A RECENT FACEBOOK POLL (OF which I generally conduct one daily) revealed that few people have experienced the mindbreaking awe of encountering their own body double.
Let me assure you: No matter how often it happens, it is a very weird feeling, as it undoubtedly was for one such Other Me I spotted across the BART tracks late one night in the Walnut Creek station (we kept looking at each other nervously; he in sports jacket and briefcase, me in long hair and T-shirt). It likewise may be or have been weird for those other Other Mes I’ve seen in newspaper and book photos (mostly Afghanis, Pashtun and Russians, but once of a forced-smiling Jew in a Nazi-overseen road crew).
To date I have yet to converse with myself, although I once got into an argument with a fast-food cashier who swore I was the beverage guy “making fun” of her.
Perhaps an ancient ancestor was emphatically fecund, or otherwise genetically impressive. But I tend to think this communal physiology is more construction than consanguinity (a fine word, but of too-little conversational relevance, meaning “relation” ). My DNA was crafted among the Eastern Europeans on my mom’s side and Russia and Austria on my dad’s; on my dad’s side I’m also a Levite, those touchy servants of the ancestral Temple, and I sometimes wonder if the Other Mes are too.
But my bigger questions concern the fluidity of identity: How much of who “I” am depends on what I look like? Where I came from? And just how unique are we all, anyway? If someone looks like me and acts like me, I might be tempted, a la the mad monk Nasrudin, to tie a balloon to my leg to tell us apart, were it not for my inner sense that I’m the one wondering about him. But what if he thinks he’s me? Well sir, I should hope my friends would know the real me (the one who’s writing this now, or did before you read it) well enough to help me do the same when needed — especially in that waking fuzz when I don’t know who I am, only that it’s time to feed the cat.
As I say, few people have experienced this phenomenon, but those who know, know — as do, of course, those who only look like them. Everyone else will just have to take our word for it.