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Volume 34
Issue 13
 
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Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
IDENTICAL STRANGERS
I first saw him in the reflection of the airplane window. I sat in my window seat waiting for folks to board the plane when I caught his reflection in my window lifting his backpack into the carry-on bin above. I turned to look up at him and was struck by how much he looked exactly like me.

There were definitely differences. His massively baggy pants with a big obnoxious tiger logo sewn onto the back pocket were something I'd never wear. The nose ring, the tattoo of a big-breasted lady staring out of his right forearm, and the huge silver chain hanging outside of his shirt were all bits I'd never put on in even my least inspired moments.

Everything else about our appearance was nearly exact: he was about my age, with my hair color, my height, the same face shape, same eye color, same lop-sided dimple, same freckles, same slightly grown out thick red facial hair, and about the same build. He paused to look at me before settling in the seat beside me, perhaps considering our similarities. He didn't say anything when he sat down, but a couple of seconds later he looked over at me again, as if considering our unusual situation.

During takeoff neither of us said a word.

When the big-haired flight attendant wandered by with her drink cart to our aisle, offering complimentary microbrew and a host of other drinks I didn't hear, I looked up. "What would you like?" she asked, looking at neither of us.

"Microbrew," we both responded, to which she looked first at my neighbor and then at me, clearly amused. I waited for some stupid comment about brothers or twins, but nothing came and after another confused look she went along down the aisle. This was really bizarre.

About twenty minutes into the flight, the stranger next to me pulled out a magazine with another big-breasted lady on the front. For all of our visual similarities and choice of drink, we sure didn't seem much the same in anything else. About a half hour into our flight, he broke the silence.

"Where you from?" he asked gruffly and unexpectedly, in that barking way that guys like him sometimes do. "Seattle," I answered, cautiously at first, in the way that I still sometimes get around unfamiliar straight guys with tattoos of nearly naked ladies. Perhaps sensing my discomfort, he didn't say anything else for a couple of minutes. Then, turning to me with a half-smile, he told me that he was from Dallas. He was up here visiting his daughter, though his ex-wife hung around them too much and he didn't care for snow.

Our conversation proceeded awkwardly and some time into it I got the feeling that talking was really just a reason for him to look more closely at our bizarre similarities. Soon enough we didn't have much more to say and we went quiet again. Eventually, I leaned against the window with my ear plugs in, drifting off to sleep on the wings of thought. If I weren't Gay, if I'd grown up in Dallas and gotten a tattoo of a lady on my arm, if I'd divorced some gal and gone to Kamloops to visit my daughter, if I had a penchant for magazines with enticing bikini models& but for all the choices in our lives that made us go different directions and the involuntary differences that pointed us there, this man next to me and I could have been the same person on different life paths. All of our visual similarities transformed into a million little "what ifs" about how happy I'd be if any tiny little detail in my life were changed. I was happier being me. I fell asleep.

When I awoke, folks were exiting the plane. The identical stranger had gone, but in his seat was his glossy magazine with the bikini clad lady beckoning someone to pick her up.

I wonder if meeting an identical stranger like that happens to everyone at least once. Maybe, just to allow us to check where we are in life every so often, we run across human mirrors that make us look at ourselves again and consider where we are going. Or, maybe it happens only once and then, when we've confirmed we're happy with who we are, it never happens again.

I put the magazine in my bag as a souvenir and headed off the plane, wiping sleep from my eyes.



Beau Burriola is a local writer who doodles in the fog on windows. E-mail: beaubrent@gmail.com)
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com

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