Please Stand Up
I was lying on the bed staring at the ceiling. I was still feeling uneasy about that song and how curious it was that two people would have it playing in their heads less than an hour apart. Her explanation that it reminded her of a man she once met was satisfactory enough, but when combined with other coincidences involving her I couldn't help but dwell on the odds.
I was trying to train one ear on the television set and the other on the police scanner. Susan was in the other bedroom getting dressed and it was just as well. She'd find out sooner or later, but for the moment I was relieved that she was not seeing our two smiling faces being aired as wanted fugitives.
My eyelids were getting heavy as the lack of sleep began to overtake me. The nap on the train had done little to provide my body with the rest it needed. My thoughts drifted to the recorded research of Michael and Michelle. Their bodies glistened with the perspiration of their intense sexual intercourse.
Before I fell into deep sleep I was looking into the face of the beautiful Michelle Gray. The device on my head was creating a tingling sensation within my brain. My lips parted to accept her probing tongue. She pulled back and I was looking into the eyes of ... Susan! I could feel her undulating, rising up and down on me. Then I suddenly found myself struggling to breathe, but no, I was gasping at the impending surge welling within me.
There was a sudden and wondrous sensation within my head. I could feel what she was feeling and the look in her eyes indicated she was experiencing the same thing from me. Our thoughts were interacting with one another. Then ... then there was an explosion of shared sensations from me/her and her/me. Our bodies tensed and trembled. Release was simultaneous and mutually shared. Incredibly we had both experienced two climaxes, our own as well as our partners'.
It was Michelle who gazed upon me as she rose. As we slipped apart I looked upon that spot where we had been coupled. Slightly to its left, high on her inner thigh was a stamp-sized tattoo of a butterfly.
I opened my eyes with a start. I was staring at a ceiling. I eased myself onto my elbows. It had been a dream, one hell of dream! I froze, realizing that Susan was asleep lying beside me. She was still wearing only the towel. The towel was open below, exposing that place I'd visited in my dream. I leaned forward slowly so as not to disturb her with the sudden shifting of my weight upon the bed.
I was looking down upon the sandy curls of her pubic hair. I followed the smooth contours of the cleft where the hair ended and mentally traced a path onto her inner thigh. The towel was suddenly pulled over her exposed nether area.
"Did you get a good enough look?" she scolded. She bolted from the bed and pressed the towel tight against her body. She stood by the door and glared at me.
My face flushed and I stuttered, "Susan, it's ... not what ... it appears to be. You've got to believe me." I swung my legs until I was sitting on the edge of the bed.
In spite of her anger she started to giggle. "I thought you said we weren't going to mess up the sheets!" She pointed down at my pants.
"Oh shit!" I exclaimed in shame. I thrust my hand over the obviously large darkened stain on the crotch area of my pants.
She covered her mouth in an attempt to stifle a fit of laughter. "Serves you right for staring at my crotch, Benjamin Bering!" She frowned and continued, "Aren't you a little old to be having wet dreams?"
"Susan, please," I said with my head lowered. "I was looking for something ..."
The anger returned to her demeanor. "Looking for what? To see if I had crabs or something?" She turned and stormed from the room.
"No, a butterfly," I shouted after her.
She reappeared in the doorway, "You saw it? How could you have know about that?"
"Uh, no. I couldn't see it. The way you were lying it was probably hidden by the crease in the skin where your legs meets ..." I let the words of that sentence tail off. I looked at her and said, "You mean ... there really is a butterfly tattoo there?"
"Ben, how could you have possibly even thought that I had a tattoo there?" She situated the edge of the towel tight against herself so that only her inner thigh would be exposed to me. She raised her leg and placed her foot on my knee. "You see it? It's on my inner thigh. It can't be seen when I'm standing or sitting."
I patted her leg and she returned her foot to the floor. "I don't know how to explain it or to make any sense out of it, Susan. I saw the butterfly tattoo in ... my dream." I glanced up at her and then turned my head and said, "You and I were ... well, we were having sex."
She eased herself onto the bed next to me and said, "Gee. I'm flattered. I don't think any man has ever had a wet dream about me before." She stood up in front of me and let the towel fall to the floor. "If you wanted me that badly, why didn't you ask?" She placed a knee on the mattress and started to push me onto my back.
I stood up and pulled her close. "Oh yes, I do want you," I whispered before pressing my lips against hers. With our lips still touching I said, "but like I said before, this isn't the time or place." I spun her around by the shoulders and patted her back side, "Now go get dressed. After I shower and shave, we have to get back to Boston. I don't think it wise to wait until tomorrow. We need to have a long talk with Michael Black."
