In the afternoon I take a break from grading drafts of procedure manuals and attempt to write a chapter in Agnosia. What happens is what always happens: I decide that the plot makes no sense and devise a complete restructuring of character and time that requires the rewriting of each of the 150 pages that have been composed thus far. The bone pile of deleted phrases grows in the belly of a hidden word document, and I wonder why page 150 has been so hard to fight past. It’s not a matter of talent or want at this point. Perhaps page 151 doesn’t actually EXIST? I’m almost convinced. In the reality of this text, of these characters, perhaps there is no page 151.
I give up on rewriting the last 150 pages. I also give up on trying to write page 151. Instead, I watch TED and Brian Greene and enjoy the collapse of my brian matter into frantic and happy waves of confusion and joy – the kind of joy that impossible questions inspire in a bored and hungry academic.
I failed math and science miserably. I despised anything involving numbers and rational thought for many years before I realized that my fascination with structure, reality, prose, and poetry depended upon a deep, subconscious fascination with lines and rulers, with a precision that could nearly be mathematical. Then, in graduate school, I met a woman working towards her PhD in theoretical physics. We spent hours discussing the beauty of string theory, the language of the event horizon, and the mysteries of dark matter. We played with the idea of a multi-verse, the idea that our universe is just one of many, and my language-glands salivated within its possibilities.
My poetic imagination peaks. Brian Greene takes the stage. There is a discussion of dark energy, a quest for unity and coherency between the very big and the very small. Then, there are vibrating strings, the voice, the music of us, a cosmic symphony resonating with the fabric of every atom and every piece of that atom, both imagining and then composing our reality. This is, in a short sentence, the essence of String Theory. And I am mesmerized. I wish I could read numbers.
There is then an elegant unification of space and time, of memory and possibility. Then there is the problem of these extra dimensions, how the song of our vibrating strings both creates the universe and is pre-determined by it. You see, the shape of our dimension determines the song that is created and that song then, also, creates and defines the space of its dimensions. Candidate shapes are allowed, no, are required by the math, the language of space. As such, there must be many shapes. There must be many dimensions, there must be many voices all singing, professing their past, dreaming their future, testing the boundaries of their imagined realities, challenging their horizons with fantastic dreams and equations. And Brian concludes that there must then be many universes. And that these many universes are floating, drifting in a sea of space.
He is right, but wrong. I’ll get to that in a moment.
There are ripples throughout space and time where our edges touch. A bubble bath of universes reaching beyond the laws of physics, through the mass of dark energy and the mythologies of our past, to inspire the right questions.
How could it not be? Something so brilliant and fantastic? But Brian is wrong, at least as a matter of language, in believing that the multiverse is a matter of space and time, that is the space and time of the very large.
Within each individual, within each story in fact, each moment, there are hundreds of universes, of realities and perspectives taking shape. I find and embrace the reality of my multi-verse within every moment of my being. My separate realities converge and intersect in memory and possibility. I live within my mind, within the world, within each story I read. I assume a new identity, a new reality, a new universe in Cixous, in Maya Angelou, in Twain, and Kerouac. I create my own universe in Agnosia and then inhabit the realities of the internet before escaping into the infinite blue spaces of the desert and the mountains breaking through its sandy plateaus. Then there is the question of the reader.
What I create, this reality, you will reimagine, recreate. I will sing it first, press its language out to test and simultaneously create the edges of what is possible, of what is real within the space of this frame, this window, this dimension. And you, will read it, will recompose its line, adjust its frequency. You will shatter its meanings, reassemble its chorus, inject your own experiences and notes, until it sings the song of your reality, your dimension, your possibility.
How could there not be a multi-verse? This cacophony of voices and notes building towards the impossible intersection of our perspectives, our stories filling and overfilling the pages of our once separate and now united universes.
It makes PERFECT sense. The math of it, the language of it, our dark matter, our past and present building in chaos to realize its beauty. Imagine the chaos of our language, all those letters building in frantic forms. It seems so impossible – that the fury of language could realize such perfect unity. The writing is chaos; the reading is divine, impossible, and defines everything that is, that was, and that could be. I live within a bubble bath of universes within every day, the past and future of my own separate realities, read, written, and interpreted by choice or by design.
