Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

“An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality…” — Daily Prompt

Doppelgänger Alert

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/doppelganger-alert/

You step into an acquaintance’s house for the first time, and discover that everything — from the furniture, to the books, to the art on the wall — is identical to your home. What happens next?

(Thanks for an intriguing prompt idea, Lourdes Mint!)

YOU’RE WELCOME. But really PERHAPS I should refrain from suggesting prompts that I don’t already have a ready, clever response to. 🙂 I never responded to the last one they used. (Shame on me!) This will be quick and dirty, so that I don’t twist myself into a pretzel over it… Here it goes!

*     *    *    *     * AS IT HAPPENED, I accepted her invitation, even though we were never particularly friendly. It was almost like we fit the same slot in the community, so similar in so many ways, she felt redundant to me. Maybe I did to her as well. But it seemed that circumstances brought us together: both our husbands, supposed novelists, gone for months on an Alaska fishing boat, while we had several small children and pets in each our care. And we both worked as second grade teachers, though at different schools. She was also right across the street, in a house just like ours, so it was hard — seemed pointless — to say no. We had the teenage girl nextdoor to me, whom we both knew, watch the kids. The idea was dinner and a bit of light conversation, I suppose. I brought dessert. That’s where it started.

“Oh!” she said opening the door, glancing down at the pie in my hands. “I should have made it clear this was an all-included event! I actually made pie, too. Tell me yours isn’t cherry.”

“Okay, but it is,” I said passing it to her. “So now you have two.”

“Weird again. And funny too, but I have this same coat,” she said hanging it on the rack.

“And weird yet again,” I said. “I have that coat rack.”

As I turned away from the entrance, the first thing I noticed were two small flames, candles at the table. “Nice,” I thought — I’ve always considered it a mistake to not have candles for dinner guests, any dinner guests. Then I began to look around — that polite, non-appraising look you give to others’ homes, no matter what you are seeing, what you are thinking.

Kadinsky-page-0

But then my eyes fixed on a print of a photograph taken of Kandinsky in Odessa, something you don’t see every day and which most people, seeing my framed copy on my wall, assume is a photo of my grandfather. And then, noticing that David Bowie’s Warszawa was playing, a bit quirky as dinner music goes, but a definite favorite of mine, I felt a sort of vertigo coming on.

And then the other striking, no — impossible — similarities between her belongings on mine, flew at me like a flock of big black greasy birds, angry at being surprised. The leather couch that cats had used as a scratching post, the bamboo blinds, the cactus garden at the center of the see-through acrylic coffee table that I was always banging my shins on, book titles too, lamps, the tea pot, her vacuum cleaner (left out in the open, like mine), the little hand weights next to her television, the indoor-outdoor rug in her kitchen, the cats coming down the steps, just about everything I laid my eyes on — SAME AS MINE.

At that point, I think actually waved my hands in front of my face, let out a sort of yelp and maybe an obscenity, and collapsed backward into a chair.

“Oh my, oh my gosh, what … ?” My host looked genuinely stunned, frightened. “Are you OK?”

I started to laugh. “Wow, yes. I’m just exhausted.”

“We can do this another time,” she said. “I mean it, really.” She looked scared. And I suddenly felt mad.

“No, let’s just do this, whatever this is.” One of the cats jumped on my lap.

“Blanca!” she said. “Down.” And then to me, “Sorry. The worse your day is, the more all-over-you they are.”

The tea pot began whistling — a perfect D sharp, like mine. “Excuse me,” she said, rushing toward the kitchen.

“Blanca,” I called out.  “That’s ‘white’ in Spanish, right?” (My white cat was Mr. White, but still.)

She nodded and appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking as though she were about to explain, but I interrupted” “And I’ll bet you’re brewing ginger tea, my favorite. OUR favorite.”

“It is ginger, as a matter of fact, but I’m not really sure… . I don’t understand what’s going on here, really.” She looked me right in the eye and I saw nothing creepy there, nothing that might begin to help explain this inexplicable thing that was happening nonetheless. I she were a creep, then OK. I could deal with that. But if not, then what?

She was not a creep. I just felt it, sure as Blanca on my lap.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Please pardon me. Please.”

“It’s OK, but really, if you don’t feel up for this … .”

