The last of me


I did not know her but she knew me.

I passed her going the other way. On three consecutive mornings I passed her, during that trek from parking garage to office, a trek which I undertook daily, morning after morning after morning, interminably.

She smiled at me. Each morning, she smiled at me, and the smile possessed a flash of recognition… or attraction, I thought, only to remember it could not be attraction, given my disastrous cosmetic circumstances. Recognition, then.

And on the morning of the fourth day – a Thursday, as I recall – I found a convenient bench near our passing point on the sidewalk, where I sat, pretending to read. She came to me and she sat near me. She stared.

After some time had passed in this way, she said, “I’m Leija. You do not know me but I know you.”

It was possible, God knows. She may have been a volunteer attorney for all I knew, I thought. Maybe even seen one of my estate planning training videos or attended a landlord/tenant law session. It happens. It was possible.

She said, “And if I know you, then you’re probably listening to the new Roger Waters album right now. If I know you, then you’ve still got your college journals in three-ring black binders stored in that old foot locker of yours.”

Now, needless to say (though I will, for some reason), these were not points I typically shared during training videos. I held up my right hand to her. I said, “How did my middle finger come to look like this?”

She said, “Your brother loosened your bike seat when you were ten, or thereabouts, and when you and Phong were riding very fast, you leaned back in the seat. You fell onto the back tire and wiped out.”

For some reason, I felt a sense of violation, in a way, like my secrets were on display for all, even strangers. I got up to leave her.  

She – “Leija,” I suppose – said, “Harry, I lived with you for five years.”

My lungs and well, my entire chest collapsing now, I fled the scene entirely. I spent the day and night wondering if I’d forgotten large tracts of my long life.

It was possible.

Friday…

“Everett. DeWitt. Wheeler.” Leija came to me and sat near me. She said, “You know physics.”

This was incorrect. I did not know physics. I said, “I have read the first one-third of many physics books,” which was not the same thing as knowing physics. Yet she was undeterred.

She said, “The multiverse. Many worlds theory. If you choose to eat eggs for breakfast tomorrow, that eggs-for-breakfast universe splits off from one in which you choose to eat cereal and milk. Jillions of universes and it’s June 1, 2017 in all of them, each splitting into more and more universes at each juncture of a decision.”

Someone was playing a trick on me, I thought. The Girl in the Red Pants, probably, or Veva Purvious. Elaborate, though. And it was not as though I didn’t deserve it. I said, “Multiverse is a cheat. A guess to explain away some creepy things in quantum mechanics. Nothing more.”

“And yet” – she waved her fingers around in the air – “Ta-Daaaaa!”

I wanted to be away from her. My schedule and mental health already were so precarious at the best of times. I said, “So when did your universe and my universe branch off from each other?”

She said, “Well, before the point in mine at which we met and fell in love, apparently.”

It was again time for me to leave. Over the weekend, I confirmed that a fatter, happier version of Leija was living in the Heights area of town. She didn’t know me but I knew her.

Monday…

It was a day of rain in Houston. The waters came down upon my thin hair, making it appear as though I were entirely bald, I’m sure of it. Leija came to me and she sat near me. She said, “I did not come all this way to scare you or to stay with you. I came here to say goodbye to you. Where I’m from, I never got a chance to say goodbye.”

A single drop of water splashed upon my phone. At that moment, maybe another universe split off from mine. Maybe one in which the drop of water missed my phone.

I said, “So something happened to the me out on your branch. But why am I the lucky one, here? Jillions of universes – surely this one isn’t the closest to yours.”

Logic. I knew I’d found the flaw in this practical joke.

Leija said, “I tried,” and she might have been crying or it might have been the rain. She said, “I tried other branches. Dozens. Then hundreds. I’ve spent years looking for you.”

She said, “But this is the only universe I’ve found where you haven’t killed yourself.”

