More chortling from Hugh. “Who else’s?” he asks. “I’m going to give Samuel the WetJet and let him go crazy with it.”

“Well . . .” It’s just a quick bath. And Hugh seems so reasonable. Maybe there’s some kind of explanation for all this. Maybe Celeste is over at my house, happily feeding the kids homemade flaxseed granola and waiting for me to come over and swap back with her. Maybe this sort of thing happens to her all the time. Maybe she’s magical, and that’s why her kids always have on clean clothes no matter what time of day it is.

I look in the mirror at Celeste’s face. I’ve lost my mind. Or maybe . . . she has, and she thinks she’s me? In which case real me is over at my house with my snoring husband, not knowing anything is wrong? Or maybe I’m even drunker than I realize, and this is all some weird brandy-induced dream? In which case I might as well go back to sleep and wait it out, right? And not just sleep, but . . . I look into the mirror and see the deep soaker tub filled with jets. When was the last time I took a bath?

I want a bath.

I am going to take a bath and lie in the jets and relax, until either I wake up from this dream and am myself again, or I start convulsing and Hugh takes me to the hospital. I turn on the water, make it hot, as hot as I can possibly stand. I take off Celeste’s camisole—Is this an old nursing tank? I wonder when it unwinds in the front—and her unreasonably soft pajama pants. I look over the soft, round evenness of her belly and the thick curves of her thighs. Then I look into my eyes. Her eyes. I look as deeply as I can until I think I can see my own eyes in her sockets. I swear I can see flecks of my own hazel in her brown-black eyes. That must be me in there somewhere, right?

Feeling colder every second, I slide into the bathtub. It is the most singularly comforting place I’ve been since . . . well, since my honeymoon, when I was in a similar bathtub, my back resting on Seth in relaxed bliss after he’d washed off a great deal of accumulated sand from honeymoon-type behaviors. We were so in love then, and now things are so cold between us that I’m having a nervous breakdown in my neighbor’s bathroom. I think I’m someone else, and I’m taking a bath in that someone’s bathtub.

And just when things can’t get any more insane, my own body, in a ratty old fleece jacket and stretch pants I had forgotten I even owned, comes bursting into the bathroom shouting in my pretty southern drawl, “What in the name of high heaven are you doing taking a bath?”


I mean.

Can someone try to explain to me what kind of person, after experiencing an otherworldly body swap, takes a bubble bath?

A crazy person, that’s who.

Only if she’s crazy, so am I. Because I see her there, and she’s me. She’s my face, my body, my voice, and she’s naked, so I am one hundred thousand percent sure who I’m looking at here. I look at her in my too-soft body and too-fat knees and feel, on top of fear and confusion, that hot flush of shame that I always feel when forced to reveal my body to a stranger.

“Celeste?” Wendy asks me, the water sloshing as she moves to sit up. “Are you . . . in there?”

I nod sadly.

“How can this possibly be? How can I be you and you be me?”

“We swapped bodies,” I say needlessly.

“Like Freaky Friday?”

“I guess? I mean, I went to sleep me. I woke up you.”

“No. That can’t have happened. Freaky Friday is not a documentary,” she tells me. “It’s a Disney movie, like Frozen or Up! You can’t fly houses with balloons, and you can’t swap bodies from drinking sangria! This can’t really be happening.”

“Yet here we are.”

She stares at me, looking just as dumbfounded as I feel. For a long moment we just gape, openmouthed, my archnemesis and I, trapped in one another’s bodies for no apparent reason.

“May I inquire as to why you’re taking a bath in my bathtub?” I ask at last.

“Oh, is there a correct post-body-swap etiquette?” she asks me sharply. Her voice is my Yank accent, but the words are pure Wendy. Except now I’m too upset to play the role of So-Sweet Celeste. Now Wendy gets to see how I really feel.

“I mean, forgive me if I didn’t start a Google Doc,” I snipe back. “But taking off all my clothes and having a spa day might not be the most natural first step after stealing someone’s actual body.” I notice for the first time that I seem to have Wendy’s soft drawl. I try to stifle it. “Would you just get out of the bath?”

