I Ain’t Him, I’m His Brother

NICE 1It happens every time I walk into a shop, a bar, or just down the street. It happens whenever I see another person in my hometown. They look at me in that way you do when you recognize someone who you owe money.

“Hey, how’s it going?”


“You been busy?”

And then I know it for sure, it’s not me they’re talking to, it’s my brother. Now, my brother’s not a bad-looking guy and there are certainly similarities. We both have a habit of stripping off our pants in public, often together. We have a raspy voice, love Miller High Life, do not suffer fools, and have a relationship with the spoken curse that borders on narcotic dependency. Moreover, we have dark hair, dark eyes, and a Cro-Magnon brow inhabited by bushy eyebrows.

But, and I cannot stress this enough, I am not him. In Langhorne, Pennsylvania, I do something I never have to do anywhere else: assert my individuality! I suppose all of us want to be physically individual. Do you like being told that you remind someone of someone else? If you do this to someone in bed they are legally allowed to pee on your toilet seat.

The local bar, The Horne, is dark. The bartender does the recognition nod as I approach. “Hey, I almost didn’t recognize you,” she says.


“I almost didn’t recognize you with those glasses on.”

I look at the other bartender who is smiling and shaking his head. He has played and lost the recognition game before; he knows exactly what’s happening.

“You don’t recognize me. You recognize my brother.”

She pauses. Laughs. “Oh,” she says, and bends her neck, letting out a very deliberate “haha.” The haha you let out when you’ve caught someone pulling one over on you. The haha you let out when you’re sister lets the air out of your tires or your cousin tells you he ate your portion of the pizza bagels. A distinct “I am not amused” haha.

“Right,” she says. “You almost had me.”

I am cracking my toe knuckles.

“Let me guess – High Life?”

“Yes.” Hm. She has made my case slightly more difficult to win.

The other bartender gets involved. “Nah, he ain’t him. He’s his brother.”

“Whose brother?”

“His.” The bartender points at me.

I foresee the Abbott and Costello skit from hell, so I ask for my beer. I get it. I could care less about whatever happens after that.

I have seen enough episodes of Colombo and Monk to know that a twin features heavily in several plots. And while my brother and I are not twins, apparently it’d be tough to tell us apart in a line up. Maybe this is something I could consider using to my advantage. Are you him? Yes, can I borrow your car?

I have the added benefit of living out-of-town. And not just out-of-town, but across an ocean in a state which is highly uncooperative to anyone inside their borders. I can only imagine their extradition process. I’d be retiring by the time they sent me back. I could do so much damage, borrow money, rent ATVs, have affairs with the grizzled wives of union leaders. I have daydreams of becoming a minor hood in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

As he often does, Jean Valjean ruins my plan. I am running. The morning is Philadelphia humid, hot, and heavy. Les Miserables is propelling me forth in appropriate misery. A man across the street from my parents’ house asks my opinion on the upcoming Eagles season. I want to shout back that the regular season will probably have 16 games, thus exhausting my NFL expertise, instead I smile and jog away. Doesn’t he think it’s weird that my brother has gone grey since the last time he’s seen him?

If you don’t know the story of Jean Valjean, here are the bullet points:

  • He commits a crime.
  • He escapes.
  • He is chased by Inspector Javier.
  • He successfully creates a new identity.
  • His unfortunate Doppelganger gets arrested in his place.
  • He goes through inner turmoil as to whether he should let an innocent man take the rap for him.
  • I sing along to Jean Valjean belting out Who am I? every time I get buzzed.
  • Hugh Jackman portrays him.

I’d be no good at inner turmoil. I feel like writing an apology letter to baseball players I shout at on TV. Besides, I have enough already. By the end of my run I am convinced to deal with the minor inconvenience and let it go.

I stop on the driveway, utterly exhausted. Neighbor man does the recognition nod, repeats the question.

“How the Eagles gonna do this year?”

“Superbowl. I bet you a beer.”


Ha. I feel so illicit. I softly sing Who am I? by Mr. Valjean as I step into the house and towards my coffee. I feel naughty. I was someone else for a moment. I briefly imagine the bartender at The Horne wondering if it’s Valjean or his unfortunate Doppelganger buying the beer. The recognition nod. The deliberate haha.

I have pulled it off.

In a month I’ll send my brother $3.25.

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