The Year of the Cat

My friend told me she had seen my long-lost twin working at the deli counter at a Whole Foods Market in a northern suburb of Chicago. She used the word “doppelganger,” but, of course, she didn’t know I really do have a long-lost twin; it isn’t something I share … with anyone. I have hidden that pain away, never to be revealed, never to be uttered, even to the dearest of friends; our separation was simply too traumatic. I cried for months. Then I learned how to walk and talk, and the subject never came up again.

Still, I had always wanted to meet my twin. I kind of always figured that we would have crossed paths sooner or later, but as the years have gone by, I hate to admit it: I had lost hope that we would ever be reunited. So, when my friend told me she had seen him, I wasted no time. I cleared my calendar and hit the road.

My twin was put off, somewhat, by my appearance. My hair and beard had grown long, so he didn’t see the resemblance immediately, but I revealed significant details from our shared past, and I showed him that birthmark, the one that nobody else knows about. The shock of recognition, when it came across his face, was priceless. He ran around the counter and gave me a big hug, and then the tears came.

A few minutes later, at a nearby coffee shop, he started to unload. It was strange that he was so open with me, but as we sat there, on opposite sides of the little table, I started to feel kind of like I was looking at myself, and if he was feeling the same way, he might have forgotten that I wasn’t him, kind of like if he was talking to himself in a mirror. At one point, I almost laughed because we took a sip from our coffee cup at the same time.

The poor guy was a wreck, I’m sorry to report. He was so sad! I don’t want to reveal too many of his personal details, but, at the very least, the poor slob was really needing somebody to talk to. Once he started yapping, it seemed like he wasn’t going to stop! He made my head spin.

Seems he had fallen in love with a high school sweetheart. He was sure they were “soul mates.” They would finish each other’s sentences. They liked all the same things. It was a match made in heaven. Blah blah blah. But, of course, “soul mates” is a bunch of bullshit, so they were doomed. But even though she dumped him a long while back, he just goes on and on about the life he thought they might have shared. Amazingly, he was still maintaining a friendship with her, even after she married some other guy and then got dumped herself! He said he was still going over to her place and doing chores for her. Meanwhile, this chick doesn’t stop talking about the guy who left her, “the man of her dreams,” right?

While we were talking, the woman who was working at the coffee shop came around and said “Hi.” She knew my twin’s name and seemed interested in him. She introduced herself to me. She recognized the resemblance immediately. I asked my twin about her when she went back to work; the sparks between them were obvious, but my twin said he couldn’t shake his love for the other.

The situation reminded me of George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat,” the greatest comic strip in the history of American publishing: Krazy Kat loves Ignatz, the mouse, but Ignatz has no love for Krazy. In fact, Ignatz throws bricks at Krazy. Krazy misinterprets these vicious attacks as sublimated affection. Meanwhile, Offisa Pup, a dog, loves Krazy, but she never even notices his efforts to protect her from Ignatz.

I felt bad for my twin, but I could hardly relate. My studies in Zen don’t allow for the rough waters of romance. I leave love to the mentally imbalanced. I only hang out with people who are totally sane. It was nice to meet my twin, but, you know, these things aren’t always meant to be.

For further consideration: It’s an extraordinarily good month for new music. Check out new CDs by Joe Henry, Ryan Adams, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and/or Tom Waits. Those guys do crazy right.