One day I received a phone call, and this guy from my past told me he was in town on vacation with his family. I was delighted to hear from him. I hadn’t seen him in twenty-five years. We had been childhood friends back in Connecticut, and then, while we were in college, we had a falling out, mostly because we were changing as we became adults.
We arranged to meet at a local pub.
After the first glad greetings and handshakes, we began to reminisce and to fill in our personal histories from the last time we saw each other. At one point, my old friend expressed some degree of surprise when I told him that I was gainfully employed as a teacher and had earned a doctorate degree in my subject area.
When I asked him why he was surprised, he appeared embarrassed, hesitant.
He told me that about ten years before, he had been walking down the Atlantic City boardwalk with his wife when he saw a guy who gave him chills. This person was sitting with his hand out, begging for change. According to my old friend, the guy had long, straggly blonde hair and beard, looked as if he hadn’t washed in weeks, and was pitifully thin, as if strung out on heroin. My friend stopped, horrified. He thought the guy begging was me—a grown up, filthy, drug-addicted, emaciated Don Gallinger.
It’s interesting how people think we’re going to turn out. To be fair, my friend mistaking the homeless junkie for me—at least at first glance—was not entirely unwarranted. I was once very thin and my hair and beard, although clean, were very long. There was also a time in my youth when some people thought I was utterly lost.
Sometimes, I wonder if all of us have “mystery twins.” Perhaps somewhere, out there, in another existence, I am that wasted individual begging on the boardwalk. Perhaps, together, we are making a life that neither one of us can yet see nor understand.
Who might be your mystery twin?
Donald Gallinger is author of the novel The Master Planets.
View Donald Gallinger’s official website blog: http://www.donaldgallinger.com/dons-blog.html