As part of a huge - and much needed - marketing push, I'm going to be serializing a few of my all-time favorite books ... starting with the (ahem) rather infamous novel that I may or may not have actually written: Me2
"Absolutely brilliant!" says Lisabet Sarai, author of Incognito and Fire, about Lambda finalist M.Christian's controversial manlove horror/thriller.
He looks just like you. He acts exactly like you. He takes away your job. He steals your friends. He seduces your male lover. None of them can tell the difference. Every day he becomes more and more like you, pushing you out of your own life, taking away what was yours … until there’s nothing left. Where did he come from? Robot? Alien? Clone? Doppelganger? Evil twin? Long lost brother? Then you discover there are still more "yous." Can you be sure you are the real you? And how do you fight to take your own life back?
An absorbing new approach to the question of identity, Me2 is a groundbreaking gay chiller you’ll remember for a long time – no matter who you are, or who you think you may be.
(Despite rumors that this book was written by an impostor - but, rest assured, this is the real 'M.Christian.' Accept no substitutes!)
"You've heard it a lot. Hell, I know you've heard it a lot. But I mean it, you to me – honestly, truthfully – I know what you're feeling, the shit you've been going through.
"There's a lot of things going on. Real things. It's not just in your mind, not just in the space between your ears. It's not just you.
"That's the problem, too. But at least you aren't alone. So you can relax, if you can.
"I'm so glad you came in. I've tried to track down a few others like us, but when I got close, they got pretty freaked out. A few even got punchy. Can't really blame them, I guess. Some of them are pretty ... busted up. So that's why I stopped looking, let them come to me. Like you have. So glad you're handling it ... as well as you are. You seem to be one of the better ones.
"Have you figured it out yet? No? I'm not surprised. A few of us have had bits of it – a part here and there – but none of us have had all of it. Don't know why I did. Luck, maybe. Could be I've had more time to think. I don't know.
"We're all the same. That's what it's all about. That's what's going on: none of us are unique. No one is. We've all become types, we wear nothing but costumes, we act only like we're supposed to act –and we like it that way. We've made ourselves into what we want to be, how we want to be seen. It doesn't matter what that is: rich, poor, stupid, smart, beautiful. It doesn't even matter how we start either – no parents, one parent, both parents, whatever – because no matter how we grow up, we all want to be the same as everyone else when we do.
"It's always been kind of like this, but it's different now. Worse, I think. Things used to travel slowly. But now it just rushes at you, doesn't it? TV, the Internet, magazines, books. Life – all of it. Sometimes you feels like it's too much, right? It's too loud, too crazy, too angry. So you try to find ways not to feel tense, outside, alone: you listen to the top ten, watch the top ten, think the top ten are sexy, want to look like the top ten, want to become the top ten, because everyone else does. It's safe. It feels good to know what you're doing is what everyone else is doing.
"There's something else, too: the TV, the Internet, the magazines, the books are all made to get to the most people, right? That's the way it works, isn't it? They're successful when they get the most number of people to read the same thing, watch the same thing, think the same thing, become the same thing – and they keep getting better and better at it. Something's a hit because it was made to be a hit – and we make it a hit because if we don't watch it, listen to it, be like it then we won't be like everyone else.
"Think about it. We want to be wanted, so we buy what they're selling, so we become what everyone wants: a predictable model, a type, a unit. Everyone's the same – and that way we not only know what we are, but everyone else knows what we are, too. Then to stay that way, we buy what we're supposed to buy and live the way our types are supposed to live. It goes round and around and around and around!
"Have you listened to your thoughts? Really listened? Close your eyes and pay attention: they aren't yours, are they? They're stuff from movies, from TV, from all over the place. They aren't yours because you're just what you've read or watched or seen. You're just bits and pieces of stuff. Stuff that other people are thinking about too, people who want to be the same kind of person you are.
"Even people who don't think they're not the same are the same, I mean. They think they're special but they're not. They're types too – just different types. They think they're beyond all this shit but they're not – they've all read the same books, seen the same flicks, listened to the same music. They all want to be accepted, but accepted by people like them, so they wear their costumes and put on their act. Just like us. Just like all of us.
"Maybe we're ... better at all this, being 'types' I mean. Maybe we're so outside of it, being queer and all, that we just want it more. You know: to be part of something we get and that gets us. So we make ourselves into special shapes and shit and lives to do that. Some of us talk a certain way, walk a certain way, create lives that are just like our type so we don't have to be different. More different, I mean.
"No shit that some of us – some of 'me' you could say – 'broke'. You could see why it happened, when you figure it all out. Others, like you, have handled it okay. That we have become a standard model of a person, I mean. I'm just glad you saw me and came in, so we could talk.
"Others ... like me, too, I guess. How many like me are there? Sitting down and talking to others like you. Explaining about it all? Telling the story? I don't know how many others – but there's more than one. That's the point, I guess: that there's always more than one."
