Divisible By One

It's an eerie sensation, knowing there's somebody out there who looks exactly the same as you. It's rather like being aware you're constantly followed...except that I seem to be the one who's always trailing her.

I was about seven years old, I suppose, when it was first brought to my attention. Janice, my cousin, pounced on me during recess at school, wrestled me to the ground, and demanded to know why I'd ignored her in the sweet shop the night before. I didn't think too much about it, except to ask how she could go for sweets when she'd already spent all of her pocket money...and mine. The subject was promptly dropped and I was allowed to go on my merry way.

When you're young, you don't exactly dwell on strange occurrences. I have vague memories of similar "mistaken identity" scenes to the one above being played out several times during my childhood years, but there were always far too many other things to think about. Later, though, it did begin to strike me as odd, particularly when my boss at the time asked if I were working two jobs. I looked at him as though he were senile...not beyond the realm of possibility since he was over forty and, when you're only nineteen, that IS incredibly old.

"I see you every morning," he insisted, "while I'm out walking Jacko." (Jacko being his Jack Russell Terrier.)

"What time?" I asked.

"Oh, about seven o'clock or so," he replied.

"Where?" I asked accusingly.

"Going into the tube station," he said defensively.

I shook my head. "It's not me."

He immediately backed down. "Well then, you must have a double!" (Frankly, he didn't sound overly-convinced.)

A few years later, I found out her name. It's Maureen.

I was working in Rota (a miniscule coastal village in Southern Spain around which had sprouted an American Naval Base...but that's a whole other story) and accompanied my soon-to-be-husband to a party. When I walked through the door, the host greeted me with a stifling bear hug and wanted to know how long I'd been "back in town." Since I hadn't left since I'd arrived, the question was moot. By all accounts, I was a dead ringer for his ex-girlfriend...the above-mentioned Maureen.

Suspicious, I asked how well he'd known this so-called Maureen. Releasing me, he reached for a photo album and, while he flipped through the pages, explained: "We lived together for almost a year. We were going to get married, but she had a sudden change of heart. I drove her to the airport so she could fly home to London about three months ago."

I thought for a moment. Three months...that was about the time I'd entered the country...from my home town of London. He handed me a picture. "Jeez," he whispered wonderingly, "you look just like her!"

Everyone crowded round.

"Uncanny...,"
"You could be twins...,"
"You sure you're not Maureen...?"

Personally, I couldn't see the resemblance. In my opinion, we didn't look anything alike. I blew it off.

I don't know why, but the most recent incident has greatly bothered me. Pushing my cart around a local supermarket (where I now reside in the good old United States...proud owner of a Green Card...official "resident alien," don't you know), I was assaulted by a woman demanding to know when I'd moved back into the neighborhood. She rambled on incessantly about how much she and her husband missed the fishing trips we all used to take together (I can't tell a hook from a lure) and how much little "Brittany" (not my daughter's name) had grown. I mumbled my apologies for not being Maureen and hurried home.

Which brings me to where I am now sitting, jotting notes and pouring over a huge book entitled, "Things That Never Were." The librarian has already stopped by the table to ask if I had finally located the book I'd been seeking the day before. I nodded. There seemed to be little point in telling her I hadn't been here yesterday.

Once again, I read the pertinent passage and experience something of a shiver along the spine:

"Doppelganger: The shadow-self...may decide to act of its
own accord and assume a different personality...is always
behind its owner
...
"

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