His name is Will, and he's my age. A little taller and ganglier. Does a few more drugs, is a little quicker with a quip. As a kid he was extroverted in all the ways I was shy, and vice versa. Instead of exuding high-energy awkwardness in fourth grade,(more) he was calm, chill, and instantly likeable. He had friends where I had frenemies. I'm better with words and numbers, but he's better with people.
I went to expensive liberal arts school, he went and washed dishes for a few years before becoming a barista. At this point, he makes more money than me.
He fits in places with smooth ease, but by the same token knows when to stick up for himself. I agonize about taking a sick day; he faked sick to see the White Stripes play before they broke up. You could say I have more ethics. But you could also say he has more fun.
We had breakfast the other day. There are a few things we can both love passionately: men, good fiction, and huevos rancheros. He read my novel, raved about it, actually. Says he doesn't know how I think up that stuff, but then I have no handle at all on songwriting, which he does easy as putting on a sweater. We startle each other with how we are opposite, how we are the same. (less)
At the end of my senior year in high school, my calculus teacher handed everyone the class list and said to write something nice by each person's name, or nothing at all if you didn't know them or didn't like them. It was all anonymous, and she typed it(more) up for us, so in the end you were handed a piece of paper with random feel-good phrases about you. I was thrilled by mine, because I could tell that everyone who had written something was genuine. There was no bullshit sweet talk. And the last thing I wanted at 17 surrounded mostly by people I looked down on was some snobby jock blowing smoke up my ass. I only had a few close friends in the class, yet there was an entire page of feelings and ideas about me. Almost every single person had used the word 'independent', and the remaining statements involved the words 'original', 'strong-willed', and other "she doesn't give a fuck' sentiments. This is the person most people see. Someone who doesn't feel. Someone made of ice. Someone with stone cold certainty about everything around her. Someone who doesn't care about you, and who doesn't need caring for. I have no idea how I came to be this person. I spent my childhood dead silent, hiding behind my mom. I was the shyest of the shy. I cried a lot because my parents yelled at each other a lot. I only ever remember being full of love, full of passion, intense happy and sad ups and downs. But over time I guess it wore me out, wore me down. Maybe I got sick of hiding and crying. Now I talk way too much and tell the world to fuck off too often. But inside I'm still 6.(less)
“You don’t have the guts,” he told me, “and believe me, I wish you did. The world needs more drag queens and my hunch is that you would be a good one. Not stellar but good.”
“Thanks Barth but your right. I haven’t so much as put on(more) a pair of women’s undies since I was in high school. In fact, it was junior high school. The Halloween party, I dressed up as half man/half woman, split right down the middle. Whoa. Little did I know how prophetic that would be.”
What I meant by that I wasn’t quite sure; Was it that I thought of myself as only half of each sex? Or simply that gender would confuse me for the rest of my days? Did I just want to play dress-up more than I ever got a chance to? Did it go deeper or was it something trivial? Sometimes it’s just as well to let a sunny day in the park be a sunny day in the park.
“All I know for sure is that Keri is encouraging me to explore that side of me because she would love to fuck my brains out as kind of a Snidely Whiplash character, with me as Nell Fenwick.” I told him, momentarily embarrassed that I might be overheard on the park benches. There was nobody around.
“Hmm. Kind of a damsel in distress scenario. I like it but what about Dudley Do-Right? Where is he?” Barth wondered.
“At first I thought, well, naturally this would be the first time he doesn’t make it in time to untie the damsel from the tracks. But lately I’ve been favoring the idea that Dudley and Horse are watching from the bushes, doing their own thing.” (less)
In the new(ish)ly added forward to Stephen King's revised editions of the first 3 Dark Tower novels, he writes:
"I think novelists come in two types... Those who are bound for the more literary or 'serious' side of the job examine every possible subject in light of this(more) question: 'What would writing this sort of story mean to me?' Those whose destiny is to include the writing of popular novels are apt to ask a very different one: 'What would writing this sort of a story mean to others?' The 'serious' novelist is looking for answers and keys to the self; the 'popular' novelist is looking for an audience."
King identifying himself as the latter was somewhat of a revelation to me. It probably shouldn't have been, but nevertheless it was... Somewhere inside me was a bug that believed that the "popular" novelist was somehow lesser, somehow incomplete. This bug prevented me from actively pursuing a writing career, because I believed (incorrectly) that my ideas were bigger than my talent - that somehow I wouldn't be able to find the words to do my tale justice.
