When we first found the parallel universe, no one knew exactly what was going to happen. The scientists specified uncertainty. Proving another reality’s existence was one thing, making contact was another. Should we really disturb the universe? We had wanted to try. We could focus on the greater stunning parts, we could focus on the religious outcry, the political crackdown, desperate to silence the name of discovery and exploration, the corporations who saw possibility in monetization, of duping themselves into sharing their wealth. But we don’t have time.
When contact was established, the first electric pulse of genuine communication, half of the earth’s population disappeared. The global CO2 output halved, militarys and commercial business suddenly squashed. Loved ones awoke without their significant other, while entire homes were emptied, whole sections of city disappeared- buildings and all. Families were severed, lost. In the aftershocks, half of the alternate reality’s people came clambering through the hole we tore through, gathered in our Central Park, shaking and so very far from home.
The reasoning is still something we can’t explain. Theory suggests the line between parallels must have been so thin (explaining our ability to find it at all) that reality won out. It squashed the two together, overwrote the similarities, or cancelled them out entirely.
It is why I meet you on a park bench, six years and an entire world subtracted from the last time I saw you. You had reached out after the merge, asking to reconnect, and in such disparity that my own life tore through me (my dog was gone- replaced with a stray who recognized me, my mother was missing, my father deep in grief) I agreed.
So the park bench was once again ours, and not the place I ended things so long ago. You didn’t know the restaurants around here, I thought that was fair. There had to be differences if these city streets stood. It wasn’t the same, so many pieces weren’t.
But you, you looked exactly the same. Your hair was longer, your style not as changed. You stuck still to those pale jade greens, those neutral jackets, those old, busted sandals. I formed the syllables of your name, and you formed mine. Your joy was palpable, mine felt strange, a gut-twisted feeling of not-ready. Not once had I reached out to someone else from across the fray. You had reached me though, that was the only thing that compelled me.
You stood up to greet me. When you cupped my face and kissed me- I didn’t kiss back. You sat back down on the bench.
I don’t understand, you say finally. I stand over you, afraid to sit, explaining everything over again. We were in love, but it ended. Love was something I couldn’t pronounce for so long. You taught me how. Six years had gone by for me, and six years clearly had not gone by for you.
You tell me the name of our dogs.
I tell you the name of my current girlfriend.
You tell me the apartment your set of keys still work in, not far from here, where we play records and dance.
I tell you that we were beautiful, but that I left years ago. I had to take the train to get here, living so far from the city’s center. I tell you what I’ve been doing, and you stumble to supply the same. These were facts you assumed I knew.
You tell me my hair has started to gray. I tell you I’d been dyeing it for years now, that my mother was the same.
We worked, you say, and I have to agree. We did. We just stopped working. How did it end?
Here, I tell you, right at this bench.
That’s when you start to shake. You proposed to me here.
You tell me you had said no. And now I was gone. You tell me six years of love, six years of together, and the me you remember was erased when our scientists reached yours. You had woken up alone, one dog missing, no note. Part of you had believed I left you until you turned on the news channel.
I have never enjoyed seeing you cry. When you start to I crouch down, hands on your knees. I watch you fight to curl into me, knowing the comfort you seek isn’t there. Your hand form fists, but you’ve never been violent. You only want to curl into yourself, but the idea of leaving you like this is worse.
You tell me why we worked. I listened. You did the laundry and I did the dishes. I liked cleaning, you liked making messes. Your art and my business-sense, a perfect synergy even I can reminisce.
You speak to our great intimacy, in hushed tone. I grimace. You say my mom liked you. I can’t help but laugh. She never did, but the fact that my mother could have is funnier than the truth.
You reach for my hands once you’re more stable, when I’m sitting on the bench across from you. You have to come back with me, a plea you know deep down I cannot answer, who else will I be with? Who else is going to complete me?
I don’t have an answer for that, I doubt many people will. The fact we worked and we didn’t means something, I say. If there is a world where we work, there are hundreds more where we don’t. The difference is that we fought for it.
You gave up, then. You shoot back. I don’t have the heart to agree with you. If you had tried harder, you could have had this.
I stand up. Or, I could have left and been happier. Or I could leave my current girlfriend and date a man, or another woman, or change or say the same. I made my choice, I tell you. You now need to make your own.
Then I leave you, as I did before, as I didn’t another time. I leave you, and you let me go.