How could anything else be true?
And with this knowledge…the reality of one self, this frantic linguist stitched into the intersecting fibers of language, ceases and instantly, shifts into another shape…
I recognize by the blank stares I met with by the husband that I have lost it and need fresh air. I am frantic again and speaking in the tongues of a mathematical language that I do not even pretend to understand.
Then, we leave.
I take the husband and professed soul mate who fails to understand the relationship of quantum physics and linguistics to Hartman’s Rocks, a glorious, sandy patch of desert carved into arching lines of single track and sandstone. It is a biking mecca. The parking lot is nearly fullby the time we reach it. The sun is brilliant. The light is caught in the dust and shatters as it rises and settles in sudden waves and pulses. The click of the gears and the spokes, the pulse of pedals and sweat, the air is saturated.
An afternoon in the desert
I sit on a fractured piece of sandstone and watch the light shift through the dust. I try to write. Which is impossible. I don’t want to miss anything. I’m searching for evidence of the separate realities I know are out there. I wait for a ripple.
It happens suddenly.
A man who had been sleeping between a rock and a cactus wakes, suddenly, turns to me – what’s wrong with your leg?
I’m uncomfortable, at first, knowing that he hadn’t actually been sleeping, but that he had been watching me for some time.
I blew out my knee, I tell him. Which is not entirely accurate but it provides the necessary image to explain why I can neither straighten or bend my knee and as a result walk as though my leg were a stick or a crutch, thrown in one direction or the other to support the rest of my body as it swings forward. Like a pirate, or something similar.
I did that, he says, about twenty years ago. I was a runner. Then, I blew out my knee. Just POP and there she was. All gone to shit.
I nod. I tell him that I loved to run. I forget about dark matter. I tell him that I could run for hours, that I felt as though I could soar when I ran, that in a frail, single moment, I believed fully that I could fly, that I could run forever with that feeling so that it would never cease. I tell him that I had lived for it, and would run for hours to the most distant, remote trails I could find searching for it. I ran 26 miles in one afternoon, missing work and class and inspiring my roommate to launch a drunken search party once dusk settled.
It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? He takes off his glasses and there’s something wild in his eyes. When I lost it, I just lost it. Lots of drinking. Lots of drinking. I think I drank for twenty years or so. Just a blur.
It’s those genes, he says. They’re always driving. It’s a curse, I think. That pulse. I have to move. Always have to move. I know you know it too. You’ve been pacing along with that peg leg for the past hour.
I laugh. He’s right.
Now I like to walk. I walk for hours, for days sometimes. I just go. I can walk forever and never be tired or hurt. Just moving through something. He points to the hills off in the distance. I climbed those close to five times one day the last time I was here.
What brings you here?
Job. I lay concrete. He shows me his hands that are cracked and filled with a silver dust that sparks in the desert heat. And then, I walk.
That’s beautiful, I tell him.
I get the same feeling as I used to running. He says. It’s not that bullshit high they talk about. If that’s all it was, I’d have kept drinking towards an all eternal buzz. It’s something different. I’m glad you know it. Most people just think I’m crazy. What do you do for a living sweetie?
That’s awesome. He says ‘awesome’ with such force he nearly slams his head into the dirt. I wish that I wrote. I would have loved to write. He pauses, thinks for a moment, and smiles. That’s a good color for you.
The orange and the red, the slight golden pulse of the sun mixed in the blue and the salt of the earth.
Then he leaves awkwardly. My name is Keith, he says. I tell him my name which he forgets. He takes his walking pole, a backpack covered in various layers of duck tape, and begins to whistle. It takes him nearly a minute to exit my reality and return to his, lost in his own memories, carrying him on to another road somewhere out there.
His past, my present, my past, our reality shared and then, the story intersects, divides, shatters. We pick up the pieces, imagine the possibilities. Then the ripples disperse. And I’m left in the desert with our words crafting lines in a universe I’m currently writing into being.
This? Is awesome.
I think too much, I tell the husband once he returns.
Yes, you do. He says.
We eat fries and spend the ride home in silence, caught somewhere in between.