My mind is a jumble filled with jiggly bits. No matter how I try to shake the jiggly bits through my ears, squeeze them through my eyes, or blow them out my nose, they rattle around. Too big to fall through the cracks.
Instead of trying to fight it, I’m going to embrace where I am.
I am, at once, writing to you in a dratfy New York City apartment, and sitting on a park bench in Milwaukee watching the fog roll in.
It all starts at 5:30 a.m. I don’t want to get out of bed. I fantasize about wrapping myself around my dog, underneath the blankets, skipping my journey, locking my doors. I would pretend to be a hermit who leaves her hut only to watch the sun rise and set.
At 6 a.m., I am dressed. A car picks me up. Soon after, I walk through the dimly lit sidewalk into the harsh light of the airport.
By 8, I am in the aisle seat of a plane headed to Milwaukee.
A woman with her pajama-clad little girl holds up the seating process arranging her luggage in the overhead bins. Three passengers across the way announce their disapproval with tongue clicks and rolling eyes.
Five minutes later, one of the disapproving three moves to let someone in her row. She squeezes her ample her girth beyond the aisle, her backside so close to my face that I shift to one side to avoid contact. Moments before her she nestles into my shoulder, her row mate is seated and I am spared.
This makes me cry like a spring rain. I can’t stop. Half an hour in, the woman with the pajama-clad kid offers me a wet one to dry my tears.
I decline. And then I start crying all over again.
I’m in Milwaukee.
I am completely unprepared.
Milwaukee will mark my 23rd state dated. I am closing in on fifty percent.
When people ask, I tell them that this blog is one of best thing I’ve ever done. Before I started exploring the U.S., I was guilty of an East Coast antipathy towards the rest of the U.S., but since I’ve been dating, traveling, talking, I’ve come to love this patchwork piece of land we call a country. It’s beautiful. Silly. And full of surprises.
There’s some magic in it.
I have one plan.
A woman I met kayaking in Washington State lives in Wisconsin. She and her 10-year-old son are spending the day in the city.
They’re going to the Discovery Museum. I want to hit the Milwaukee Museum of Art. We’ll meet for breakfast, split up, meet again and see where life leads us.
After the museum, her son confides that if he could be any superhero, he would be hydra, a mythical beast of extraordinary power. She has several heads. When you cut one off, two grow in its place.
This will be significant later.
That night, I’m at a play with my Milwaukee date.
Not for nothing, but the play’s about superheroes.
At the museum, before the date and the conversation about super powers, I stroll through an exhibition of American folk art. Toys, paintings, carved canes, and tools. Hanging on three walls is a display of quilts built by the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, population 275.
Gee’s Bend used to be a cotton plantation. Now it’s an African American community.
It sounds like it’s a place that time forgot.
Here’s where I get to the meat of the matter.
I’ve been reading a little about quilted multiverses. I don’t quite understand the theory, but it goes something like this:
There are multiple parallel-ish universes, each existing in different dimensions. Even though one universe isn’t aware of the other universes’ existences, all universes are woven together like improvisational jazz juxtaposed with finely counterpointed Baroque chamber music.
Kind of like a quilts from Gee’s Bend.
At the heart of it all, I’m thinking from now on, I will drink a little less coffee and a little more green tea.
There’s a theory within the quilted multiverse theory I particularly like.
It suggests that we can’t see these other universes and they can’s see us because our universe is banging around a black hole.
It’s like we’re a cue ball caught in the pocket of a pool table. Mistaking the comfortable place we call home for everything.
The women of Gee’s Bend are renowned quilters, going six generations back.
The quilts at the exhibit, are symmetrical, until you look at them closely. They are useful. Strong. Fit together like a utilitarian puzzle. Color, shape, and stitch mesh in a mesmerizing pattern that you can get lost in without even trying.
After the play, we ride the elevator to the parking garage.
“I’m not into the ‘invisibility’ superpower,” he says.
“To be a fly on the wall that can move things?”
“I’d rather fly.”
“For my super power, I’d like to act through people’s dreams,” I say.
A guy in the elevator gasps, “that’s taking superpowers to a whole other level.”
Once a year, I talk to an astrologer.
He’s doesn’t talk about regular astrology, except to tell me that I’m not a Leo even though I was born in August. The earth wobbles on its axis. I was born in a wobble moment. I’m a Cancer. I don’t know how I feel about that.
He deals with lunar astrology.
According to his system, I am a hydra.
It feels like the kid knows something when he pulls hydra out of thin air and places her on my lap like he does. Maybe someone, somewhere, in another dimension, needs to remind me of who I am.
I tell people that when I started this blog, I expected to meet a bunch of asshole and share a bunch of mean little stories. Years later, and much humbled, I’ve found is that the people I’ve met are kind, creative, intelligent, unique, exquisite, curious, majestic individuals, and uniquely American.
The common thing that connect all these mini-multiverses: loneliness.
It ends at 5:30 p.m.
I’m on the plane, flying back to New York.
There’s something in the way that the flight attendants shove pretzels and peanuts at me without looking me in the eye that makes me feel like a decrepit peacock in a petting zoo.
And after they pass, I cry.
Just a little.
For the sake of symmetry.
If I keep shaking my head, maybe the jiggly bits will become round and small, like sea glass tossed by the water. I’m dying to see what color they are.