He was mistaken for someone else.
It was always happening. One time he was arrested and returned to a psychiatric institution in Norway. They put him in a straight jacket with a mask, and one of the policeman kept calling him Hannibal. Are you hungry, Hannibal? the police officer whispered. After the police released him he found out they thought he was an escaped patient—a British man—who had killed his Norwegian family and eaten them.
In Los Angeles he’d been mistaken for a film star and was led to a table full of executives, producers, and his agent, who was high. He didn’t say much. He had glass of red wine and a steak salad. He went to the bathroom where he recognized the movie star he was supposed to be. The man was staring at the mirror, holding onto the sink, not moving.
Take the project, he said before he left. It sounds good. At least better than your last film.
Early on in his life he’d learned to treat each incident calmly; not to fight it; to let it naturally resolve itself as much as possible.
On a walk in his neighborhood a woman mistook him for her husband.
You always do this, she said.
What? he said.
Do this, she said.
Do what? he said.
This! she said.
She turned to walk up the stairs. Are you coming? she said. Dinner is ready.
They ate dinner and afterwards had sex. She punched him in the face during sex. Jesus Christ, why’d you do that? he said.
Do what? she said.
I thought that’s what you wanted, she said. You said that’s what you wanted.
Yeah, she said. You always do this. Always. You always do this.
Jesus Christ, he said.
That’s right, she said. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. You always say that. You always say that.
He left during the middle of the night while she was asleep. On his way back to his apartment, the police arrested him for robbing a house. He spent the next few hours at the police station trying to explain that he couldn’t have robbed the house in question because he was a mile away sleeping with a woman who thought he was her husband and who’d hit him in the face, which was why his eye was red and beginning to swell. He always thought it best to be honest, he said. They let him go.
On his way out of the station he was mistaken for a detective and his partner drove them to a crime scene. It was a triple murder. A man had killed his wife, his two-year-old son, and the housekeeper who had to showed up to work early. All bullets to the head. He stepped outside for fresh air. The neighbor saw him.
That’s the husband, the neighbor shouted! Police, police! That’s the husband! That’s the husband!
The police had to hold the neighbor back. He was going to attack.
He was again taken to the police station and questioned, until they found the husband dead in his car at the family’s cabin in the woods.
He decided to tell his story. He went to a storytelling event.
A woman talked about running with the bulls–a lifelong dream–and being gored through her leg and nearly dying. A man talked about a traffic ticket that led to meeting his wife, a transsexual recovering heroin addict, who later died of AIDS. The MC was on crutches. She was talking about what it’s like to have sex while recovering from a broken leg. She said she recently had a simultaneous orgasm with her boyfriend for the first time. She reached into the hat with all the names and pulled out one. She called out his name: Stefan Markazky.
Stefan Markazky, she said, as he was making his way to the front. I know that name. Are you the guy that dated my friend and put the morning after pill into a smoothie and tried to get her to drink it?
A few people in the audience laughed.
No, he said. People are always confusing me for someone else. It wasn’t me.
I hope so, Stefan. I hope so.
I was switched at birth, he began. That classic nightmare scenario. I was raised by Korean immigrants for the first six months of my life until the hospital discovered their mistake. My first day of kindergarten my teacher was positive I was a missing child from another state, where she’d just moved from. So I spent my first day of school at a police station, my DNA tested and my parents questioned. My mom had to attach a leash to me when she went shopping, otherwise other parents would grab me and take me, assuming I was their child.
It’s a rare medical phenomena called facial misalignment recognizement syndrome, where we think we see someone but it’s in fact someone else. And that someone else is often me. I’ve spent a lot of time in police stations in my life. Not just in the US but also out of the country. I spent six months in jail for the murder of–
Asshole! a woman from the audience yelled.
–the murder of my next door neighbor.
Asshole! the woman shouted again. She was struggling to stand. A man next to her was telling her to sit down and be quiet.
You’re an asshole! she said. Remember me? Remember me, asshole?
There was silence. The MC was in the bathroom.
Asshole! You’re an asshole! the woman said.
The audience was silent.
Oh my God, it’s happening to him again, a woman in the audience said.
Stefan was trying to get a look at the woman.
The woman was lunging toward him with a tumbler of whiskey. She threw it at him. The tumbler hit him in the head and broke on the floor. He touched his forehead and there was blood mixed with whiskey.
You bastard! she screamed. You bastard! Remember me?
He looked at her. He did remember.
You must have me confused with someone else, he said. It’s always happening.
No, she said. I know who you are. I know.
She pulled out a gun.
Jesus Christ! he said. Darlene! Who brings a gun to a storytelling event?
I had a funny feeling tonight, she said. Just a funny feeling I’d see you. A real funny feeling. Do you ever get those? Funny feelings? I got one tonight. You’d be up here telling your story, expecting us to feel sorry for you. Do you want to apologize before I shoot you? Do you want to say you’re sorry? Do you? Or should I just shoot you? Bang bang you’re dead. Ha ha! Bang bang! You’re dead, Stefan! You’re dead! You broke my mother’s heart. You killed her. She didn’t mean anything to you, did she? You wanted a little money. You’re just a shitty little conman, aren’t you? That’s it. Now I’m going to kill you. Bang bang, Stefan, you’re dead!
The EMT bandaged him. They put him on the stretcher. Darlene, he said. Darlene! But she was gone. At the hospital a cop looked at him as he was wheeled past. Dad? the cop said. Dad?