I’m no expert on shows of emotion, of course, but I’d say she was definitely crying now. She got to her feet. She said, “Goodbye, Harry. Please take care of yourself, will ya?”

Then she left.

I sat in the rain, staring at my wet phone and I felt more alone in the universe(s) than I ever had before. 

Comments

  1. Yikes! That took a dark and unexpected turn. Excellent story. I'm starting to look forward to Sundays now to see what you will post this week.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Debra She Who Seeks!

      Now, I just have to go through all of these other comments and convince everyone that I'm not really about to jump.

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  2. Replies
    1. Of course not. That was all of those loser alternative versions of me, not me.

      Delete
  3. Well then, get off that park bench you are sitting on in this universe and start looking for the universe she's in right now. ...and for heavens sake, don't kill yourself. This universe would be so much poorer without you.

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    1. Apparently, I'm the only me who is happy enough or lazy enough to muddle through.

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  4. Well, I did not see that ending coming. I love it. It's a brilliant ending to a brilliant story. Most people think about multiverses in terms of would I be rich, or would I be dating someone else. They don't think of it in terms of their mental health.

    But like the others have mentioned, let's just make sure this one is pure fiction, yeah?

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    1. It didn't even occur to me while writing it that it could be seen as some kind of cry for help to my blog visitors. Once I started writing, it's just the way the story made sense.

      I was actually sort of pleased that I got THIS out of a woman smiling at me on the way to work the other day.

      Delete
    2. Oh good. Well, now that we know you don't REALLY feel that way, that it was just a great story element, I hope part two sees a multiverse-hopping Harry, the strongest Harry of them all, standing triumphant atop a pile of dead, lesser Harries.

      Also, Pile of Dead Harries would make an excellent band name.

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    3. That beats my old hypothetical band name, which arose from a warning to my ex about her reading in the dark.

      The No Blind Jamies.

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  5. 'Along the way,' she digressed, 'There were a good handful of branches where we made it halfway through this three-part interaction before you managed to get yourself killed in absurd ways.' Her eyes darted all over, not sure where to look. 'If this you also has that autoerotic asphyxiation thing... please be careful.'

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    1. Like some sort of awful "Groundhog Day" situation. "You don't know me but I - [bus hits me] - damn it..."

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  6. Gotta be careful about girls smiling at you. I'm told that can be highly contagious. Excellent story. I read it aloud to Briana, and she thought it was very good also.

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. Oh, wow. I'm honored.

      Although the story was inspired by my confusion over a person smiling at me. I mean, writing this story is not a normal reaction to that, is it?

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    2. I'm maybe not the best source for information about what's considered normal and what isn't...

      -Doug in Oakland

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    3. I'm slowly trying to eliminate the word "normal" from my vocabulary and replace it with the word "average." If I could manage it, it would save me a lot of headaches.

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  7. Oh well. At least she came to talk to you.

    It's a good story. Very good.

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    1. Thanks. I have your new one bookmarked, but it looks to be a 400-worder, so I've got to set aside some time!

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  8. How is ít possible that u didn't know that about girls by 4. If you were a. Late Bloomer or gay or raised by apes you couldn't not know by age 5. Should I call the Men in Black?
    Nice story Katy
    You're always great
    Frank

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    Replies
    1. I am a little slow. My dad never told me that most girls who pay attention to us are from a different world.

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  9. Awesome story! I've read a number of articles about the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and always come away with either a cold chill running down my spine or simply amazed.

    Mainly because if you think too long on the subject, which I'm libel to do, then there are an infinite number of Earths where the bad guys in history won making the planet a living hell. I'm thinking "Man in the High Castle" type scenarios or even worse one where something like S.M. Sterling's "Draka" came about. They make Nazis look compassionate.

    I'll refrain from thinking about the possibility that with the current individual living in the White House we might have entered one of those nightmare timelines.

