The Switch

mlk

The Google “doodle” for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018

Nevada Drivers Licences

Corey March
1983 Escondido Street, Apt. 2A
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Sex M, Hgt 5’11, Wgt 160
Eyes Blu, Hair Brn
DOB 02/27/1997

Eddie Brown
5549 Doolittle Avenue, Apt. 11
Las Vegas, NV 89108
Sex M, Hgt 6’1, Wgt 200
Eyes Brn, Hair Blk
DOB 06/21/1997

“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

There was a time when a person’s race might have been listed on a state driver’s license, but those days are gone. The tiny mug shot on the left side of the document tells the tale, assuming it says anything at all. However, Corey’s driver’s license photo shows a smiling white kid with the tips of his blond hair dyed purple while Eddie’s photo shows an equally cheerful looking African-American youth.

Corey woke up realizing it was Monday and hating that fact because his first class, American History, was at nine in the morning. He didn’t like mornings, especially when he’d been up past eleven drinking beer and playing “Doom” with his roommate Johnny. Oddly enough, he didn’t have a hangover and didn’t even feel all that tired, but those clues weren’t sufficient.

He first noticed something was really wrong when he stepped out of bed onto cold tile instead of cheap carpet. “What the fu…?” It didn’t look like his bedroom. Why was there a clock on his night stand? Where was he? Maybe he’d gotten drunker than he thought last night. Yeah, this had to be some prank of Johnny’s. He was going to get him for this. He couldn’t be late for class. Mom and Dad would freak if he got bad grades again this semester.

Staggering to the bathroom with a full bladder as motivation, he fumbled for the light switch cursing Johnny for his latest gag. But then things got worse when he flipped the switch and let his eyes adjust.

“What? What the fuck. Bullshit. No way.”

The person staring back at him in the mirror wasn’t Corey March. He couldn’t have known at the time, but he was looking at the face of Eddie Brown.

Eddie woke up to pounding on his bedroom door. “Hey, loser. Get up. You’ll be late for class. I’m heading to work now. Have a good day, punk.”

He’d gotten home from his job at Edwardo’s Restaurant after one and he didn’t have to be at his other job at the pawn shop until eleven. What. Who was that?

He sat up in bed. It wasn’t his room. Where was the clock by his bed? He saw a cell on the nightstand and pushed the “Home” button. 7:31 a.m. What was wrong with his hand? Must be the light. He found a lamp that wasn’t there when he went to bed and turned it on.

“Hey! What?” It wasn’t his arm. It belonged to some white guy. “Mother Fu…!”

He jumped out of bed and found the bathroom. Turning on the light switch he didn’t find Eddie Brown’s face in the mirror. He found the one belonging to Corey March.

“Mr. March. Mr. Brown.”

It was as if Corey and Eddie were mentally connected with an unknown third-party also on the line. The two young men were abruptly aware that they were in each other’s heads but could only hear the strangely melodic voice of the other.

“No doubt you are wondering what has happened to you.”

“I’m going crazy!” Eddie had Corey’s hands on the mirror. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Corey’s face.

“I’ve got to be loaded. Fucking Johnny put something in my beer, the bastard.” Corey had Eddie’s back against the bathroom wall which actually meant it was against the towel rack, watching Eddie’s eyes look back at him.

“Please pay attention as this information is important and will not be repeated. First, I’m activating a mild sedative in both of your blood streams so you will be able to remain calm enough to assimilate what I am about to say.”

For once, they both had the identical experience of feeling a sort of warmth flowing through their bodies. Their panic lessened and finally floated away and their thoughts focused only on the voice inside their heads.

“My name is unimportant and in any event, you couldn’t pronounce it. I am what you would call an alien or an E.T. Consider me a mole in your society assigned to learn about your culture, mores, habits, that sort of thing. The closest occupation you have that relates to my role is anthropologist.”

“What the…?” Corey in Eddie’s body tried to protest, but couldn’t muster up enough emotion.

“Man, you ain’t the only one who’s high,” Eddie in Corey’s body said to his counterpart.

“I am conducting a social experiment. I have essentially switched your personalities so that Corey now inhabits Eddie’s body and Eddie now inhabits Corey’s body. This state will endure for the next year so that I can observe your reactions as you explore a life based on a culture and experience fundamentally different from what you have previously known.”

“What, Dude. You mean I’m gonna be white for a year?” Eddie rubbed Corey’s right hand against the stubble on Corey’s face.

“Yes, that’s correct. And Corey will be African-American for the next year as well.”

“Fuck me,” Corey said using Eddie’s mouth and voice.

“Hopefully it won’t come to that, Mr. March. I have allowed a persistent connection between the two of you so that you can each coach the other involving friends, family, social, educational, and employment situations, and so forth.”

“Fuck. What time is it? I’ve got to be in class in less than an hour.”

“Class? How the hell am I suppose to go to your classes?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know what you do at work?”

“Wait! Whoever you are. You’ve got to reverse this. I can’t let Corey get down with my lady in my body.”

