The ‘You’ Me

James Burnett

by James Burnett

I passed myself in the street yesterday, a strange experience to say the least.

You were pushing my bike and Timmy was in the basket with his tongue lolling out, as usual. That’s how I knew you were me, otherwise I would have thought you were just another
woman dressed too young for her age and smiling in the sunshine.

To be honest, I don’t have much to smile about these days, but the ‘You’ me did. I almost stopped to say hello but I was scared.

Excited too, if I’m honest.

So I came back at the same time today to sneak a good, long look at you. Your make-up is immaculate. And your hair, it’s blonde! When did that happen? Oh, and you’re wearing that
hat that makes you look like a French actress from the ‘60s. I’ve got the self same one at home; it doesn’t suit me.

You must have clocked me following you because you did a double take, I suppose you thought I was your doppelganger, or something.

They say there’s a perfect replica for everyone on earth and that God always makes a spare, one to use and one to lose, so to speak. But no doppelganger shares the same dog, and Timmy was there again, standing up in his little basket, slobbering stupidly and wagging his tail.

It was when you smiled at me, as if life was all cherries and chocolates, as our mother used to say, that I knew you were the one. I wanted to slap your face, you looked so pleased with yourself.

Instead I said, ‘Hello, do I know you?’

We talked for a bit and of course we had stuff in common. We had everything in common; the same school, the same class, the same first boyfriend, Ben Baker, and that childish scar on the back of our hands when we sliced ourselves with the vegetable peeler because he left us and we wanted to leave a mark, ‘For our pain!’

We both laughed out loud at that.

You have a lovely voice, I must say, much more refined than mine. No one would guess we came from Hull. I can’t imagine, ‘Hello ducks!’ leaving those prim lips. So you’ve done ok,
wherever it is you’ve been hiding. Do you have a nice house, too? And a man? Mine ran off with Samantha six years ago. They still live here; whenever I see them they scamper away like gutter rats. I just smile.

All happy families are alike, they say, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Well, now I’m unhappy alone.

The look on your face when I said that! I think you’re starting to suspect. But you know me, always good at hiding malice behind a smile.

So I said, ‘Why don’t we swap for a day, so we can see what it’s like to be each other, wouldn’t that be fun?’

I could tell you weren’t keen.

‘I’ve really got to go,’ you said.

‘I’ve really got to go…’

I’m not being funny but that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about; Geoff, Samantha, you…

So now I’ve got a plan and I’m following you home; difficult of course because you know exactly what to look out for. But would your children, if I made myself up and got my hair done like yours? Would your husband? I know I’m better in bed than you… those perfect, prissy nails; I bet you wear Marigolds to blow him.

My point is, would any of them notice, or even care, if we did a little swap?

Of course I’d come and visit you in my house, (not so big, in fact positively pokey; watch out for the bottles on the stairs,) and perhaps I’d let you out for a bit, once a day, but only in the garden, where you can’t get up to any mischief. And even then I might have to gag you.


On second thoughts you could just have an accident and die. No one ever visits me, so who would know? And then I’d come to your funeral, when they get round to finding you, and watch Geoff and Samantha shed their crocodile tears, and laugh at them from behind your designer shades. Because that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, laugh at a funeral.

You’re allowed to do that when it’s your own.

I’m talking too much. You’re at your door and you keep staring at me over your shoulder.

Nervous? Who cares, I’ve made a decision. You’re not going to like it but here it is: there’s room in the world for only one me, after all.

And it’s the ‘You’ me.

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