You don’t get used to seeing alternate versions of yourself. Ever. It’s always strange. It’s always a little jarring. It always makes you question the very fabric of reality. But you come to a certain understanding that it will happen. And you resign yourself to it like people resign themselves to living in an apartment that faces a brick wall or to needing to work 60 hours a week to support a family or to never having gone to college. It’s the flip side of the American dream, which is just as much about what we’ll put up with as it is about what we’re seeking.
But there are limits. When I heard Jake say, “Are you all right?” my brain short circuited. There he was, still in the driver’s seat, fighting with his airbag. Hadn’t I just seen him outside? I gaped at the stranger in the seat next to me for what felt like half a minute. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think.
And then he said, “Dude. I must be going nuts. I swear I just saw you running through that guy’s yard over there.”
It took a good five seconds for me to understand him. And though I thought, “Yeah, me too,” I couldn’t utter the words. Of course, the car accident may have had something to do with my vertigo. I don’t know. The whole thing was pretty dizzying.
I felt Jake’s hand on my forehead. “Whoa!” he said. “You don’t look so good.” He opened his door and told me to crawl across the seats to him.
I think the movement did me good, got the blood flowing back to my brain or something. Once outside, I could at least speak again – enough to point out to Jake that the convertible had no driver.
“Holy shit,” he said. “I think we just got in an accident with a third.”
“What’s a third?”
“A third!” he said. “Another one of us!”
“That can happen?”
“Well, I didn’t think it could, but . . .”
I stumbled a little and Jake caught me. He guided me over to a curb and told me to put my head between my knees. It helped.
The clearer the world became, the more I began to understand how screwed we were. The prospect of Maggie finding out that my “twin brother” and I got in a car accident – well, let’s just say, it would have been awkward.
But then it dawned on me that I could leave. I could simply walk away. “Listen, I don’t want to wait around for the police to get here and discover that we don’t have the same last name and . . .”
“Hey, I understand,” Jake interrupted. “In fact, fuck it. I’m leaving too.” He stood up and offered me his hand.
We didn’t look back; we just left.