It is a popular belief that somewhere, out there, we all have a body double, a reasonable facsimile looking and acting much like ourselves. If this is true, I hope my twin is evil because it would be nice to know that one of us is having a good time.
ME: So, what did you do today?
EVIL ME: Oh, just a little shoplifting.
ME: What did you shoplift?
EVIL ME: A Corvette.
ME: The sport’s car?
EVIL ME: The salesman let me drive it with a fake I.D. and I just kept going.
ME: Gosh! Darn! Dang!
EVIL ME: And that isn’t the best part. I then went over to the salesman’s house, picked up his wife and took her to Vegas.
ME: That’s evil.
EVIL ME: It is.
ME: You’re going to Hell!
EVIL ME: It will be in a Corvette.
You might not even know it, but there is somebody making similar circles just outside your own. The circles make waves and the waves are what you feel when the world feels a little too small.
The most common wave is the name. For example, more than one person has the name Bob. More than one person has the name Barb. And to make life interesting, more than one person has the name Erin (e.g. Erin go Bragh and Aaron go Bro). And since there are more people than names, there will always be an air of confusion when two or more people meet. I should know with a name like Dave.
It is known that David is the second-most common name given to boys. (Hector is the first.) I don’t think there was ever a moment in my life when I didn’t have another Dave in the room: grade school, the Cub Scouts, the Young Teamsters, any group I joined had at least one or two.
TEACHER: David, don’t do that!
ME: Do what?
TEACHER: Not you. The other Dave.
DAVE (1): Me?
TEACHER: Not you. The Dave in the corner carving something into his desk.
DAVE (2): Me?
TEACHER: Yes, you!
DAVE (2): I go by Hector now.
Growing up with such a common name, I felt cheated, like my parents got a group discount for choosing Dave instead of Demetrius. I wanted to feel one-of-a-kind, but by the time I reached high school, I came to the realization that I was altogether ordinary. In fact, if you had been driving down the middle of the road, you would have seen me hitchhiking. I came to embody the word ‘average’. So, instead of rejecting my name, I embraced it. I was no different than my fellow Dave. So, if anything went wrong, I could easily blame it on him.
TEACHER: This essay written by Dave has no last name. Which one of you wrote it?
ME: Was it any good?
TEACHER: Yes, if the person was still in third grade.
ME: That essay ain’t mine.
TEACHER: Then I don’t have your essay.
ME: Great! Now it’s lost.
By the time I reached college, the Dave quotient exploded. Even our choir had five. And though we all came from different backgrounds, there was one thing we all had in common. None of us could sing in tune.
After college, I migrated to the Twin Cities, MN and began my life as an independent adult. I was going to work, getting paid, spending money, living the life of a good American, spinning my little wheel for the big one, neither making waves nor being rocked in return. In a world awash with guys named Dave, I found my island. But even then I knew it was only temporary.
The first indication that I was not my own man happened at the local library. As I stepped up to the front desk to request a library card, the librarian took my name and began to frown.
CLERK: We already have you in our system and the Barbara Streisand autobiography you checked out is now overdue.
ME: Barbara Streisand? Why would I check out her biography?
CLERK: The computer wouldn’t know.
I chalked up the incident as an honest error until a tax-refund came in the mail. I deposited the check, but when I received my monthly statement, the bank’s balance did not compute with mine. I combed my receipts, re-calculated my debits and deposits and came to the conclusion that my tax-refund never posted. I grabbed my piles of paper and marched to the bank after stopping at Dave’s Donuts.
When the teller looked over the information, she came to the conclusion that I deposited my tax refund into my other checking account.
ME: What other checking account?
TELLER: The one you opened up two months ago.
ME: I didn’t open up another checking account.
TELLER: The computer says you did.
ME: Why would I open up another checking account?
TELLER: The computer wouldn’t know.
I convinced the teller to transfer the tax refund into my first account. But at that moment I started to feel something slip, like the waves from a distant unknown force were beginning to erode my island.
