She walked into my workplace and made very direct eye contact. There was a sign of recognition from her to me, and I did believe she looked familiar. But no name or context appeared as my brain scanned all available memory trying to place her.
She had a wisp of hair in the front that had recently been streaked blonde, contrasting with the light brown tint of the rest of her hair. “Do I know you with a different hair color?” I asked her. It was what I felt was a disarming way of saying, “Do I know you from somewhere?” But isn’t that an overworked pickup line?
I can’t remember with what words she brushed the question aside. She didn’t offer her name, and I didn’t press any further.
The question was a little creepy, I’ll admit. Fortunately, she didn’t bolt for the door, but kept shopping, eventually making a rather large purchase. She looked so familiar, though.
I don’t think I had ever seen her before. Well, not her. I have reached an age where I am seeing ghosts, not in the sense of the spirits of departed people, but the visual twins to people I knew a generation or more ago.
There is a saying that, “When you get older, everything reminds you of something else.” Have I reached that age? That’s scary. Certainly it does seem lately that everybody reminds me of someone I was acquainted with when.
I keep seeing people who are Xerox copies of people from another time and place. The real people in question have aged, but unfortunately, my brain has not been online to receive any updates. The update would consist of seeing the same people as they are now, but that’s not likely to happen.
Before I got married, I drafted an elaborate theory on how there were only 17 facial types, only 17 available sets of eyes, 17 mouth shapes, 17 noses and 17 hair types. I’m not sure how I came up with the number seventeen, but I believe the number of facial types was meant to take into account ethnic variances as well. There was some rather lame comment at the time about most of the seventeen being white Caucasian because the others “all looked alike anyway.” I would not get away with that today, but those were different times. Apologies all round.
Combine this with two available sexes, and you are left with 2,839,714 people; so even within the United States and Canada, you’d be dealing with at least ten identical people. So you don’t have a twin, you have at least nine just within North America if that’s your home.
But the twin thing multiplies when you factor in time. If you have nine look-a-likes now, it’s possible that you also have ten people who are ten years younger than you are right now, who match what you looked like ten years ago. But also that you yourself look exactly ten people did who are — survival assumed — ten years older.
Ghosts. Everywhere. Walking past each other at the beach, at the mall, at church, at the airport…
The worst case is the summer camp we do volunteer work at. The generation of people we knew now has kids of their own, who show up at the same camp. When I look at Sam (real name) I see Tim (real name). He/they is/are not the only example. The generations start to blend in a brain that is reeling as though caught in some grand time travel experiment.
Other adult volunteers at the camp tell me our two boys look like me. I don’t see it. Not at all. I don’t say, “You must be crazy;” but I’m thinking they’re probably stretching the point, or maybe it is just that bad hair days (or weeks; years) run in the family.
Or maybe they’re seeing ghosts.