“You’ve got a girlfriend, Eddie? Oh, yeah. I can see her in my memory…well, your memory. Wow, she’s hot, and look at those big t…”

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up, Corey. You go near Chalise and I’ll totally mess you up.”

“What? You’re going to come over here in my body and beat your body up. Hey. As far as muscle power goes, I’ve got the better end of the deal. My old body’s a wimp.”

MLK

Martin Luther King – Washington DC, 1963

“Gentlemen, you’re wasting time. You have one year to learn to live as the other, to experience what was totally alien to you before. At the end of that year, you will return to your original states with each of you retaining the memories of both lives. Corey will know what it’s like to be Eddie and Eddie will know what it’s like to be Corey.”

“What’s the point, E.T.?” Corey in Eddie’s body was looking up in the ceiling imagining the alien orbiting above in a spaceship.

“That’s right. Why do this to us? Why screw up our lives?” Eddie in Corey’s body was still looking in the mirror, checking out the rather disappointing musculature of his new host.

“The point is to understand this thing you call ‘race’ and why it seems to be such a preoccupation with your species in most if not all of your human cultures. After all, you are the same species, except for some minor variations, you are all identical organically, and yet you behave as if you are the true aliens to each of your respective groups. My hope is that at the end of one year, you will have developed a more evolved perspective, and then you can impart that to me.”

“Get me out of here!” Corey in Eddie’s body was screaming at the top of Eddie’s lungs.

“Shut up, you asshole. You’re gonna get me evicted.”

“Shut up, yourself. Pee, take a quick shower, get dressed, and get your ass over to UNLV. I’ll tell you which class to go to.”

“Yeah, yeah. Just don’t forget you’ve got to be at work at eleven sharp. I can’t afford to lose this job.”

“Excellent. Cooperation. I’m glad you’re learning so quickly. Please don’t forget though, I’ll be watching.”

“Well I hope you enjoy watching this white boy pee, alien.” Eddie in Corey’s body relieved himself both because he really needed to go and as a way of (he hoped) shocking their unwanted overseer.

“Same here,” said Corey in Eddie’s body.

Then because they couldn’t think if anything else to do, Eddie took a shower in Corey’s body and, being up hours earlier than Eddie had planned, Corey in Eddie’s body decided to make breakfast.

After that, they slowly got on with each other’s lives. It wasn’t easy. In fact it was traumatic, shocking, outrageous, and nearly drove the both of them insane, but that was just the first few days and weeks.

The anthropologist, for they didn’t know what else to call him, watched, waited, and occasionally made verbal observations. Meanwhile, Eddie and Corey became closer to each other than two human beings had ever been before. The experiment was yielding promising results and the anthropologist was considering requesting funding to expand the project. Perhaps a whole city next time.

No writing prompt this time unless you consider Martin Luther King Jr. Day for 2018 to be a prompt.

I wanted to write something, but a detailed analysis of the nature of race relations as they existed in 1963 when Dr. King delivered his I Have a Dream speech to what they are today would have required a lot of research, and I don’t have the time right now.

So I decided to conjure up such works as John Howard Griffin’s 1961 novel Black Like Me and the 1970 film Watermelon Man. The former chronicles the actual experiences of a white journalist who disguises himself as an African-American man and who lives out that life for an extended period of time. The latter is social commentary and comedy telling the tale of a white bigot who wakes up one morning as a black man.

In this case, I didn’t make Corey or Eddie overtly bigoted, but if we could follow their “adventures,” especially in the first days and weeks of their transition, I imagine not only would we learn a great deal more about them, but we would see them learning a lot more about themselves.

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5 thoughts on “The Switch

  1. This is nothing but a disaster in the making, because the two individuals are not interchangeable. The social aspects of race are dwarfed by too many other elements such as educational background and preparation. If both were university students taking the same classes, for example, there might be some hope of comparing the social differences associated with “race” distinctively. But the setup of the experiment renders it meaningless, with too many variables in play obscuring the variable of interest. The adaptability of these two subjects may be observed, but adaptability was not the variable cited as the one to be studied.

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    • In real life that’s probably true, however think of this more as a fantasy with a small moral attached. If we could walk in someone else’s shoes for a while, maybe we’d understand them a little better. Given more time, I could have come up with something slightly more plausible such as experiencing the other person’s life without necessarily living inside their body.

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      • What might work better would be for each subject to find himself with a dual consciousness, both living his own life with his own capabilities and memories and simultaneously seeing, hearing, and otherwise experiencing the other’s life — camped out, as it were, in the other’s head. That kind of schizoid experience would be traumatic enough; but if survived for a year it would enable the perspective commentary that the alien sought. Perhaps less traumatic would be if each experienced a somewhat compressed version of the other’s experiences of each day in the dreams of the subsequent night. This would introduce less confusion and interference into the daily activities and consciousness of each subject, though it would limit their interaction with each other and their ability each to comment on the other’s situations and “compare notes”.

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      • Maybe each night they would “dream” a day in the life of the other person and then retain those experience once they awaken. At the very end of the year, the alien could arrange for them to meet.

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