08 Filling in Some Blanks

We found him staring at the article, shaking his head. “Huh,” he muttered. “Huh. This is… this is really weird. You really don’t remember your own life? I mean, as Marsha?”

“No, because it’s not my life. I’m Marshall, and I’m stuck in Marsha’s life.” Remembering that Tina was with me, I added, “and I have to learn how to live her life, at least for a while. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”

“Wow. “ He shook his head again. “’Dirk the Jerk.’ You must really remember him differently. I mean, obviously, if you were a guy, you wouldn’t have been dating him, but why the hate?”

That was awkward. It seemed that Chad – this Chad – was friends with the guy I had always remembered as an oddball, and… suddenly, my dislike for Dirk seemed kind of childish. “The way I remember him, he moved to town sophomore year, and kept poking his nose into our business, and trying to be part of the gang when he wasn’t welcome…”

Chad took his turn. “The way I remember, he moved to town, and met you – I mean, Marsh – in class, and helped you – her – with some math homework, and the two of you started dating, and he became part of our group. He was our resident math geek, always willing to help one of us out. I don’t think Timmy could have gotten into Drexel if Dirk hadn’t tutored him. Yeah, he’s not the most socially adept dude around, but he’s a good guy. It’s not fair to call him a jerk. Even Marsha never really hated him after they broke up. She just wasn’t ready to go as far as he wanted to. If you’d ever given him a chance, I think you would have liked him.”

Now I felt horrible. Chad was really a down to earth sort, and if he vouched for Dirk… “I’m sorry,” I said, really meaning it. “If I ever do get back – I mean, if I wind up as Marshall again, I’ll look him up and try to make amends.”

“Is that even possible?” he asked. “The students in this article sound as though they don’t think so. If there really was a way back, wouldn’t they have tried for it?”

“I don’t know. There should be. I mean, if they changed me once, they could change me again, right?”

“But could they really put you back exactly as you were? You’re talking about just throwing the dice again and hoping for a better DNA result. How do you know things wouldn’t be even worse?”

“To be honest,” I admitted, “ I hadn’t thought about it that clearly. That’s probably why the other students didn’t try it. They probably figured it wasn’t worth the risk. But that’s not my case. If they change me again, there’s got to be about a 50% chance that I’d wind up male again, and that would be close enough. I could handle being a bit shorter or having a different color of hair much more easily than being a girl.”

“Hmm. I guess I’m really relieved that you never took me seriously when I joked about being, ‘friends with benefits.’” He said with a grin. “So… what’s that feel like, by the way? How does it feel to have your sex changed?”

“Well… I’ve sort of been freaking out about a lot of things, but… I’ve got parts that I shouldn’t have, and am missing parts that I should. I used to be…” and I raised my hand over my head to indicate my previous height, about eight inches taller than I was now.

“What about wearing a dress? I don’t think I could handle that.”

“I’m not wearing a dress.” He blinked, clearly not understanding, as he could see me wearing one. “I’m playing the role of Marsha, and she’s wearing the dress.”

“Uh. Huh.” He shook his head. “You artsy types do have a different way of looking at things, don’t you?”

Now, I’ve never really considered myself “artsy.” I’m just a pre-med bio major who happens to be into music and theater. But I understood what he meant, so I didn’t argue the point.

“So, how is your life different now, other than the really obvious?”

“I’m not sure yet. This only happened, as far as I can tell, a couple of hours ago, and I haven’t had a chance to check, other than the fact that I no longer own a guitar.” At his inquiring look, I explained a bit further, “I’m a guitarist, as Marshall, but now I have no instrument. If I can find some money, that will be one of the first things I buy. Of course, before that, I need to see about my courses. Both Marsha and I were obviously named for great-uncle Marshall Steen, and I was inspired by his history to want to become a doctor, so I’m hoping Marsha was, too?” I directed this to Tina, who hadn’t said anything since we returned to the study. She nodded, which was a major relief to me. It suggested that I would find much of Marsha’s coursework familiar.

“I think you might need to look at even more basic things, Marsh,” Chad put in. “Is that OK, by the way? Are you comfortable going by ‘Marsh’?”

“Sure. Marsha and I seem to have the same nickname, which is why it took me so long to catch on this morning.”

“Good. Has it occurred to you that you are functionally amnesiac? You probably don’t even know where you are living this year on campus.”

