In the summer of 2002, I began a project to search for myself in another world. More specifically, I wanted to find someone who looked identical to me, but shared none of my own DNA, none of my own torment, none of my own hallucinations. I wanted to find a built in friend who shared my face; a face that time had not been kind to, that nature had not blessed, that carried nothing special except the dimple on my left cheek when I, on rare occasions, smiled. It was no easy task. I had no idea how to even begin the search for another me.
I started by doing what I do best, and created the facade of a website that did not actually do what it claimed to do. It claimed to be a networking site for other Asians around the globe to meet people with similar interests. On the site, people would pay a nominal fee to upload their resume, location, bio, interests and most importantly, their photos so they could connect with other strangers through key word searches. On the backend of the website, I had their credit cards, their address, their location, and most importantly, their photos. To my surprise the website actually served its function, it connect people together, even made love connections, but other than scamming people out of nominal amounts of money here and there, it didn't serve its true purpose for me. I had yet to find my new self.
As the website got more and more popular, it took me longer and longer to find candidates on my quest. I would spend hours playing with hair color and even contemplating small fixes like nose a job for me, or perhaps an accidental break to theirs so it would match my own. I had a very crooked nose. My mother use to say it was because I was possessed as a baby. She said I would cry for hours and hours, inconsolable. Inevitably, when crawling I would cry and run into the walls, she says. I can't be sure, but when she died of an accidental knife to the heart, I made sure our noses matched. I didn't want her to feel lonely like I always did with no sibling and no friend to share scars with.
I spent more and more hours looking for my soulmate. She had to be out there, I had heard of stories. In the meantime, other people were finding people who looked just like them and were not related. They would meet and post their stories to the website. They would thank you, the creator with the fake photo on her profile, who I had dubbed "Allison" from Texas, with blonde hair, big boobs and Texas flair. All the things I wasn't, Allison allowed me to stay incognito. I didn't want to scare my twin away.
I all but gave up hope until the summer of 2014, when I found her. She was two years younger than I, but already had a crooked nose. She wasn't smiling in any of her photos, but my eyes swelled up with tears as I saw photo after photo of what could be me with short hair. She had lived in Korea, a recent transplant to Arkansas. I grabbed scissors and cut my hair jagged like hers. I looked at her photos hundreds of times. I blew them up on my wall and covered my studio apartment. I lived for her updates, trying to figure out how I could travel to Arkansas to meet her. She had scar on her left shoulder, so I had to create one as well and let it mature before meeting. I wanted it to be perfect , as if we were looking in a mirror.
We started talking on the private chat app and I found out more about her. Seems her mother also had an accidental death, one of taking too many pills. She had no brothers, no sisters, but a few dead uncles. She was all alone in the world and needed a friend. I could be that friend. Her name was Jenny...which was so much softer than my name Ji-eun.
We almost looked the same, but I was afraid to meet her as myself, so I had to find someone who resembled the photo of Allison. My "Allison" look a like didn't come willingly of course, but eventually, she saw things my way and she played dress up and took the photos in exchange for food and a mattress. My basement could be cold and I even agreed kindly to allow her to live without handcuffs down there. I exchanged several pictures with Jenny of Allison, all so I could get new pictures of her. Then the photos got racier and finally, without realizing it, I had fallen for her.When she finally sent me a photo of herself smiling, and I recognized her dimple on the right side; a mirror image looking back at me, I decided we had to meet in person and be together. But how? She would know instantly that I wasn't Allison, but I had to try, so I hopped on a plane to Arkansas to see her. My heart raced and pounded, my palms sweat the entire time, my breathing seemed to stop intermittently.
* * *
When Ji-eun arrived at my house, she was stunned that I wasn't stunned. The poor girl didn't realize that I had been following her since 2002, since she started her project. She was so singular in her pursuit of a friend, that she didn't realize I had uploaded dozens and dozens of her early profiles, trying to get more and more people to join the site. I died my hair her color and while breaking my nose to match hers was painful, it made us pass as pretty close to identical. She had money from the website and was someone whose life I could easily be absorbed into. She had no family, she had no friends and most importantly, she wasn't wanted for any crimes anywhere. She a perfect copy; another me. It almost broke my heart when she accidentally drowned in my pool. She was probably the only person who ever loved me. But now a days, there are so many faces. The internet has made us all closer, all more connected incase I ever need another me. But I often think of Ji-eun and how peaceful she looked as she floated away in that pool. She didn't want to be alone. She never embraced it, which was ultimately her greatest weakness; for loneliness is where we harness our most creative selves.