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social security numbers against death records. Of course, whole books had been written on how to go to the library or the graveyard or the hall of records, find the name of someone who had died, apply for a social security card in that name and voila! new identity. Jim found this out and urged a friend in law enforcement to enter my age, 34, and scan the system for any new applications for social security cards by "dead people." Unfortunately, the program spewed forth thousands of names. He could not have guessed that fraud had undone so many. I think that's what broke him, the knowledge that so many people had so easily doffed the robe of identity. Also-besides the ghoulishness of it, as if they'd donned the yellowed skin of a corpse-the willful coldness of it. That someone could walk away and abandon all association, leaving loved ones to worry and wonder. That I could. Whatever facade covering his you-ness that nursed love inside him broke that day, as his friend scrolled down the impossible list on his computer screen. I had committed an act of violence against him, he saw that now. Unless I was dead. It was to this broken Jim that sightings were reported. I had been spotted in Paris, sitting at a cafe in an elegantly simple blue dress, legs crossed, one stylish pump bobbing. I was stirring coffee. My hair was a little shorter, just sweeping my shoulders, and very stylish with a kind of fringe of slanting bangs. Or a skeletonized body had been found sprawled at the bottom of an embankment as if thrown from car. Did 1 own a pair of jeans and a white, long-sleeved t-shirt? Didn't all women? Dental records would prove the skeleton theory wrong, but the sightings were more elusive. Though he told friends he could not take me back if I were ever found, still, he booked a flight to Paris and walked the streets. I walked the streets, too. Ah, the tissues of identity are more delicate than we think. Just step out of the rounds of your every day life and you are no longer defined by your actions of yesterday. All these things that say who we are: dress, hairstyle, mannerism, what we say to the guy selling newspapers on the corner or if we are coolly silent-all these things are sifted by our observers and an identity is made up and reflected back to us, and we then reinforce this identity by acting the same way again. Yes, we are this slightly pudgy friendly type who talks too much, or we are the shy nerd with the angry glitter in the sidelong glance. But remove familiar associations, change hair, style, clothing, setting ... and who are you? You are free to make a new identity. I watched a lot of films. Films are all about identity and facade: the story line, the actual fact of actor/character, the veneer of celluloid. Layers of tissue. They fascinate me and, tellingly, they are shown in the dark. 156

FUGUE #3l

Profile for University of Idaho Library

Fugue 31 - Summer/Fall 2006 (No. 31)  

The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho

Fugue 31 - Summer/Fall 2006 (No. 31)  

The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho