A Brief Discourse on the Nature of Multiple Realities Inspired By My Two Year Old
She talks to other versions of herself. When her reflection pops up in mirrors, windows, TV screens, she calls herself by name. “Hi, Erin,” she says. Mwwwwahhh. When she kisses herself, I always expect for her to recoil from the sudden contact with the reflecting surface, in shock that she’s touching glass and not skin, but she seems satisfied with this, perfectly content to grant that hard version of herself a little affection, tempered though it is by a hard barrier.
Who are these other Erins, who come to my daughter at odd times, who greet her as she greets them, who, on the other side of the glass, give soft kisses, share secret smiles, reassure her that there’s always a friendly, familiar face waiting to be found?
Soon, my daughter will realize her autonomy. She’s already getting there, by inches. “Mine, Mommy,” she says, yanking a doll from my wife’s hands. Soon, she’s going to understand that she is Erin and that the glimpses she sees of all those other Erins are just illusions. She’s going to be what we all are, what she already is to us, a unique, isolated individual. She’s a beautiful little girl, happy and smart and already developing a wicked sense of humor. She plays tricks on us, pops out from corners to surprise us. She laughed and laughed when she figured out how to tickle the soft skin at the back of my wife’s knees.
She’s already on the road to being who she’s going to be, and I know that, but there is still a part of me that wants her to stay in this multi-verse limbo, to stay with all the other Erins that populate her world.
And here’s the thing: I want to live in that world as well. A world where I round a corner and find myself, appearing from the safety of a glass door, waving a hello. I wish I could meet them, all those other versions of me who exist only to be kind to themselves.
I’ve tried to live this way, to smile at myself and treat myself well. It never works. My smile holds a cynical edge, and my eyes betray the knowledge that I’m doing this on a lark, that I don’t believe for a minute that there is another me who can be as thrilled as I am to see me. Which leaves me with Erin, who does live in that world, at least for the moment.
We are in a shoe store. My wife is trying to find sandals for Erin, something breathable but still secure with straps to hold them in place. It’s August in Louisiana, and Erin wants to walk everywhere, now that she’s able to keep pace with us. She needs something that won’t make her feet sweat too much.
I’m trailing behind Erin as she totters across the store’s carpet, barefoot. She notices a mirror at the far end of the room and takes off toward it. From where we are, she can’t see her reflection yet, but she’s recognized the mirror, the portal to the other Erin. She comes at it from an angle, so that she doesn’t appear in it until the last second, when she’s right on top of it. I’m coming along behind her, and all I see of my Erin is the back of her head, but I can see the other, the version of her that in some other reality still believes that my Erin is real. I can see that Erin’s familiar smile blossoming at least once more.
Christopher Lowe is the author of Those Like Us: Stories (SFASU Press, 2011). His fiction and non-fiction
have appeared widely in journals including Third Coast, Barely South Review, and War, Literature, and the
Arts. He serves as an assistant fiction editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal and is a reader for Electric
Literature's Recommended Reading series. A native of Mississippi, he lives in Lake Charles, LA with his wife
and daughter. He teaches English and Creative Writing at McNeese State University. You can find out
more about his work here.