Small Town Doppelgänger

My 30th birthday fell on a Sunday this year. Start of a new week, start of a new year, start of a new decade. It had been a good birthday weekend. I’d gotten together with friends, eaten a lot, avoided people a lot. Excellent birthday-ing all around. I’d even managed to avoid the blues of turning 30. Who says it’s depressing? Not this girl. And now, on Sunday I was headed to church as was reasonable and logical.

This was the last logical thing to happen for a solid fifteen minutes.

You know how in small towns there’s a healthy gossip circuit? And also in small towns how everyone sees you doing something that you have to later explain? Like the time I bought Heineken at Rite Aid directly in front of one of the small impressionable girl in my church group.

Thank God it was a Dutch beer.

This is probably not me.

So. Sunday morning one of the delightful older women at my church excitedly motioned me over. She’s one of my favorite people. She’s tart, blunt, independent, and funny. I thought perhaps she wanted to wish me a happy birthday. Some inspiring message about “don’t let aging get you down.”

“I hear you have a boyfriend.” Were her opening words.

My heart did that thing it does when I get into a car accident or I’m giving a speech in middle school. Or when I want to get hired and I’ll say anything but am I sure about that? It jumped a little and then I said, “uhhhhh”.

I stood there, wracking my brains for a boyfriend. Surely if I had one, I would know. I considered all the men I’d met lately. I hadn’t asked someone out, had I? I hadn’t accidentally started dating, had I? Was there like a special girlfriend ceremony I’d taken part in? No. No, that was crazy talk. I wasn’t dating anyone. I was 30 and unattached. I’d had that conversation with myself last week. No boyfriend and 30 and pretty cool.

But instinctively I wanted to agree with her. She was so happy about it! So I said cautiously, “I mean…I have friends who are boys?”

She shook her head. “I saw you with him.”

Well she had me there. Big fat liar that I apparently was. I stared at her, mutely. What does one say to such conviction. Clearly she knew my romantic life better than I did.

“You were walking with him down Front street.” She insisted.

When a matriarch of the church is telling you something, I don’t know what it is, but you believe her. I just blinked at her, mentally going over my last week. I did walk down Front street sometimes. Had someone walked with me? DID I HAVE A STALKER? Also, a pretty good one if I didn’t notice him walking with me. Which is flattering I suppose except that maybe it just means I’m not self-aware. It’s probably that. Who is stalking me??

“When was this?” I asked. As if that would help. Like I chronicle the days I walk Front street.

“Last week! You were holding hands.”

This was new information. And surprising. The last time I could recall holding hands I was four and my Mom made me because what if I darted into traffic.

“I don’t think that was me.” I said trying to let her down gently. She is not young, after all.

“It was you!”

It really wasn’t, I thought. I hate holding hands. I have, hands down (ha, ha!) the sweatiest palms in existence. Sometimes when I clap I spray people like an orca doing a belly flop at SeaWorld. Except less majestic.

Based on the new evidence alone it was clearly time to call a mistrial. Besides, I could hear the prelude ending which means the Pastor was about to begin the service. I am never late for service.

“It wasn’t me. I mean, I feel pretty confident on that.” I tried again, a bit hurried now to get to my pew in time.

She looked at me, suspicious. As if I’d just used margarine in place of real butter in a cookie recipe. “No I definitely saw you while I was driving.” It’s clear she thinks I’m hiding a relationship by trotting my boyfriend out on the main drag of the town.

“I’m really sorry it wasn’t me!” I lied. Because she’s an old lady and I’m only in the vestibule of church.

She sighs heavily and I wonder who she’s already told about my boyfriend that she’s now going to have to un-tell. “I was really hoping you had a boyfriend.” She says, and I feel like I’ve just told my own mother that I have no life goals and am seriously contemplating illegal drug usage.

And Happy Birthday to me, I think. I chuckled though. Smiled. “Sorry to disappoint!” I lied again before taking the walk of shame to my seat while the congregation sang the first song.

And while months have passed since this event, I’m concerned I’ve got a slutty doppelgänger brazenly walking around town holding hands with boys.

On the upside, if I ever do decide to experiment with holding hands, it’ll be nice to know I can blame it on some vague lookalike who leans toward PDA. Or maybe I’ll just blame her the next time I’m walking my bottle of wine home from the liquor store in a conspicuous brown bag.


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