An hour later we were heading north on the train. I glanced at her seated across from me. She hadn't said a word since the cab had dropped us off at the station. I shook my head bemused that she appeared to be actually sulking. She finally broke her silence and pointing at the small leather book I'd been carrying around asked, "What's with that book anyway? That title, I Am, Therefore I'm Not, what's up with that? It's close to that Descarte quote."
I leaned forward with my elbows on my knees and replied, "You mean, 'I Think, Therefore I Am', I'm sure. It is a ripoff of his quote. I guess you could say it is my mantra. I am the man you see before you, but I'm not the man I want you to see. I'm here, but I'm not where I want to be. Does that make any sense to you?"
She studied my face for a moment and said, "Yes. Yes, it does. You have goals but you have not achieved them." She smiled, "You exist, but you're not recognized. I like it." She got up and sat next to me. She rested her head on my shoulder and added, "So, when are you going to start writing this book?"
I laughed and kissed her forehead, "You saw right through all that crap, didn't you?"
I could see the skyline of Boston in the distance. I handed the cell phone to Susan and asked her to contact Mr. Black and to inform him that he should expect company within the hour.
After she'd ended the call I realized that Susan needed to be brought up to speed. It was evident to me that she had only been a gofer in the whole affair. She knew absolutely nothing about the work of Michael and Michelle. She knew that someone was after us, but she had no idea why. There moments of amazed looks upon her face as she learned of the very nature of their research. For the most part she took it all in stride. By the time we'd pulled into South Station she had agree to act ignorant of the facts as well as my suspicions.
Michael's reception of us was much colder than it had been during my first visit with him. He led us into a small dining room and asked us to sit. The table was covered with several bags of food that had been recently delivered.
"I'm sure you must be hungry after all that has transpired," he said. "So I took the liberty of having some sandwiches and meals sent here. I wasn't sure of what either of you might like or dislike, so I ordered a little of everything." He sat down opposite me and waved his hand over the spread. "Don't worry about what you cannot eat. I'll have it sent down to the Pine Street Inn for the homeless."
Susan didn't hesitate to dig in, revealing that she was both hungry and that she had quite an appetite. As for me I just picked at a plate of fried scallops and fries, all the time studying our host. Making no attempt to hide the fact that I was watching him, I was looking for the things that were different about him. As I had suspected, there were differences in his mannerisms. I paid close attention as he ate from a plate of fish and chips, opened a can of beer and stirred the sugar into a cup of tea.
After we had eaten and had retired to the living room I said to him, "Michael, did you quit smoking since i was last here?"
"What? I've never smoked a day of my ..." he said and stopped not finishing the sentence. He looked at me for a moment and turned away.
"Never?" I said, "That's funny, the last time you were chain smoking." I could see a worried look come to his features. I wasn't about to let him off the hook. "You know, I noticed something else too."
"Ummm ... What was that, Mr. Bering?" He was getting nervous and shifted his weight in the chair.
"Unless you are ambidextrous, Michael," I said and paused for effect, "The last time ... I could have sworn you were left-handed. Tell me, am I wrong?"
He said nothing but rose from the chair and walked a short distance from the sofa. He finally spoke, "I'm sure your memory must be a little off."
I stood up and pointed at him, "Look, we've already established that you aren't really Michael Black." I was taken aback by a confused look on his face. I walked up to him and said, "Well, I'll be ... I am right, aren't I?"
"I don't know what you mean," he said. Beads of perspiration were forming upon his furrowed brow. "Right about what?"
I looked over at Susan on the sofa. She had been quiet listening to my exchange with the man. She had been turning her head back and forth between the two of us. She was more confused than our host appeared to be.
"Would the real Mr. Black please stand up!" I said raising my voice a decibel or two. "Not only are you not Michael Black, you're not even the same Michael Black that I met with that night. Just who are you?"
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "All right. I think you know the answer to that question, but you want to hear it from my own mouth. I've been carrying on this charade because I didn't know who I could or could not trust."
I interjected, "You can trust me ... and Susan!"
He nodded, "I hope so. I need to be able to trust somebody. It's been a nightmare trying to hide this secret. It's been a larger, more terrifying nightmare to be trapped outside of my own body ... To be a woman trapped in a man's body!"
(To be continued Friday, 1/2/09 in part 11 Michelle Gray in the Flesh .)