My clone was me.
It was freaky, like looking at a mirror with a mind of its own… No, that metaphor sucks. How about this: It was weird, like watching a video of myself or hearing a recording of my voice. I felt awkward, slightly embarrassed seeing him interact with the world. My denial mechanisms kicked in. I don’t sound like that do I?
Jeeze, I was a goofy-looking kid.
I shook my head, banishing the unhealthy, however true, thought from my head. Yosha was waiting in line at the music store we were browsing, fidgeting uncomfortably, playing with his hands and the digital media carried between them. I was perusing the soundtracks section for neoclassical works, or at least my fingers were, as my eyes were watching Yosha.
We were enjoying one of the great modern pastimes, mall walking. Who needed intemperate parks and fields to play in with their bugs and dirt and whatnot, when you could have three stories of climate-controlled pristine façade of the local mall to explore? Besides, you couldn’t buy anything in a National Forest.
Just kidding, we did outdoor stuff too, and most of our shopping online seeing as how the mall shops couldn’t cater to our obscure media needs, having to dedicate the majority of their shelf-space to the lowest common denominator. Still, it was cool to get out and see what the average mediocre person was into these days. You know, mindless fads and whatnot.
Right this moment I was seeing an average and mediocre hot blonde girl my clone’s age staring in his general direction, twirling her hair with one finger absentmindedly. I casually sauntered around the aisle to stand in front of the “Gangsta Rap” section for a better view, and then relocated to the “Polka” section to confirm my suspicions. Yosh finished his transaction, oblivious. I averted my eyes just as the blonde girl’s were following my clone over to me.
“All set?” he asked and I stole a quick glance at the girl, still staring hard at my younger self. “If you’re all done browsing…” Yosh’s one eyebrow cocked at the selection in front of me, “’Country’ music?”
“Huh?” I looked at him and shook myself back into the moment. “Sure. Yeah. Fine. Let’s go.”
He continued to give me a funny look as we left the store, but all I could think of was, Why didn’t girls stare at me like that when I was his age?
I whimpered inaudibly as we rounded the corner towards the next waypoint on our journey, the Video Game Boutique, losing sight of the blonde and the realm of possibility that road, more or less traveled, held in store. In my day, the next stop would mean no possibility for female interaction, but modern day women shared equal space with the men surveying the gaming options. I always predicted this eventual outcome.
What I didn’t expect in my futuristic visions, was that the girls would be as goofy looking as the guys. It was a reproductive nightmare. All these kids were doomed to produce goofy looking offspring, perpetuating a vicious cycle of nerds prone to bully victimization. Where was the prescience?
My eyes fell on my younger sunken-chested self checking out the latest release of “Squid Fighter 7,” Oh yeah.
I shuffled in behind him, surveying the titles. Demons, space aliens, extreme sports… gaming hadn’t changed much except to look more and more like real life. A set of curves caught my eye and I instinctively grabbed the box, but another hand was already gripping it.
“I hate it when that happens,” Yosh said, letting go of the box with a slightly disgusted look on his face.
“I can’t help it,” I defended, “our brains are attracted to…” I surveyed the full-bosomed scantily-clad space-vixen, “…science—ahem—fiction.”
I returned the game to the shelf and tried changing the subject, “Did you ever conquer the Indian empire in that Civilization Ten game?”
“Nah,” he shrugged, pulling a game off the shelf. “Gandhi developed WMDs before I did and keeps nuking my cities.”
“Hm,” I intoned, craning my neck to get a look at what he was showing interest in, an action game I disapproved of.
Apparently so did he, as he returned it to the shelf and said, “Lemme buy this real-time strategy game and we can hit the arcade.”
“Does being clones mean we get two souls?” Yosh asked with a smirk as his animated squid executed a perfect spinning tentacle attack, knocking my mutant sperm whale into disorientation.
“Of course!” I grunted, slamming the joystick back and forth in a vain attempt to make my avatar shake it off. “Cloned people are better than everyone else!”
Yosh’s hands blurred into the secret combination that unlocked his giant squid’s special move. Twin tentacles launched across the screen to ravel up the whale, followed by the squid, which chewed it in half with a cruncha, munch, munch.
“Whoa,” I said. “Cool.”
Yosh looked at me, frowning, “Seriously Dad. Have you ever considered the theological implications of having a clone?”
“Not in the middle of an arcade,” I defended.
“Right,” Yosh said. “It’s the buying multiple lives with quarters thing that made me think of it. So let’s say heaven is real—“
“We’re agnostic,” I said.
“You’re agnostic,” he countered. “I haven’t decided yet.”
“That’s what ag—nevermind. Go on.”
“So there’s a heaven, and we both die and go to…”
I gave him that look.
“So we both go to hell,” he corrected. “We both have the exact same genes. So we also have identical souls.”
“We don’t have the same experiences,” I interjected.
“True,” he appeared to think about it. “Either way, genes or experiences, freewill is screwed.”
I smiled, That’s my boy!
We stopped to savor a Zen moment by the water fountain. Streams of H2O leapt up and down obsidian staircases in a dancing optical illusion. Holographic 3-D advertisements for the mall stores played out in a fine watery mist filling the air above the fountains’ center. We paused a few moments to appreciate its artificial beauty, and then set to the joy of surveying our consumerist booty.
Yosh was consolidating his recent purchases from the music store into the video game shopping bag, taking a moment to examine each mini-dvd case. I understood the interest. He was observing the music-dvd from the new perspective of owning it rather than it being a purchasing option in the store.
“What’s that one?” I asked tapping the case in his hand.
