Aside from the basic physical characteristics, how much do we really know about the person peering back at us from the bathroom mirror each morning? Sometimes I think I know my own doppelganger only superficially, at best. I know he likes 1960s jazz, Irish poetry, deep-dish pizza, oysters on the half shell, and New York-style cheesecake. I know he is prone to sentimentality and clumsiness, is fundamentally suspicious of digital technology, dislikes haute cuisine and scented candles, has a sweet tooth, a caffeine addiction, and a poor sense of direction. Fair enough. But, what sort of person is he really? Can he be trusted? What does he get up to when the lights are out, when my back is turned, when there are no reflective surfaces to be found?
Lately, I had been forming suspicions about this man. For all his apparent blitheness and affability, I felt that I could detect a glimmer of mischief, perhaps even malice in his eye. More and more, I had come to feel that he holds some dark secret and leads some sort of shadowy hidden life completely independent of myself. A richer, fuller, stranger, and more fulfilled existence.
I could imagine him moving through those realms beyond the silvered glass, traveling far and wide along twilit highways, drinking in some half-lit borderland cantina. Picture him attending some after-midnight party on the rooftop of a Manhattan skyscraper, or at some fête in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles – its crystal chandeliers strung with glittering tinsel garlands – talking, dancing, flirting with long lost, half-forgotten friends and lovers.
I had promised myself that one day I would follow him, stepping through the portal of the looking glass, though not at all sure what sort of place I would find myself in. There would be dangers there, for certain, and it would be easy to get lost or waylaid, possibly never to return.
And the self I was yearning to find, if he existed at all, would naturally be elusive and not anxious to be found. Moving about under a variety of assumed identities, a master of disguise. Always traveling by night, taking back roads and empty, haunted highways, capriciously shifting directions, doubling back on himself, covering all his tracks.
Nevertheless, I followed him last night in my dreams. I pretended to turn away from the mirror, then stepped right through the glass, following his receding footsteps into a place of silvery shadows. Weightless as a cloud in a dream, I hovered above him as he got behind the wheel of his car. I floated above him, tracking him across a landscape I had never seen before, but had known from the day I had been born.
After what seemed like an endless journey, he arrived at a house that looked just like my own. Without a sound, I slipped through the door. I watched him pour himself a bourbon and put a record on the turntable. It was Nina Simone, singing Lilac Wine:
I lost myself on a cool, damp night
I gave myself in that misty light
Was hypnotized by a strange delight
Nothing, not even a saxophone in the small hours of the morning, is as expressive as the human voice. I took the liberty of pouring myself a drink. I sat in the beaten up old armchair across from him, in front of the big gilded mirror. We sat there in the dimly-lit room, everything silent except for the tinkling of ice in the glass. Each of us filled with sadness and hope, each trying to understand the other.