“I’m fine.” And dinner was fine, even as we dined on a Wolfgang Puck dish (a Vietnamese salad) that was one of my go-to recipes for guests, even as every outdated song that came on — I suppose it was on shuffle, as mine always is — was another from my own, rather singular (I’d always thought) collection. We talked about the regular things: our jobs, parenting, being married to aspiring novelists/actual fishermen. I was relieved to find that the doppelganger effect did not seem to extend to every aspect of our lives.

After cherry pie, she walked me back to my house to retrieve her children. I knew she would see what I saw, something I neither dreaded nor looked forward to. I simply had no idea what could be done.

In any case, her face registered nothing as she entered the house. She just gave me a quick hug and they were out of there before her kids had even buttoned up.

For months she and I only waved to each other as we happened to pass each other coming and going. Then one day, I found her sitting along in our neighborhood park. Assuming this was as rare a treat for her as it was for me, I was prepared to just keep walking after our usual cordial but distant greeting.

“Would you sit w/ me?” she asked. We sat for a long time without saying anything. Then finally, she cleared her throat and began to speak.

One time, on her way home from an evening class in grad school, she explained, she had passed herself driving in the other direction. “It didn’t just look like me: IT WAS ME! Same car, same hair and face, same everything. And as I stared at her, I finally caught her eye. And we both just kept staring until I almost hit the car in front of me. Shaken, I pulled over, rolled down the window, and watched the car for as long as I could — as she, the other me, just kept on going to wherever it was she was going. And at one point, she too rolled down her window to give me … a thumbs up!”

I sat there, not knowing what to say.

“A f_cking thumbs up!? I mean, what is that supposed to do for me? What can it mean? What does it even begin to explain?”

I almost said, “at least it wasn’t ‘the finger,'”  but I knew it would’ve been worse than off. “Well, what did you do?” I finally managed.

“What did I do? What could I do? I did nothing. I’ve told no one, until now. And you know why.”

“Because of our weird doppelganger experience … .”

She laughed, not looking at me. “Well, yes, but no. It’s bigger than that. I just decided that unless I accepted that there could be an occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality, then I would go crazy. So that’s what I did. And recently, as you might imagine, I’ve had to do it again. And so there you go. How about you? Have you managed to square the whole thing with yourself?”

“I think so,” I said. But I was trying not to forget her words, didn’t want to think of anything else until I could write them down. They could help. They would help. They were already helping.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

We both sat for a while saying nothing.

“Someone’s burning leaves,” she said. “I thought that was against the law. Anyway, I better go. Nice to see you.”

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. “You too, I said,” smiling. “I’ll spare you the thumbs-up,” I added uncertainly. She laughed a little and said “thanks,” rather absently, turned and walked away.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

When I was very young, everyone in our apartment building died in a fire except me. They said it was as though my bed was encased in a protective bubble — they didn’t find me until the next day, after the rescue mission was called off. I had apparently slept through the entire thing. I remember almost nothing of this, except these words: “No Godly explanation for it,” which my grandmother, who took care of me from then on, said almost every day until she finally passed away. By then, I was in college — as far away as I could get — and had been able to cut my ties with the story. But the story had never cut its ties with me. I always felt odd (possibly evil), ashamed, frightened: the reluctant citizen of a world where things happen that have no fathomable explanation.

Art has helped, music too, humor, all opportunities for “laughter and forgetting,” LOVE, but there will never be anything like words — for me — when it comes to finally getting a grip.

So, when I was very young, everyone in our apartment building died in a fire except me. There was indeed “no Godly explanation for it” — EXCEPT THAT SOMETIMES, OLD LADY, there HAPPENS TO BE an occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? So you can just stop giving me those sideways glances, like I’m the devil’s spawn. There was and is no Godly explanation for it, so you can stop looking for one. And RIP.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

Yeah, I think this will work for me. Thank you doppelganger. Thank you Words for once again coming to the rescue.

comp4150

Wassily Kandinsky, “Composition IV,” 1911

 

 

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4 thoughts on ““An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality…” — Daily Prompt

  1. georgiecat on said:

    This one is either so good it’s scary or so scary it’s good. Geez Louise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cool story. Reminds me a little of that TV series, “Fringe”, where things in the parallel universe are the same but subtly different, and they have little rips too!

    Like

  3. Pingback: Holy Smokes! | Lemon Lime Follies

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