't happened yet. And, you know, I do feel lucky to be alive, more so than I did as Sam, but I can't make it through a day without feeling like I'm going to screw something up."
"Like with Kate?"
"God... I know this isn't an excuse, but she came to me. And she's great, if you hadn't been working at BioSoft, I would have totally... Well, tried."
I kind of snorted. "And she doesn't think she's attractive."
"Go figure. But, anyway, how do you do it?"
"You just look in the mirror, say 'this is who I am', and go out and live your life. There's no great secret. Just accept things won't be like you remembered them."
"I do that--"
"I'm not done. The hard part, at least at first, is remembering that when your body and mind are at cross-purposes, your body is almost always right. You go against it, and it'll squirt unhappy hormones into your brain until you capitulate or go nuts. You aren't going to be able to run a mile without getting winded in that body, for instance."
We ate some more. He had to stop and think when signing the credit card slip, so I told him that the name thing might be a bad idea. "I changed my name because the new one reflected who I was - mostly Maritn Hartle, with a bit of Michelle. If you still think of yourself as Carter Drummond, that's what you should be going by, not 'Alan Carter'."
"I suppose you're right. Maybe if I'd done that from the beginning, Kate wouldn't have freaked so much."
"Maybe. Give it a shot."
"You really think...?"
"I don't know. But I do know Kate respects honesty, she noticed you first, and, well, she's kind of lonely. I think a few flowers and a lot of apologizing will go a long way."
I don't think he quite believed me, but he did like the idea. He went home, and I let out the breath I'd been holding for the past two hours.
"So," I asked Telly, "how was our performance?"
"Well, he did call me 'Michelle's brother', and it's one of the few times anyone's ever refered to you as 'Michelle'."
"Well, he wasn't really referring to me, but to Michelle-who-was, I guess you'd say."
"I guess. This is really messed up, Shelley."
"For reasons you can't believe, Telly. For reasons you can't believe."
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