“What do you mean?” I asked him. “I know perfectly well where I’m…” Then I stopped, as I saw his point. It was almost certain that ‘I’ was not rooming with Mike, Geoff, and Rajiv.

“You’re living at 208 Laramie Hall, Marsh,” Tina said. That made sense, as it was a women’s dorm up-campus. But it meant that I was going to have new roommates – roommates I didn’t know. Telling Tina and Chad was one thing, but I didn’t really want anybody else to know about this. Aside from the whole, ‘stay in character’ thing, I really didn’t want people thinking of me as a man wearing a dress. It was only by maintaining the illusion that I could feel comfortable about the whole thing.

“You probably also don’t know who your friends are, do you?” Chad suggested. “You thought I was your best friend, for example.”

“What exactly is our relationship, then?” I asked him.

He grinned. “I could tell you almost anything and you’d believe me, wouldn’t you? We’ve known each other most of our lives, Marsh, and I’ve always seen you sort of as the sister I don’t have, and you don’t have a brother, so…”

“I get the picture,” I nodded.

“Obviously, I don’t know who your friends are at Piques, but you seemed to be pretty friendly with Dina, Cherise and Maddy this summer.”

“That would be Dinah Eisenstadt and Cherise, um… I think I know who you mean, but I don’t know her last name. Short, chunky brunette?”

“That’s right.”

“Cherise Souter, Marsh,” Tina interjected.

“Cherise Souter. OK. Well, I’ve spoken with Dinah, at least. I don’t really know Cherise. And by ‘Maddy’ do you mean, Madison Willingham?”

“Mm hmm.”

“OK, that’s going to be a bit awkward. We dated at the start of senior year and broke up badly after a few months.” She’d actually cheated on me, but that was none of their business. “I’m really not comfortable around her anymore.”

“That’s in your ‘Marshall’ timeline,” he pointed out. “This Maddy wouldn’t know anything about that.”

“Yeah, it’ll be all my problem.” I thought about it a bit. “These girls are going to expect me to know them pretty well. I hope I can avoid them for while.” Until at least Christmas break, I was thinking. If I was lucky, I wouldn’t have to deal with them until I was ready to pull the plug on the whole ‘Marsha’ experiment. This whole thing was already a lot more complicated than I had realized when I made my stupid promise to wait. But I wasn’t going to wimp out now.

“I guess I lucked out, having this happen over break. I don’t even want to think of what things would have been like if it had happened during midterms. This gives me about a week to get my bearings.”

“Great,” he said, standing up. “Tina’s probably got most of the answers you need, but let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.

“I’ll do that, Chad, and thanks. Wait. Didn’t you come over here for something?”

He slapped his forehead. “Oh, yeah. I totally forgot. I had a fight with Kathy… you do know that I’m dating Kathy Harrington?”

I nodded. Some things, at least, were unchanged.

“Anyway, she said some things that I didn’t really understand, and I wanted a feminine perspective on… Oh. Huh. I guess not, huh?”

I shrugged. “Sorry. Maybe Tina can help you?”

“Um, it’s not exactly something I’d feel comfortable talking to Tina about. Thanks anyway.”

Tina and I walked him out, and then headed for my bedroom. I finally had a chance to take a good look at what had happened to it. The most obvious change was in color. My blues and browns were now yellow and green and red. The shades were flowery and frilly, and even the furniture was lighter in color and larger, somehow. My reduced height may well have had something to do with that.


  1. Maiden Anne says:

    I would have expected more of a change in
    Marsh’s relationship with Chad here. If he is treating Chad as his best
    friend, then wouldn’t he want to talk to him a lot more? Wouldn’t he object to him leaving right away? I get the impression that Marsh is now treating Chad more like a ‘brother-I-never-had’ and less like a best friend, but I don’t feel the tension and awkwardness that I would expect from a change in relationship like that.

    Marsh seems to be taking things much more distantly in this chapter:
    like Marshall is playing an difficult role, not like he is suddenly
    trying to deal with being a girl.

    There is a hint at Marsh possible being stuck as a girl here, but
    Marsh doesn’t seem to be all that concerned. With the way he is
    planning right now (that he will convince Tina it’s alright and change
    back after Christmas) it seems like he wouldn’t be able to pass the sugestion that he couldn’t change back with a casual theory here. Wouldn’t he want to research it, and
    call the guys to find out?

