Me, Me, and More Me

Dan Chaon’s new novel You Remind Me of Me is favourably reviewed in the Times.

Chaon’s short story Big Me is one of my favourites.

IN THE SPRING of my twelfth year, a man moved into a house at the end of my block. The house had belonged to an old woman who had died and left her home fully furnished but tenantless for years, until her heir had finally gotten around to having the estate liquidated, the old furniture sold, the place cleared out and put up for sale. This was the house I had taken cats to, the hideout where I had extracted their yowling confessions. Then finally the house was emptied, and the man took up residence.

I first saw the man in what must have been late May. The lilac bush in his front yard was in full bloom, thick with spade-shaped leaves and clusters of perfumed flowers. The man was mowing the lawn as I passed, and I stopped to stare.

It immediately struck me that there was something familiar about him — the wavy dark hair and gloomy eyes, the round face and dimpled chin. At first I thought he looked like someone I’d seen on TV. And then I realized: he looked like me! Or rather, he looked like an older version of me — me grown up. As he got closer with his push lawnmower, I was aware that our eyes were the same odd, pale shade of gray, that we had the same map of freckles across the bridge of our noses, the same stubby fingers. He lifted his hand solemnly as he reached the edge of his lawn, and I lifted my opposite hand, so that for a moment we were mirror images of one another. I felt terribly worked up and hurried home.

THAT NIGHT, CONSIDERING THE ENCOUNTER, I wondered whether the man actually was me. I thought about all that I’d heard about time travel, and considered the possibility that my older self had come back for some unknown purpose — perhaps to save me from some mistake I was about to make or to warn me. Maybe he was fleeing some future disaster and hoped to change the course of things.


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