We Break Up in Multiple Universes

Brooke Glass-O’Shea

We are drifting toward the quasar, vacuuming up space dust and listening to the blast of radio waves. My rocky surface is so close to yours. Your craters and valleys shine in the torrent of electromagnetic radiation that engulfs us.

The quasar’s fluctuations might be throwing us off, you say.

Didn’t you look at the star map? I say. I told you to bring it.

I know where I’m going, you say coldly.

You’re mostly made of ice, I know, but you could still be kinder to me. Your rotational axis has been shifting lately. You don’t seem to notice my adorable ice particles anymore. You are pulled toward another asteroid — you think I don’t see it? I know that within a short million years you’ll be gone, and it makes me want to break up into fragments.

We are swaying in the wind and photosynthesizing. I emit a cloud of orange pollen that blows into your upper branches, because I like to see little bits of myself coating your leaves. The afternoon light pours into our cells.

A troop of energetic monkeys gathers beneath me, hops up onto my trunk and peels off bark, looking for insect grubs. I am annoyed at the monkeys and wondering how much bark I can afford to lose. You used to say how much you loved my bark, how thick and strong it was.

You shudder slightly, attracting the attention of the curious monkeys, who wander out of my shade and into yours. What do you see in those stupid monkeys? I notice that your shuddering has shaken my pollen off of your leaves, and some has blown into the monkeys’ black fur.

We are stoned and trying to order pizza from another universe, but the transmitter isn’t working properly. I wrap my tentacles around your eyestalk because I can’t resist you and I don’t want you to feel sad. Boiling lava from the afternoon’s volcanic eruption fills your apartment with a pleasant orange fire.

I smack the top of the transmitter with a tentacle and the voice of Robert Krulwich snaps into the air, on that Radiolab show.

“Are you trying to order pizza with the radio?” you say, laughing.

I’m so embarrassed. “If you didn’t put the other transmitter in some stupid place . . . ” I start, but you’re just staring out the window, so distant, like you’re in another universe with our pizza. You don’t even notice as my tentacles drop sadly to my sides.

We’re walking together along the packed beach sand, the late sun elongating our shadows, our strides perfectly matched because our legs are exactly the same. As we slow up toward the jetty, you turn to me.

“This feels weird,” you say. “I don’t really think it’s right for me to be sleeping with my own clone, you know?”

“Wait, what?” I say. “You’re my clone.”

“Is that what they told you?” you say, looking at me like I’m a child.

“Well, yeah,” I say defensively. “Look, even if they told you the same thing, how do you know they were lying to me and not to you? Or even to both of us — like, maybe we’re both clones of some other person?”

You sigh. “What difference does it make?” you say. “It’s still fucking wrong.”

Your lips curl into a suggestion of contempt, and I unconsciously raise my hand to my own mouth, stopping midway as I catch your eye. I swallow hard, the taste of you fading from my mouth.

BROOKE GLASS-O’SHEA lives in Missoula, Montana, with a miniature potted rosebush named Doctor Plant. She is currently studying for an MFA in Nonfiction.

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