Saturday, June 18, 2011

Say, didn't you used to be--

Although it does not happen with frequency, it does happen.  You are on your way somewhere or you are ensconced with some measure of comfort in a coffee shop, when you are approached by an individual who appears to know you to the point of particular references or questions that cause you to scurry through the files and attics of your memory for some greater association than you have.

In time, perhaps embarrassing time, you recall the individual and the extent of your companionship, allowing you to respond in greater context.

The same sense of disconnect appears from time to time when you begin to realize you have earlier read something you are now reading or, in a slight mutation, when you with deliberation return to reread something and there, in the process, see the equivalent of an entire layer you'd missed last time through.

This sort of awareness is lovely in its implications.  Some years back, when you'd first moved here from Los Angeles, you were sitting in an outdoor restaurant, sipping a beer, neither expecting much less knowing the man--early forties, from the look of him, trim, slight tan, equally slight recession of his curly brown hair--who approached you. "At first, I thought of planting one right on your chin,"  he said, "but then I thought better of it.  For her to have liked you that much, there must be some lesson in it for me and I decided to see what it was."  The man insisted on shaking your hand.  "Jerry,"  he said, introducing himself.

From there, the surreal grew even more expansive.  When you told him your name--how do you not reply with your name when someone introduces himself?--he seemed puzzled, asked if you'd changed your name.  You had not.  As pieces of what seemed at first a cosmic puzzle fell into place, you found yourself literally and figuratively in the midst of a story.  Seems his wife or girlfriend had pointed you out as "the other man" in a love triangle.  Jerry's wife or girlfriend might have been myopic or clever or both.  You still do not know.  You may have at a distance looked enough like the man with whom she dallied, or she may have chosen you at random.  For a moment, you considered telling Jerry about the mistake in identity, but would he have believed you?  Or his wife/girlfriend?  At the moment, Jerry was looking for closure, possibly even wisdom.  Who were you to douse the fire with lighter fluid?

There have been a number of time when you have been complemented for having written a book you had no knowledge of, and at least three times, possibly because of your eyebrows, you have been mistaken for the actor James Whitmore. The last time was even more surreal because the young woman you were with began laughing uproariously, agreeing with the individual who'd mistakenly identified you.  She happened to be the great actor's former daughter-in-law.

It is no wonder that you are entertained by such mistaken or excruciating identifications and like to use them in your stories.  Nor is there wonder that you now approach the rereading of an old friend, wondering what mishaps and quirky judgments you rendered earlier in the game, when the game was beginning for you and you were amassing so many impressions and being so many personae.

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