Some years ago I took a new job in a town twenty five miles away from where I live. At first I tried a number of different routes to get to and from work, but eventually settled on a cross-country journey which, although wasn’t the quickest, was the most enjoyable due to the good scenery and the pleasure of driving quickly along twisting and hilly country lanes.
I know that many people would find it strange to take enjoyment from this type of driving, but to me it enforces a deep concentration which I feel is good for me and, seeing the hedgerows and fields flash by, gives an adrenalin rush which I know is good for me. Just the thing to help me start the day, or forget work on the homeward journey.
In those days I drove an old-type Volkswagen Beetle, but it was quite nippy and cornered well. Some would say that this car is a little strange for reasons such as having a rear-mounted engine or an air cooling system, but the strangest thing for me was the way in which other Beetle drivers waved to you on passing. I think the habit started when VW Beetles were very scarce on these shores, so to see another Beetle driver was a rarity, hence an affectionate wave. No matter how the protocol came about it was firmly entrenched when I bought my Beetle, so I always waved to keep the tradition alive.
It was on my journey to work that I spotted another Beetle driver, coming from the opposite direction. I only ever caught a glimpse of the car due to the nature of the road and my driving speed. So, for example, I would see the car just as I pulled out of a bend or on the crest of a hill. There was hardly time to see the vehicle properly, let alone give my customary wave to a fellow Beetle driver. However, there were certain times where I did get a better look, mainly if we passed on a fairly straight stretch of road. It was a time such as this when I noticed that the other Beetle was the same colour as mine. I also could just about make out that the driver was male and had dark hair, like mine also.
I would see the other Beetle a couple of times a week and always when I was going to work, never on the return journey. Over the months I did get to confirm the car’s colour and the gender of the driver, but I never had a good enough look to elaborate any further. That is until one June morning.
I was driving along as normal when I approached a herd of cows being lead along the road from one field to another, perhaps off to milking. A couple of chaps were steering them along and encouraging them into the awaiting field. Obviously I could only crawl along in my car until the cows had been safely delivered. Just as this happened, I came face to face, well car to car, with the other Beetle driver who had clearly been held up like me and I managed to get a clear look at the driver.
Oh my god! I couldn’t believe my eyes. The other driver was me! Well someone who looked very similar if not identical. A shudder went through my body. It felt like someone had taken a copy of my body and was using it for his own without my permission.
In a mild shock I drove very sedately on the rest of my journey and on arrival at work my colleagues noticed that I was behaving differently, but I couldn’t explain what had happened.
I couldn’t get the surprise meeting out of my head and my doppelganger played on my mind. More than anything my curiosity was such that I started to think of the possibilities, but could only come up with three – the oncoming man was wearing a mask of me, it was a freak of nature that someone looked identical to me, or it was my twin.
I discounted the first option as ridiculous, so I was left with just two others. There was one way I could discount one of the two remaining options, so during the day I phoned my parents and told them I would be visiting this evening.
“I had a very strange experience today,” I told my parents, “I came face to face with someone who looked exactly like me.”
My parents didn’t respond.
“I know this sounds stupid, but is there any way I could be a twin?”
There was a long pause. My father looked at my mother who gave a look of approval and then my father spoke.
“Yes, you are a twin. Your mother and I thought long and hard about telling you that you were adopted, but decided in the end not to tell you. You were adopted at 18 months old. You had an identical twin who was adopted by another family, but they lived many miles from here and the possibilities of you meeting up were minimal.”
After a few days of coming to terms with this new information, I was determined to meet my twin. On the longest straight stretch of road on my daily journey was a layby and I planned to pull up there and try to wave down the oncoming black Beetle.
It was over a week before the chance came. I’d waited in the layby for half an hour each day following the news, but only now could I see the black Beetle approaching and I waved my arms furiously to attract the driver’s attention. The car slowed and pulled into the layby. My heart began to thump.
The driver got out of the car and walked towards me.
As he did so, he pulled off the mask of my face and laughed.