I wouldn't necessarily say that I've been having fun acting the part of Harmon's mother over the past couple months - in a lot of ways, it's been as much a thing I fall into trying to keep him occupied and active and doing something other than indulging in self-pity as it is a thing I think is amusing or a necessary part of keeping up appearances for the real Magda & Alicia as well as anybody else who has a vested interest - but I do it because even if these lives aren't really ours, they kind of are, and they've got to be lived. If that makes any sense. I mean, basically, you've got two or people who are biologically mother and daughter living under one roof, working jobs where people know us as that, and we sort of fall into situations where we've got to do what mothers and daughters do.
And it makes feel kind of exhausted at times. Magda left her form (for lack of a better way to describe the physicality transferred from one body to another by the Inn) in pretty good shape, but I'm still getting used to what I can and cannot do as her, and the thing that keeps really frustrating me is laundry. I am sweaty and achy by the time I've pulled what I took to the laundromat or dry-cleaner back up to the apartment, and it sometimes doesn't help when I see Harmon lounging in the living room in Alicia's sweats, watching CNN and also reading some magazine, apparently having got up at the crack of 6pm (to be fair, he had arrived back here after a red-eye the night before). "Hey, lazybones, Mom's done the laundry!"
"No matter how many times you act like you're my mother, it is not amusing."
"C'mon, it's a little bit funny. Besides, you could cut it down by occasionally doing some chores around here."
He sniffed and went back to his paper.
"Or..." I took a breath, trying to think of a way for what I was about to say not to sound gross, "we could actually do something as a couple. We haven't had a date night since the Inn."
He gave me a look. "Are you serious? Not only are we both women at the moment, but even if we were interested in being intimate, the roles we have been thrust into would make acting on such attraction... questionable, to say the least."
"I'm not asking for us to wind up in bed at the end of it! I just think that, you know, taking a night and dressing up, getting dinner and drinks, seeing a play or a movie, maybe just walking around and exploring a little, I don't know, maybe we won't just feel like roommates with nothing in common but what the Inn did to us."
I think it can be hard for us to really see each other like this sometimes, but I did feel like Harmon did see me then. "Of course, you're right. We've each been so occupied by being 'her' or being 'them' that we could do with taking a night to be us. I have to work tomorrow and won't be getting back until nine, but how is Thursday for you?"
I tell him Thursday's great - there's stuff going on but we won't be surrounded by couples or singles, making it really awkward. It certainly gives me a little more to look forward to during the week, and I suspect folks at work notice, and if they're thinking "Magda" had a date with a guy, well, they're not entirely wrong. There's music coming from Harmon's room when I arrive home, take a quick shower, put my hair in curlers, and pull open Magda's closet.
There's a lot of choices in there, but pushing the manhunter stuff to one side cuts the options down a bit. I find a nice, loose floral-print skirt that goes down to my ankles, a cashmere sweater that shows I've got a figure without necessarily drawing everyone's eyes to my boobs, and some wedges that give me an extra inch or two but aren't super-fancy or gait-changing. A little make-up, and I look pretty good for a gal in her mid-forties, but not on the prowl.
I sit out in the living room for a bit, waiting, and then go knock on Harmon's door. "Hey, Harmon, our reservation's in about a half hour."
"Oh, right. One moment." It's barely even that long before he opens the door and steps out, stopping midway as he sees me. "You... look nice."
"Thanks! And you, well, you look nice in anything."
I probably sounded more disappointed than I was, but I'm pretty sure I said "dress up" when describing the idea, and he's wearing loose slacks that still kind of cling to the tush and a camisole, with his hair in a ponytail. I suppose I should be grateful that he's come around on camis in the last few days because he won't wear t-shirts on their own and doesn't like anything that feels like it pushes his boobs in or up, which is a lot of Alicia's blouses and tops.
He sighed, frustrated. "Do I have to go change?"
I sighed too. "No time; maybe just grab a cardigan or something."
He grabbed the most shapeless one in Alicia's closet and we headed downstairs. Our table wasn't quite ready when we got to the restaurant, so we accepted the invitation to sit at the bar. We got our usuals, which didn't look strange for me but it activated some sort of beacon in nearby guys. After the second or third "so you're a bourbon girl" that he had trouble deflecting, he got increasingly angry about the need. I probably could have stepped in better or faster, but I felt weirdly outside for a moment the first time because he only saw the apparently-young girl, and even after I started talking, I was winging it because my mom and I are not close and I really don't know what to say when a mother stands up for her daughter. Eventually, I got to the point where I could just say, hey, mother-daughter night, but Harmon kind of bristled at that, too.
The dinner itself was good, and not as tricky as it might have been; Harmon's not really a big "give me a whole steak and extra carbs" sort of guy under normal circumstances. He didn't really want to talk about work, which I kind of get, although given that he's had a few layovers that weren't just "sleep at the hotel and get on another plane", I figured he must have had some cool experiences. It was even harder than usual to get him to talk about his academic work, saying that while the substitute Harmon was apparently capable of giving a lecture but relied on his grad students even more than he did and it was hard to do a lot of the research his new paper needed without access to certain academic libraries, and it was hard to get through the whole process with an intermediary.
He didn't seem too terribly interested in me talking about how substitute-me seemed to be having fun - she and substitute-Harmon are actually married in their real life, so they can take the side-eye we get and have fun with it, although I'm not sure what I'm going to do with everyone thinking I've got artistic hobbies now. Maybe I should take up painting so that is not quite so strange a change next year, especially since it would give me a hobby for when he was out of town.
After dinner, we saw the movie about the English guys assigned the job of handling India's transition to full independence because he was NOT doing the Reese Witherspoon one. It was okay, not really my thing, but it was kind of nice to reach out and have Harmon hold my hand in the dark.
It got uncomfortable again on the way home - the guys in the bar and a couple of folks at the theater had Harmon wanting a car rather than a crowded subway only to find out that there's little worse than skeevy Uber drivers - so I don't know if we'll get a chance to do it again soon. When it comes to living these new lives, Harmon is much less gung-ho on the idea that practice makes perfect than I am.