Thursday, 19 August 2010

The doppelgänger effect

A traffic jam isn't all that bad when viewed from a double-decker. You can see what's going on (more illegal left-hand turns than you can shake a stick at), and it's air-conditioned. This trip was marred somewhat by a German group of seven people taking up the twelve front seats and talking loudly while they lounged, but younger daughter and I were enjoying our elevated view nonetheless.

Sitting further back gave me an excellent view of anyone climbing up from the lower deck, and when a ten-year-old boy emerged from the stairwell, looking exactly like a family member who I know is now nearly thirty, I managed to stifle an audible gasp. It was a good thing that I was busy holding my breath, for the young boy was followed by his father, a dead ringer for the much younger version of the person I've come to believe hates me more than anybody else in the world.

Hate is a peculiar emotion. I refuse to believe that there is anybody that is loved by everyone, despite what you may read in obituaries and testimonials; we all have people who dislike us to varying degrees of intensity. However, the few times I've been aware of someone's enmity, I've always been surprised. Not that I'm such a likable person (although I am...really...), but because in each case the person expressing antipathy is never someone I know well. Hatred seems like such an intimate sentiment, but I think for it to truly work, it needs to be based on lack of knowledge. It is hard to hate someone we truly know well; understanding may not promote love, but it dilutes hatred. The fellow-who-wasn't-the-fellow-on-the-bus has never told me what I've done to earn his antagonism. It's probably far easier to go on hating me than to explain why. I suspect it's rooted more in something he's been told, and possibly in my resemblance to someone else. I know in my own case, that when I feel instinctive disinclination to a person, it's invariably because they remind me of someone who has angered or hurt me.

Once I got over the shock of this doppelgänger, I remembered five other spooky incidents connected with my bête noire:

1. My awareness that there was a problem came quite swiftly. Essentially, bête noire was speaking to me when I left Victoria with my new husband, and not speaking to me when I returned a year later. It took a few social gatherings to realize that this was a campaign, and when the usual measures failed to thaw him, I sought professional advice and finally resolved to ignore him back. This had the almost humourous effect of making him disappear completely, so hard had he been working on freezing me out. Things deteriorated from there.

Bête noire attended the same church as the Resident Fan Boy, and it was in that church that it dawned on me that this was a whole new kind of detestation. When I attended service with the RFB, I realized that the sinking feeling that took over my stomach coincided not when I caught sight of BN, but a few minutes before. I actually seemed to be able to sense the moment he had entered the building. I went from bewilderment to fearfulness. I mean, this was downright creepy.

2. It got creepier over the course of the next year. The Resident Fan Boy and I were shopping on the third floor of a department store one Saturday afternoon, when I was suddenly hit with the same feeling of dread dropping through my belly. When we left the building, and started up the street, we almost ran smack into BN. As usual, he greeted my husband and ignored me.

3. When the sensation hit me a few weeks later, I was at my own church and preparing to meet the RFB to attend the christening tea of one of his godsons. "Is (BN) going to be there?" I asked nervously. "No," he replied. My gut knew better. He was.

4. The Resident Fan Boy and I attended a show at the Royal Theatre. By this time, of course, I knew what the stomach-drop meant. We got off the bus, and I knew BN would be attending, so watched out carefully. There he was, talking with his brothers. We slipped in another door.

5. Finally, during a city-wide bus strike, I was walking home through a neighbourhood not far from where BN lived. By now, I knew that the warning sensation meant a sighting within the half-hour and was ready to avert my eyes and cross the street.

I've experienced the "doppelgänger effect" once before, as well. I was more relieved than anybody when BN and his family got posted overseas. Imagine my horror when, strolling into town on the West Bay Walk one late autumn afternoon at sunset, I found myself staring into the malevolent eyes of BN's double: same sort of clothes, same posture, same manner of walking. However, I knew BN was thousands of miles away, on another continent. When I got home, I made a note of the time (December 16th, 4:32 Pacific Standard Time). If there was any significance to this sighting, it has not yet been revealed to me.

Sitting on a double-decker bus years later, I didn't look back. I had not the slightest inclination. I've written about hauntings before. I think, given my druthers, I'd rather be haunted by the dead, who seem, on the whole to have less ill will.

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