[This text was originally published in SIC #2/The Characters]
You turn the corner and there he is. He’s you but he’s not you. He’s pathetic. He’s you, but if you were someone else he would also be you. He’s the person you see unexpectedly when you’re walking down the street, turn a corner, and suddenly chance upon a version of yourself. But what I’m trying to explain is that it’s him. He’s always the same person. I realize this is not an original idea. Doppelgangers have a considerable history in literature and art, and this year alone there were two feature films about characters encountering their doubles. But he doesn’t need to be original because he’s you and, let’s face it, you’re not so original either.
All of this is only preamble. What’s important is that we try to see things from his perspective. Because he knows that he is in fact himself, but you know that he is also you. If you woke up tomorrow with another face, you might have an intense moment of crisis, but in the end you would still know that you’re yourself. And when you turn the corner to stumble upon him, for him it is a bit like he has just awoke with another face, your face, but he’s used to it. It might have bothered him a long time ago, when all this first began, but now it no longer phases him. He simply glances in your direction, thinking here we go again. He’s accepted the fact that constantly others will approach him, others who view him differently than he views himself.
Over time he has become philosophical about the matter. Everyone believes they have a self and is encouraged to over-invest in this belief. However, since his own self is, on an almost daily basis, undermined by the intense projections of relative strangers, he has no choice but to take the opposite road. He works each day to under-invest in his own sense of self, to see it most clearly where the edges blur and he is indistinguishable from many of those who surround him.
Over time he has come to find a strange comfort in this daily fact. As you turn the corner, stumble upon him, and are disturbed, thrown off-guard by your sudden encounter with some new version of yourself, he takes it all in stride. We are each, perhaps, ourselves. But, at the same time, every street is filled with hundreds of others who might also be us, and if they were, or are, what difference would it really make to each of our lives? All you have to do is turn a corner.