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The Many Dimensions of You

A.K. Blake is a former Peace Corps volunteer and ESL teacher from Kansas City who has lived in Mexico, England, and South Korea. She now works as a tech writer in DC, where she is taking courses toward an MA in Writing at Johns Hopkins. She can often be found chasing her dog, Soju, down North Capitol or trying and failing to grow a garden in her brownstone basement apartment.

This you lives in a rundown clapboard house, hanging out the window to wave at men who pass by. You're thinner in this world, cheekbones casting shadows across your face. Your collarbones push out like they're trying to escape your skin. It suits you, in a waifish kind of way.
"Twenty dollars for a handie, thirty for a blowjob, and fifty for a quickie," you say. "But the rooms are full, so it's the alley or nothing."
I am quick, like you asked, heaving against you on the rough brick as I drink in the freckle on your left shoulder that's always there--though sometimes it's on the right--and the swirl of hair at the nape of your neck as I gather your curls in my fist. Your hair is darker here, undyed. I prefer it highlighted.
I show you the photos after. In one is another you, laughing as you tilt your face toward the camera, your teeth straight as they are not in this world, your smile carefree in a way it is not here. Another you wears band merch for a group that never existed in this dimension. She has straightened hair and looks angry as I snap the photo. Still another has hair like yours but looks happier, a smile unfurling as she curls naked between cotton sheets. You stop at the oldest picture, a blurry photo taken through a window, a side profile in contrast.
"I didn't know you were a jumper," you say, like you always do, bewildered, as if you should have known.
"How could you know?" I ask, tapping a finger to my temple. In movies, jumpers have conveniently branded faces or obvious tech. The reality is a microchip.
You frown. "Two hundred for the photo."
Steep. But now you know I can pay.
You pose leaning back, jutting your chin forward, thrusting your chest out like you want to show the other yous what you've got. The flash throws you into sharp relief.
"Perfect," I murmur, sending over the money.
Today, I am in a brighter dimension, fewer people on the streets, new buildings under construction. This you works in a shiny high-rise, bowing and scraping to the editor of some magazine. But you look happy, your hair tipped pink, which I haven't seen in a hundred worlds, in glasses I assume are fake.
"Where did you say you work again?" you ask, leaning across the cafe table, resting your hand on my arm like you're trying to see me.
I tell you I'm at a competing magazine, and we're looking for talent.
Later, we're at your apartment. Wine stains your teeth as you ramble passionately about the dangers of tech in late-stage capitalism and your undying love for Bob Dylan. I nod and cup your neck to pull you closer, but you laugh and wriggle out of my kiss.
The next morning, I make eggs, leaving my collection on the counter for you to find.
"I didn't know you were a jumper," you say in that same tone, touching the photos.
I tap my temple. "How could you know?"
"So you don't work at Galavant."
"You're too good for that place anyway," I say. "You should still apply."
"I want you to leave."
Your splayed hand is the only thing in focus in that picture, the pink tips of your hair just peeking past.
Today, I am here with the original you, the one I keep coming back to, the one in the house with the yellow door and the white shutters. Sometimes you're here, your curls lit from behind by the afternoon sun as you sit at your computer with a frown of concentration. Or else you pace the hardwood floors on the phone with a client, stopping to look at yourself in the mirror and pull at wrinkles that aren't there. Sometimes I'm late, arriving in time to see you yell at the boys to take off their shoes on their way in or to watch you feign attention as they tell you about their day.
Sometimes, I'm even later, or I miscalculate and arrive on a weekend. Then he is here, doing the dishes while you tell him about work or arguing with you over who should take the boys to soccer.
I always think about sitting him down, looking him in those eyes the exact shape and color as mine, and telling him, "You're just a bad copy of me. Same parents, six months late. See? You shouldn't exist. It should be me here. And your wife," I would patiently explain, "she should be mine."
He's not here today, though. Today you are alone as you shrug on your jacket and burst out the front door unexpectedly, alone as you look across the street and barrel toward me. You pull up, shoving back a wayward strand of hair, and cross your arms.
"Stop coming here," you say.
"Sorry," I fumble, "I'm not a creep, honestly. You just remind me of someone. Do I know--"
"Don't." You hold up your hand. "I don't have what you're looking for, ok? We tried it, lots of times."
"We tried--"
"I know you're a jumper." You shake your head once, emphatically, like you don't have time for this.
"How could you know?" I ask, strangely breathless.
It's you who taps your temple this time instead of me.
"Me with other yous, it never works. I tried them all, back in the day. It's only here. Only this world, ok?"
"But," I say, stupidly. "I'm not in this world."
"I know."
There's an expression in those eyes I've never seen before, though I've seen them so many ways and so many times. It's something like pity.
"That's the problem," you say. "I'm never happy with you." You gesture, opening your arm back toward the house with the white shutters and the yellow door. "I'm only happy with him."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, December 13th, 2022

Author Comments

I've lived all over the world, and in each new place, I found a slightly different version of myself waiting to bloom. My time as these other me's inspired the concept for this story, which was originally written as a flash fiction assignment in one of my first master's courses.

- A.K. Blake
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