In my ramblings through the city, I had happened upon at least three to four doubles of people near and dear to me. And it led me to wonder whether this was simply due to the greater concentration of humans in today’s urban environments and whether the people of centuries past would have come across so many strangely familiar faces. This, in turn, led me to ponder just how many people the average Westerner meets with today as opposed to yesteryear.
If the temptation to respond “many more” made itself felt, it was nonetheless important to remember that not all Westerners were globetrotting citydwellers. At last, this brought me to ask whether my own experiences of doubles was greater, lesser or merely different in kind to that felt by those now dead. I might as easily chalk it up to an instance of diminishing returns as to an awareness heightened by their more frequent occurrence, without ever learning the truth of the matter.
The night before had been spent in odd company at the jazz festival where I had followed, for reasons that I still have difficulty placing, a group of hostelgoers to watch a folk band perform. In the crowd, I distributed a few cans of beer that I had hidden about my person and chatted for a few minutes with a Bavarian tourist. In between sips of warm lager, I looked up to follow a low-flying plane’s slow progress from east to west. When I at last turned my attention from sky to stage, I found myself separated from my companions of a few minutes before and alone with an unknown hostelgoer, twice my age, and whom I had avoided up to that point.
If he had perhaps shared the feeling, we nonetheless managed to set that aside and attempt to find our way out and back. All the while we passed street performers and stages, he shared his story. His tale showed him more open to life’s going-ons than myself. That tale took on further depth and complexity as we paused to take in a dirge from a woman-fronted blues band and, farther on, a tune from a man making techno of buckets and sandals. The story came to a head in a cornerstore an hour later as the man behind the counter ran us out, what with the shop’s closing. Again in the common room, I bid him good night and good luck.
I climbed the stairs to the dormitory. Fumbling with the keycard, I got the door open after a moment and found myself face-to-face with James from Vancouver with whom, in keeping with the night’s strange turn, I discussed at some length the ethics of in-dormitory masturbation, of respect for one’s bunkmate and of the virtues or failings of sleeping naked.