I crawl into my own mind. My skull is craggy canyon walls, my brain the golden sunlight. I descend into the bony cavern, porous ivory walls with skittering stones everywhere I find a hand or foothold. In the first cave, I see myself a dozen times over.
There’s a desk, like the front desk of an expensive office building. As I walk up, the personas are squabbling amongst themselves about who should rise to tend the desk.
Professional me is overworked, far too stressed and scatter-brained for higher functioning, he says “I can put up a half-assed effort, for the right price.” Surreal me, that cantankerous visionary, flatly refuses “Boring. Useless. Find someone else.” Family me gets up from a tattered sofa, and scratches his belly. “I’ll do it, if nobody else is gonna. I always get the short end of the stick around here.”
Creative just me nods, scribbling fervently with a ballpoint pen, filling sheet after sheet of paper with incomprehensible doodles. The others all shake their heads and continue at their tasks. Fat me sits in a corner, stands, climbs onto a scale, and sighs deeply; trying to decide between going for a ride on his bicycle or eating six pints of ice cream.
Grudgingly, Dad me walks up to the desk. “Hey, what can I do for you?”
I don’t respond. I could spend all day going around in circles with these fools and get exactly nowhere. I know, I’ve done it before; every time someone needs to pay the bills, or make a phone call, or stay on task at work. Every time I’m trying to connect with someone.
I push past my selves and nobody seems to mind. Asshole me is in the back, lighting a cigarette and pouring himself a glass of whiskey. He nods tersely as I walk by. He and I go way back.
There’s a door in the back of the cave, a heavy black door with a golden nob. I reach for it, then hesitate. “Is he awake?” I ask myself.
“Fuck if I know.” Responds the dick version of me. “Horny me was in there earlier and came out all sweaty and shameful like.”
I take a deep breath and open the door.
It’s noticeably colder in here. The room is dark, with black walls, floor, and ceiling. The only light comes from behind a heavy white chair in the center of the room. There, sitting with his legs crossed and his eyes closed, is Ideal me. His skin is like wet clay, still forming. His hair and beard are long and wild.
“Hello, perfect.” I whisper.
Perfect raises his head, and opens his piercing blue eyes. Unlike mine, his aren’t slowly sinking into bruise-colored folds. His face is clear, healthy, sharp. “How are you?” He asks.
“Bad.” I answer, honestly. “I think we might die before I get you out of here and up to the desk.”
“Hmm.” Comes his reply, in a deep, calm voice. “Yes, we always knew that was a possibility.”
“Shame.” I say, and point my eyes at the floor. “I’ve always wanted to make you real. To show you off to everybody.”
“To become me.”
“Yes. Those idiots out there,” I throw a thumb to the door behind me, “the bunch of them duct taped together are barely holding the course.”
“I see.” Ideal me sounds disappointed.
“We have been trying. I just got back from the surface and I have a bunch of new ideas.”
Ideal me stands up and walks over. He is completely nude, toned, a pale gold. He takes my chin in his strong hands and looks into my tired eyes. “Always with the ideas.” He says.
“I’m sorry, I really am trying.” My chest tightens, I feel tears burning behind my eyelids. “Creative me doesn’t get out enough, and everybody else is too tired to be useful. Visionary me is lost, discontented. I have no idea who’s even calling the shots anymore.”
“Yes, but you know what you have to do.” Perfect me rests my head on his naked chest. His soft, curly beard tickles my face.
“It’s hard. Every time it gets harder.”
“I know.” He says, patiently. “But it’s more important every time, too.”
I cry. Deep, choking sobs. It takes me an hour to get it all out. The fear, the hurting, the claustrophobia. After I’ve shed my last tears, perfect me wipes my wet cheek with his thumb.
Perfect looks down at me with love. “You know, I’m not real. I don’t know if I ever can be. But you have to learn how to love all of those idiots out there like I love you. You have to try to get them working together. To find a way that each aspect gets their moment in the sun, and their fair share of rest. Only then can you start being truly integrated.”
I nod, slowly, and turn toward the door.
As I close it behind me, I hear his voice “I believe in you.”
All of the me’s in the cave look up from their respective tasks and distractions.
I roll up my sleeves, summoning new-found strength and clarity. Breathing deeply, I address the group.
“Okay, we need a new plan.”