Sitting in Starbucks, listening to him. Listening to me. The other me. A path in his talking, a winding road through my head, going from refusal to belief, from belief to fury, fury to wanting to work things out, wanting to work things out to deep darkness, and then finally from deep darkness to understanding.
We sipped our caramel macchiatos together, one side of the mirror facing the other. Maybe one set of eyes a bit more frantic, the other set of eyes more exhausted. Otherwise the same man here, the same man there: Tommy Hilfiger facing Tommy Hilfiger in a Starbucks that could be any Starbucks. The hair was the same, styled and modeled and clipped in imitation of the same look seen in the same magazine, on the same model who was chosen to appeal to the greatest number of men.
What was he thinking? I could almost hear the words in my head – but only almost. The tone of voice was there, but the details were slippery, sliding from getting caught and nailed down. He'd figured it out, after all. I hadn't. He was me, but a me that was farther along the road, waving back to my slower pace. I might be able to think like he did, given enough time.
I thought about him. I thought about me. I thought about other ... hims and mes and Is and theys and uses. One end of the road marked by a sideways, out-of-the-other-corner-of-the-eye, "Weren't you just here?" the first sign that something-may-not-be-right, that there might be someone out there who looks like me, acts like me, and who wants to steal what's mine.
The other end was this me, who had seen it all, pondered and thought, deduced, and then tried to tell others what he'd pondered, what he'd thought, what he'd deduced.
My coffee was warm in my hand, so I sipped at it. Across the table, my coffee was warm in my hand, so I sipped it. A delay, perhaps, of a moment, a pause, a consideration between the two of us. One at this side of the road, the other at that side of the road.
But what was right? No, not a road. That was only one direction: this way or that way. There were others, maybe many others. Only some of them were just beginning, only some of them were finally ending. He said that a few of us hadn't ... taken it well. How not well?
Not well of tears? Not well of sleepless nights? Not well of sadness? Not well of fear? Not well of fright?
I could imagine that too well, and then did, as the coffee filled my mouth with warm excitement: a mirror-image walking through my life, stepping on my toes, taking my place in line, getting everywhere before me, moving in, taking everything. I could see where that would push and push and push until I fell over into tears, from sleepless nights of paranoia, sadness of loss, fear of vanishing, and fright from being replaced.
But there were other kinds of not well. Different direction I could have gone.
Not well of tears? Not well of seduction? Not well of temptation? Not well of escape? Not well of capture?
I could imagine that too well, and then did as the coffee filled my mouth with cooling excitement: a mirror-image fantasy lurking around every nasty corner of my life, crooking a finger at my conscienceless dick, licking duplicate lips, offering a perfect self-dream of narcissism, an enrapturing embrace of the one person I knew would be there and love me no matter what – but then there was the bad stuff of it, the swirling-down-the-drain shivers at the thought of gazing from now until whenever at my own navel. I could see where that would shove me into tears from the allure of seduction, the tug of temptation, the fever to escape, and then the dark wish for capture.
But there were other kinds of not well. Different direction I could have gone.
Not well of tears? Not well of stalking? Not well of pursuit? Not well of corners? Not well of desperation? Not well of blood? Not well of red and blue lights? Not well of prison? Not well of hail of gunfire?
I could imagine that too well, and then did as the coffee filled my mouth with cold dread: around every corner, behind every closed door, a leering face from a warped mirror; every step from behind belonging to him, every sound coming from him, every face at first his – until proven otherwise, every threat his, everything everywhere a scheme belonging to him. I could see where that would shove me into frightened tears, drive me quivering insane from his real or imagined stalking, his real or imagined pursuit, his real or imagined face around every corner, then a moment when it didn't matter if he was real or imagined – it had to stop, then a moment of blood, then an afterworld of alleys and darkness escaping from the police, then an afterworld of bars and rape – or an afterworld of bullets burning hot holes through his body.
So many other kinds of not well. So many different directions I could have gone. Not a road. No, that wasn't right. So many stories with so many different versions of me. I could see them as separate, unconnected, single stories – or even like a novel, with each chapter only looking like the same me on a trip from suspicion to seduction to smashing a supposed copy's brain to gray pudding – but in reality each me is a different one, lots of little stories instead of a big one in little pieces.
And I, sitting in front of another me sipping coffee, is just one more. One more false chapter. One more me. In some books I'd be the end, in others only the beginning.
We got up to refresh our caramel macchiatos, he and I, perfectly together – as were the grins we shared at getting up together to refresh our caramel macchiatos. Then we were broken, he doing something I wasn't doing – but only for a moment as I followed the turn of his head to look out the window, and saw what he turned his head to see. Outside, looking in, worn and tired, scared and sleepless, Tommy Hilfiger over an older look as disguise, eyes too wide from too many shocks, was another me.
With what I hoped was a friendly beckoning, I crooked my finger at him; welcoming him into the company of himself.