Fiction Romance


Dear BFF, you wouldn’t believe who I met last night! Walking toward me, under the streetlights…he’d just finished buttoning something into his shirt pocket and was getting ready to glance back up. Our eyes met; our footsteps slowed. The mutual recognition was as instantaneous as two particles. 

Our grasp of its significance took a little longer.

Okay, here’s what I saw. (I don’t know what he saw.) He was taller than me, of course, and his hair was longer than mine is since my recent hack job. He was extraordinarily good-looking, but I couldn’t have said why, because his features aren’t your everyday candyman. His steps were long, purposeful, powerful, almost intimidating. His jaw had a dark hint of beard and his upper lip had some mustache—not much, but more than I have, since I’m a girl. Yes, actually, I noticed that he was male and I was female.

However, and this is what’s hard to explain, he looked like me. I mean he looked so much like me it took my breath away. How could this be? His body was totally different, and his gait—even whatever he was putting in his pocket wasn’t what I’d have put in mine. It was like seeing myself elongated, with facial hair, in a fun-house mirror. Nevertheless, here came me, walking down the street-lighted sidewalk toward me. 

It was the expression in his eyes. I’m used to looking into my own eyes; I do it every time I put on my makeup. I never saw this expression in anyone else’s eyes, and wouldn’t expect to, because what I see in my eyes is no more nor less than ‘me myself.’ And what on earth was ‘me myself’ doing in someone else’s eyes?

When I say I don’t know what he saw, let me amend that: He saw my eyes. As I saw his.

Now, I’ve always been sure that there was only one of me in the universe. I wouldn’t have even wanted another one. I had it all to myself. Mother, father, sibs, cousins, buddies, even you—you guys have been my company here on earth. I’ve appreciated your presence, but I was never under some delusion that we were the same. Often, too, I’ve looked into the eyes of another person and seen evidence of a humanity similar to mine. But, to see my very self? Think about it, wouldn’t it scare the crap out of you? Of course it would. My breath stopped. My thinking stopped. I began to tremble.

His address was sharp, direct: “What the hell are you doing here?”

“What are you?” I countered.

We stopped walking and stood under one of the streetlights, panting, staring, trembling. He was the first to regain control. He shoved his hands deep down into the pockets of his slacks (he wore slacks, something I would never wear because I’m a jeans and skirts type of girl) and let out a shaky sigh. “Yeah, okay,” he said. “I can see it,” 

“What can you see?” I asked anxiously.

“That we’re the same person.”

“How could that be?”

“I know. But we are—and you know it, too.”

I glanced around, seeking escape. There was none. I was forced to admit we were the same person.

“Makes you kind of believe in parallel universes, huh?” His manner of questioning was impressively unnerving.

“I guess so. I’m not much into physics.”

“Well, you are now.”

I didn’t see how this followed. But if we were the same person except in parallel universes, that didn’t mean anything had to follow. We were the same person with different thoughts. That was obvious from the fact that he thought to wear slacks while I thought to eschew them. 

There was a low concrete planter box outside a shop window, and we sat on it by silent consent. Neither of us could stand up. How did I know this? Because we were the same person. I know, I know, you’re still not believing me.

“So,” he said at last, “you were the girl.”

“What girl?”

“The girl I wasn’t.”

“Yes, I was the girl—and you were the boy my parents wished I’d been.”

He laughed. I envied his laugh. He tossed his head back, and out came this bark, full of mystery. Was he laughing with me or at me? But hey, if he was laughing at me, then wasn’t he laughing at himself? Since we were the same? He said, “So, it was never really a choice, since here we both are. A lot of wasted angst, eh?”

“I don’t see how you can be so light about it. I suffered a lot.”

“Why?” He regarded me curiously. “You didn’t have to.”

“Of course I had to. I was a girl. I wasn’t going to be a captain, or a pilot, or any great thing. I was going to be short.”

“I think you’re cute short.”

Don’t think I didn’t hear that blurt. But I went on, “Cute isn’t what they wanted. They wanted dignity, reputation, that kind of thing. And sure, I could have become a captain or a pilot, or a lawyer or even a judge, but I didn’t want to, because I was a girl and my interests lay elsewhere.”

“Elsewhere like where?”

“Dolls. I really cared about my dolls. Their wardrobe…their talking…their futures…” 

“Huh. Yeah, okay.” He scratched his head.

We were both wondering about each other, which is to say, wondering about ourselves. The night was getting cool. I could feel the hairs prickling along my arms—and I wondered, were his arm hairs prickling, too? And I wondered, to what degree were we bound together, anyway? I’d never been conscious of his presence before, so I wondered if I needed to be now. He was looking at his shoe, way down there at the end of his outstretched leg, maybe still wondering why I’d cared about my dolls. I said, “I wonder why all of a sudden we ran into each other. Don’t you have a life somewhere completely different, on a different plane?”

“I don’t know about somewhere different,” he said. “This is my street.”

“It’s mine, too.”

“I’ve never seen you on it.”

“But I’ve walked on it every day.”


The moon came up. It was gibbous. Was it the same moon for him? I could ask him. It seemed strange to have to ask him anything, if we were the same person, but apparently we didn’t have all the same answers. 

So, we were not entirely the same person. How far back did this go? At one time there was an egg and a bunch of sperm, and on that occasion, reality had split into two different universes, who knows why, whereupon he became the him of that universe and I became the her of the other, if you see what I mean. And to think, here we’d living along, right on the same street, our every detail different, passing like ghosts and doubtless walking right through each other.

“Seeing myself as a man is more shocking than I thought it would be,” I confessed. “Not that I’ve never tried to imagine it, but this is—this is—you know.”

“Yes, I do know, actually.”

