Sylvia, I shouted across the outdoor patio of the restaurant. She didn’t turn around. I caught up to her bent over the familiar black walker, with the same profile, same blouse I’d seen Sylvia wear before. I said, Hi Sylvia, when she turned and said her name wasn’t Sylvia but she’d be glad to become her for a while if I insisted. I should have insisted.
Embarrassed, I return to my seat mumbling, Who is Sylvia? What is she? When a young man passing by said he sang that song on stage recently to which I replied, smugly, Two Gentleman from Verona. Things like this happen when you live in a small town like Los Angeles. It seems to be getting even smaller, at least in my diminishing mind. What if there were only 11 people in the world? All right, 37. It would make my life a lot easier.
I could have made two new friends at once but I returned to my table pondering my habit of mistaken identity. Everyone looks like someone else to me. I’m not at all sure I would recognize myself if I met me in an elevator. I’m often startled to look in the mirror. I know the guy looks familiar but I can’t quite place him.
Some of us like Redford or Newman keep the same face for a lifetime. No wonder they recognize themselves. Others like Pacino or Brando morph as if there was always another Al and Marlon waiting to emerge. A friend once remarked that she had married Roddy McDowell and ended up with Danny De Vito.
Watching old movies I often blurt out to Peggy, that’s the same actor who was in so and so. I’m so sure we’ll bet $5.00. I’m always wrong. I’ve become her most reliable source of income next to Social Security.
My friend, Fred, emails me faces of famous people to identify. I’m batting well under 500. Give Jesus a haircut and I wouldn’t know him from Woody Allen. I might identify Mona Lisa with a mustache as Meryl Streep. At a police line-up I picked the wrong guy even though he had held me up twice and knew me on a first name basis.
About ten years ago several people mistook me for George Bush. I’ve never quite recovered from the trauma. Nobody, as far as I know, has mistaken me for Obama. It must be the ears. It’s small comfort to know there are others out there challenged with faces as I am. Someday one of them might mistake me for Sylvia.
Sylvia, you used to be short and fat. Now you’re tall and thin.
I’m not Sylvia.
And you were once female, now look at you.
I’m not Sylvia.
And you even changed your name.