The reality is: if the story resides in *my* head, I'm the *only* one who can tell it. No one else would be able to make the world real, or infuse the characters with the same life that they have deep within only me. I may not be the best-equipped writer, literarily (yeah, I just made up a word), but the story is mine alone to tell, and all I have to do is step into that other place in my mind where the story is real, into that other me, and let it tell itself. Hopefully *that* guy can at least make it entertaining...(less)
I have to tell myself to drop my shoulders.
I have to tell myself to mumble, to speak quickly.
All of the things the sergeants used to get after us about, all the things that would make them scream in our faces. I have to tell myself to do them.(more)
They must know I'm not who I say I am.
Sometimes, I look up from a beer (which I have to tell myself to drink) and I catch a glance, a half-smile that can only say "look at the soldier, trying to blend in with us, isn't he charming?"
I catch a glance, and I catch a sliver of conversation before it's cut short.
Before it dies.
"...meeting again here tomorrow..."
"...know where I can find you some..."
"...soon enough, they'll know about us..."
No one's asked me yet what side I'm on.
Which is good.
If they ask you, no matter what you say, it means they don't trust you.
If they don't ask you, they trust you.
So far, they trust me.
They trust the young man who's just a little too fit, a little too neat, a little too polite.
A little too perfect.
I had to tell myself not to shave this morning.
I had to tell myself I didn't care.
I have to imagine that I'm angry, that I'm fed up.
That I have more important things to worry about than keeping up my appearance.
"...we could use someone with some experience..."
I catch a glance.
I catch a half-smile.
The conversation dies.
I have to tell myself to be more interested in my beer.
I have to tell myself to drop my shoulders.
I have to tell myself to be angry at the way things are.
It probably wouldn’t have worked if either of us had had anyone very close in our lives at the time. But I was recently divorced, no kids, and he was single; my parents had retired to New Zealand, his mother was senile and his father dead; I wrote freelance and(more) he did temp work.
We weren’t separated at birth or anything of the sort. That occurred to me, but he was able to settle it: his father had actually filmed his birth, along with much of his first ten years, with one of the very first home camcorders. So not twins, just doppelgangers.
We met in line at the grocery store, got to talking with the obvious hokey compliments on each others’ looks, and figured out that my life sounded nice to him and vice versa.
My other self stared back through the cracked glass, two large smudges that closely resembled thumb prints hovering over the hollow sockets that made up my eyes. The dark brown pools that rose to the surface of those tar pit sockets bounced back what little light rose up through(more) the midnight air. In the back of my mind I made a to do list.
Check the phase of the moon. Sub item, color and clarity.
This would be accomplished last, since I could do it while escaping out the front door. Which reminded me.
Item 2. Or step 2, depending on my mood. Don't forget jacket.
In the middle of october, when those fall nights sneak up on you, tapping at your shoulder with a bitter december wind come way too early, you won't realize the cold of a lifetime is upon you, and you're fresh out of tissues. Nothing sucks worse then a closet full of snot soaked sleeves.
Item three, pick a reason to escape out the door in the first place.
Sure, there are the phases and the colors and the defense of that dreaded wind to consider. But to boil those down, you're looking at a bunch of sub headings. Like church driving you out of bed on a Sunday, you need a headline over your day, otherwise you're looking at a series of one offs. And a series of one offs, like a fractured bone, can lead to a much worse break you couldn't help but anticipate, yet futilely ignore long enough to still be surprised.
Item number four, quit speaking in shallow metaphors. You're better than that. This. Whatever. I think I just found the headline to my day. At least for a Tuesday. (less)
There's the responsible one, the one who pays all the bills on time and in full, the one who behaves with decorum in the office, perhaps a little bored, but nonetheless polite. The one who always gets everything done. The dependable and dedicated one. The one you can count(more) on.
Then there's the wild child, the impulsive one. The one who stays out late, wakes up still a little drunk. The one who makes out with three different people at the bar, leaves bite marks and scratches, and then bounces without a word. Who can't remember the walk home, but thankfully remembered to take out the contact lenses before falling dead asleep. The one you want to party with.
There's also the bitch, the one who will say anything to anyone, no matter how rude or outrageous, no matter how inappropriate. The one you ask when you want to hear the truth. The honest one.
And there are so many more. There's the ruthless one, the apathetic one, and there is a sweet one in the mix, somewhere.
So which one is myself, and which is my other self?(less)