Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The 3RD (circa 1990)

After I walked out of my bathroom, I noticed my double sitting in the living-room chair I usually occupy. I walked to my kitchen, adjacent to my living room, and made orange juice. All the while, despite my efforts not to, I kept stealing a glance at the other me.

I don't always like to acknowledge him, to validate his existence, because I feel it reduces mine to some degree. Yet, I don't deny he exists. We speak on occasion.

I stirred the orange juice with a big wooden spoon wondering what he wanted, fighting the urge to ask him.

He began to hum.

He's hummed before and I think it's his subtle way of proving he exists. I hum, therefore I am, or something like that.

I didn't like his tune, his way of proving himself, so I spoke to him.

"Okay, I see you. What do you want?"

He leaned forward in his chair and smiled at me as though he knew a great secret.

I hate when he smiles like that. I wanted to smack him.

"What do you want?" I said. "Tell me what you want or leave."

He grinned, enigmatically, and I nearly threw the pitcher of orange juice at him.

"What the hell do you want! If you don't say something, you'll have to --"

"Do you remember our last discussion about Borges, Gödel's Theorem and M.C. Escher?"

I stared at him, hard. I remembered the conversation. I remembered that I felt inadequate because I didn't understand much of it. I sort of barked at him.

"Yeah, of course. I remember."

He laughed this laugh he has, a laugh that says, I know so much more than you, then began to lecture.

"I should review. You don't look very confident. First, remember that Borges said there are four ways of achieving the fantastic in literature. One was the text within a text, a meta-text. Because it creates a situation where reality is in question, this method, in a sense, contains all other methods (contamination of reality by a dream, time travel and, your favorite, the double).

"For example, if you're reading a meta-text, a novel about the novel you're reading and perhaps even about the fact that you're reading it, you find that such a novel returns on itself, creates, your favorite word, a double. It's a mirror in a mirror and creates a circle, a kind of infinity. When you finish reading such a novel, you're probably questioning the nature of reality and the nature of fiction: Which is which? You look bored. Let me finish by saying that Gödel's theorem articulates what occurs in a meta-text with mathematics and the works of M.C. Escher do the same with art, image."

I yawned.

"So what?"

"Well, I have an interesting idea. Let's write a story that shows the inter-connectedness of Borges' methods for creating the fantastic. Instead of using just one of his methods in a story, let's use them all."

"It's been done," I said. "I'm sure of it. If these are Borges' methods, don't you think he has a story, one story, that uses all of them? He must have one, especially if what you said is true, that the first one, the meta-text thing, contains all the others. You thought you had some great idea, didn't you? Ha! Now leave me alone, my head hurts."

My double didn't care about my head.

"Come on, let's try it anyway!" he said.

"No. My head hurts. Plus, you probably don't know what the hell you're talking about anyway."

He became quiet, leaned back in my chair, then began to smirk.

"If you don't agree to do it, you'll see me every day until you die."

I wanted to rush him and choke him but knew he was too elusive. I had tried it before.

"What do you want me to do?" I said.

"Get some paper and a pen and sit in front of the mirror. Start your story by writing about a man who sits in front of his mirror and writes a story about the possibility of doubles and a man writing a story about a man who sits in front of his mirror writing about the possibility of doubles and a man writing about a man who sits in front of his mirror and so on.

"I'll go inside the mirror (with an identical tablet and pen) and pretend to be your reflection. Thus, in the story, the possibility of doubles is in fact a reality. Yet, you, one of the protagonists of the story, do not realize I'm your double until you see that the ring on your left hand is the ring on your 'reflection's' left hand. Knowing I'm not a reflection, you become astounded.

"Your awe is further increased because, I, your double, tell you that you've found the point where all things -- time, space, matter -- converge, as in Borges' story, 'The Aleph.' Then, you begin to dream about a more certain reality -- a reality where there are no doubles, no points where all things converge, a reality where you're certain you're not a dream."

"I don't get it," I said. "What's the point?"

"Don't you see? If you write such a story, you'll have used all the techniques for creating the fantastic in one story!"

"How about we write a horror story?"

My double sprang from my chair.

"Okay," he said. "Don't cooperate. But remember, I'll see you every day for the rest of you life."

"I was just kidding. I'll write a horror story some other time. Let me find a pen and some paper. I'll see you in the mirror."

I sat in front of the mirror and as I began to write his story, my notion of reality began to change.

I began to feel comfortable knowing that reality is in fact a misnomer and should be called the livable dream, or something like that. I even began to feel superior to the many other humans on the planet that I suspected didn't understand reality.

As I wrote, on occasion I would stop to rest and chat with my double.

I told him I didn't much like him but thanked him for educating me, illuminating me, about existence itself.

He responded amicably and every so often reminded me of his genius.

I, of course, pointed out that it wasn't his genius, but the genius of others (Borges, Gödel, Escher) that led us to our enlightenment.

He agreed but nonetheless accepted his self-praise.

Those moments together, writing, chatting, were probably our best. We had never gotten along so well.

For a few moments, I think we both realized this. I stared at him in the mirror and he stared back at me. I believe we looked at each other with affection, perhaps love.

I began to imagine a wonderful future with my double and I think he began to imagine the same.

I stared into his eyes and wondered if he could read my mind.

Then his eyes became wide and his mouth fell open.

At first, I didn't understand. Then, behind him, in the mirror, I saw another one of us, standing, smirking.

My eyes became wide and my mouth fell open.

The other one of us, the Third, began to laugh, a crazy laugh.

My double jumped from the mirror, nearly knocked me over, ran to my front door, struggled with it until it opened; fled.

The Third was close behind him.

I haven't seen either since.

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