That Classic Nightmare Scenario

That Classic Nightmare Scenario

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. "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.

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 when they were having sex she punched him in the face. 

"Why’d you do that?" he said.

"Do what?" she said.

"Hit me."

"I thought that’s what you wanted," she said. "You said that’s what you wanted. Jesus, you always do this."

"I do?"

"You should go now."

He got dressed and left.

On his way back to his apartment, the police arrested him. 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 told them. 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 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 reached into the hat with all the names and pulled out one. She called out his name: Stefan Markazky.

"Stefan," she said, as he was making his way to the front. "You look familiar. 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?"

"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," Stefan said, beginning his story. "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.

"Oh my God, it’s happening to him again," a woman in the audience said.

The woman was lunging toward him holding a bottle of whiskey.

"You bastard!" she screamed. "You bastard! Remember me?"

He did remember.

"I know who you are," she said.

She wave the bottle of whiskey at his face.

"I had a funny feeling tonight," she said. "Just a funny feeling I’d see you. 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."

"Darlene, I'm sorry. That was a long time ago."

"I know who you are," she said, and brought the bottle of whiskey down on his head.


The EMT bandaged him. They put him on the stretcher. "Darlene," he said. "Darlene! I love you!" But she was gone.

At the hospital a cop looked at him as he was wheeled by.

"Dad?" the cop said. "Dad?"