The Switch By Jeff Baker “You’re going through with it?” I asked.
“Yeah. This weekend,” Paul said. “I just got word.” Paul was lounging around in his shorts in his penthouse apartment reading the paper. He’d called me over saying he had news.
“How much is this going to cost?” I said.
“A lot,” Paul said with a grim smile. “Don’t ask.”
“I still don’t see why you want to trade off like this?” I said.
“Hey, look at me,” Paul said. “I’m skinny, geeky, clumsy, and pale. Dracula got more sun than I do.”
“And look at what happened to him,” I said. Being geeky hadn’t hurt Paul, he’d gotten rich founding his own tech company; 23rd Century Tectonics. (“Play on words,’ he’d said.) But since I’d known him he’d had this terrible self-image. Some of the girls and guys we’d gone to school with had thought he was cute, but he’d been obsessed with studying over everything else. I’d thought he was cute, but we’d just stayed friends. Now he spent a lot of time worrying about his business. No social life. When they legalized the body-transfer technology a few years ago, Paul started talking about trading with some buff, young guy. I’d thought he was kidding. Apparently, he wasn’t.
“So, how am I going to recognize you?” I asked. “I mean, after the switch what are you going to look like?”
“You’ll figure out in a few minutes,” Paul said. “He’s coming here.”
“Here? Now?” I said.
“Yeah, I figured you’d better meet,” Paul said. “We switch next Tuesday, and we sign a bunch of papers before that. I’m still me; I still keep all my stuff. But changing all our I.D. is going to be a pain.”
I was going to say something when the door opened and the guy walked in. Just like Paul had said; young, muscular. Cute Latino guy. I guessed he was a youngish 30. Just a little shorter than Paul was. I was gawking.
“Oh, uh, James, this is, uh…” Paul started to say.
“Alfredo,” the young man said, grinning and extending a hand.
“James,” I said. “Look, do you mind if I ask you something?” His smile was dazzling.
“Why am I doing this?” Alfredo said. “I need the money. I figure it’s worth it.” He grinned again, halfheartedly I thought.
“This is why I’m paying him for this,” Paul said. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to look like this guy?”
“Yeah,” Alfredo said.
“Look,” I said. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I said. “I mean, you’re giving up a lot. Both of you.”
“I’m not giving up anything,” Paul said. “Neither of us are. We have all the legal stuff ready.”
“We’re about the same age,” Alfredo said. “And we had our physicals.”
“Geez, did we have our physicals!” Paul said. “Every test imaginable!”
“You checked everything,” I said, “like, you’re both gay, right? I mean if I was switching with somebody I’d hate to find out I suddenly didn’t feel the same about my boyfriend.” (I didn’t actually have a boyfriend.)
Alfredo and Paul nodded. Then Alfredo sighed.
“My Mom’s sick,” Alfredo said. “Real sick. This is the only way I can afford to save her.” He looked down at his shoes. “The thing is, Mom’s the one who always told me to take pride in myself.” He looked up, determined. “So I’m doing this for her.”
I gave Paul a look. He was staring at Alfredo. Paul took a deep breath.
“I’m not doing it,” Paul said. “Not going through with this.”
“What?” Alfredo said. “But I need this…”
Paul held up a hand. “You’re getting the money I promised you. But I can’t let you trade off even part of yourself.”
We all shook hands and Alfredo left.
“I’m crazy,” Paul said, sitting down again.
“No you’re not,” I said grinning. “You’re you. “
I hoped Paul’s image of himself had improved in the last few minutes. Mine certainly had.