the doppelgänger

April 18th, 2011

There’s a theory which states that everyone has a double, an identical twin living somewhere. That’s not entirely true. Actually, it’s not at all true. The genetic possibilities for human DNA are endless, and the universe tends toward entropy, not order. There’s no rational reason for two unrelated people to look exactly alike, and certainly no way that three billion humans could inexplicably resemble three billion more. The idea is absurd, and yet, sometimes, it can happen. How odd it would be to wake up one morning, go outside to get the paper and stare yourself directly in the face.

It had been a year since my father’s death. I saw him only in my dreams. Sometimes he was a disembodied, smiling presence. Other times he was there, right there, eating, talking, joking, but always just out of reach. There was always something keeping him away. I would awake each morning with the strange sensation of having misplaced something—when you know that something is missing but you can’t remember what or where you put it (“And I can’t forget, but I don’t remember what”). And then there it is. Your stomach falls to your knees with the weight of so much leaden grief and you know, again, that he’s gone. Every morning, the same routine: forgetful slumber, gossamer dreams and the yawning, gaping chasm of loss. Then off to face the day, the black precipice just behind, the rest of existence just ahead. Where others saw dappled golden sunshine I saw only the bleached out whiteness of the harsh mid-day sun. If beauty’s in the details—the shadows and lines that comprise form itself—grief is being blinded by the sun, it’s the burning white nothing you see when the light is just too much.

My sense of taste was gone, too. Food tasted like cotton balls in my mouth. Chewing was a chore, a physical requirement for existence, like using the toilet. Drudgery. Life goes on. What the hell did that mean? I had been looking for a job when he died, and had re-scheduled an interview due to the funeral. I went to the interview a week later, in a feeble attempt to crawl back into the real world. The cheerful blond woman who interviewed me smiled her condolences and said “Life goes on, right?” They just wrapped my father’s wizened remains in a tallis and buried him in the ground, you nitwit. I couldn’t manage a smile, but I tried my best to remain cordial, despite my obviously somber demeanor. I didn’t get the job.

A year later, “life goes on” meant as little as it had from the grinning lips of that middle-aged ninny. If life was an endless series of meaningless tasks, I suppose it did go on. And on. And on. Obladi, obla-fucking-da.

I had found work tutoring English, and had just stepped off the bus that took me back to campus. The sun was beating down with its fierce Middle Eastern mid-day heat and its relentless white brightness. I raised my hand to my face to shield my eyes, and glanced across the road before crossing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black beret, the kind usually accompanied by a turtleneck and a baguette. I blinked and turned my head. I saw a grey-bearded man in a black beret wearing a grey sport jacket with suede at the elbows and dark trousers, the same exact uniform my father wore to work every day. Daddy. Oh my god, it was Daddy. I had never been more certain of anything in my life. I wanted to call out to him. And then I remembered. The man turned his head, and his features weren’t quite right. I remembered.

Thud.
Gulp.

I remembered.

The man in the black beret disappeared into a crowd of students like a specter. The world went white and formless.

I remembered.

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