The Other Iras: A Multiverse Essay
Ira finds an anthill, and instead of burning it, he watches the slow, tedious work of carrying a crumb into the earth. In this way, he learns the true meaning of weight loss.
Ira burns his steak and the pan that cooks the steak and the kitchen where he is cooking the steak. The fire department comes with an axe to the door. Resuscitation is required.
Ira becomes the doctor his mother always wanted and marries a Thai woman and moves to Thailand with his five dark-haired boys clamoring for their grandmother who lives in the same home and watches over them all with an unwavering eye.
Ira votes for a Republican.
Ira destroys the world.
Ira knows how to use tools. Knows how to change a tire. Knows how to build a birdhouse, so he and his wife can admire bluebirds flitting in and out of their new home. Which he built. With his hardened hands. Which, for his wife, is sexy as heck.
Ira sits in his office, waiting for his students to come for conferences. Outside, the weather is blue and light, chasing the sparrows into flight. Inside his office is gray. He hangs a sign on his door: “Not today.”
Ira becomes the first Buddhist, the first Thai, to be cast as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and upon his solo of “Close Every Door,” his voice cracks so sharply, glass shatters.
Ira asks that girl for her number, the one that danced with him at a college bar, hair thick with hairspray, hips grinding regions of Ira that he is not used to having ground. This time she will not leave after the last note of bass, will not disappear into Ira’s endless list of haunting memories. He halts her with a casual hand on her elbow, swings her towards him, a sharpie in his fingers. She writes her number on his arm, and it will remain on his arm for the next two weeks.
Ira wins the Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament, by cutting the fingers off his opponent’s right hand in the final round, and because Ira is Ira—universally loved in all universes—no one suspects him of any crime.
Ira is part of a boy band called The Misnomers with other Iras with various facial hair. Sporty Ira can leap over his own leg and robot like a robot master. Baby Ira bats his innocent eyes to make teenie-bopper fans faint before popping a pacifier in his mustached mouth. The too-cool-for-school Ira is too-cool-for-school, so he lingers in the back looking too-cool-for-school. But the real Ira possesses the sweetest voice, a voice that ranges from Bee Gees falsetto to Barry White bass. At one point this Ira will go solo and unite the world with a song.
Ira has a twin sister named Irina, who possesses a sassy tongue. She is much better than him in every aspect of life. She dons heels that elongate and accentuate the length of her legs. When she introduces him to her friends who are better than his friends, she says, “Ira is my twin brother. He’s special.”
Ira wakes up in this world and finds no one has died of a gun. No one has died. There are no guns.
Ira is grading papers.
Ira is grading papers.
Ira is an extrovert. He does not hide in the bathroom during social functions, does not need to rev himself up in the bathroom mirror, like a college football coach. “Go out there, boy, and hit it hard. Show them you are a superstar. You hear me. Go, I say, Go!”
Ira volunteered himself to human testing and agreed to exchange his ears for those of a basset hound, his nose for that of a mole, his arms for those of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Ira has a pet Tyrannosaurus Rex, which he names Charlie, which is the name of a beloved dog in another world.
Ira does not burn his steak. Instead he eats blissfully, fat melting in his mouth like an ice cube on a summer pavement.
Ira is not allergic to walnuts, and so his face does not bloat and balloon, does not morph and maroon, does not go into anaphylactic shock, does not spend hours in the emergency room of Tampa General, and so he does not meet his Florence Nightingale who wears her hair in a beehive and talks in fairy dust.
Ira finds all the secret levels of Super Mario Bros. and finally is able to kick Kuppa King’s ass.
Ira rescues five hundred dogs. Every morning he feeds and loves them, calls them by name and sings “Who Let the Dogs Out” without a hint of irony. At night they curl into little balls against his arms, and he can feel their breathing, the rise and fall of their chests against him. In this life his heart is infinite. In this life nothing perishes.
Ira leaps out of a plane, but his parachute does not open. He plummets through an apple tree, (his childhood apple tree) through a roof (his suburban bi-level roof), into a bed (his bed his father built). Unscathed, he decides right then and there he wants to write nonfiction.
Ira is Jewish and not Thai, and he cannot tolerate an ounce of spice, and during his Bar Mitzvah he gorges himself on cabbage rolls, his mouth messy red, his hunger ravenous—always ravenous—and the next morning he finds himself a man, a bloated man.
Ira is a super detective, like Sherlock Holmes, but not a prick like Sherlock Holmes. He works The Case of the Missing Books, tracking down for years all his students he lent books to and never returned. He has a sidekick named Ira, who like Sherlock’s Watson, is much more likable, but his only purpose is to continually say, “Ira you are the smartest. Ira you are the smartest.”
Ira writes the Great American Novel, and in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, he begins with “For all the white dudes who disappeared and made this possible, I thank you.”
Ira gets paid more and works less, making him a white hetero male.
Ira is white hetero male and does white hetero male things and eats white hetero male foods. He decides he will strut around town in the way of Tom Wolfe—white suit, white hat, a cane to stabilize his whiteness. Best of all, he will say white things.
Ira constructs a planet-large amusement park with roller coasters through mountains and oceans and flat stretches of prairie, and a Ferris wheel that spins around a moon, and a Viking swinging ship, like the one he loved in his youth, which he rides by himself.
Ira invents micro-robots that take care of every mundane household chore, so he and his wife can sip tea with their pinkies up.
Ira stars in the movie based on his book about growing up in the Southside of Chicago, but as the waiter in Chinatown who had Tourette’s, the one his mother teased was his real father. The role of Ira is played by Tom Cruise, who wears a fat suit and decides to speak in a thick Asian accent, to—his words in interviews—“make it authentic.”
Ira has a son, and the son rules his days. Anything the son asks for, Ira gives. Here, son, are your dim sum dumplings. Here, son, is your toy gun. Here, son, a leather jacket. There are moments Ira thinks that having a son might have been the worst decision he has ever made, but on quiet nights, Ira sneaks into his son’s room and watches him sleep, and this peace quiets his frustrations, quiets everything in his soul. This, he believes, is the closest he will ever get to Nirvana.
Ira converts to Christianity. On the day he is baptized, Buddha comes across the lake, his golden steps dimpling the surface. Buddha will not stop the baptism. He only bears witness to a suffering soul.
Ira goes to a fortune-teller with a large mole on the left side of his chin. The fortune-teller looks much like his father, who is also a fortune-teller but refuses to read Ira’s fortune. The fortune-teller says, “I know why you are here.” “Why?” Ira says. “You want to know if your father loves you.” “Yes,” Ira says. “I am afraid I cannot answer your question, but I can say you will have a bowl of egg noodles for dinner.”
Ira regrets. In every life, unfortunately, he regrets.
Ira Sukrungruang is the author of three nonfiction books, Buddha’s Dog & Other Meditations, Southside Buddhist and Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy; the short story collection The Melting Season; and the poetry collection In Thailand It Is Night. He is the co-editor of two anthologies on the topic of obesity: What Are You Looking At? The First Fat Fiction Anthology and Scoot Over, Skinny: The Fat Nonfiction Anthology. He is the recipient of the 2015 American Book Award, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature, an Arts and Letters Fellowship, and the Emerging Writer Fellowship. He is one of the founding editors of Sweet: A Literary Confection, and is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College.