Allow me to begin with an excerpt from a six pack of beer:
“…You ever notice how everything has to be today’s version of yesterday’s whatever… Sometimes we wonder what the world would be like if everything was perceived for what it is, and not what it reminds you of. The sun would rise everyday as if for the first time, you’d wake as if newly born, you’d see your lover next to you anew, the air would smell like flowers, work would be like the first day back in school, a beer would make your eyes roll back in your head in ecstasy…”
– Lagunitas, re: Little Sumpin’ Ale
I’ve recently come to know a person by sight who strongly resembles an important woman from my past. I’ve never talked to her and I don’t know her name, and honestly I’m afraid to find out because I fear that any sort of acquaintanceship would disassociate the two women in my mind. As it is, the superficial resemblances are so uncanny that I get some sort of sick, masochistic pleasure in preserving them, as if I enjoy having around an effigy of bygone dreams.
The woman from my past (let’s call her A–) once occupied so much of my emotional energy it’s hard to ignore the lasting influences she has left on my present psyche. I think of her often, and those thoughts are painted with a wide spectrum of emotional reactions – joy, loathing, deceit, gratitude, triumph, compassion, dejection… I speak in vague terms because who she is isn’t important; that she is important is all that needs to be known.
The stranger of my present (let’s call her B–) unknowingly faces the consequences of her fabricated association with A–. I see B– and my cheeks flush. I feel indignation. I feel sympathy. I feel desire. I feel fear. I enter into a state of complete and deliberate self-awareness. I refuse to talk to her – perhaps as a result of feeling something akin to a crush – perhaps out of a reluctance to discover she is not in fact A–.
Although, maybe a resemblance doesn’t exist at all… perhaps I merely want to perceive a resemblance because I can’t yet admit that A– will live out the remainder of her life in my past.
But let’s step back for a second – maybe Lagunitas is onto something. I speak of A– and B– because they inhabit a large part of my current emotional existence. But is it not true that everyone you meet reminds you of someone you have already met? For instance, I am frequently told by people I look like Kevin Bacon in Footloose. From that point of acknowledgement, are they unable to divorce me from the image of Kevin Bacon? Do they look at me and wonder why I don’t dance? Even if associations don’t readily jump out from the visage, when we describe people, we often bring to mind similar people. How does this consciously or subconsciously inform our interactions?
When someone tells you that you remind them of somebody else (or somebody else reminds them of you), do you feel a little less like an individual and a little more like the product of an assembly line?
It would be interesting to discover that all of our present interactions are based on arbitrary associations with past characters. Perhaps every friendship and every rivalry sprouts from the seeds of fallacy and the roots of deception. Are we really unable to experience people and things for the first time, from a clean slate?
Are we forever doomed to subject the innocent to the whimsical associations of our past?