Distance is a tether and I had always felt them tugging, sometimes a jerk that was like a cry for help and other times a frivolous whip that felt like someone was jumping rope on the other end of me. I could feel the others at the very moment of falling asleep, falling with me. There were times as a child, I swore I saw one smirk from the throne of my stepping stool in the open threefold mirror of the medicine cabinet. I could feel them before the noosphere expanded through the multiverse, proving me right and connecting us through the app, Find Yourself.
The app couldn’t reach physically through universes, but it could find genetic matches from other timelines (only the timelines that had developed the same technology) then connect you for a chat. I’d say hello, the other me would say hello, and we’d talk about our differences. That’s always what everyone talked about on Find Yourself. What made me me and you you.
In one universe my name was Sky instead of Hannah and we figured out, with extensive digging, the possible explanation for our names was that in Sky’s universe, our father and mother had missed a bus in their college town of Bellingham, Washington and had ended up walking home in a soft vignette of rain and sunset, the bruised peach and the witching blue settling over the bay like god herself was tucking them in. So when a friend later offered them a tab, they said yes, yes, of course. Whereas in my universe, the bus had been taken instead of the acid trip and the main event my parents could recall from that day was that a drunk man sitting across the aisle had vomited, just near enough their touching knees to splatter their shoes with white flecks and doughy clumps of half-digested pancakes, and that my father had been moved by the kindness of my mother when she bent down and cleaned both their rain boots with a page of her physics homework pulled hastily from her backpack. Or had it been chemistry? Or had father done the cleaning? But certainly, someone had vomited.
I talked to Sky for a long time, always looking for what set me apart, always reading between the lines of her messages to try and discover if Hannah by any other name was just as Hannah. And mostly she was, but she was a cat person, said fuck yeah too much for my taste, and her favorite ex had been my least favorite ex, a recovering addict that had given up heroin for alcohol and often got my name wrong, in bars and in bed. But I suppose that’s why she had liked him, since the clue of her name hung above his boozy head like a eureka-lit-lightbulb.
I talked to another Hannah named Hannah who had blue eyes instead of brown. Blue-eyed Hannah was undeniably better looking than me, not only because of her bright eyes against our olive skin, but because they had made her aware of beauty and the pursuit of it at a very young age. She took better care of her body, always had, and now had a deeply ingrained gratitude towards it. She often thanked it with yoga, bathtubs, and orgasms. We’d both been Psych majors, bug collectors, and avid readers, but she had never read any Didion or Woolfe. They were on her list, she said. I didn’t talk to blue-eyed Hannah for long.
Then there was Hannah. We had the same freckles in the same spots, the same subtly crooked nose, the same scar on our eyelid from itching at the same pockmark during our bout with the chickenpox, the bout which kept us quarantined from trick or treating when we had wanted to go as Princess Jasmine. We had both cried and cried when we couldn’t go, and when we got better, our big sister, our favorite person in all the universes, had thrown a late Halloween party just for us with toilet paper and white sheets draped around the living room, a makeshift haunted house. And we each had a photo of this night, us beaming with genuine joy standing up on a wooden dining chair, our child potbellies protruding from our shiny turquoise two-piece playsuit, our hair braided, our eyes the same brown. And we agreed, that as we had gotten older, our eyes had become more green, the iris almost twined with gold, and sometimes we worried we looked a little haunted.
The more we talked, the more sameness we discovered. We looked for differences, but no differences were found, not in us anyway. Her father was half an inch taller than mine. My sister played soccer, hers was a runner. But in every story we told and in every detail we rescued from the vast space of our small lives, we found and named the same essence in each, a kind of essence I live so close to that I could have never seen it without her. She knew the worst things I had done, the worst things we had done, and she didn’t need me to explain. She understood the parts I couldn’t explain or defend but defined us still, and we orbited them together—two moons falling around the planet of our mistakes. We talked and laughed and cried and said, yeah, yes, yes exactly. We said it so much it started to feel like a mantra. Yes yes yes.
We talked for months and then years. Sometimes we would recount the day or we would recount yesterday’s recounting. In the sulk of an afternoon, I once jetted a fingernail across my forearm so that a white line appeared like a chemtrail. I called her and asked, did you? Yes, yes. The verb was not important. See, feel, do. We meant all of them.
I thought about her all the time, and I wondered, am I being vain or obsessive? Either way, I concluded, I must be losing my mind. Still, the pull from her was everywhere and my body sang at every pluck. I lifted my spoon to my lips and thought of her lips pouted at the brim of it. I licked it clean then looked for her face in its concave dip—her upside down, her stretched north south. I saw her and we blushed together.
Is this self love?
I thought, I still think, it was love in its truest form. The kind where if you say it out loud, it slips away. The kind that only survives in an impossible vacuum of silence. The kind where two really do become one and break the laws of physics with every shared sigh.
Entanglement, she reminded me. I reminded her. We whispered the words together, over the phone, from Hannah to Hannah, from one universe to another.
I go to sleep, sleep and imagine that you’re there with me.
But distance is a chain. I would never reach her, and even though I wanted her with me, to reach out to her and feel our skin against our skin, I also feared it. If we were to meet face to face, I think the whole feeling would shatter into bits, then gather itself back together with the movements of liquid mercury, reborn as something else entirely. I imagine pushing our hands together, our fingerprints aligning, and suddenly where there had been love there would be a hideous truth. The truth of the constructed self. The truth of the constructed body. That nothing was real because everything was real, and worse, nothing belonged to us. Nothing nothing nothing. I hated to think of how we might claw and tear at the other to escape that mutated mantra. So I went to bed with her tugging and I woke to her tugging, but I didn’t hold to the hope of being with her, not like that. I would linger in the shower. I would hold up our fallen hair between my wrinkled fingers and I would know that she was doing the same. Then we would let go and watch it swirl into the drain.