A Strange Case of Missing Identity

He takes a walk as the sun peeks it’s dreary head over the horizon. He sips his coffee as the brisk morning begins to awaken around him, greeting him quietly with the far-off sound of a train and of birds in the trees above singing their love-songs to the skies. He sees all of this, absorbs the details, and wonders to himself, “Where do I fit in?”

He pauses a moment and stares into the sky; slowly, it fades from inky-purple to shades of red and orange. He recognizes the beauty, and smiles a goofy grin, almost accidentally. He walks to a bench and sets down his coffee. He reaches into his jacket pocket and fumbles for his cigarettes and his lighter. He swears absent-mindedly as he drops everything from his pocket. He stoops to pick it all up, and a succeeding thought strikes from the shadows of his mind; who the hell am I?

He sits down and sighs to himself. He has no clear answer; he knows his name, and he knows what he does for a living, but those things don’t define a man. His imagination conjures up a comical, funny-mirror version of himself, and he begins to converse out loud with it…both sides of the conversation…you know, like a crazy person.

“What does define a man, anyway?” the fun-house image asks in a mocking tone.

The real man shrugs. “I really don’t know. It could be just about anything.”

Fun-House wags his finger. “You know that’s far from the truth.”

“Do I?”

Fun-House squints for a moment, then replies. “You tell me, genius; you’re the one who’s discussing his identity crisis with his imaginary friend. I mean, you clearly understand that I’m not really here, but you’re talking to me like I’m real flesh and blood.”

The real man takes a long drag off his cigarette and exhales slowly. Fun-House continues.

“So you don’t know who you are; big deal. You’re in your twenties; most people your age don’t know who they are yet. You’re still in that stage between ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ and actually BEING grown-up.”

“You know, you’re remarkably self-aware for being a figment of my imagination.”

“This is your party, bubba; I’m only as intelligent or as involved as you allow me to be.”

“Okay, so let me ask you this, then. I can imagine all these situations, and I can see myself as so many different people when I write. I have all this room in my mind for these different characters and worlds; why is that I feel like such a blank slate in the real world? In my head, I’m able to be whoever and wherever I want to be. Why do I feel so lost and insignificant outside of my head?”

Fun-House shakes his head. “That’s a loaded question there, chief. Look, When you were a kid, you had all these dreams of the things you wanted to do, and of what you wanted to be. To some extent, you never let those things go. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You walk around thinking your mind is fractured and broken, and you worry about your sanity to the point that you nearly induce a nervous breakdown every few months.

“Perhaps it’s not that your mind is broken, but that it is open; open to new ideas, new places, new perspectives. Your ability to see things that aren’t there is a gift, not a curse. It allows you to understand the world in ways that no one else can, and it lets you slip into someone else’s shoes and see things through their eyes.

“This means not only do you care about seeing things the way other people do, but that you also seek out new and different lenses with which to view things. You are not content to just quietly see things from where you stand, but to explore other options, and loudly proclaim what you see to the rest of the universe.

“If you really want to know who you are, that’s you. You are an inventor of worlds and you share those worlds with your fellow human beings. You put to the page your thoughts, and your sole desire is to inspire everyone else to open their eyes to the infinite possibilities that you see. You spend so much time worrying about your identity that you miss the point of wearing these different masks in the first place. You show people things they may not have seen before, and you put to words things that people might not be able to say. What you need to do is quit your belly-achin’ and get to work. Write some of this crap down; who knows, maybe one of these imaginary conversations will make you famous.”

The real man grins. “I’m not sure that my insanity will make me famous; I don’t think that’s the kind of fame I would want anyway.”

Fun-House raises an eyebrow and crosses his arms. “You do realize the only reason I’m here right now is because you are too afraid to admit this stuff to yourself without me, right?”

The real man grunts.

“Get off your ass and get to typing. Quit wasting time; there’s no telling how much of it you have left.”

Fun-House fades away back into the corners of his mind, and the real man flicks his cigarette butt into the street as he walks back inside. He sits down at the keys and stares at the blank page before him for a moment, wondering what to say. A smirk slowly spreads across his face, and he begins to type.

” He takes a walk as the sun peeks it’s dreary head over the horizon…”

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