“Funkarelics,” Yosh answered. “It’s a hip-hop band.”
“Hip-hop,” I frowned. “Never got into hip-hop. Tried to, but it never grokked with me.”
“Well, it groks with me,” he frowned defensively and then lightened. “That’s probably because it was already here when I was born; therefore, it’s part of the natural state of things.” He winked at me, making sure I got the Douglas Adams reference.
I narrowed my eyes and smirked back at him, “It’s wrong, and it’s against the laws of nature.”
“We’re still talking about hip-hop music, right?”
“Well you’re wrong.”
“It’s an opinion. How can it be wrong?”
“I distinctly remember pwning you in a game of Pirate Baby’s Cabana Streetbattle for the title of ‘Undisputed Supreme Master of the Universe,’” Yosh said with a cocked eyebrow, leveling the pointy finger of authority at me, “meaning my opinion trumps yours.”
“That was no fair,” I waved him off. “My controls weren’t responding well. If we’d switched sides like I asked, I would have kicked your butt.”
“’I would have kicked your butt Undisputed Supreme Master of the Universe,’” he corrected.
“Fine,” I folded my arms over my chest, “but you have to start referring to me as The Alpha.”
His mouth quirked in confused amusement, “Okay Dad, explain the ‘alpha’ thing to me.”
“Not ‘Dad,’” I corrected, lifting my nose into the air, “’The Alpha,’ with a capital ‘T’ and a capital ‘A.’ I was here first and you are a digital copy of my genes; ergo, you must acknowledge my genetic originality to your genetic plagiarism by properly addressing me as ‘The Alpha.’”
“Yeah Dad,” he said, rolling his eyes, “screw a whole bunch of that.”
“’Screw a whole bunch of that Senior Alpha Number One,’” I corrected.
“Fine,” he folded his arms over his purposefully inflated chest, “then you will refer to me as The Omega.”
“Whatever you say amiga.”
“No.” He corrected, “’The Omega,’ with a capital ‘T’ and a capital ‘O.’”
“So you’re not gonna have kids?” I asked.
“I’m not going to clone myself,” he replied. “I’m happy with myself just the way I am.”
“I’m happy with myself too,” I countered. “I had you purely out of curiosity.”
He cocked an eyebrow at me like Mr. Spock from Star Trek, I loved it when he did that, “You played with the laws of nature because you were curious?”
“Yeah,” I shrugged and skipped another penny across the pond. It made a clink-bloop sound as it bounced off the far side of the fountain and sank, “I dunno. I just thought it would be fun to have a younger me around.”
“Huh,” he grunted neutrally, narrowed his eyes, and smiled considering my answer. “That’s pretty cool Dad.”
“Alpha,” I snapped in mock seriousness.
“Dip,” he corrected.
We sat in silence for another long moment, watching the pool’s hypnotic blue rippling, and I said, “Alpha and Omega, so when we’re together we equal god, huh?”
Yosh didn’t get it, and I explained the reference.
The food court was a great big closed-in ultimate expression of capitalism, where major food chains of every kind were placed in direct competition with one another. It was like a great big arena where burgers, cheese steaks, Chinese foods, and hotdogs prostituted themselves out to the consumer Johns strolling past.
I explained all this to Yosha as we stood in line at the pizza place. I don’t think he was listening. He was doing that “Uh-Huh” thing I do when I’m pretending to listen to someone. It was incredibly infuriating.
“Could I get two slices of cheese?” Yosh held up his first two digits in the universal symbol for “two,” and semi-universal symbol for peace. Well, universal to species homo sapiens anyways. Whatever, the guy behind the counter understood the communication, “Two peaces of pizza,” and that’s what’s important.
“You should try the spinach-stuffed thingy they got there,” I said. “You got cheese slices last time.”
“My previous experiences with cheese slices were good ones,” he countered matter-of-factly. “I’ve established a report with them.”
I didn’t know if the word ‘report’ worked in that sentence, but there was no Internet handy to verify it, so I let it go, “You should try new things though. Be adventurous.”
“I don’t know if I’ll like that spinach wrap thing,” he said.
“I like it,” I said, “and we share the same taste buds.”
“Not necessarily,” he countered. “The taste for spinach-stuffed pastries might not be something I’ll develop until my cells are oxidizing and I’m old and withered up like you.” He shot me a goofy grin, “Plus think of all the environmental factors that affect this.”
“Wuss,” I shot at him with a wry grin.
He didn’t miss a beat. Raising his eyebrows, he said, “You should try the cheese slices. Be adventurous.”
“That’s all right,” I said, waving off the suggestion, “I like the spinach whatchamacallit.”
I sat down and Yosh consciously sat down a moment later. I watched him with knitted eyebrows as he saddled up to his meal in a very awkward fashion. How much parmesan and ranch dressing to pour on his meal seemed to take some time, as if he were conquering a real conundrum.
I recognized the behavior immediately. He was going through one of his “individuation” moments some clones were prone to, trying to distinguish his body language and mannerism from my own, asserting his difference. I frowned and shook my head inside. There were only so many ways to eat a damn pizza slice.
“Hot chick at three o’clock,” I whispered conspiratorially and took a noisy slurp of my cola.
“Dad,” Yosh said with a stern glare, “That girl is way underage. Are you some kind of pedophile?”
“Not for me. I was thinking you could ask her out,” I gave him a knowing wink.
“She’s not my type,” he said with a shrug.
“Of course she’s your type,” I scoffed, elbowing him. “She’s my type, so she has to be your type.”
“No,” