Branches #1: After the Bang

I don’t know how to begin writing fiction, so . . . I’m not. I’m leaving the beginnings up to better, more experienced authors, and branching off — from whatever I wind up underlining, dog-earring, generally wanting more of.

Currently reading: Sea Change by Jorie Graham.

* * *

Everything unpreventable and excited like / mornings in the unknown future. Who shall repair this now. And how the future / takes shape / too quickly.

I am densely packed in the middle, my edges scattered, nebulous: not unlike the Sun itself. I was enjoying a lemonade on the porch swing when it occurred to me that you might come along. Forces are strong here, our repulsions overcome.

“Are you busy?” you asked. “I brought old copies of People.”

You arranged your electron cloud like a hoop skirt, orbiting electrons rustling on the swing next to me. The planks creaked under our combined weight. A familiar sound, once: our weight, resting together. When our valence shells briefly converged, you said “sorry” — quickly.

“It’s all right.”

White plasma churned and whorled.

“So,” you said. “How have you been? Have things been much different, here?”

I wanted to tell you everything, like they never do in French films: that when you left I slept for days, weeks, months, depleted and shook-up. That I gathered a new identity. That we had unknowingly witnessed the beginning of life itself. That I don’t even know how I wound up here, in the center of the solar system swinging on a gravitational arm around the galaxy, but yet I could predict that I would be here again, this exact position, 250 million years from now.

“It moves faster in the middle than it does at the poles,” I said. “It makes me a little giddy.”

You scoffed, perhaps bored already. “Does it.”

“Yes.”

“You always did like a good ride.”

White plasma churned and whorled.

“I’m sorry,” you said, flipping open a magazine. “Too soon? Let’s take a look at Katie Holmes’ wedding dress.”

I stared into my lemonade, and did not offer you a glass. “How old is that issue?”

“Does it even matter? They all just do the same things, over and over again. Anyway, we’re on the Sun. What are days, weeks, months?”

“We could measure them by their lives. Whether they are wearing white or pink. The age of their children, the state of their lips: young, older, Botox, more Botox.”

“Don’t be sick.”

Somewhere in the house behind us, a cat meowed, a long, plaintive call. I’m the first to admit: I never should have adopted her. The Sun is no place for a cat. But I was very lonely for a time, and loneliness breeds selfishness. I named her Keylimepie. She is white and soft like Wonder Bread.

You lifted your head. “Was that a cat?”

“I don’t know. Was it?”

“It was! It was a cat. You adopted one when you moved to the Sun, didn’t you?” You sigh in aggravation, turning to shimmering photographs of Jessica Simpson’s matching magenta sweat-suit. “Well, that was a terrible idea.”

“She was irresistible as a kitten,” I say. “But, you’re right. She has never cared much for this heat.” Sometimes I put ice cubes on her back, and she purrs and cries at the same time. The minute I crack the tray she comes running, every time. Tiny ice shards fly into the air like glass and she’ll lick them off the linoleum floor. My little Keylimepie.

“Let’s change the subject,” I say.

“Agreed. This whole conversation has been completely nonlinear thus far, and difficult for some of us to process. I propose we start at The Beginning.”

I smile. “You make it sound so proper, capitalized.”

“More things should be treated that way, don’t you think? So many people, places, things, descriptions, are sacred, archetypal, individual.”

“All right. So let’s start at The Beginning. Beginning of all Beginnings, symbol of Beginninghood.”

You took a deep breath and grinned nervously, directing your question to the distant flames. “All right. So then, my erstwhile-dear: had you perhaps noticed that we — the two of us, our romance and its dissolution — started It All?”

“It . . . All?” I repeated.

“You know what I mean. The universe. Life. Quasars, broccoli, dark energy, Botox. Saturn’s rings.”

“Ah. That stuff.”

“Yeah. That stuff.”

“Well we hardly created all of that. I mean, we were involved, affected by it, but that doesn’t mean we were responsible, for crying out loud. Is that what you’ve always thought?”

“We parted, and the universe was born.”

“Yes?”

“. . . Seems like a pretty neat coincidence.”

“Look, look look. As individuals we had nothing to do with it. It was that force, that drove us apart . . . that created all of that.”

“Right.” You looked me directly in the eyes, gleaming. “So, do you think the universe would have been created if we had never been together?”

