It's a good thing that the Inn have us this extra day on our stay so that we could watch the fireworks and not be checking out on the Fourth of July, because it looks like I might not have changed back otherwise and who knows how many other people's plans would have also gone awry, but it also led me to hold out hope for one more day that Harmon would do the right thing. But he hasn't, and now I just feel like the last few years of my life were a waste of time and I'm a damn fool.
Still, I'm me again, without a lot of fuss in managing it. One of the nice things about Magda having worked for the same airline for over twenty years is that even though she doesn't actually get paid time off because she's hourly rather than salaried, she can still request a fair-sized chunk of vacation - say, enough to go to the Inn, fall off the map, and then return with a new person behind her face - and her employer will grumble but the job will still be waiting for her when she gets back. That new Magda probably won't have much flexibility to take any sort of non-Inn vacation for another year, but that's how it works. I even got to fly out here for almost nothing.
Harmon doesn't really have that luxury as Alicia; he was able to negotiate a schedule that had him working flights to and from Boston with some days off on that end, but there were a few days early in our stay when he would be SOL if he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In retrospect, I'm kind of surprised he didn't just quit and let the new Alicia fend for herself, but I figured he was trying to do the same thing as I was, leaving things in good shape for the next people living these lives.
(Which won't be Magda and Alicia Polawski; they like Austin, the cupcake business, being sisters, and the guys that the people who originated their new lives became. I'm not sure how far back along the line people are happy with how things worked out, but they're not coming back.)
It made the first few days in Maine pretty relaxing; Old Orchard is a cute little town, and I hope every Inn visitor eventually gets to know Cary - the guy is just there and quietly helpful when he can be. I kind of enjoyed his flirting with me - he's picked up on more of what it feels good for a woman to hear than he claims, although the idea that he's scared that the next person to become Mckenzie might need a strong female role model isn't necessarily the best sales pitch. Elaine is cool too, and really looking forward to being grown up again.
It felt good and according-to-plan enough that I didn't really fret when Harmon didn't show up on the first day he was supposed to. I texted, he mentioned a flu bug taking down a whole flight crew, meaning he was assigned to another for that day, and that made sense. When he didn't show up three days later, halfway through our booking, I called and asked what was going on.
He didn't even have the decency to sigh or hesitate. "I am not returning to the Inn this year."
"WHAT?" I poked my head out of the doorway to see if anybody else at the Inn heard me yelling. "That's ridiculous - you HATE being Alicia, and I do your laundry - I know you're not pregnant!"
"It is not ideal, no, and I hope to upgrade to a better situation next summer, but given that Cooper had damaged my reputation and I would soon be facing retirement and irrelevance, and absent any moral imperative to return Alicia's life to her--"
I cut the oncoming lecture off. "What about your other moral imperatives? Like, to me?"
"I had hoped to avoid a confrontation, but how could or relationship not be broken? After the past year, I doubt you would ever see me fully as a man again, having fallen so easily into taking a maternal role."
"Uh-uh. No, you do not get to blame me. You think that we could no longer be together, fine, but that's on you. I'm sure you could find another student to make you feel admired and desired; I'd totally understand if you felt you didn't need me specifically. Our are you afraid you can't any more? Did seeing Coop using a cane freak you out that much?"
"I would not describe myself as 'freaked out', though it did gone me the impetus to examine what might offer me the most going forward, and there are noteworthy issues related to my old life's physical decline that, when balanced against a the average result of re-visiting the Inn, or even Miss Polawski's situation, certainly suggest that abandoning the identity of Harmon Keller is my best option using the present moment as a starting point."
I just started into the phone for a second. "How can you be so casual about that? I mean, you're taking decades off someone else's life! Maybe not someone at the Inn now, but sooner or later, that's going to catch up with someone!"
He sounded annoyed. "Perhaps. Perhaps not. If it bothers you so much, you know what to do." There was a pause not quite long enough for me to think of a response. "I guess this is farewell, then, Lindsey." And then he hung up.
I just sat there after that, finding ways to blame myself. Did I push him into trying to enjoy his circumstances enough that he decided he could stand being Alicia? Did I play the mom too much and make that life comfortable? Or did I do something to anger him, with Harmon deciding that this was the best way to get back at me? I felt so bad that I slept on Coop's side of the room that night, so that if the change hit, it would make me into the new Harmon.
Elaine was pissed to hear me say that - she's got some pretty strong opinions on beating yourself up because of what a man does on his damn own. She's got even stronger ones on making a martyr of oneself, suggesting I make myself available for future Magdas and Harmons who are going to be dropped into the Middle of this, but telling me it is not up to me to take responsibility for a man in his sixties.
She's right, even if it's hard not to feel guilty. I mean, I woke up feeling GOOD this morning, every ache and pain I had as Magda gone, and Best Possible Person to Live Your Life Debbie Cooper may have spent the last month in the gym before getting me a bikini wax and a cute new Louise Brooks haircut. And of course she left me some new panties and such. And that's just gaining about twenty years back; Harmon got nearly twice that. I can see that being hard to let go of.
That's pretty cold comfort to the poor teenager who got stuck as Harmon, though. Just graduated high school, having a last vacation with his folks, and, wham, forty years. Sweet kid, but he's not hugely thrilled with being on the same flight as me, or knowing that I'm going to be the best one to help him navigate Harmon's life for a bit. As he shouldn't be.
I hope that I'll find something valuable in this experience someday. I was ready to say I would just a couple weeks ago, but this lady bit of selfishness by Harmon really puts a damper on it, and I really wish I'd seen this in him the same way all my friends did.