When Celeste leaves her bathroom, I crumple. The booze has worn off, but the awful hasn’t. I’m so tired, and my body hurts, and it’s not even my body. I know I’ve been doing too much; I’ve been told by my sister, my colleagues, even my often-nasty mother-in-law, who feels my time is better spent driving to her house, where she is better able to criticize me. In fact, I’ve been told I do too much by everyone except the people for whom I’m doing too much—my needy clients, my distracted husband, my demanding kids. They all believe I’m not doing enough. And now, instead of pulling up my big-girl panties and putting all my productivity expertise into action, I’ve gone and lost it. I think I’m someone I’m not, and someone else thinks she’s me, and I’m living in a 1970s children’s book that’s been remade by Disney at least forty-seven times.
And the worst part? I can’t even do this right. Almost every single day, I lecture one of my clients about the futility of multitasking. That said, because doctors never take their own medicine, I am an inveterate multitasker. Even when I am having this mental breakdown, I think, Well, I’d better make it count! I can use this time to catch up on admin work, polish my speech for next Saturday, and fix Celeste’s hair situation while I’m at it.
Immediately I grab for my phone, planning to call my salon and do my emails at the same time. While the phone rings, I start to scroll and wonder what the hell happened to my email inbox for a moment. Then it hits me. This isn’t my phone. It’s Celeste’s—we own the exact same model. It opened to Celeste’s facial recognition. And this is Celeste’s email.
It is the most blissful inbox I’ve ever seen.
I hang up on the salon and take in the wonder. There are zero work emails. Nothing, not a single thing, flagged “priority.” In fact, the inbox is completely empty—not read, not tagged, but empty—except for seven emails that came in this morning. All of them are on pleasant subjects—sales on steak at the organic butcher, new styles at the kids’ fair-trade clothing shop, a 10-percent-off coupon for sports equipment online. There’s a newsletter about an online parenting club—socializing! for leisure!—and a forward from a Dottie Mason to a large distribution list that’s just a funny meme from social media. There are only two emails that are even really meant for Celeste specifically: a request for a driver to a school field trip on Thursday—I immediately volunteer Celeste without a second’s consideration—and an email forwarded from Hugh about a charity gala his company is sponsoring this Wednesday evening with the forward note, No one I’d rather eat rubber chicken with. Let’s get a babysitter!
Damn, Celeste! The event is black tie. Sure, Hugh’s got a dad bod and some deferred manscaping, but his heart is certainly in the right place. Seth doesn’t even invite me to gallery night anymore, much less take me to swanky fundraising galas.
Which, if I spend too much time considering it, is kind of sad. Of all the reasons I fell in love with Seth, sharing in his talent had to be one of the best bits. His works have always filled me with pride and inspiration—exactly the qualities his best reviews say they inspire in everyone—and talking about what it means to make something from nothing always united us. But that was when the work was going well. Now, whenever I want to talk about art, he thinks I’m pressuring him. When I ask about seeing our old friends’ shows, I’m rubbing in the lack of his own. If I splashed out and bought us two tickets to a charity event, he’d ask me what I thought we had to prove. When the only thing to prove is that we still love each other enough to try a little.
I look back at Hugh’s email, and my heart tugs for that kind of affection. Would it really be that bad if I had to be in Celeste’s body for a few extra days and put on a beautiful gown and be wined and dined for a change?
I shake my head. Of course it would. Besides, I think, as I put down Celeste’s phone, I’d miss my family too much.
Not that I won’t see them constantly, between the backyard and softball and school stuff. With a sharp stab of mom guilt, I realize that I’ll actually see my kids more than I normally do, going to softball practice every day after school and hanging out in the backyard with both sets of kids while I’d typically be inside on my laptop.
Usually, when Linus wakes up on a school day, he is so slow to come awake fully that he is, ever so briefly, my little baby again. I sit on the edge of his bed and gently tousle him awake. He lifts his arms to me, and I have to peel him up to sitting, and he flops over into my arms and tells me about his dreams, and if he didn’t have dreams, he tells me what he wishes he’d dreamed about. Tomorrow, if things aren’t better, he’ll be telling Celeste about his dreams.
When Bridge goes up to the plate during games, she touches her batting glove to the knob of the bat three times, tap tap tap, if she feels nervous about something. It’s just a little tic, but I know to ask about it if I catch her doing it, and she will tell me everything on her mind.
Will Celeste notice it too?
I pick the phone back up, google Body Swap, and get a huge list of reported events. The first several sound like cranks, pranks, and/or delusions. Then there’s a massive list of body swaps in fiction. Freaky Friday’s on the list—all the different versions and the book. Prelude to a Kiss—that was a weird movie I saw in a Meg Ryan support binge when my sister was going through a breakup. A bro romp with the guy from Arrested Development and one of the Hot Ryans. And a lot of others.
Wow. Fiction loves body swaps.
I start scrolling through synopses.
It seems like the conventions of the genre indicate that the swap will last until another major head injury or magic spell is cast. But I do not remember either a head injury or a magic spell. I just remember the dry, sugary drink of last night and the terrible headache of this morning.
The drinking. Not just my own sangria but the glass I sneaked of Celeste’s when she wasn’t looking.
What was that stuff she was bragging about adding? Artisanal sap infusion from some tree or other? Didn’t she say she had to special order it?
Did she order . . . magic vodka?
That’s ridiculous. Right?
Still, this feels like a lead. Maybe we should make another batch of pink sangria tonight and have one or three glasses of the stuff, just to rule it out.
That doesn’t seem like such a bad way to spend a Sunday.
I scroll through Celeste’s contacts and find my own name. Of course she has me all programmed into her phone—first name, last name, proper spelling of both Bridget and Linus under Notes. She’ll see my phone at some point today and wonder what crazy person never puts a single contact in by their real name. She will probably come up in my phone as Zoey’s mom. But come on. Must we know the full names of every mother of every child our children have ever talked to? I scroll Celeste’s contacts some more. Apparently, we must.
I send her a voice memo: “Listen, I think we need to get drunk on your sangria. We were basically the only ones drinking it.” I pause and try to make an apology come. “I could have been a bit nicer about your fancy ingredients. You were obviously trying really hard.” I hit stop on the memo, thinking I should rerecord it, but push the wrong thing. It sends automatically. Oh well, in for a penny. I try another. “I have no good explanation for this switch, except that we drank that weird stuff before this started, so that’s what we should try to make it stop. Right?”
I hit send. Recognize neither message was any kind of apology, find the prayer-hands emoji, and send that too.
Then I climb back into Celeste’s bed. It’s so much more comfortable than mine. Why is that? The clean sheets I didn’t have to wash? The deluxe mattress I didn’t have to pay for? That warm, milky smell that comes off Celeste’s very skin?
I add it to the list of unknowable mysteries of the day. When I get back to my home, I’m going to get a new mattress. I’m going to get this exact same mattress Celeste has and find out where she buys her sheets. And get some of the bath milk I saw by the tub too. And a bathtub to put it in.
Till then, I’m going to make the best of this. I’m a full-time working mom with a very full slate of parenting responsibilities and a never-ending list of to-dos, and I’m suddenly allowed to impersonate a housewife, just for a day or two. Or maybe three.
As my eyes grow heavy, my phone buzzes. It’s Celeste texting back from my phone. The “weird stuff” was birch sap infused vodka from the Alaskan interior. But presumably if that was the cause, we would both have had to drink it.
Just before I drop off into slumber, I write back. If you must know, I may have had a sip when you weren’t looking. I just wanted to know what the big deal was.