My Doppelganger

I’ve heard that we all have doppelgangers, and I’ve marveled at the results on websites devoted to finding one’s double. But the concept troubles me, because for many years now I’ve been mistaken for another woman — someone who apparently lives very near me.

Because I am a relentless worrier, my first thought is always, “But what if my double is a really awful person? Omigosh, what if she’s a criminal?!”  And that is not, as it might appear, a ridiculous concern, because some of my encounters with those who apparently know my double have been extremely uncomfortable.

For instance, once while out shopping, I was accosted by a couple quite unknown to me. The woman half-dragged her male companion up to me and demanded, “Do you remember us?”  The ominous edge to her voice was warning enough to deny all knowledge–even if I had previously met the couple, I’d have replied that I didn’t know either of them from Adam’s housecat!

The woman and her companion were black, and I, with my fish-belly-white skin, am definitely not, so I wondered uneasily if there was a racial problem indicated by her tone – or if her demand had something to do with her obviously uneasy male companion. Either scenario seemed equally bad, so I was happy to be able to reply  honestly, “No, I’m afraid I’ve never met you. You must have me confused with someone else.”  The woman’s “hrrrmmmpphhh” indicated that she hardly believed my answer, but I turned and edged quickly away, grateful when they did not follow.

On another doppelganger occasion, I was taking a selection of goods to a drop site for a charity auction. After a terrible time finding the home of the person collecting the contributions, I hauled my sackful of goods out of the car and up to the door, where I knocked and waited.  The door was answered by a woman who looked visibly startled to see me.  “Oh, you’re back!” she exclaimed.  “Did you find more items for us?”

I stared for a moment, and then muttered in confusion, “Uh, I haven’t been here before. But here are some things for the pet rescue auction.”  I thrust the sack at her and hurried back to my car. Well, at least my double contributes to charity! I thought.

Another confusing encounter occurred as I was returning a heavy wall mirror to a home goods store. A car pulled up much too close to me as I trudged across the parking lot, and I nervously swung around to glare at its occupants, nearly dropping the mirror as I did so. “Don’t be scared. It’s just me!” a woman sang out, and then, in answer to my bewildered look said, “You know, from church?”

The problem with this being, of course, that I do not attend a church.

My list of these encounters could go on and on: the girl who stopped me outside a museum, believing I was the aunt she had not seen in years; the woman who dashed across the lawn at a festival, exclaiming hello but calling out to me a name that wasn’t mine, and who was astonished when I explained that I did not know her.

But perhaps my favorite of all my doppelganger encounters was the afternoon I boarded my regular bus to return home from work. I settled into a seat and, as usual, poked my nose into a book.  But a tiny elderly lady had boarded the bus just behind me at the same stop, and now sat in one of the sideways seats, glaring at me and muttering imprecations under her breath.  Engaged in my novel, I was totally oblivious to her behavior.  But those seated around us were nervously glancing at one another, wondering what the heck was going on.

As the bus pulled up to the next stop, the elderly lady bounced out of her seat and stormed past me, intentionally slamming her purse into my arm as hard as she could before darting out of the back door. Roused from my novel with a vengeance, I caught sight of her face as she rushed out.

I hadn’t the faintest notion in hell who she was.

The other riders exclaimed over the incident, telling me about her glares and curses, and asking me why she’d done that. I could only reply, “I have no idea!  I’ve never seen her before in my life!”

Whoever she was, she’d given me a pretty good walloping with that purse. My arm was bruised for days, and for the next week my daughter insist I lug about the huge hardback final edition of Harry Potter in my tote bag, just in case I needed to fight back.

So, as I say, I worry that my doppelganger is perhaps not always a very nice person. And I would really like to meet her someday, if only to thank her for contributing to charity before I advise her to contact her long-lost niece, attend festivals in Broad Ripple park, tell the people at church that she’s never bought a mirror, and please, please, be more courteous to elderly ladies armed with purses!

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