November 1, 2005

Memento

Last night K and I came up with a story about a parallel apartment to our own. In the story I’m the one who discovers the parallel apartment, stumbling on it through a hidden panel in our bathroom. The parallel apartment is identical to ours except for one detail: K. She’s there but she’s different. What she is, is perfect, a version of K without any of the things that drive me crazy about her. Notably it was K who thought of the second K.

The way we first conceived it, time spent in one apartment is time absent from the other. So whenever I’m cavorting in the parallel apartment with the perfect K (let’s call her K2), I’m absent from the real-world apartment and the life of K1. It’s a form of cheating, particularly since I’m obliged to conceal the truth – not just from K1 but from K2. I’m betraying both women at once.

Once I realized this, I changed the story to include two Michaels, one in each apartment. Now whenever I leave one apartment for the other, another Michael remains behind, which means that neither K is ever exactly betrayed.

I wondered what I would do in such a circumstance. Would I try life with K2? Would I switch to K2 permanently? Is K2 who I really want? My answer, in the end, surprised me. I wouldn’t try it, not even once.

In explaining this to K, I said that the operation would kill the patient – or really, it would obliterate the patient, replacing her a stranger. I liked this line of thought, for it made me see K’s faults in a new light: K is not K without them.

Curious, I asked K what she would do in the same circumstance. She didn’t hesitate. “Oh, I’d switch,” she said.

I roared with laughter. We both did.

Later I asked K if she would preserve any of my faults. At first she said no, but then she reconsidered.

“Something small and harmless,” she said. “As a memento.”