Counterparts

8 Sep

Only on rare occasions have I caught sight of my double.

During childhood it would strike me as a shocking  surprise. Memory of having had an uncanny experience remained in my mind. I tended to overlook all the complex implications for my life of having seen the exact replica of myself.

At times  it happened  on the crowded streets of our great metropolis.   A walk into a park playground was one memorable instance. I must have been seven or eight. My double was approaching closer in the opposite direction. He did not seem to take any notice of me. His eyes, as blue as my own, were pointed somewhere far in the distance. Is he consciously ignoring me? I wondered as the two of us passed each other. Does my double not see me staring at him in astonishment? Since there were no answers to such questions for me, I reluctantly buried that meeting among countless other ones of my early years. Neither of my parents ever learned anything about these unusual encounters. A father as tied up with his retail store as mine could not have been able to concern himself with what he could only interpret as childish fancies. When it came to my mother, I was full of fear as to how she would react to candid revelations of what I had seen. How can such imaginary visions be taken seriously by a sane person? I know she would have scolded me for claiming I had a double who surfaced from time to time. No, I did not want to be called a big baby or a wild dreamer.

So, my decision had to be to keep silent about this matter.

By the time I was a teenager, I had become a constant reader at the nearby public library. In the back of my mind was a desire to find out whether anyone else had ever had experiences like mine with an exact duplicate . My reading took me beyond childrens’ literature into adult fiction. I was soon searching in novels for anything resembling my own sightings. The hunt turned out futile. Nowhere was there the least hint of anything resembling what I saw.

When time arrived for me to choose a career and begin studies at the city’s university, the problem of the double shaped my decision to complete a joint major in philosophy and psychology. Perhaps academic work in those two areas might provide enlightenment on the question that bedeviled me. For the riddle of a second self weighed heavily on my personality and thinking.

What was I to do once I graduated with my degree? That was a difficult decision. There still was no rational explanation for the glimpses of a copy of myself I saw with growing frequency. The mystery deepened.

I informed my parents that I had to move away and take a flat of my own. Since my plan was to continue with graduate level studies, they agreed to pay my rent for a place all to myself. But once I was free my independent affairs took a course of their own. I dropped out of the university without informing my father and mother. In effect, my life became that of a totally private recluse, a virtual hermit.

In the back of my mind there developed a desperate plan: to accost and confront the mirror self. No alternative appeared possible. I was determined to have a final confrontation  and complete clarification.

The need for a conclusion overwhelmed me. Who was my replica? What was his name? Why did he haunt me so?

My fears led me to a gun store where I bought a small pistol for protection. Who could say what the double might try to do to me? I carried the weapon in my pants pocket whenever I went out.

My life had become highly limited and circumscribed.

I dwelled by myself and lived for myself.

My patterns were secretive. No one could be as alone as I had become. Had my double created this isolation of mine? That was now my suspicion.

The idea of entrapping the other came to me. I roamed the streets and alleys many nights, expecting to meet sooner or later the nemesis who had destroyed all my hopes of a happy, normal life.

What would I do when the confrontation came? That remained unknowable.

I let my mind wander wildly as I walked the empty avenues at night.

How much of my own potential had been appropriated by him? What had he achieved that could have been done by me? How much of what my double had done was meant to be my destiny? What had he prevented me from reaching by myself? Is he a cloud keeping me permanently in his shadow?

There could be no answers till I interrogated him.

I was on a narrow side street near the ocean shore when I caught sight of my replica.

He was on the same cement walk coming toward me at a slow, deliberate pace.

My plan was to block his way forward so that he would have to directly address me. I adjusted my steps so as to threaten him with physical collision. The two of us walked on. Neither he nor I swerved. The man saw me coming, but made no effort to move out of my way. I pressed on, ready for anything that might happen, I thought.

We neared closer and closer. No one made any turn.

Both of us simultaneously halted, only yards apart.

All at once my double spoke in a low, sonorous

“Why do you torment me? For years now, you come up when unexpected. What is it you want from me? I have no job or friends because of your presence in my life. Whenever I attempted anything, you appeared and spoiled everything. Like a horrible ghost, you haunt my existence. Like a mad obsession, you stifle all I try to do. Who are you? My second, other self? What do you want from me?

I gazed in awe and astonishment, suddenly understanding that I was to him what he was to me. As he had affected me, so had I for years done the same to him.

We were two mirrors that reflected each other.

I had become to his life what he was to my own.

There was nothing to be said to him that had his tongue had not already uttered.

Reaching into my pocket, I took hold of my pistol. But at the same time, something was happening on his side.

A tiny, razor-sharp dirk in the hand of the nameless one stabbed me in the chest with incredible force.

I did not see myself fall to the sidewalk, for my consciousness  had disappeared in a second.

At present I am in the hospital emergency room and just awoke.

Who it was that brought me here I have not the least notion. How it happened I do not know. All I can say is that my double proved much faster than me.

He will continue his life free of the image that troubled him for so long. For my presence will soon end for good. Of that I am certain.

Only a single thought comforts me: my dreadful double will no longer trouble me once I am gone.

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