Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Going Through the Looking Glass, Only to Find Myself

In the great scheme of all things fantasy, the cherry topping my list was the idea of doppelgangers. Throughout literature and film they are artfully known as “birds of a feather”, whereas in science the name is reputedly interchangeable with “clones”. Being a nose-to-the grindstone northerner, I was raised believing no one on earth could hold a candle to me and individuality was my greatest strength. Therefore, doppelgangers seemed to me as fictitious as witches or leprechauns and no legendary fallacy supported by rational or artistic evidence ever swayed me. Until, I came face to face with my own “mirror image”. He was a fifty year old man with watery eyes, a rabbity complexion and a permanent scowl sketched across his face; and also my eleventh grade English teacher.

My family and I had barely relocated to Georgia when not even a month into my stay I met Dr. F. It quickly dawned on me that he was something of a celebrity at High School. So I figured I had to be doing something right by requesting a transfer into his AP Language and Composition class, an English territory utterly unknown to me not unlike the rest of southern culture. But I told myself I would adapt. I had the charisma, the savvy and the ardor for English to win over another literary professor. Sometimes, it is astounding just how wrong a person can be.

As the song goes, cellophane should have been my name, for after all my attempts to butter him up I was still unnoticeable in a sea of transparent teenagers. Before long, I figured the only way to earn his respect was to challenge a man who thought it second nature to fall head over heels in love with him. Thus began our feud that now over a year later is still well-known at my High School. We had petty arguments over literary periods, scathing comebacks fuelled by rhetorical devices and calamitous questioning over the merit of the English material. Our class banters became an expected routine that my classmates looked forward to and reported to the rest of the student body. As Dr. F.’s reputation as a flawless transcendentalist flourished; I in turn grew to not trust him any farther than I could Thoreau him. For the first time in my life English would not be a sanctuary; something I needed then more than ever in a new state.

Still, I tricked myself into thinking he knew I was someone worth his time and energy. Just as I was testing him, he was testing my initiative; trying to weed out just how badly I wanted to succeed in English. He got his answer when after another painfully tart remark from him; hot words bubbled to my lips and shot out in rapid fire before I could stop them. I ripped him raw of his pride, as he had done to me over the months like a vulture picking through my bones, until I was left emotionally drained of all thought or feeling. Then he had the nerve to laugh, and I saw him unmistakably point a finger at me like a sideshow freak, roaring with mirth. I left the room and could hear students buzzing like newly disturbed bees from the incident. An hour later I was whisked off to the counselor’s office where it was Dr. F.’s word against mine that I was unprovoked in my outburst. At that moment, my faith in English and those mastered in it was lost.

The next day however, he greeted me warmly and throughout class spared me any acidic comments tucked up his sleeve. For weeks this unexpected turn in our relationship became the new normal, and for the first time we truly got to know one other as each party leaked personal but harmless information. We had both lived in New Hampshire, we were both democrats, we had both abandoned out catholic roots; the list went on and on and I found myself miraculously starting to care about him. Due to unresolved stress in this matter, I developed physical ailments such as trouble eating, sleeping and focusing on other work in my classes. When I made him aware of these qualms, oddly enough he confessed he was undergoing similar sicknesses. As a result, we delved into an extended discussion which rocked the very core of what I beheld to be imaginary: the concept of doppelgangers. He insisted this cliché term applied to us but I disagreed, for weren’t doppelgangers merely a philosophical tool used in art and science but not in practical matters?

As it turns out, my expectations did not align with reality. For regardless of how we appeared opposites: he was a man and I was a woman, he was a slow-talking southern gentleman and I was a hot-tempered Yankee, and he was getting on in life whereas my own had barely started. Life is seldom black and white and one need only look closer to see the gray outlines: for he thinks like a woman and I think like a man, southerners are just like northerners except with good manners and terrible accents, and I am an old soul at heart whereas his soul will be forever young. As the school year drew to a close, we came to fully accept each other as two halves of whole that will never fit together properly. Nevertheless, if there is anything I can take away from my year with Dr. F., it lies in his own words: “it is impossible to hate someone without loving them, because you think about them all the time.” To put it another way, despite love and hate being at opposite ends of the spectrum, they are both products of passion whether a person is conscientious of it or not; and that is the true influence of a doppelganger.



Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback