I Saw Me
After my appointment at the clinic where the doctor informed me I would be leaving my life soon, I went to the grocery store and saw myself in the coffee aisle. She was not me as I am now, but me fifty years ago. I followed her. She gave me a look of revulsion. I kept following, and she kept gazing back while pushing her shopping cart. I kept after her until she jolted into the parking lot. She ran to her car, started the engine, and drove away. I’m homebound now. Because I’m dying, many of my friends have come to visit, to say goodbye. I tell them about her. They look at me as if in pity. All they get from the story is that a young woman was rude to an old woman. “That’s so ageist,” the hospice workers whisper. I agree what happened between the young me and the old me at the grocery store was ageist, but not for the reason they think. “Why?” the hospice workers ask. I tell them if I had seen myself as I am now, an old woman, I would have avoided her if she tried to speak to me because there’s nothing she could tell me I would want to hear, just as there’s nothing I could say to her that would be worth our time. I only followed myself in the grocery store because she was young. There’s nothing to say to an old me, nothing to change her, because she has already become who she is. Besides, I know the young woman’s terror. I remember it clearly. The young woman has been trying to escape the old woman all her life, sensing the old woman steps behind her, worrying that if the old woman catches her she won’t be young anymore. It’s harder to explain why the old woman is chasing the young woman than it is to explain why the young woman is running from the old woman. I keep wondering why I felt compelled to chase the young me that day, what I would have done if I had caught up to her, and why I long to chase her still. Though I have no interest in knowing me now, it’s hard to leave my life without telling her goodbye.
My best friend looks just like me. I call her Fetch. People think we’re twins, since we are the same age and weight and have the same body type, skin tone, height, hair color, hairstyle, similar bone structure, and even share one set of clothes. Today, she was taken from the parking lot of the bar where we work, abducted on our lunch break. Since the men who took her think she’s me, I know exactly what they’re doing. I don’t want to say.
I’m going to find her, but I know better than to involve the police. I don’t want anyone to see what those men do. Tonight, if she isn’t alive, I will bury her and give myself a different name.
What’s happening is my fault. It’s up to me to rescue her. In striking her, they think they are assaulting me. In strangling her, they think they have their hands around my neck. Out of loyalty, she likely will never tell she isn’t me.
In attempting to save her, am I killing myself? In attempting to save me, is she allowing them to kill her?
I once asked her why she wanted to protect me, despite all the horrible things I’ve done. I love myself, she whispered. But, I wondered, what happens when I don’t love me and you are there, when I can’t love you because you are like me and I don’t love myself? I hate you because you are me when I only see myself in you. I fear others only see me in you, you in me, and we are somehow living different lives in identical bodies. When people see me, they see you. When people see you, they see me. How can we not see ourselves in each other?
Aimee Parkison’s fiction has won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize, a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, the Kurt Vonnegut Prize from North American Review, the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction, the Jack Dyer Prize from Crab Orchard Review, a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, a Writers at Work Fellowship, a Puffin Foundation Fellowship, and an American Antiquarian Society William Randolph Hearst Creative Artists Fellowship. Parkison is a Professor of Fiction Writing at Oklahoma State University. More information about her work is available at www.aimeeparkison.com
Senior Fiction & Special Features Editor – Steven John