On my daily walk this morning an elderly man driving a slightly rusted white Corolla slowed down and pulled up beside me. I kept walking but turned my head smiling in his direction. He smiled back, waved a kind of apology, and said, “I thought you were somebody else.”
“I am somebody else,” I said, but my reply was drowned out by the car’s engine as the man picked speed and left.
“I am somebody else.” It’s true. I am somebody else than who he thought I was. I am somebody other than who he is. And, the more I thought about it, I am somebody other than who I think I am as well. I am somebody else.
The person I was when I went to bed last night isn’t the person I was when I awoke in the morning. The things that preoccupied yesterday’s me had largely fallen away by the time I awoke. And the distractions and dramas in which I awoke had faded by the time I went out to walk, and certainly by the time I returned home, once again as somebody else.
The only thing that ties “yesterday me” to “this morning me” and “right now me” is this story I am spinning about these many me’s. They are all characters in a narrative, and the only thing they have in common is the narrative. But still there must be a “real me,” after all who is telling this story? Isn’t “storytelling me” the real me?
When I go to investigate this I discover that “storytelling me” is simply another character in what is now a slightly more expansive tale that includes this story and the me who is telling it. And when I try to identify this new larger me I find only that it is subsumed into an even larger me, who is subsumed…. You get the point.
If I stop looking I can maintain the illusion that the last me to look is the real me. But this fiction can only be maintained by not looking. Yet as soon as I admit that I am not looking I am in fact looking at not looking and hence discovering yet another me. There is no end to “me” or to the stories told about “me.” And as for a storyteller behind the whole affair, I can’t find one.
So the old man in the Corolla was right: I am somebody else. In fact there seems to be nobody else but somebody else. Which of course leads to another story.