One of the highlights of a trip to Cali to see the parents is the visit to the Jelly Belly candy factory. They're masters at creating an illusion of flavor (the factory, not my parents, well, actually, they are too). Think it up, and they can conjure it, from madeleine to mangosteen. I spent a migrainous night bombed on painkillers and plowing through my free factory tour-size bag and reading, just wondering what flavor was going to visit my mouth next.
It's much like Demeter Fragrance Library does with perfumes (they're the makers of Dirt and Gin and Tonic scents, ah, the boys of summer!). In fact, Demeter actually did a co-brand with Jelly Belly to make a couple scents, including Fruit Salad.
So it goes with my pseudonyms, my extra people. They have more concentrated, carefully formulated scent and flavor than I do, and more interesting lives as well. One of them recently joined Facebook, something I/me would never do. It's too complicated and you can't control what comes into your world as well as I can here. But she got the little "be my friend" thing from someone way back whom I like a great deal--let's call him the Celtic Tiger, and watch him cringe--and who's so busy I worried I might lose touch if I didn't keep the avenue open. So "she" said yes, and has begun to write of herself in the third person.
I write a lot of poems in the second person--it's so lonely in there, I'll just rope you in with me, accuse you as I do myself, project it all onto you, you, you, my reader, my double--but even for me, writing fiction in the second would be too affected. That famous experiment perished in the 80s, speaking of cringing.
On the plane home, I read in an overripe November issue of The Atlantic that splitting oneself into multiple selves is not only not pathological, but could be critical to survival and happiness. I could get all poetic and tell of how when the lightning struck a year and a half ago, I split into many parts, knowing one life would just not be enough for me anymore, and tell of the tree with three trunks I saw in Rock Creek Park, but I'll let the authorities speak instead:
"We used to think that the hard part of the question 'How can I be happy?' had to do with nailing down the definition of happy. But it may have more to do with the definition of I. Many researchers now believe, to varying degrees, that each of us is a community of competing selves, with the happiness of one often causing the misery of another. This theory might explain certain puzzles of everyday life, such as why addictions and compulsions are so hard to shake off, and why we insist on spending so much of our lives in worlds--like TV shows and novels and virtual-reality experiences--that don't actually exist."
BTW, I'm keeping the contest open a little more, but if you're not inclined to write a poem for charity, here's another place your dollar could go: Mumbai Orphans Fund. Nothing fake about it, and thanks to the Professor of Osculation for the tipoff.
Photo: The Young King in Jelly Bellies, from a UK candy site.