I paused. “I don’t know.”

You smiled victoriously.

“Look, I’m just saying, because of . . . butterfly effects, and all that. Who can say what would have happened, if there was an atom’s difference in that mess. Speculation is rendered pointless, by . . . by the infinite potential of it all.”

“It’s not pointless.”

You almost seemed injured, for a moment. In my mind I reached out to take your hand, to apologize with my eyes, like they do in French films. But by the time I’d finished imagining it the moment had passed. You had been skimming to the end of the magazine, and were already cringing in disgust.

“When will Mary-Kate and Ashley get their act together, anyway? I can’t take them any more.”

You chucked the magazine over the side of the porch and it shuddered into instant carbon, the black wisps fluttering like hellish paper cranes for a moment. These soon disappeared into small gaseous bursts, emitting a whimsical dying cry as they went.

Wheeeeeeee!


Whee wheee, wheeeeeee!

“Huh,” you say. “That looked much more dramatic than I’d intended.”

The heat was stupefying, molten waves beginning to lap the porch stairs. I began to regard your presence uncomfortably. You with your dateless archives of the Earth starlets’ lives. Your inability to respect the passage of time, your egoism and sophomoric analysis.

“It’s been really nice, catching up,” I began.

“I see,” you said.

“No, no. It’s just . . . I get tired so easily, in this heat. I begin to lose my senses. You won’t want to be talking to me in five minutes, honestly.”

“Matter can’t be created nor destroyed,” you quipped. I thought the look in your eyes changed, but it may have simply been a new tilt to your face, a sudden reflection of fire. “You can’t get rid of yourself so easily.”

“Myself?”

“Past tense. Your old self. By which I mean me.”

I considered this. “Was that a threat?”

“Of course it wasn’t a threat. It’s just, you know, difficult sometimes. To be the one who’s always being told to leave.”

“I never wanted you to go in the first place.”

“Say it ain’t so.” Then, “really?”

My gaze shifted down, like an actor pretending to say something difficult. I noticed that my glass was empty. All of the lemonade had evaporated out of it — my donation to the universe today.

“Really.”

“You didn’t seem particularly happy to see me again.”

“Well. I had become accustomed to life without you. Isn’t that fair?”

You stared at your pile of People, the endless cycle of lives documented, photographed, Photoshopped, built up, ignored. Your electrons orbited furiously. “Did you know they’re calling them TomCat now? He jumped on a chair on national television, he was so excited.”

“That was years ago.”

“It was yesterday!” You let out a high cackle.

“Hey. Stop it.”

“It’s right now. It’s tomorrow! It’s 4.5 billion years old.”

Suddenly the universe was swirling. I felt sick. “I said stop it!”

“Why?”

“It’s . . . this is important. To know these things. To respect the When.”

“Why? Why calculate the Past? Do you think you’ll get the Future?”

I was faint, heavy and exhausted with resistance. “I can’t . . . I can’t think right now, but I know you’re wrong,” I said. “Let’s stop joking around. Leave, and we can discuss this some other day. I’ve been unstable.”

“Unstable!” you roared. “I get it, is that an isotope joke?”

“Please. Some other time.” I stood up weakly from the porch swing.

“Let me help you,” you said, approaching me.

“No, no.”

You smiled mischievously. “Let me help you,” you repeated, reaching for my hand.

And now we propel toward one another! And now we collide. Wham, it would go, in our comic book. Kaplooie. There is a sudden explosion of violent light.

What excuse can I give? Forces were stronger than I had remembered. Heat dissipates into the atmosphere, to warm and reveal quasars, broccoli, dark energy, Botox and Saturn’s rings in its light. And I am you are me are one, we are obliterated, there is no more we: a new element stalks the Milky Way. A few minutes from now, the porch swing will creak with our combined weight.

White plasma churns and whorls.

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1 Comment

  1. It is as if I were to say: “You surely know what ‘It is 5 o’clock here’ means; so you also know what ‘It’s 5 o’clock on the sun’ means. It means simply that it is just the same time there as it is here when it is 5 o’clock.”-The explanation by means of identity does not work here. For I know well enough that one can call 5 o’clock here and 5 o’clock there “the same time”, but what I do not know is in what cases one is to speak of its being the same time here and there.

    Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations I § 350

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