According to the dictionary, a doppelgänger is is a biologically unrelated look-alike, or a double, of a living person. I am sure that most of us have had someone tells us that we resemble some other person of their acquaintance. Or someone we have just met will comment that they are certain that they have seen us before, that we look very familiar. My “go to response” to this statement is something like “You must spend a lot of time looking at the wanted posters in the post office.”
Have you really met your doppelgänger? If you have, it’s very weird isn’t it? If you haven’t had the experience, trust me it’s weird, very weird. It becomes more bizarre when more than one other person confuses you for another. It becomes really whacko when your own father can’t tell you apart from your twin stranger.
Have I met mine? You bet. At the end of my sophomore year in high school my father moved us from a small city in Northern Kentucky to a suburb of Cincinnati. He bought a hardware store and I became the help. I went from a school with the total of 145 high school students to a factory high school of over 1200. It was not my choice, but I’ll leave that alone.
Shortly after we moved into our new house, which we bought from one Robert E. Lee (not the general), my brother Tom and I went around the corner to hit some baseballs at the elementary school ballfields. As Tom was hitting the balls and I was catching and throwing, a group of four males about my age gathered behind the backstop watching our activity. I became somewhat concerned, having no idea of what they were doing and how they would act. So I suggested to Tom that we needed to head home which was around the corner and 5-6 houses down. As we picked up our kit, the guys approached us and one said “Paul, we didn’t know you could play ball.”
Their affect was one of confusion. Mine was one of bewilderment. They insisted that I was this Paul, that we had been classmates since first grade. I insisted that we had just moved to town. They wanted to know why I was lying. They asked on what street I lived, I replied Naomi Court. Their response was that that just confirmed their suspicion because Paul lived on Naomi Court.
I was becoming concerned since the contact seemed to be generating some anger. Eventually I produced my drivers license which seemed to settle the issue. The conversation then moved on to discovering details of each of us. Evidently these four had been together since elementary school. Each played on the varsity basketball and baseball teams. We had much in common.
When I told them that I had to go to Moeller High School, they were sympathetic. Moeller was the local catholic high school and had the reputation for being populated by snobs. I told them that my father wouldn’t abide my attending a public school. They began riffing on what pranks I could pull on teachers and others if I could attend the public school. In our conversations the guys told me about Paul. That he was a geek, nerd, and similar. He lived in an apartment on Naomi Court with his single mother, he isolated in school, was ungainly, but all in all was ok.
Mom and Dad dismissed my story as misidentification. But as subsequent events would demonstrate, it was true. Some short time after my encounter with the guys, on a Saturday lunch break, I was walking towards the local pizza emporium to get my garlic bread fix when 2 elderly women stopped me.
“Oh Paul,” one intoned, her countenance beaming, “We were so proud when we heard that you won the state youth chess championship.”
I replied, “Mam, I am not Paul, my name is Jack. I don’t play chess.”
“Oh Paul. I know who you are. I babysat you for years and I would know you anywhere. Why are you doing this?” She became crestfallen. I showed her my drivers license. I thought I ought to have it tattooed on my forearm to save having to drag it out everytime. She and her companion moved away still confused. These events were fairly common, at least one per month, sometimes more frequently.
However the final nail in the doppelgänger saga occurred one Saturday when I returned from a delivery of 20 bags of concrete mix. My uncle George was there. George usually helped out on most Saturdays since Saturday was generally our busiest day in the hardware store. As I walked into the store George told me that Dad was angry with me. Why? “He’ll tell you.”
“Where the hell have you been?” Spoken unkindly, accusingly.
“I took the concrete mix to the Hudson farm. I had to unload it all my myself and old lady Hudson wanted me to drag all the bags to a rock garden she’s making, about 50 yards from the parking area. I stopped for a coke. Why?”
“I saw you at Al’s drug store next door an hour ago in clean clothes.”
“Wasn’t me. Call Mrs Hudson if you don’t believe me. Probably was Paul.”
“Don’t give me that Paul nonsense again!”
At that very moment Paul enters the store as if on cue. George exclaims “Holy shit Ray look here.” pointing to Paul. Dad froze. George froze. I laughed. Paul looked frightened.
Point, set and match!!
Did I ever meet Paul face to face? Yes twice. The two encounters lasted about 3-4 minutes each. But two were enough. I saw the same face I saw in the mirror every morning. Same face, same color, same dimples, same chin, same eye color, same hair color, same hair cut. Absolutely bizarre. He wasn’t interested in chatting. I didn’t pursue it.
I don’t know what prompted me to think of Paul. He came to mind several weeks ago and has entered my consciousness off and on since. I wonder what has happened to him. Is he still alive? Did he go to college? What work has he done? Does he have children? Do they resemble him? Or me?
Such thoughts are of no consequence. They are, however, an interesting diversion on a cold but sunny Wednesday afternoon locked down in my apartment.