Multiverse Melissa

From "A Body in Motion"

Multiverse Melissa
Photo by Pieter / Unsplash

by Melissa Flores Anderson

Melissa is Mexican, Italian, Irish and German. She has dark hair and dark eyes, and skin that tans quickly in the sun, but is prone to acne flare ups. People ask her what she is all the time, and she has learned to say she is half Mexican with the caveat that she doesn’t speak Spanish. She is the daughter of working-class parents, took out student loans to pay for college, and is exceptionally introverted. She has always received good grades, good performance evaluations, but she sometimes thinks she has tricked everyone into thinking she is smart. She had a complicated relationship with her body growing up and only in her 30s did she start to gain confidence that allowed her to move forward in relationships and in her career. She likes superhero movies, and the idea of a multiverse with other versions of herself that might have gotten it different.

One Multiverse Melissa has green eyes and hair that turns blond in the sunlight, with golden skin. She is 5’8”. She shops at the Esprit Outlet and Victoria’s Secret. She curls her hair and ties blue and white ribbons in it like all the other cheerleaders who sport the Mustang uniform. She has a crush on Greg Grio, the captain of the basketball team, who sits behind her in English class. She smiles at him and laughs at his jokes. He asks her to a dance and she is nominated for the homecoming court. They dance while “The Sign” by Ace of Base plays over the bad speakers in the gym. Outside on the blacktop, they kiss in the dark.

Another Multiverse Melissa gets scholarships. When her college media studies teacher asks her to be a production assistant after graduation she says yes and moves into an apartment in Pasadena because she isn’t worried about how to make rent because she doesn’t have to pay back any student loans. She has her first movie credit before she turns 22 on an indie film that premieres in Santa Monica. She lands a writing job for a sitcom on a major network that runs for nine seasons. She collects Emmys and one Golden Globe that she displays in her office in Burbank.

Some other Multiverse Melissa applies for graduate school in Ireland. She doesn’t worry about the cost of it, the distance from her family. She studies literature at the University of Galway. She is there because when she studied abroad for a semester during college, she fell for a man named Michael and three years later she hasn’t stopped thinking about him. She finds him listed in a phone book, and discovers he is in medical school in Dublin. She calls him, and he remembers her. They fall in love and he moves with her to California, where they live near the beach. He slathers himself with sunscreen, his pale white skin not accustomed to the heat.

One Multiverse Melissa takes an internship with the Los Angeles Times. She made connections at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and she used them to land the gig. She starts out working on the digital media team, making infographics and editing cutlines for the newly launched website version of the newspaper. Eventually, she gets hired full-time for the investigative reporting team, and the team wins a Pulitzer in year three. She works crazy hours and the men she dates always feel alienated by her ambition.

Another Multiverse Melissa gets into the Tisch School for the Arts and moves to New York. She is brave and confident. She writes short stories about techy kids in California who are the pioneers of the internet. When her first collection comes out, she is dubbed the voice of Generation X (not that Douglas Coupland guy). She writes five novels in two years that land on the New York Times bestsellers list. She is invited to play in that writer band with Stephen King and Amy Tan. She knows how to play the mandolin.

This Multiverse Melissa runs marathons and swims in the ocean. Her body never craves ice cream or pizza. It stays lean and healthy. It does what it is supposed to do. She is happy all the time. She doesn’t get her heart broken. Her heart pumps out 65% percent of the blood in it with every contraction. Her resting heart rate hovers around 60 beats per minute. She has never had an abnormal pap smear.

Yet another Multiverse Melissa takes the LSATs. She receives recruitment brochures from Ivy Leagues. Not because she received a great score but because they are looking to “diversify” their campuses. She moves to New Jersey to attend Princeton and everyone around her assumes she got in because of her ethnic background, not her aptitude. She takes each microaggression and melts it down into steel in her bones. She becomes an immigration lawyer and helps DACA students.

Some of the Multiverse Melissas always do the leaving. Their heart has a switch that can be flipped off as easily as it can be flipped on. They have one rule they adhere to: don’t fall. And they don’t. Ever.

At least one Multiverse Melissa spends so much time thinking about what might be going on in other versions of her life she forgets to move forward in her own reality and timeline. She gets so stuck on who she might have loved she doesn’t let anyone love her. She worries about picking the right place to go to college, so she stays at home. She does not learn to swim. She does not ride in airplanes. She does not drive across bridges. She sits alone in a quiet room, frozen with indecision

The last Multiverse Melissa has no concept of a multiverse. She never rethinks a decision. She has no regrets. She is happy with her little bit of life, in a little corner of a universe, where she can see the moon, and sun, and stars on quiet mornings. She is of an age where she finally understands what people mean when they say, “It is what it is.”

Melissa Flores Anderson is a Latinx Californian and an award-winning journalist who lives in her hometown with her young son and husband. A three-time Best of the Net and one-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her creative work has been featured in more than 40 literary venues and anthologies, including swamp pink. She is a reader/editor with Roi Fainéant Press. She has co-authored a novelette, Roadkill, (ELJ Editions) and a chapbook, A Body in Motion, (JAKE). Follow her on Twitter and Bluesky @melissacuisine or IG/Threads @theirishmonths. Read her work at