36 Playing the Game

When I got off the phone with Chad, I still had a fair amount of time before lunch; I had started to fall a bit behind in my course reading, but it was the weekend, and my sanity was at stake, so instead I took Chad’s advice and started searching for porn on the internet. Now porn is hardly difficult to find, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time looking for it before. As I told Chad, I’d hardly lacked for sexy – and naked – female companionship, and that was a lot nicer than still pictures, but I had gone through occasional droughts, however brief, when I didn’t have anything better. This definitely qualified.

I found pictures of naked girls almost immediately – girls smiling for the camera and exposing their assets in poses that seemed intended to lure the reader, or engaging in sex acts both mundane and exotic. There wasn’t an awful lot of creativity, but then most people looking for porn probably had other things on their minds than high-minded artistic critiques. After a while, it became something of a game for me to see how many different poses I could find.

It was less than an hour later that Lee Ann knocked on my door to tell me that she and Terry were going to lunch. Hurriedly, I closed my laptop’s lid – I really didn’t want to have to explain why I was looking at pictures of naked girls. I can’t say that the session had been a great success; I still hadn’t managed to identify the erotic sensation that would let me know that I was turned on. I had even thought of touching… but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

As the three of us trooped into the lunch room, I suddenly remembered what else I had intended to do that day. Lee Ann noticed how distracted I was when we had gotten our meals.

“Marsh, are you looking for somebody?”

I was a bit embarrassed at being caught. “I’m… actually, I’m looking for Jay.”

“Jay? Wait, did I miss something?” Terry said, teasingly. “I thought you were ignoring boys for now, Marsh.”

“It’s not that – I just wanted to ask him something.”

“Uh huh…” The two of them nodded at one another, knowingly.

And damn it, I mean, confound it if they didn’t manage to make me blush! I knew perfectly well what they were suggesting and that it wasn’t anything close to the truth – but there I was, turning red anyway.

“You guys…” I started, but that only elicited a pair of giggles.

It was strange to realize that I had come to think of them as friends, rather than as Marsha’s roommates, whom I needed to deceive. It had only been two weeks, yet I had started to become close to both of them. I guess I could put up with some good-natured teasing from friends.

I was saved from the need to continue the topic by more of our friends joining us: Lisa and Susie and Phil, and eventually, Jay. Naturally, my roommates felt a need to tease just a bit more.

“Oh, Jay,” Lee Anne trilled, “Marsha was looking for you. Do you need some privacy?”

Naturally, Jay was perplexed. “Looking for me?” he echoed.

“I just wanted to ask you a few questions,” I explained, trying not to get embarrassed all over again. “You’re a physics major, aren’t you?”

“Uh huh.”

“And do you have a key to the building?”

“No… pretty much only seniors and grad students get keys. Why?”

“Oh well. I just wanted to… look for something.”

“What would you be looking for in…? Oh, wait. This wouldn’t have anything to do with that article, would it?”

“I just wanted to see if I could find the lab-“

“Marsha, give it a rest. There is no lab. There is no ‘time travel’ experiment. The whole thing is a hoax.”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out. I thought…”

“No! There is no way that anybody could ever get funding for such a thing. It violates… well, lots of things. It’s pure science fiction, and if any prof in the department were trying anything of the kind, he’d be a laughing stock and everybody would know about it.”

“Maybe he called it something else? Like ‘time variations’ or something.”

“It doesn’t matter what you call it. It didn’t happen. The department does physics, not science fiction entertainment. Drop it!”

I cringed before his vehemence. “OK, OK.” I was obviously going to have to do my searching during the week, when the building was open. I had just hoped to get a bit of a head start, but that obviously wasn’t going to be possible.

To my chagrin, many of Marsha’s friends had watched the entire exchange with evident amusement. I expected a fair bit of good-natured teasing for some time to come. Admittedly, I didn’t really understand the science behind it, but I knew that time travel was real – hadn’t I experienced its effects? Alvin and Nikki believed in the experiment. Why didn’t everyone? Several victims had come forward, hadn’t they? Why was there still so much skepticism?

I didn’t raise the subject again at lunch. Certainly I had reasons for not revealing what had happened to me. Maybe if I could find somebody else to talk to? But Nikki’s brother did not really seem like somebody who could be rational about it, and I didn’t know any other victims.

Back in our room after lunch, I asked Terry who was going.

“You, me, Lisa, and Shiela,” she answered. “Oh – and Susie finally agreed to go with us.”

“Lee Ann’s not coming?”

“No, Lee Ann never comes. I think she and Chandra are doing something this afternoon.”

As the five of us watched the early minutes of the game, Susie seemed to be having second thoughts. “This is going to be so boring,” she complained. “I don’t know what’s going on, and how can I do any boy-watching if they’re all wearing those helmuts and padding?”

That caught my attention. Considering my own intentions for the game, hearing that Susie had planned a boy-watching session was kind of funny.

“You’re looking at it wrong, Susie,” Sheila told her. “First of all, do you know what they’re wearing under those uniform pants?”

“I’ve never gone out with a football player, so how I would know?”

“It’s called a jock strap – sort of thong for boys.”

That was a characterization I’d never heard before. I mean, I’d worn one for intramural sports in high school, but had never thought of myself as wearing a ‘thong.’”

At any rate, Susie suddenly looked interested in what Sheila was saying. So did Lisa. Terry, who was sitting on the other side of me, was focused on the game, and didn’t seem to be paying a lot of attention to their conversations, but since I was sitting right next to Sheila, it was hard for me to ignore.

