It happened again. It freakin’ happened again!
I was on the F train and saw Mike, a guy I knew 15 years ago. He was a bandmate of a fellow I was dating at the time, and he looked exactly the same as he did when I’d last seen him, across a nasty basement club on Bleecker street that no longer exists: thick-framed retro-nerd glasses, the kind that only the least nerdy among us can pull off. He was short but had a swagger, and always seemed to feel that he was better than the rest of his band and that no one realized how egregiously they were holding him back. He had his axe strapped to his back, which I took as a good sign—perhaps he’d made it as a working musician, despite the odds.
I snaked across the crowded train to say hi, but the closer I got, the clearer it became.
It wasn’t Mike, but Mike 2.0 or even 3.0. It was the guy who is now Mike, only younger, newer and improved for 2009. It was Mike’s replacement, because Mike, in all likelihood no longer looked or behaved like Mike. A new version had been generated, and odds are the life he is living mirrored Mike’s in every way, except with a few new bells and whistles, like a backpack contraption to hold his guitar (as opposed to those heavy hard cases they used to carry back in the early ’90s) and an iPod instead of a Walkman. It was entirely possible that he was wearing Mike’s actual motorcycle jacket, as Mike’s wife likely donated it to the Salvation Army when he was out of town selling widgets or whatever he does to pay the bills.
Why is it that I’m painfully, excruciatingly aware of every droopy body part, every pucker, each stray hair and both nasal-labial folds on my own person, but IÃ‚Â imagine somehow everyone else is frozen in time?
I mean, I know they’re not, but when I see these updated versions of people I used to know, and am reminded in such a Twilight Zone manner that time marches on, I get a little weirded out. It’s as if the real Mike and the real Stephanie, the ones we used to be, were abducted by aliens and simply replaced by the new Mikes and Stephanies who populate the F train just like we used to.
For a second I saw myself through this new Mike’s eyes: Here’s some middle-aged lady in yoga pants and sneakers clearly chosen for function over fashion who is probably somebody’s mother coming my way. I must be blocking the door because I can’t imagine she’d have anything to say to me. And then he’d go back to whatever was on his iPod, which no doubt will be hip in an old-school kind of way among the next versions of him.
I’m just sayin’. Mike, if you’re out there, someone is stealing your identity, circa 1994. And to that hot but secretly bulimic sophomore at Wesleyan who is shaking her fist at the patriarchy even while hooking up with frat guys, things will be fine. Just hang in there and find a way to laugh at it all.