    There is a rather important question in my mind here as to whether
    Marsh is Marshall (with male perspective, thoughts, reactions) in
    Marsha’s body (with only the physically female bits changed), or
    Marsha (Emotions, reactions, likes/dislikes) with Marshall’s memories.
    It brings up the whole question of what constitutes ‘being a girl’. Is
    it merely our physical attributes, or is it the way people treat us,
    the manner in which we respond to things, etc.?


    Marsh: Seems a bit unnatural in this scene. I would have expected him to be a little more worried about being able to change back, when Chad brought up some possible problems.

    Marshall: Marshall is the kind of guy who uses porn, hides under bleachers to peek up girls skirts, and thinks of a guy as a jerk who Marsha obviously thought of as a really neat guy. Makes one wonder whether Marsha would have like Marshall. I wonder how they grew up so different with the same parents and all?

    Marsha: So far Marsha is modest, ‘ladylike’ (to use Tina’s description) in her manners, has apparently decided not to have sex, at least not yet, even with her boyfriend whom she has been going steady with for two years. She has a really good relationship with her younger sister, and has evidently communicated a lot of the same values to her.

    Tina: Seems to take after her older sister ‘Marsh’ a lot. I wonder whether she is very different from the Tina that Marshall knew. Maybe she is more reserved, more ‘ladylike’? Does the other Tina ever use bad language, I wonder?

    I am a bit surprised that she makes no comment during the whole
    discussion of whether Marsh will be able to become Marshall again, after having such a violent reaction to it a few minutes ago, but maybe she has decided not to say anything more in front of Chad.

    Chad: Chad is being very helpful and matter-of-fact about the whole
    thing. He leaves as if something odd had just happened, but they had
    fixed it all up, so it was alright now. I would have thought he would
    have been more worried, surprised, and interested to just casually
    leave right now.

    Dirk: I am not quite sure about, but it seems he is a much better guy
    than Marshall knew. I hope that he gets to be friends with Marshall
    somehow or other.

    Jeremy: Didn’t hear from him in this chapter, didn’t expect to.

    M’s Mom: Although I didn’t expect to hear from her in this
    chapter, I am expecting her to be one of the next problems to be dealt

    Although I think you are getting a bit of the physical/logistical awkwardness (he
    doesn’t know Marsha’s friends well, etc.) , I don’t think you are getting much of
    the emotional awkwardness that I would have expected from this kind of situation.

    How does Chad feel about his ‘sister’ knowing where he keeps his porn, and that he
    peeped up skirts at a couple of pep rallies? How does Marshall feel at
    suddenly being treated like a sister by his best friend? How does Tina feel at her sisters sudden need to tell everything to Chad, the boy next door?
    In this whole chapter everybody is taking things calmly,
    nobody has really noticed (except Tina to some extent) that they have
    just completely changed their relationships.

  2. Maiden Anne says:

    that’s Anne, not Von.

    We don’t seem to be able to keep things straight, do we?

  3. Russ says:

    Some great observations here, Anne. I don’t want to give out too much in the way of possible spoilers, but you can take it as a given that Marsh has put the possibility of not being able to change back in the “won’t even consider the possibility” category. Chad at this point is a bit curious, but doesn’t – in his own mind – have the kind of relationship with Marsh that would allow him to be part of the further discussion, at least not at this point.

    I like your comments about reacting to having suddenly changed their relationships, although I’m not sure what to do with it yet.

    Oh, and I fixed the name on the comment for you.

  4. Maiden Anne says:

    Thanks for changing the name.
    Makes sense Marsh not considering the possibility. Its an easy form of escape for him.

    Just thought of something, though. I think if I were Tina, and were worried about dying if Marsh changed back, I think I would grasp rather eagerly the suggestion by Chad that maybe Marsh couldn’t change back.n After all, if he can’t change back, or thinks he can’t, that solves all her problem, doesn’t it?

  5. Russ says:

    I’m sure Tina is hoping exactly that – but it would start a fight with Marsh if she brought it up, wouldn’t it?

  6. von says:

    >>“Hmm. I guess I’m really relieved that you never took me seriously when I joked about being, ‘friends with benefits.’” He said with a grin. “So… what’s that feel like, by the way? How does it feel to have your sex changed?”

    I missed this the first time; and I definitely can’t find the reference. I don’t get it.

  7. Trax says:

    I hope I can avoid them for _ while.

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