Wendy puts an arm up. “Pardon me, did I violate your privacy, madam?” she asks. “My apologies. Next time I lose possession of my corpus, I’ll be sure to bundle up. Though you might want to give a similar chiding to your husband.”

I gasp. A terrifying thought hits me.

“You didn’t . . . Hugh wasn’t . . .” He often wakes up, if not exactly in the mood, well, then two blinks away from it. If this woman had sex with my husband . . . I try to think how to ask this delicate question, knowing that the answer could lead to some light homicide. “You were dressed in bed, right?” I demand. “I went to sleep in my pajamas. I’m sure I did.”

“Oh my gross—I know what you are asking, and no. No, no, no. Y’all know he has back hair, right?”

With my accent and my voice, Wendy’s y’all sounds so affected. There’s a hiccup between the ya and the all, like the a is repeated twice. Is that how I sound when I try to fit in? I hereby vow never to try to say y’all again so long as I’m in the South. And wait, what did she just say about my husband?

“He doesn’t have back hair!” I say, a moment too late. Although I suppose maybe he does. I never paid it any attention. After fifteen mostly great years, he’s really just my Hugh, hairy back and all.

Wendy shrugs. In my body the gesture looks childlike, and I wonder, When was the last time I changed my hairstyle? It can’t have been college, can it?

“Look,” I say. “It’s very awkward to be standing here staring at my own naked body while trying to talk to you. Can you get out of the bathtub and put on a robe or something?”

Wendy looks upset. “You have no idea how good this bath feels. I’m having a nervous breakdown, and this is literally the only thing that makes any kind of sense. Just give me five more minutes,” she says. “Then, if you want, you can take one next. This tub is amazing.”

“I am well aware of the qualities of the tub, since it is mine, as you might recall.”

She ignores me. “You know what? I think we are having a mutual hallucination. I had to read something about those back in Psych 101, but I’ve retained nothing, and I have no idea what we should be doing about it.”

“Going to the hospital?” I suggest. “Or the psychiatric ward?”

Wendy sloshes. “Ok, so imagine we go into the ER and tell them we’ve swapped bodies. We’re modern mothers, both under a lot of pressure. They’re going to sedate us and say we’re having concurrent nervous breakdowns. Frankly, I don’t disagree. I think I’ve been staving one off for about four years.”

“I’m not having a nervous breakdown!” I insist. “I’m not under a lot of pressure!”

Wendy’s head rolls back. “Well, I suppose that’s true, with nothing to do all day. But I am. I’ve got a company, three employees, a huge mortgage, a tortured-artist husband, and two very different kids. I’m never more than one bad night’s sleep from a minor meltdown. This is probably it, right here.”

I want to scream at her. “I can’t understand how you can be so blasé! You do understand what’s happening right now, right? You’re me. I’m you. This is not desirable.”

“Look,” says Wendy. “What do they do in Freaky Friday? They try to run directly into each other until they practically concuss themselves. They scream and shout and cry. Then, eventually, after a lot of carrying on, they get dressed as the other person and try to go about life as normal until their bodies switch back. Shouldn’t we just skip to that part?”

I blink at her in absolute shock. I feel like I have a lot more screaming and shouting and crying in my future. “Is that what’s happening? Are you trying to go on as normal? Do you always take a bath on Sunday mornings?”

“Are you kidding? I never do. You’ve seen my house. The tub from our bathroom became a sculpture, and the one in the kids’ bathroom leaks down to the subfloor. Oh—good reminder. Whatever you do, don’t take any baths while you’re me.”

I frown. Wendy’s house is in a bit of a state. “How long do you think that will be, exactly?”

Wendy shakes her head. “A day?” she says, but we both know it’s a wild guess.

I sigh and sit down on the closed toilet lid. “What happened to your bedroom wall, by the way?”

“What do you mean?”

“The hole in the wall, by the TV? Surely you’ve noticed it.”

“Oh yeah. I’ve just completely forgotten about it. It’s been there for years. Seth had a copper installation there, and he got angry and ripped it down one day after a bad review during the triennial. It’s no big deal.”