A few months later the clutch went out of my tin-can car. Even though I loved the vehicle, it didn’t make sense to pour a thousand dollars into it. It was time to let go and upgrade like a good American. So, I did the responsible thing. I poured over the Consumer Reports while falling asleep at the local library. I test drove numerous cars and sometimes returned them to the correct dealership. I did everything within my power not to become a victim of a lemon purchase. And to the best of my abilities, I put a down payment on a used Honda Accord from a guy named Don (52nd most popular name).
I went home feeling confident in the buy, but it instantly started to change when the phone rang.
DON: Hey, Dave.
ME: Hi Don.
DON: I’m just putting your information into our system and found you already living at a different address.
ME: What are you talking about?
DON: You bought a Civic from us three years ago.
ME: I did?
DON: The computer says you did.
ME: I should remember something like that, right?
DON: Ha! Not even April and out come the jokes. Well, I’m going to finish up the paperwork and for being such a funny guy we’ll shoot the Accord over to your current address this afternoon.
ME: What current address?
DON: You kill me. (CLICK)
It did not make sense. How could I have no personal memory of my own actions? How could I forget that I loved Barbara Streisand, opened multiple checking accounts and purchased a prior automobile from a guy named Don?
I felt myself slipping into a dream of alternative possibilities where I bought a home, opened a small business, ran for city council, lost the election, went bankrupt, lost my house, and doing it all without putting in any effort. I saw my existence becoming a working model for people who didn’t want any direct involvement with their lives. I saw my life becoming completely unavoidable until I remembered a conversation my Uncle T told me he had with another professor in the hallways of his college.
PROFESSOR: Tom, did you know that I have David Naughton in my Trigonometry Class?
UNCLE T: David Naughton is my nephew.
PROFESSOR: He is also the brightest student I’ve ever taught.
UNCLE T: Are you sure we are talking about my nephew?
I quickly went on line, typed in my name and there in black and white I saw myself in double vision: two David Naughton’s not living more than five miles apart. Not only did I share the same name with somebody, I also shared the same neighborhood, library, bank, stores and car dealership. The waves we were creating were intersecting and the other Dave was coming out on top.
I started to think if I’d ever met myself. It was entirely possible that we stood next to each other at the bank or local deli. I pondered the question and the answer came to me.
For a time I decided to take up jogging. And as I jogged around the city lakes, I started to see a minor group of regulars on the well-worn trails. There were all kinds: rich and poor, young and old, joggers who were in pain and those who were in a lot more pain. And in the midst of the regulars, I kept seeing something surprisingly familiar. There was always one jogger who had my same build, except he was taller and lankier. But what made him really stick out was how he dressed: plain gray T-shirt, forest-green shorts, gray socks and white shoes. And what made this ensemble so noticeable? It was the exact-same outfit I always wore.
It never failed. No matter the time or the place. Every time I jogged around one of the area lakes, I was guaranteed to see a better image of myself bending from the opposite direction. It was as if a cosmic rift had allowed our circles to intersect, showing me that in a world of differences, there was somebody who not only was similar to me, but better. Even though I was an individual with thoughts and dreams, there was another person improving on them.
I quickly put on my green shorts, grey socks, white shoes and threw on a BLUE T-shirt. The moment was unavoidable; so I accelerated into it. I burst out the front door and ran into the street. I ran with more than a pent-up rage. I now ran with a stake in taking back my life.
When I reached the first lake, I jumped on the well-worn trail and kept my eyes on the ever-changing bend for what inevitably would happen: Double Dave coming right at me like an enhanced, full-length mirror. And when he appeared, I quickly wondered what would happen if I collided into him. Would my life end? Would I cancel my body double and return myself whole? Or would it be as simple as tackling Double Dave to the ground, raising my index finger and with the command of Moses (358th most common name) say: “From this day forward, ye shall be known as Maurice!”
As I closed in on myself, something stronger than rage took hold. I may have been filled with delirium, but not to the point of tackling a complete stranger. I came within a few feet of Double Dave before I screamed and ran around him.
I had no idea who this guy was. It could have been Adam for all I knew. Plus, it didn’t matter. I was wasting time. I needed to get home and make a few calls. Pretty soon Don was going to deliver my car and I needed to cancel my credit cards and freeze all my bank accounts before Double Dave got my new car and went looking for my future wife.