The thing about parallel universes is that there might be somewhere where you exist where you are a better person. But then there has to be another place where you’re the worst version of yourself.
There’s a place where your mother didn’t leave and there’s somewhere out there where your father loved you, but it’s not here. I’m sorry. I know it’s been hard for you this time around.
There’s the world where your Facebook cover photo displays a six-year-old boy smiling so big it sets the sun on fire. That’s two years more than you got to have him in this one.
And the one where he has his own page. Strangers follow him through his chemo treatments and the radiation to click like and share when he’s smiling, when he’s at home, thin and bald and a shadow of a boy, but alive, so very alive. They comment with crying emoji’s when he’s admitted to the children’s hospital tied up with tubes and wires, shadows the color of hopelessness drawn under his eyes.
There’s even a place where the tumor never existed at all.
You hunch over your computer researching the multiverse theory. You looked into time travel but you’ve been here so long. Everything that’s happened here is woven together in a tapestry of tangled threads. You aren’t even sure which one to pull to begin to unravel the canvas of fuckery spread across the landscape of your life.
But what if there’s somewhere else you could go, where your son lives and your liver isn’t a hard mass palpable through your abdominal wall? Not like this, where you’ve already died inside but the physical part is so goddamn slow and painful, where you don’t have the courage to hurry it up, then maybe it’s worth the price of the admission ticket. What’s left for you here?
Imagine, a world where you put down the bottle.
Imagine, if you started over now, tried to alter your destiny.
But you can’t. You had to do things to survive, that formed you as person, that fundamentally altered the neural pathways in your brain. You don’t know how to erase the damage. There are things done that can’t be undone. You can pick up the pieces of a shattered person but they never fit together the same way. They will break again, and again, new scars patterned over the old. This is the nature of your existence. You’ve learned better than to reach for the stars. You’re just trying, and mostly failing, to stay out of the gutter.
There’s a lot of bullshit on these websites.
There’s also a chat room where you meet Massari.
She says she knows how to go places. There are worlds other than this one, she types. I can prove it.
Listen, before you buy that Greyhound ticket, just for a second.
I told you about worlds better than yours.
I told you there were worse.
There are worlds where you sell yourself. There are worlds where you sleep under bridges. There are places where you are hollow and you aren’t even real anymore, just a shell, brittle and empty and cracked all over, chasing the pipe down a back alley where something even more horrible happens. There’s a knife that splits the skin on the right side of your face from your temple to your chin. You’ve got to do more things for less money when you’re disfigured.
There’s a world where your son never existed.
There’s a world where he did, and you did not care for him, and to carry the weight of that, even in your current state, you cannot comprehend what that does to a soul.
You’re going to buy the ticket anyway.
It was always going to happen like this, here.
In every world, you will bear the same scar on your face eventually.
Some things remain constant. The path to get to them, the way the map is drawn, that can be different. Even the implement used to mark you can change, but the scar always remains the same.
It’s a ten-hour journey. The cold wind drifts around the edges of the window and you will never be warm again. You brought a bottle of Perkies to stay numb and you pop them like the Pez you used to spill out from a Cinderella dispenser. Always with the fucking fairy tales. Maybe Wonder Woman would have set you on a different path.
You can feel the cold, but it doesn’t bother you. Opiates soften the sharp edges of the worlds. The wounds don’t sting quite as bad and time spins by without you noticing it.
You don’t eat. You have a liter bottle of Diet Dr Pepper that’s half full, but the cotton texture of your mouth soothes you, it lets you know you’re still protected by the cape of pills.
Massari isn’t at the station.
She isn’t answering your messages.
Her phone goes straight to voice mail.
You did meet her in another world. She has long dark hair and a ring on every finger and she fed you and you got high and went to bed, and a whole plethora of new pathways fanned out like spokes of a wheel.
Not here. Here you’re alone, flat broke, in a strange city, almost out of Percocet’s, but you know how to survive. You’re a master of getting by.
You start walking.
I wish you heard me. I’m here. I’m here. I won’t leave you.
If I could have built a door before this, I would have. I am waiting for you where things are soft and warm and you can see everything exactly as it is, how it came to be.
The end is coming. In every world, there is an end. If there is a beginning, there has to be an end.
The monster with the knife comes up behind you. I am here, but I close my eyes. I will not bear witness to this.
Every moment stretches out before you. Pain lasts the longest of anything you can feel. There is your face, split open. There is the hole in your chest where blood bubbles froth, where your fingers reach not to cover the hole but to pry at the entrance to your heart.
Your heart is strong. Your heart was always strong.
You are in the gutter, and you are dying.
I have seen your death in this world.
You die in a gutter but I am here to wrap my arms around you and lift you out of this world.
Maybe next time we’ll do better, you and I.
Come along, my child. There’s another world beyond this one.