Dec 14, 2003 11:58pm

Apparently I have one, though I have yet to meet him – as the protagonists of the nineteenth century stories I read as a teenager inevitably do. Occasionally people have mentioned look-a-likes. But they were usually spotted in the dim, alcoholic recesses of nightclubs, so I’ve always treated such reports lightly. Shaved heads, glasses and muted attire are hardly uncommon fashion statements, after all. But a couple of incidents this week have made me wonder if there isn’t someone very much like me wondering the streets of Brisbane town.

I dislike being stopped on the street by people I know, mostly because I almost always forget the person’s name, or even where I know them from. This temporary amnesia applies even to people I’ve known for quite some time, people to whom it’s simply impossible to ask: “Sorry, who are you again?”. Thankfully this doesn’t happen very often. I’m usually lost in my own thoughts and oblivious to the other face lighting up with recognition. By the time the other person works out I haven’t seen them, I’ve disappeared into the tide of people swirling through the city centre.

So I was unsurprised when one of my students asked me why I’d ignored her the day before, when she’d tried to stop me in the street. It wasn’t because I’d forgotten who she was – Ushi the maths teacher, with her thick Austrian accent, is hard to forget. A couple of questions revealed she’d seen me in the city mall, somewhere I haven’t been for weeks; it wasn’t me she saw. She took some convincing I wasn’t just making up an excuse, and, from the tone of her voice and the gleam in her eye, I don’t think she was completely convinced – especially after she made me promise not to ignore her if I ever did see her in future.

Then, on Friday, on the way home from work, a young woman whistled at me as we passed on the street. Nothing unusual about that you might think (unless you’ve met me), except it was the rising-falling whistle of someone trying to get my attention. “Hi,” she said, smiling with amusement at the blank look on my face and all but waving her hand in front of me. I smiled. “Hi,” I replied. I’d never seen her in my life. I kept walking, leaving her standing on the footpath waiting for a hug.

I smiled because now I know people are complaining my double ignores them.


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