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Two Characters In Search Of Another


by Chris Okum


Michael

It took Michael Rangeloff twenty-four hours to digest the news that there was another man named Michael Rangeloff who shared not only his birthday, but the same basic facts of his person: same height, same weight, same color hair, same shoe size, same predilection for impersonating men who had served in the Army, and same idea to use the pseudonym Michael Rangeloff. After getting to know this other Michael Rangeloff a little bit, Michael Rangeloff had the misfortune to discover that the other Michael Rangeloff was more successful at being Michael Rangeloff than he had ever been or would be. The other Michael Rangeloff was absurdly rich and admired by a large group of people who considered him a genius. Somehow the other Michael Rangeloff had figured out how to be the only Michael Rangeloff that mattered. I can't be Michael Rangeloff any more, said Michael Rangeloff. I have to be somebody else now. But Michael Rangeloff did not know who else he could be. It was hard enough creating the person named Michael Rangeloff. It had taken years. And now he was just supposed to conjure up another identity out of whole cloth? It was too much. He was too tired. This was the fifth or sixth time in the last ten years that he had found himself behind the curve. Michael Rangeloff fell into an immediate and acute depression that he knew would last as long as he remained Michael Rangeloff, or as long as there remained another man named Michael Rangeloff. The world, apparently, was too small. It could not contain two of him.

Helene

Helene stood outside of her apartment building and focused on the rain clouds in the distance while Josef, a man she had dated for all of three months, ranted and raved, his eyes wild with hate, his mouth contorting into shapes that only served to highlight his nicotine-stained teeth. You are, uh, so, you know, you're duplicitous, Josef said as he inched closer to Helene, who stepped back, took a drag from her cigarette, and crossed her arms. You promised me so much and you, you just, you failed to deliver. Helene shrugged her shoulders and flicked some ashes onto the street. And now, because of you, said Josef, I am despondent, and, I, uh, simply, it's rather simple, I don't, how do you say, I don't know what to do with myself. Helene smiled and rubbed away a slash of red lipstick that covered her two front teeth. I thought I had a place in your world, Helene, said Josef, But I don't, and I never will, and what's worse, I had a taste, just a small taste, and what would make you think that a man, a man like me, would, you know, uh, that, a small taste would, what's the word? Suffice? Yes, suffice. Helene threw her cigarette onto the ground and rubbed it out with her shoe. She lit another cigarette. Josef seemed mesmerized by the glow of the cigarette's cherry. Helene waved it around in circle, slowly, as if impersonating a hypnotist. She laughed. Josef asked if she was laughing at him. Helene said, No, I am laughing at myself. If I cannot be a part of your life, said Josef, Then I will have to destroy you, all of you, whoever you are, whoever you think you are, along with all that surrounds you, including, these building, these streets, these people. Josef stared at Helene's lips. He bugged out his eyes. He said, Well, what do you have to say for yourself? There is no one more melodramatic, thought Helene, More prone to destructive histrionics, than an ex-lover. The end of a tryst, was always, with every last one of them, not just the end of a tryst, but the end of the very world. But now she could see that she was becoming dangerous to herself. The next man could the one who was not bluffing, who really did want to end her. Perhaps, thought Helene, it was time to fold herself up. Helene took another drag of her cigarette. She crossed her arms again. Josef crossed his arms as well, did it to make a point, not to himself, but to Helene, as if to tell her that her movements, her essence, her very being were not as sui generis as she assumed they were. For a brief moment they mirrored each other. It would be the last time Helene would let any man find his reflection in her. She flicked her cigarette and watched as it flew farther than any cigarette she had ever flicked before. She took a step towards Josef and looked him up and down. Her mouth settled into a sneer. I am not Helene, she said. That's not my name. What's your name then, asked Josef. It should be obvious, said Helene. My name is Galactus. 
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