parallel universes and death

Staring into the Gaps

I just finished listening to Jodi Picoult’s book Leaving Time two days ago in my car. (Yes, I have a car that’s so old, it still has a CD player in it.) In the vacant space left by the end of that book, I popped its first disk back in to listen to it all over again.

I’m vulnerable in that space between stories. Are you? It’s like the edge of midnight when darkness looks different than it had the moment before. I sometimes look at the clock right at midnight. It feels like there’s a gap in reality that I don’t want to see during those seconds, especially when Mike has put in a horror movie and gone to bed before the end. I hate when he does that.

Leaving Time has me looking into those gaps a different way. Her story is about psychics and souls and elephants. It’s a lovely mix.

I used to be afraid to admit my sense of the souls that shift in and out of my life despite their deaths. But once I began a study of quantum physics, it has become easier to admit.

Quantum physics is weird. It theorizes the existence of parallel universes.

What separates these parallel universes?

Psychics talk about a thin veil between our reality and the other side. How is that any stranger than the existence of a worm hole or a universe in which my alternate self just made a slight right turn where I went straight?

The veil, for me, comes loose in dreams. I have seen my grandpa twice in dreams, my dad once when I had just awoken. These feel very real, surviving for years when less substantial dreams have faded away.

Do you have that, dreams that stay with you through the years, dreams that don’t fade?

I do.

One of my very first memories is a dream. My family was in it. The five of us sat on the bar stools where we ate most of our meals. In my dream, the bar stools stood on a wide square of wood flooring with a square hole in the center of it. The flooring was identical to what we had at home before my mother got her new green carpet. I was young when she got that carpet, around four years old, so this was a very early memory. Around us, everything was black, like being in space, but the square hole in front of us was a blacker place, a place that terrified me. We sat and talked about how we got there, what was going to happen to us.

Then one by one, all the members of my family fell into the hole and was gone. I was terrified to be left alone. When I was thirteen, my dad died and that memory-dream shifted so that the first person who fell was him. I honestly don’t know any more if it really was him who fell first or if my memory of the dream shifted it into position afterward. It doesn’t matter.

At four years old, I stared into the abyss. I couldn’t see beyond the veil. I felt as though I would never see the ones I lost ever again.

But it hasn’t felt that way for the rest of my life. Sometimes when I look at Nick, I think, ‘So, what do you think of my boy, Dad?’

I always get a flood of tears in my eyes at the silence that ensues. This doesn’t feel like an empty abyss. Sometimes, it feels like my dad is on the other side of something I can’t see through. Sometimes, not always, I feel him there. When I think of him, he is not the skeletal man who died of cancer when I was thirteen, but the strong and slightly pudgy man I knew who was in his prime, the man who submarined and clung to the ski rope for almost two minutes when he tried to get up on one ski behind my grandpa’s boat even when it wasn’t powerful enough to pull him out of the water. I feel the man who leaped into frigid water on April Fool’s Day one year to be first in for the season even though he came out of the water blue and chattering after swimming for just a few minutes.

So when I think about parallel universes, I also think of that unknowable thing that separates me from people I love who have died. Maybe that’s why I keep staring into the abyss and waiting for something, someone, to stare back.

Thank you for listening, jules