Friday, November 15, 2002

My Alter Ego?

I met my alter ego last night. Or at least, I fancy her as such.

I was walking through Chinatown on my way to class at Tufts, inhaling the smells of grease and soy sauce that tend to permeate the very air around NEMC, when she brushed past me. She was in a hurry, like me; and she looked a bit lost. For an instant, our eyes met in some sort of deeply human recognition of "kindredness", and then we were both gone.

I thought of her as I plodded on towards my class. Not just of her, but of the scores of people we pass every day and don't ever really "see"; and I wondered about her; about her life. She was wearing a mid-length dark trench coat, she was carrying a backpack. Her hair was babyfine blond; not oozing-with-self-confidence-I-paid-$100-at-james joseph-for-these-highlights blond, but the plain natural blond that nonhighlighters tend to have. What struck me most about her was that she was wearing a long, black skirt with a slit up the front, and as she hurried along she was furtively trying to hold it closed over her calf-high boots. I suppose the reason it struck me so was that it was so vulnerable, so not confident. If it were me, I would have let the slit snake up my thigh and walked along completely oblivious, or at least laughed at my risque skirt.

But, she didn't. I wondered how else we were different. Does she love oatmeal cookies, where I would gladly leave them alone? Does she drive a big luxury car, as I rush to catch the "T"? Is her favorite season summer? Does she love to knit? Does she loathe the feeling of warm, wet spring grass squishing between her toes? Is she a dog person or a cat person? New England or Manhattan clam chowder? Is she in love? Is she alone?

I decided that she loved the oatmeal cookies--fresh and hot from the oven with big soft raisins that burst in her mouth as she bites into them. Her car is something in the middle of economy and luxury, something nondescript like a honda or nissan. She likes summer because she likes the warm weather, but she doesn't like to go barefoot because it's "gross". She's a cat person (not just someone who happens to like cats and doesn't have time for a dog; like me; but a full-blown cat person), and she has a calico cat with a food name--like "Muffin" or "Cookie". She likes manhattan clam chowder. She's not in love. But, she's not alone, either.

I thought of her again after class, as I climbed hill after hill walking from the T stop to my apartment; exhaling streams of condensation in swirling clouds. I thought of the split second we looked at each other, recognition in our eyes; and wondered if she wondered about me--the girl with the thatch of red hair and the smattering of freckles, the glasses she hates but has to wear until she has time to get a contact exam perched on her nose, her hands lazily squeezing the gloves in her pocket. I had made all these snap judgements about her--that she lacked self-confidence, that she was quiet and gentle. What would she have thought of me? Me, who fancies myself a 'free thinker', clad completely in Abercrombie & Fitch (because their jeans are long enough, but that's another story...); who preaches about "health", as I slurp cup after cup of I really fancy myself a more complicated person because I prefer autumn to spring? Am I deep, dark, and brooding because I don't like oatmeal cookies and had a pet ferret?

I didn't have time to really put as much thought into those issues as I would have liked. By this time I was nearly home. I let my scarf come unwound and flutter to my hips, its fringe tickling my fingertips; as I burst into the light of my apartment building, climbing the stairs towards my cat, my secondhand lamp, and the phone I'd use to call someone who loved me.

No comments: