My first memories of my aunt Connie are from photographs. Memories kept in a box, dusted with time and without visceral feeling, just thoughts evoked from image and synapses firing. I am told by my mother I adored her. But in being, in the flesh, all the youth of me remembers is an empty husk– pill-popped and emaciated, a molasses slow kind of dying.
I saw a woman who looked just like her. A doppelganger who came upon me the other day while I was eating my lunch, soaking in the sun like a fat cat on my thirty minutes of freedom. Luggage in tow, she sidled up to me like a mirage, blinking and wavering in the heavy light.
My first thought: You are dead.
She sat next to me as if to refute my point.
“You are so beautiful.” Words slipped out of her mouth with the heaviness of honey.
“Thank you?” More question than answer.
We sat in a community of quietude.
A girl walked past. She looked at her with eyes of birds, pecking after her with each step. “You are beautiful. I am sorry I hurt you.”
My heart felt like a stone and I dipped my toes in the Styx, “Are you okay?”
Arms akimbo, she held herself like a prayer. Tears fell down her cheeks in gentle folds, glistened in the light like little light-houses of desperation– don’t break here! And she whispered, “No. It is just redemption. I am sorry I hurt her. She is so beautiful. She hates me. You hate me.”
“No,” I said, an echoing bell.
“Looking at you is like looking at a living nightmare.” Tears fell in the wrinkles on her face. She made no attempt to wipe them.
“I have to go back to work.”
She looked at me through photos, through the years of me, through my mediocre attempt of sliding a cookie closer to where she sat as if to scale the distance and cried anew, “I’ll never see you again.”
I looked at her, that face that looked so much like my aunt’s, and I wanted to cry. I wanted to linger. And words fell from my lips like an echoing bell, stones sealing a final resting place–“No.”
*Illustration– Doppelganger by Max Klinger