Written in the Darien library. Still going:
Sometimes they have a scar. Other times it’s a few missing fingers, a diploma, once a sheet and a toe-tag. The only universal similarity is that all of them, regardless of how old, how young, how famous or how destitute, are me.
I know it’s not normal to see thousands of “me”s, hundreds of thousands, even. I mean, I see myself every moment I’m alive, and I’m always changing, but if I look in the mirror, it’s not always the same me who stands in my shoes looking back, and that’s what scared me for a long time. I thought I was insane, and it took a toll on my family. My parents dropped me in a psych ward when I was thirteen, after an incident involving a cup of bleach and a swatch of steel wool. I still have the scar on my elbow, and the memory of the splotch spreading there, overtaking my flesh and co-opting my nerves. I was out of the hospital in less than a year, cleared by professional medical practitioners with self-aggrandizing yachts and large families they paid someone else to manage.
It might sound like I’m bitter, like I hold something against those doctors who poked, prodded and electrocuted me over the months in that madhouse, but I’m actually grateful. Padded walls don’t reflect, and so I was granted a reprieve from the images, the faux-selves.
That doesn’t mean I wanted to go back.
To that end, I learned to hide my thoughts, curb my responses and keep my emotions broiling beneath the surface, a rolling mass of unkempt half-thoughts that to complete would mean to break. Whether it would be a physical snap I can’t say, but the mental component was definitely on edge. I’ve never been one to believe in psychics, having seen too many “Miss Cleo” ads late at night when I was ducking curfew, but I was desperate.
Imagine learning that you’re psychic. Only you’re not. You have the heaven-sent gift of parallel perception. You can see alternate realities. Furthermore, consider that it’s involuntary, and you also have reason to believe that anything you see in one of these keyhole-glimpses will never ever occur in your home reality. Period.
Blessing, you say? Well, in ways. I know I’m not going to be immolated, exsanguinated or assassinated. Plus, I’ll never contract leprosy, I won’t undergo chemotherapy, and my arrhythmia is a distant concern at best. I’m also aware that I won’t be president, discover the key to immortality or win a Nobel Prize. So, yeah, there are downsides, but it’s been bearable.
It’s always been bearable, regardless of how much it sucks to have possibilities snatched from you and be shown the limits of your path, of your will. It’s always been bearable… Until tonight. And now the weight of the knife is crushing the nerves in my hand, pressing down upon my mind. The blade, sharp, glimmers in the fluorescent lights of the kitchen. With its edge, I can sever the strings of possibility, collapse the waveform of my life into an absolute. When one direction is chosen, one thought acted upon, all other potential responses cease to exist. This is my final response, my final choice.
But what if it’s not a choice?