“So that means,” Sheila continued, “that there’s nothing between the pants and the boy – at least in the back.”

“Oh…” said Susie, suddenly peering at the field. “And when they line up all bent over between plays…”

“Exactly. Now ask Terry what the boy wearing number 83 is.”

Terry must have been listening to the conversation after all, since she answered without taking her eyes off the field, “He’s a tight end.”

At that, all three of them, Lisa, Susie, and Sheila, burst into a fit of giggles, while I tried to shrink under my seat. Listening to girls talking about boys’ physical attributes had not been part of my plans. And from that point, the conversation got even more ribald in ways that I would be embarrassed to repeat.

As I told Chad when I called him after the game,

“And they noticed me… blushing, or something. I just… didn’t expect all that sex talk. Not from girls. And not at a football game!”

I heard him coughing and laughing, maybe both at the same time. “You didn’t think girls liked to talk about boys?”

“Well, yeah, I guess, but… you know… not like that! I was expecting them to be all innocent and gushing and stuff.”

“Boy, for somebody who claims to have been a guy with lots of girlfriends, you sound pretty naïve,” he snickered. “Didn’t your girlfriends ever talk to you about sex?”

“Well, sure,” I said, feeling justifiably aggrieved. “But that was in private. This was in public!”

It really didn’t help my mood that he was laughing out loud on the other end of the line. “I don’t think you would have laughed if you had been there,” I told him, sourly.

“I don’t think they would have been so… open… if I had been there,” he pointed out, still sounding all too amused. “But that wasn’t the point of the game for you, was it? What about the cheerleaders?”

“Oh, right. The cheerleaders. Well…” I temporized. “It was hard to see their faces, you know. We were about ten rows back.’

“You weren’t supposed to be worrying about their faces, Marsh. What about those short little skirts? What about the way they moved?”

“Um. Well, they were really energetic, and they kept doing all these fancy moves, and…”

“Yeah?” he said, sounding eager.

“And I kept thinking that with all of that, their outfits were probably taking a lot of abuse and might wear out or tear…”

“That’s a good thought.”

“… and I wondered who was making money from repairing them.”

He didn’t answer for about ten seconds. When it did, it was with an incredulous, “You wondered what?”

“Well, I don’t have a guitar anymore,” I explained, feeling a bit defensive. “Marsha earned money for college as a seamstress, and I’ve been learning to sew, and a lot of what I know how to do is repair clothing, and…”

“Marsh, if you’re trying to convince me that you’re really a dude inside, going on about sewing isn’t exactly helping your case.”

“I know, I know, Chad. I guess I’m really bothered by that conversation, and I’ve been nervous about money, and I’m just trying to get by. You have no idea how hard this is, stepping into Marsha’s life, like this.” Then I realized what he had said. “Wait. You do believe me, right? That I’m really Marshall inside?”

“Well…” He paused, briefly. “I believe that you believe it. I’m not ruling anything out. Your personality is certainly different from what I remember, so something clearly happened. But right now, the only evidence is your memory. If you could find those scientists, that would help. I’ll try to come up with some more ideas, as well.”


“So the cheerleader experiment was a bust, apparently.”

“It wasn’t a fair test,” I protested. “Because of the distance, and me being distracted, and-“

“What about the porn? Did you look?”

This time it was I who paused before answering. “You know, I’ve never been all that crazy about porn…” I started.

“Marsh,” he asked firmly. “Did. You. Look. At pictures of naked girls?”

I took a deep breath before answering. “Yes, I did, Chad. And whatever it is I’m supposed to feel… I still don’t know. I’m just too new in this body. And you’re not a girl at all, so you don’t really know what it’s supposed to feel like, either. I just don’t know what to look for.”

“And how are you planning on finding that out?”

“I’m just going to have to ask a girl,” I told him. “She’ll tell me how to recognize what you’re supposed to feel, and then I’m sure I’ll be able to feel it.”

“You’re going to ask Tina about something like this?” he asked, surprised.

“No. I’m going to ask the girl who’s been teaching me to sew. She’s my friend – well, actually, she was Marsha’s friend, but now she’s mine, too. And she knows about me. Or at least part of the truth. That’s probably what I should have done in the first place. Once she tells me, I’m sure I’ll be able to feel that excitement again. That’s my only real problem, here, Chad. I just don’t know what to expect. Oh, and I’m going to have to wait until Monday to look for the guys who did this to me. But it’s going to be all right.”

“If you’re sure…”

“Yeah, I’m sure. But you let me know if you have any more ideas, OK?”

“I’ll do that, Marsh. Talk to you later.”

I thought I’d put up a good front, because I didn’t want to listen to Chad doubting me, doubting my identity. But those doubts kept yammering in my ears. And I still hadn’t figured out what to do about Jared, or how I was going to make ends meet. But one thing at a time, I reminded myself. I’ll call Nikki, and she’ll help me solve one problem at a time.


  1. von says:

    comments sent privately.

  2. Harri says:


    So she’ll have to tell Nikki the WHOLE truth 😀

  3. von says:

    >So she’ll have to tell Nikki the WHOLE truth

    Which has its own set of problems. For example, Nikki just stripped to her underwear in front of *him*, and *he* didn’t say anything.

    ditto roomates, etc.

  4. Hoopla says:

    Mispelt word?

    That was a characterization I’d never heard before. I mean, I’d worn ***on*** for intramural sports in high school, but had never thought of myself as wearing a ‘thong.’”

    Should that be one?

  5. Russ says:

    Yup – good catch.

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