“I never imagined I would be so—so—”

“So handsome? So tall?”

“Well, yes. I thought I’d look just like I do now except with a mustache and a penis.”

“Interesting, because I haven’t imagined myself as a woman, not seriously.”

“I’m sure, because why would you?”

“Scientific curiosity, if nothing else. But I have to tell you, I’ve spent my whole life doing what’s in front of me to do, and maybe that’s a fundamental difference between us.”

“Between men and women?”

“No. Between you and me.”

“I do things,” I protested. But in truth—as you know, dear BFF—I don’t do a whole lot, because my nature is a quiet, waiting one, meditative and somewhat timid.

Then, was one of us realer than the other? I didn’t know about him, but I can tell you I was very sure about the reality of my own existence, nor was I willing now to negotiate the matter.

“So,” he said, as if reading my mind. “What are we going to do about this?”

“I’m not sure we need to do anything about it. We haven’t exactly collided.” 

“Maybe you haven’t. I have majorly collided.”

I glanced at him—timidly. He was pretty shook up. He'd started raking both hands through his hair as if his head were exploding from whatever was happening to him. I wanted to put my arm around him and calm him, comfort him, but how to comfort someone whose entire foundation has been jerked out from under him? In fact, how to deal with my own explosion? 

“Can we just go back to how things were?” I suggested.

“Can you??”

“Sure! Maybe…” I met his piercing glare. Nothing would do but truth. “No, I can’t. Not any more, now that I’ve see you as everything I wanted to be. Tall. Strong. Masterful.”

“And I suppose you’re wishing I saw you as everything I wanted to be.”

“Of course not! Nobody would want to be me. Would you…did you?”


“Because, obviously, you chose the more viable reality.”

“Who says I chose? I was born the version I got, and I went with it. That was my strength.”

“Ah. And I was born the version I got and I didn’t go with it, and that was my weakness.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“But I am weak; I know I am. I mean, look at me.”

He did look at me. I felt him doing it. Dear BFF, I wanted him to. I felt him looking, looking, looking, then away, then back, and with each look I felt weaker—until my weakness enveloped me like a warm, perfumed bath. Delicious, I can’t decribe how I loved him looking at me in all my weakness. 

 “You feel like you drew the wrong straw, then?” he persisted.

“Yes. Why couldn’t I have been you?”

“Because there was already enough of me. There was none of you. What kind of a deal is that?”

“You are enough.”

“No.” He reached for my hand. “Not close.”

“With you in the world, there was no need of me.”

“There was.” He took both my hands. “I needed someone to want.”

“That’s ridiculous…”  

Ridiculous. I shut my mouth. If we were the same person, why were we arguing? He honestly didn’t have a leg to stand on. He was everything; I was whatever was left over. I was a short straw. I wasn’t captain, pilot, lawyer, or judge. I wasn’t presently even on a salary, having no job, and of course my dolls I’d loved so much were long gone, so what could I bring to the table? My very hair was scant compared to his. I couldn’t grow a beard, and I didn’t need to see him jump to know he could jump way higher than I could. I stood up, smoothing my skirt down over my rump, saying, “Anyway, I think it would be impossible for two people who are actually the same person to have a meaningful conversation.”

“We’ve been having one,” he pointed out, standing as well.

“See? You are even reasonable.” I frowned up into his face. “And tall.”

“Right,” he said. “And you are unreasonable and short.”

“Yes. If we were Siamese twins, we would have to kill each other.”

He barked that laugh… 

But then he started looking around, over my head and down the street. I’d forgotten he had been on his way to somewhere else; evidently he remembered. Oh no, he was going to leave? At any rate, I supposed his leaving would answer the question of what do we do now. I hugged my shoulders and wished I’d brought a jacket.

“Well, then—” He put out a hand. “It was good to meet you, self. I sincerely hope your universe gives you whatever you ask from it.”

“And I, too,” I said. I didn’t want to shake hands. I had this dreadful realization that my universe wasn’t going to give me whatever I asked of it—because I hadn’t asked it. And so…and so…

“Wait,” I said, catching his arm. “Is it possible for people from different universes to fall in love?”

His raised eyebrow made me regret my question. “I wouldn’t count on it,” he said.

“Why not?” 

“Because you already have.”


“You fell in love with yourself when you were born—and then you let other people talk you out of it, on the grounds of your being weak and short and not a pilot. What kind of love is that?”

“But if it’s true?”

“Who cares if they think it’s true? Look, love’s hard enough for people who share the same universe. But for people like us—” He dropped his gaze, to my shoulders. “You’re freezing.”

“—for people like us?” I prompted.

“It has to be good love. That’s the only way to bridge the gap.” He wasn’t leaving.

I could have asked him then what he meant by something as vague as ‘good love,’ but as you can imagine, I didn’t want to, in case the answer would be something I didn’t want to hear. In case he was warning me I had to start with loving myself before I moved on to loving him—otherwise there’d be no use my asking the universe for anything.

Okay, well, yes, I knew that was what he meant. 

I knew, because I actually am not stupid; I just act like it. I’m not even short. I’m not lacking in any way that would negatively quantify ‘good love.’ Good God, I am the very quintessence of captain, pilot, lawyer, judge, or tall person! I’m a person who knows how to love—‘good love’—and that, right there, is my worthiness. Therefore, yes, I can ask the universe for what I really, truly desire. 

And I did ask. Bravely, strongly, I did ask. His universe or mine, I’ll never know for sure; both of them understood my heart. 

So, dear BFF, I wanted you to be the first to hear the news. Because parallel lines can’t actually meet, but they can get awfully, awfully close—and they can go on traveling that way, side by side, far beyond the edge of the visible universe.

May 04, 2023 15:42

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