    As for being amazed, when you ponder the possibility that the appearance of people who don't exist on our Earth or nonexistence of people who do, you can't help but wonder how they might change or history.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. A few weeks ago, I was trying to convince my mom that if she'd had a third kid, that child might have gone on to cure cancer.

      She seemed to feel guilty about that, so I changed it up to where her third child would have been a psychopath who would have ended up killing the person who is about to cure cancer.

      I probably shouldn't throw that sort of thing at my mother.

      Delete
  10. Harry, I have come to the conclusion that you are a brilliant budding writer, or you need to seek serious professional help. I have not yet come to one conclusion or another.

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    Replies
    1. Best case scenario, I'm hoping for both. The best writers ride that line, don't they?

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  11. Wow superb.This is what i love about u.You r queer,unique and sort of a philosophical thinker.I sense some thing magic in this story.I wonder is this true as u often speak about this multiple universe and multiple characters.There is something strange in u but i cant find it yet,however i love u and in this story words were crafted excellently.I feel happy u r alive in this version.

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    1. Arun, you're back! You missed my axolotl post, too. Thanks for the kind words. I tried with this one.

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  12. As most interesting posts it caught my attention immediately

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  13. I would have asked her how she discovered the secret of travelling between parallel universes. If she isn't a physicist she must be a witch!

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    1. The idea of me dating a physicist (even in another world) is probably the least believable part of this whole thing.

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  14. Haunting. Love this -- thank you.

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    1. I think the reveal at the end of this would freak me out worse than someone telling me they were from a parallel universe, actually.

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  15. Excellent story Harry! Love the twist at the end! Very interesting and spooky!

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    1. I'm glad people are getting something out of it. I wasn't sure and wrote it all pretty quickly.

      Now I need to come up with something for this weekend. I've got nothing so far...

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  16. I want to read the whole novel this story should be. Wicked good and my sort of complex yumminess.

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    1. Thank you. It was going to be a lot longer (I had some other ideas) but there seems to be a limit to how much most people will read online and I was getting close.

      Delete
  17. Meh. Ships in the night. On the other hand, since was once a controller of a real life Yacht on real life oceans ... there is/was always a port, somewhere, where connections are remade.

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    1. Hi, Davoh! Probably true, although some ports are probably tougher to get to than others.

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    2. Yep, sometimes it's called "sailing against the wind" ... heh.

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  18. Wow, Harry! You sure know how to twist a story. Makes me wonder if I belong in another universe. It would explain a lot.

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    1. I won't upset you by telling you how great your life is in the third parallel universe to the left. But wow, I'm sort of jealous of you in that one.

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  19. great story. As you might remember I enjoy/read physics. I imagine most physicists don't come across as the romantic type. You probably know that Schrodinger took his girlfriend to a cabin to work on physics.
    Here's a description from a New York Times book review on Schrodinger - "A few days before Christmas, 1925, Schrodinger, a Viennese-born professor of physics at the University of Zurich, took off for a two-and-a-half-week vacation at a villa in the Swiss Alpine town of Arosa. Leaving his wife in Zurich, he took along de Broglie's thesis, an old Viennese girlfriend (whose identity remains a mystery) and two pearls."

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    1. ... but did he bring his cat?

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    2. He could not decide if the cat was alive or dead so he left it in the box at home.

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    3. Because when you're going to get the real work done, you leave the wife at home and shack up with the girlfriend. Nice.

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  20. Great writing indeed, flows effortlessly and the characters stay with you. Thanks for sharing and warm greetings!

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  21. Whoah, that ending is a zinger. Sends chills down your spine.

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    1. This one turned out better than I expected, if I am allowed to admit that. In light of my current writing block, I'm a little jealous of June Harry.

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    2. No need for that.

      I've had writer's block that lasted for years and years. It's mostly a matter of thinking your way past it. Doing something else for a little while can help. For me the biggest thing is to forgive my huge heap of mistakes. Big and little, they crop up everywhere.

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