Once a doppelgänger wondered what life would be like if . . . Catching sight of the person everyone took to be the doppelgänger’s twin always brought a jolt because of how little similarity the two seemed to have. There was, the doppelgänger had to admit, a surface resemblance, but that must happen all the time, given the boom in makeover treatments of late to turn you into the spitting image of anyone you envied. You didn’t even have to resemble others physically. Dressing like them or speaking like them was apparently enough to show you were soulmates, along with thousands of others dressing and sounding the same. While “thinking as one” with somebody else could simply be the kind of frantic “friending” that provided only an illusory defense these days against the terror of finding yourself alone. The doppelgänger, by contrast, actually did want to be alone. Or at least not be confused with anybody else. There must have been something in the doppelgänger’s youth and aspirations that presaged a future quite apart from this bothersome rival who had robbed the doppelgänger for years of a self that was free of outside definition. What could be more dispiriting than to be a doppelgänger in your own life? To wonder if a struggle to “know thyself” had been anything more than an illusion, a phantom quest. And whether times and places and encounters had in fact made a difference, meant something, and not been mere fantasies adopted from others to fill a void from birth until now. What other proof did the doppelgänger have of not being a mere figment of the imagination? Thoughts such as these most often arose in the hours before dawn, when the doppelgänger sat at a window and stared through a motionless reflection at the shadowy world beyond the pane. Soon the reflection must fade in the gathering daylight and the doppelgänger lose even this evidence of being oneself and no other. But until then, the features in the glass would still have a solidness and definition to them that was reassuring for the testimony they offered that the doppelgänger’s years, even those seemingly the most unstructured, did add up to something more than just a might-have-been, a puzzle of a thousand pieces with one missing. Everything the doppelgänger had ever valued must remain in this image that memory helped trace. Everything still had significance. Still belonged. As even moments like this one must, when the doppelgänger sat at the window and wondered what life would be like if . . .
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans