I am someone who drives along the electronic highway for many hours each day, often encountering individuals with my identical name. No surprises there. But I began to wonder: were we connected in some way? Could the power of a name create a similar identity? Those questions seeded “To My Dead Namesake” and “Mistaken Identity Theft.” The writing raised other questions about a virtual life I was creating on the Internet. My focus began to center upon another Lenore who had recently died of cancer. However, she continued to have a presence parallel to my own. I wondered who was the real Lenore, in the way that the old television game show, “To Tell the Truth” used to present a series of contestants, all claiming to be the same person.
Mistaken identities are no stranger to literature. Shakespeare used it as a device in The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night; Mark Twain employed it in The Prince and the Pauper. But here was a new situation, at least I thought so: two people with the same name and parallel identities, each with her own presence, one of whom had passed away, but who continued to live by virtue of links to electronic media. What does this mean for any of us?
To My Dead Namesake
To the dead Lenore who always appears on the same Google page, an interloper who comes up in search results by virtue of our identical names, twinned on the Internet, the two Lenore's, one a writer, the other a Route 66 historian, the first woman to receive the John Steinbeck Award for caring about preservation. Remember how I contacted you when you were alive, sent an email about our matched identities? We could have used the same library card, gone shopping together at CostCo. Heck. They never check photo ID there anyway.
Maybe in a former lifetime we were sisters whose parents lacked imagination; turns out we're just two people with the same first and last name, the same algorithm. Oh, Lenore. You never contacted me. I was trying to be your friend. Then there were those terrible rankings. Your home page that appeared before mine, confusing image searches. How was anyone supposed to know the real Lenore? Don't get me wrong. I recognize that you raised the bar high and now I'm trying to get over it.
I bet you think I'm competitive. How can I compete with a dead woman? Let's be real. You were involved in trading posts and gas stations, probably thought I was a crank scheduled for deletion. You were all over the place, gave dog owners advice. Now you've fallen below the fold, your obituary becoming more dated, and I wonder what you think about this and if you care.
In some weird way you do exist, a Lenore who inhabits the Internet in a past tense that is served up in my present, which I suppose is no different than hearing Frank Sinatra, Old Blue Eyes, crooning "Strangers in the Night." But non, you are fished out of a hat by virtue of a link, a Milky Way of connective tissue. I'm not sure what to make of this except I know our names and futures are linked.
Spinoza rated intuitive knowledge as the highest in his own operating system. But what do any of us know in this crazy world, you tell me, you're the one into preservation, and I'm so glad you didn't embarrass us, put together a cross-country road map and pulled into a rest stop until cancer got the best of you. I'm on the spot now for whatever comes next, my season to cavort on the Internet while you, my baleboosteh of the great Mother Road, wait at the frontier of something so big, it keeps getting rediscovered, a Route 66 at the confluence of rivers and oceans, a place where networks talk to each other without servers. With everything said and done, you are still there like a twin who wears the same clothes as I do, my doppelganger who drinks with Jack Kerouac and sings in a valance of electrons.
Mistaken Identity Theft
Another domain name with the same name floating in the clouds. She’s got an architect’s degree and travels to Italy. Great foreign legions of Lenore. What does she know of Edgar Allen Poe's cabin in the Bronx and roller-skating down Manida Street waiting for someone to break open the fire hydrant? Hemingway, hold the cognac. You be the judge. We can take a breathalyzer test and see which one of us is faking it. Try on each other's name and see what we can make of it. I'll design condos and family dream homes. Invite her to live on the bayou and eat crab etouffee. We can trade notes. Exchange places. Learn from each other's mistakes. I'm no addendum, God help me, please!
Lenore grew up in New York City, raised a family in the Bay Area, and currently resides in Louisiana where she freelances for Bayou Life magazine. Lenore's collections include "Tap Dancing on the Silverado Trail" (Finishing Line Press, 2011), “Sh’ma Yis’rael” (Pudding House Publications, 2007), and "Cutting Down the Last Tree on Easter Island" (West End Press, 2012). Her most recent poetry collection is "Two Places" (Aldrich Press, 2014). She serves as the copy editor of Blue Lyra Review.