Despite her slight frame, good looks, and the countless invitations she received every day of every week to do things with “friends” on the weekends, or to go out with boys who might - in a better universe - be charming men with more interesting vocabularies and ideally some intriguing thoughts - maybe something more than “You’re beautiful” and “Let’s see a movie sometime”, but alas - Jen found herself, as she did every Saturday, at the gas station mini-mart a few miles from her apartment.
In her mind, she was waiting for a wormhole to open up. She imagined a shimmering blue spark expanding right in front of her, begging her to come in and step through space and time into another dimension, to a parallel Earth, perhaps. She’d show up and see people she recognized behaving in new ways and then she’d find her parallel self and kill the prissy little bitch (because she’d probably be one) and she’d have adventures within her new life because “I hate this goddamn place. It’s too fucking hot.” She lit up a cigarette. In her mind she was waiting for a dimensional rift. In reality she was waiting for Elle, who’d be late. Again.
“You’re late,” Jen exhaled smoke and pushed her sunglasses up on her face. Her nose was a bit small. Glasses didn’t like to stay perched up on it.
“Again. I know. Sorry,” Elle was stepping out of her car. She snatched the cigarette out of Jen’s mouth without pausing on her way in to the convenience store. “It’s bad for your teeth, it’s bad for your lungs, and it’s bad for your heart,” and Jen’s heart was a problem.
Jen didn’t even turn to snap at Elle. “Bitch what did I say about doing that?”
“You said you’d kill me, beat me, stab me. A thousand things a thousand times. You don’t have the lady-balls.” Elle was in the store before Jen had a chance to shoot her the look of death. It wouldn’t have been effective anyhow since Jen’s shades almost fell off her face again.
Within the air-conditioned mini-mart, Elle was staring intently at a shelf of potato chips. So many different chips. Too many, an argument could be made. Canned, bagged, classic, barbecue, cheesy. “Who in their right mind eats pickle flavored chips?”
“I hate you.” Jen had found Elle and was now standing behind her, lips pursed. Her cheeks always sunk a little when she did that which made her look intimidating and a sort of silly way.
“You love me, hooker.” Elle was still contemplating chips.
“I want my cigarette back.”
“Well you can’t have it. It’s dead. Gone forever.”
“I hate you.”
Jen looked over Elle’s shoulder and began examining the snacks with her. “An infinite number of choices…” she muttered.
Elle looked back over her shoulder at her friend in confusion. “What? No.” She looked back at the chips. There were a hundred bags, tops. “There is a very finite number of choices here.”
“Not in all this space,” Jen raised her eyebrows in defense. “Not in all the infinite amount of space in our universe. And then there’s the infinite number of universes in the multiverse to consider. Probable if not completely mathematically guaranteed duplicates of us…infinite variations of this scenario…”
“And that’s not even considering the parallel dimensions that exist in and around our immediate environments…”
“It’s literally just chips…”
“But it isn’t! In one reality we’re debating if we’re getting sushi or pizza! In another you’re black and I’m a man!”
Elle pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. “Why can’t you just be content with being pretty?”
“Because my dad bought me a telescope instead of barbies for my fifth birthday.”
“No,” Elle warned her. “You always do this. You think too much and over-complicate simple things. Just look at what’s available in front of you and make a decision. Don’t think too much. Just pick what’s gonna satisfy you most.”
“Choice is like potential energy, just sitting there waiting for something to happen. Infinite possibilities until a choice is made. Then there’s no going back. What happens happens and will not nor could it have happened any other way…”
Elle grabbed a bag of the ruffled pickle flavored chips. “There,” she waved the bag in front of Jen’s face defiantly. “What were the odds I was gonna pick those? I HATE pickles.”
Jen sighed and bit her lip. “Existence is chaos.”
“You’re impossible. How do you get laid?”
Jen smiled. “Boys like girls who can kick their asses and Dungeons and Dragons.”
After buying their items, the females found themselves standing outside of the store once more. Jen was putting her sunglasses back on. She squinted into the sun and said “Still, though. It’s a comforting thought.”
Elle was opening her bag of snacks, admiring the nutritional facts. “I know. Only three hundred calories.”
“No, you fat-ass.”
“I mean the infinity of it all. It’s comforting.”
“How’s that? Doesn’t it make you just feel small and insignificant and shit?”
After a little too long, Jen looked away from the sun. “Not really. I guess it just means that out there in all that space, somewhere… I’m having a good time.” She pulled her phone from her pocket and fiddled with it a bit.
“Mmm,” Elle’s eyes went wide to push back the depressing implications of her friend’s words. “Yeah. Who ya texting, slut? Somebody sexy?”
Jen was passive. “Idunno. He’s still talking to me.”
“He? Who’s… OH HIM. Yeah? How’s he doing?”
“Persistent fucker…” Jen muttered to herself.
“Maybe. But he’s attractive. And charming. And really into you.”
“And needy.” She was clearly responding to one of his messages.
“Or attentive. You always do this.”
Jen finished responding just in time to put her phone away and push her shades back up on her nose before they fell again. Then she reached into her purse, pulled out a cigarette and began to light it, but before she could get a spark off the flint, the cigarette was snatched from her lips and smashed under Elle’s foot. Jen groaned.
“Oh groan away you existential bitch. I’m trying to save your life, here.”
Maybe somewhere on the other end of a black hole or in another universe or another dimension the events that sculpted who she and everyone around her was were different. Maybe she wasn’t confused or anxious. Maybe she was vegetarian. Maybe she was a champion body builder or a professional video game designer. Maybe she was a cop or an assassin who killed bad men who really deserved it, or maybe she didn’t even exist at all on some other Earths.
“Yeah, yeah,” she shook her head and smirked. “Shut up and give me a chip.”
Jen’s heart was a problem.