My brother had gotten hooked on the idea of doppelgangers, convinced that he has had several encounters with a version of himself in some slip of time. Never having that experience myself, the best I could always say to him was, “Yeah, that’s weird.” Though our conversations on doppelgangers would always die at a dead end, the idea of seeing an alteration of yourself in real time, walking around as an entirely different human being, had lived on in my mind somewhere. Today, I was finally able to reach for its file upon seeing a woman who I had encountered at a coffee shop.
She was tall, with brown hair and a similar fashion sense to my own. It was actually her white plaid rain jacket that had originally caught my attention. After getting her coffee, she took a seat at a table against the wall, waiting for someone–a man who had walked in five minutes later. Apparently they were meeting for the first time. Match.com, I mused, thinking of all the times people had given that advice, and me, stubborn with certainty that my character desired a better love story–one with upside, imagination and happy accidents. But perhaps online interventions were fine for my doppelganger, or maybe this was their second encounter, and this was the coffee shop follow-up that serves as a trial run for seeing someone again in a new light.
Either way, the two people sharing coffee were new to each other. I could tell by the way she was listening to him try to impress her. The polite nod of the head, yes, yes, that’s really cool, oh wow, how interesting, she would engage, responding to his stories with a genuine interest that lets the other person know you are undoubtedly interested but completely uncertain as to how this will all play out. Still, engaging was an act of courage, and a lesson in faith. I do this every time I interview someone, pushing for those moments of connection across the table. It may show up as a hearty laugh or a silly remark or silent thinking behind eyes that light up, revealing just for a moment that the gears behind them are not only working but very much in motion. My favorite, of course, is always the laughs at something ridiculous–a meeting of the minds at some strange sense of humor.
Anyway, my doppelganger was a pretty good storyteller too, sharing her story of growing up 20 minutes from the beach in central New Jersey, but adamant that she does not, in any way, demonstrate the state’s stereotypical attitude. And she didn’t. She was giving this man her time without a watch. Interestingly enough, she moved to Maryland for a new job, one that is eerily similar to the work that I do. Not to mention, she loves the Great Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio, books and getting lost in Barnes in Noble.
And just like that, I became completely disinterested. Though stimulated enough to write this down, it is only now that I revert back to myself and the reality that I am not the girl engaged in the first date conversation with the man across the table. No, I am the girl sitting a few chairs away, scribbling at the sight of recognizing a truth that was never even mine.