“Just because you can’t imagine something doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” he said.
“That sounds like good advice.” But still, the thought hurt my head. And I was exhausted.
“So, how many bedrooms?” Robin asked.
“Ugggh, two, I guess.” Keeping my options open. And then I pretty much immediately fell asleep.
Of course, I immediately had the Dream again. And again, I didn’t think much of it at the time.
You might think it’s weird that Andy and I hadn’t figured out the Dream yet, but it was a pretty boring dream and, in general, talking about even interesting dreams to other people is dull as hell. I try not to do it under any circumstances because of how much I hate it when other people do it to me. And besides, Andy and I probably had said a total of four words to each other that day.
I did talk a bit more with Robin, but Robin had not slept yet. And so, though he almost definitely had the Dream in his head by this point, he had no way of knowing that. He’d know soon enough, as would at least half of the people on that airplane and a number of others I interacted with at the airport.
You can go ahead and add that to my list of accomplishments:
April May, former pet detective, dairy-supply heiress, initiator of First Contact with space aliens, video blogger, and patient zero for the first and only known infectious dream. And also . . . terrible girlfriend.
By the age of twenty-three, I had already become a master of not being in relationships. Here are some tips if you too enjoy completely isolating yourself from the love of other humans because of deep, subconscious fears that you are unable to recognize even exist.
If someone you regularly hook up with serves up an overly familiar pet name, double down on your return. Example:
“Could you pass me the remote, baby?”
“Yeah, here you go . . . pookie patchoopie.”
When conversations head in directions that might result in your relationship being defined as a “relationship,” completely disregard all societal rules of conversation. Example:
“Have you ever felt like this is . . . going somewhere?”
“I wanna be the very best like no one ever was.”
“Are you singing the Pokémon theme song?”
Be prepared, at a moment’s notice, to mercilessly and cruelly distance yourself from people who you care about and need more than oxygen. Example:
“So, April, my mom is going to come visit.”
“Do you think you should, like, meet her?”
“I live here, don’t I?”
Basically, do your best to mock and deride their connection to and appreciation of you because, deep down, you dislike yourself enough that you cannot imagine anyone worthwhile actually wanting to be with you. I mean, if they like you, there must be something wrong with them, right?
This probably seems weird to you, as you are familiar with the April May of video and social media. Always confident, clear, and comfortable. How could that person possibly act so confident and yet be so deeply insecure? Well, if I weren’t so insecure, I would have had neither the opportunity nor the inclination to spend every day of my life getting really good at seeming confident.
My relationship with Maya was the longest romantic relationship I’d ever had. I think the fact that she was a great roommate and school partner had probably kept me from completely destroying us, which I had had the impulse to do several times already. But our relationship was mostly held together by Maya’s understanding that my ridicule of her feelings for me was a manifestation of my distaste for myself, not her.
The result of this semi-long-term relationship with a beautiful and intelligent woman was that if I even for a moment thought about my life with or without Maya, I would notice how deeply and passionately in love with her I was. The knowledge that I would have to tell Maya about what had happened, and the feelings that gave me (knowing that I’d want her to talk it out with me, being afraid that she’d be disappointed in me, caring what she thought at all, the knowledge that she really knew me), made me want to run like I was being chased by an anaconda. A seventy-foot anaconda that wanted to hug me REALLY HARD.
I’m talking about all this now like I understood it then. I did not. All I knew was that, after that first missed call, I found it more and more impossible to imagine the conversation we’d have once we finally had one. And I’m telling you this because I want you not to hate me. You’re probably going to hate me in a couple of pages, and I’m giving you a well-rounded understanding of my psychological turbulence so that you will hate me less.
* * *
Our apartment was clean when I got home. Cleaner than I’d seen it in a while.
“Whoa, did you go all mom on me?” I shouted to the empty living room, knowing Maya was somewhere in the apartment.
“APRIL! Oh god, it’s good to see you. I’ve been worried!” she said as she came out of her bedroom. She was in a Wonder Woman tank top and plaid sleeping pants.
“Worried? You did go all mom on me.” I smirked like it was a joke, but also a little bit like it wasn’t.
“You haven’t texted me since you told me you had some stuff you wanted to tell me. You might imagine that could cause a girl some anxiety.” And she did look anxious, even more than I’d expected.
Two things occurred to me simultaneously. First, that she might have already been expecting a breakup. Second, that it would in fact be a breakup, a real breakup, bigger than any I’d ever had before. How did I let it get this far?
“Well, there are some things we need to talk about.” This did not lessen her anxiety, and I realized we were already off on the wrong track. I continued. “My trip to LA was very eventful.”
“Did you hear that all of the Carls’ right hands have vanished?”
I had to laugh. “Yes, well, no, not quite.” I’d just watched a video on Twitter that showed a tourist gasping in shock as Tokyo Carl’s hand vanished. It didn’t drop off and run like Hollywood Carl’s hand, it just disappeared. Other videos from other Carls showed that the hands didn’t run away, they disappeared. All except Hollywood Carl. I explained this all to Maya, though I was a little astounded that she hadn’t been following me on Twitter or Facebook.
And then I told her that I was there when Hollywood Carl’s hand ran away.
“Oh lord, of course you were!” Her eyes were lighting up.
“Maya, a lot has happened. Um . . .” This was not easy. “Carl is very probably from outer space and Andy and I have—”
“Carl is WHAT?”
“Probably from outer space. Like, a not-of-this-earth, ‘E.T. phone home’ space alien.” I waited to see if this was going to need more explanation, and when apparently she required none, I started back up. “We’ve already filmed—”
She interrupted again, “Please continue with the space alien thing!”
“Uh, well, right, we solved the sequence. Rather, Miranda did.”
“She’s a graduate student from Berkeley who emailed me about Carl’s physical properties. I told her the sequence and she solved it in like six minutes—it was pretty amazing.”
Maya was looking uncomfortable with this news. I broke it down for her step by step, hoping to make it seem a little less like I had a new girlfriend.
“The stuff Carl is made of, the way it behaves, how it interacts with its surroundings, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s not possible. Carl is not a possible thing, and yet there he is, guarding the Chipotle, leading people to conclude that he was not created by humans.”
“And Miranda figured out that Carl was asking for chemical elements. I, Am, U . . . iodine, americium, and uranium.”
“Yes, that is the reaction most people have. Anyway, we gave Carl some iodine and americium, and his hand detached and it ran away and, good lord, why am I telling you this story and not just showing you the video? Andy is going to make it live any minute now.”
I logged into the YouTube account and showed her the video, which was about to be the third public video on the channel. When it was done, she turned to me and said, “She’s pretty cute, huh.”
Well, that didn’t take long. I searched for something negative but also true that I could say about Miranda to make Maya feel less threatened.
“Yeah, she’s a weirdo,” was the best I could do.
There was a long silence during which I hoped we were going to get back to the more stable ground of discussing how I had found a literal space alien on the streets of New York City, made some videos with him, and become the de facto ambassador to outer space.
“And you’re going to make this video public soon?”
“Yeah! No one else has footage of the hand moving independently, it’s just us! And we’re the only ones who have any idea how or why this happened! No one even knows about the sequence yet! It’s just like you said: Now I’m not just the person who uncovered the sequence, I’m the person who solved it!”