Somewhere in Angeles City I have a doppelganger, or perhaps an evil twin. (Or, maybe I'm his evil twin!)
For months now I’ve had the weird experience of having people look at me strangely, as if they wanted to say something but weren’t quite sure if they should even approach. I’ve always blown it off thinking maybe they’ve seen me at school or at the VFW. I’ve usually just nodded to them or ignored them, and then moved on without much thought. I figured I just had an unapproachable look and let it go at that. I HAVE been accused of having a "mean" face before, so it was plausible.
Last year however, I started to get an inkling of some other explanation for these “funny looks” from strangers, when a girl, a classmate at school, asked why I was so suplado? (That means “stuck up.”) She said she had seen me at one of the malls and called out my name, but I hadn’t even looked up. I told her with full confidence that it certainly wasn’t me since I never go to malls, or to any store for that manner.
In a Fields Avenue bar, minding my own business one afternoon, I was talking with a fellow veteran, when a sassy young bar-dolly comes up to me with a big smile and a hug. With mock anger she excitedly asks me why hadn’t I come back the next day like I’d supposedly promised her. I had no idea what she was talking about. I had never seen her before—Honest! But, she insisted that she knew me—she was convinced of it.
‘Well,’ I thought, ‘maybe I just forgot about her. I AM getting up there in years.'
But I never really listened to my own doubts—I’m not THAT old. I’d never seen her before—I was sure of it, no matter how certain she was otherwise.
Early last year, a squad of three of the local gendarmes flagged me down at a “flying” checkpoint on my way home from school. If you ride a scooter or a motorcycle here you can expect to be pulled over at least once or twice a week, and just before elections the “inconvenience meter” can reach the once or twice a DAY level. I’ve learned to put on an easygoing friendly face with them no matter what in an effort to keep things light and amiable. What they are doing is “fishing for fines,” so I at all times keep everything in order—my license and registration is up to date, and I am NEVER without my helmet. Otherwise, they’ll “reel you in” and finagle 100 or so pesos out of you. But this police stop turned out different from most.
One of the officers looked at me quizzically and said, “Hey, I remember you from last week. Do you remember?” For some reason he seemed irritated with me, which concerned me because I had no idea why.
Carefully, like I would when dealing with an unknown stray, I answered him, “No sir. I don’t remember. I wasn’t stopped by the police last week, so it couldn’t have been me.”
At that, his irritation bumped up a notch into low-grade hostility. Actually, he looked very determined to be angry.
He snapped at me, “You go to Systems Plus right?”
“Yes, that’s right…” I answered uncertainly.
“Well, last week I stopped you by the school for not wearing a helmet and I gave you a break. You said you would see me again later and handle it then. Are you saying you don’t remember that?” As he said it he glared at me.
I had never seen this guy before at anytime in my life and I was not going to admit that I had! So, I stuck by my guns no matter how adamant he was, and HE was VERY adamant. But this anger thing worked both ways because I was becoming as irritated with him as he was with me.
I said to him, “Sir, I don’t know who you stopped last week, but it was NOT me! I’m sorry you think so. It must be someone who looks like me, because it wasn’t me.”
Patting my hand on the seat of my bike and then pointing to it, I asked him, “Take a look at this bike. Was it like this one, the one you stopped?”
He took a close look and that’s when I noticed some doubt finally creep into his face. His partner returned my license and registration and waved me on without any expression on his face. None of the three was happy with me after I had let my temper surface. I knew that was a mistake, but damn it, I felt like I had been provoked. Once again, my “other self,” obviously the “evil one,” had been out raising mischief for me.
Who IS this guy!
This kind of thing has been going on for a couple years now. You’d think I would have run into “evil me” by now; but no, I haven’t yet seen him.
Today though, I think I finally learned the name of this “twin me.”
The recumbent exercise cycle is right next to the front door of the gym. I was peddling it lazily when a customer, an older guy (like me!) wearing glasses, came in for a work out. Passing by me on his way to the check in counter, he nodded and smiled a big gregarious hello.
I thought, ‘Wow! That’s unusual. What a friendly guy.'
A few minutes later the bespectacled man came back and stood just a few feet from me. He was in my personal space and making me feel uneasy. He had a big toothy smile going as if he knew me. He seemed to be expecting me to say something to him, to greet him. He didn’t say anything; he just stood there with hands on hips and smiling dopily at me.
“Hey, how you doing?” I asked vacantly. Thinking maybe I did know him, but had forgot, I queried him further, “I’m sorry man, but do I know you?”
He seemed surprised and nonplussed at my lack of recognition. Ruefully, with a heavy Aussie accent he asked, “Oh, you’re not James? If you’re not him, you sure look exactly like him! Like his twin in fact!”
I thought, ‘Oh boy, here we go again!’ and asked the Aussie, “Tell me, is this guy an American? And he looks exactly like me? Are you sure? Because this isn’t the first time this has happened to me!”
“Yea…” he said in that Australian way that they say “yeah.” They really love that expression. “He’s an American alright…” He went on to say that just a few days earlier he had spent several hours drinking in a couple bars with this guy-who-looks-like-me. Staring at me, I could tell that he still had a hard time believing that I wasn’t this fellow, James.
Well, whoever this James character is, he's got to be one ugly bastard! I just hope he doesn't rob a bank or something. Because if he does, I'm screwed.