I find that, in the end, all apartments are the same. In our nondescript living room, my boyfriend Andrew and I watch a film about Nikola Tesla and learn he was born in the region now recognized as Croatia.
“Pause the movie,” I say. “I just had an epiphany. I have to go work on my novel.”
“Peter,” he says. “We just started. Come on.” The movie continues. A scene plays where wild lightning discharges from an exaggerated cloud. Andrew pulls on my hip until I lean into his torso. I groan after the scene ends. “Fine, Peter,” he says. He stops the movie.
“Thank you. I just need a few hours.” I kiss the edge of his lips. “Continue without me. I had an epiphany, Andrew. Sorry, this is important.”
“Okay,” he says. “But I want to read your novel soon. You’re too precious with it.”
All bedrooms are the same. In our regular bedroom, I revise my novel entitled Too Many Andrews. I’ve always loved its premise, a man who lives in Miami, Florida, a city entirely populated with people named Andrew, all of the Andrews largely indistinguishable from the next. When I conceived of this idea, I hoped to write cleverly about the obvious universality of people. I am like my boyfriend; my boyfriend is like my mother; my mother is like the postal woman; the postal woman is like Nikola Tesla. I chose to name the characters Andrew because of my boyfriend and because it’s the least ordinary ordinary name I could think of. I used Miami, Florida because it’s where I’ve always lived. Though I realize now there is also a universality to place. Miami is like Barbados; Barbados is like Nice; Nice is like Croatia; and Croatia is like Croatia before it was called Croatia.
All lamps are the same. I turn on the featureless lamp beside our bed. I delete a sentence about Miami’s tidy palm trees and replace it with nothing. I move a scene from outside in South Beach to inside of a plain, standardly lit apartment. I rename the city Washington; thirty-one of the fifty states contain a Washington and this vagueness appeals to me. I take out all references to humidity and dress all the fictitious Andrews in t-shirts instead of tank tops.
A month later, Andrew reads the draft of my novel and offers line edits that could’ve been suggested by anyone.
“And how about overall?” I ask. “What do you think?” Andrew fills two glasses with water and hands one to me. “Thank you,” I say. We both drink at the same steady pace and set down our cups within seconds of each other. “Tell me what you think.”
“Well,” he says, “Your book’s a little confusing. And I’m a tad offended you chose my name to represent…blandness.”
“No. All people are the same,” I say. “First of all, lots of novels are confusing. And second, the Andrews represent ubiquitousness. Uniform things are familiar but not bland. Right? Your next boyfriend will be almost exactly like me. There’ll be differences but they’ll be slight. You know, I could so easily be a carpenter or a data analyst. And I could so easily be a movie star; so could you, by the way. But my point is that if I were something else if I had other qualities, all of those differences would be negligible. The sameness of humans makes the world feel familiar. I experience happiness, sadness, anger, guilt, but I’d experience those emotions in almost exactly the same way if I were someone else. Do you know what I mean? Do I sound pretentious? Sorry.” Andrew lays his hand on my shoulder, a clear attempt to interrupt me but I continue. “Every person’s always been practically the same to me. It makes things less challenging, knowing that we’re the same, that we don’t have to be different. Right? And every person will always be practically the same, even in four hundred years. That’s what the Andrews are supposed to represent, Andrew.”
“I know,” Andrew says. “I was just teasing you.” He refills his glass of water but not mine. “Why not Too Many Peters?Why didn’t you name it Too Many Peters?”
“I could’ve,” I say.
“The whole concept of your novel is very sad,” he says. “This theory that our differences don’t matter or that they’re not even differences.”
“It’s not sad. It’s comforting.”
“It’s sad. You describe a very depressing world.”
Four hundred years later, Martha—a gangly, freckled, even-tempered thirty-two-year-old from what used to be known as Alice Springs, Australia—lays atop her swollen air mattress and reads Too Many Andrews. She imagines herself in an undistinguished Washington. She pictures her body, not as gangly but as stout and cumbersome, as it easily could’ve been. She forgets to imagine the freckles that flank her nose or any of her other traits. She imbues her imagined self with focused outrage and realizes that she has always felt as close to anger as she has to calmness, as close to happiness as she has to melancholy. Martha finishes the book and feels comforted by the sameness of the world. Twice, she rereads the passage where the main character blissfully discovers he too has always been a nondescript Andrew. “Interesting,” she whispers to herself. She decides it could’ve been her who wrote this indeterminate novel. She then decides it could’ve been anyone.