IMG_1343.JPGShe was the first to tell me: “There are two of me.”

It was over the oatmeal I learned it.  She leaned over the crisp wrapper, stripping it with her teeth, and the Captain’s lid sputtered off, tumbling onto the dirt floor.

“I’m sorry?”
“There are two of me now.”  Buckle and crumble, she doubled over laughing. I had to admit, it was pretty funny.

My old friend, whom I had not seen in a scarce few weeks, had evidently sprouted a fascinating new problem in my absence.  She scooped the lid off the floor and hastily smashed it back onto the oatmeal box, but left it just ajar. Lifting the corner of the lid, as if the tube were smiling at us both, she smirked like the box and said again, Yes!  Two!  Me likey!  You likey?

Oatmeal Times.  That was the first thought I had.  What if there were some newspaper chronicling events that had occurred at the very instant of the opening of oatmeal boxes, all around the world?  I felt confident that our moment, this one here, would surely rank at the top of the most interesting, a moment in which my friend of 24 years was notifying me over oatmeal that she had, in fact, recently joined forces with some other being between her ears to form a new, amalgamated her, but one that still liked oatmeal.  At least that was still true, if nothing else.

Then: “Squares. No sugar.  Only squares.  That’s how I like my oatmeal.  Old, dried, in the pan, all smooshy and caked, and then cut into squares.  Oh, and cold.  Old, cold squares.”

Now there are times in life when a great tragedy befalls someone we love and the cracks in their mind crash into their thoughts, and the obvious tragedy overwhelms their soul.  But this was not that time. This was more that moment when you realize someone you think you know has behaviors so aberrant as to render them almost hospitalizable.  Eating plain, old, hard, over-mushed, squared oatmeal is certifiable, or at least, if I were in charge of the world it would be.

“Wait, let’s get back to the two of you.  What the?  Whozzit?”

I’d caught her mid-caffeine and she laughed until coffee threatened to tipple out her left nostril.

“Yes, oh yes. Two.  I found out I have another personality when I took a personality test this weekend and I had to use two pieces of paper. It’s true.”

“Annnnd, what is your other you’s name?”

“Haccccckginnnnet and..P…Ph…it’s…Yes. Hackginget.”
“Hackginget. Your name is Hackginget.”

“Er.”

“What?”
“Hackginger. There’s an ‘er’ on the end.”
“I see. Does Hackinget -“
“Er. Hackginger. Ly.  Hackgingerly.”
“Hackgingerly?  What the fuck.”
“Don’t swear in front of me. Her. Don’t swear in front of her. She’s Mennonite.”
“Sorry?”
“No need to be sorry. We can have different views.”
She returned her gaze to the innocence of oats, resting, calm and grainy, in their tubey bed. In a blurry blaze, her hand (her own hand, I presume?) snatched the box and flipped it, upside down, the entire oaty world skittering and screaming (perhaps) to the floor.  Her boney tall dog appeared from nowhere, her tongue, longer than my arm, leaving only a wet trail beneath her where the oats had surrendered their will to live just a nanosecond before.

Blink.  That is what I do when I am sure I’m in a dream.  Blink.

I tried this my usual 18 swift times to determine if perchance I was asleep, but my eyeball on reality was too slow.  Before I could reach 15, she was laughing the guffaw of the very mad.  Shiny eyed, she joined the dog on the floor, rolling her eyes heaven-ward.  Patted the dog. Wiped the floor. Smacked my feet with both hands.

“Oatmeal?”

©2014 Anjani Millet
Writing Prompt: Open the Box
Written with Phrin on 7/25/2014

Context:
We were both on Google Hangout writing when she discovered she had two windows open and was getting an echo. Normally we both mute ourselves while writing. I noticed she was whispering to herself and hadn’t muted herself so I began to sing back to her what she was humming. She lurched forward with great concern and said, “I’ve muted myself, but now there are two of me!”

The part about the cold oatmeal is true. She likes it cold, stiff, unsweetened and cubed.  Bleech.

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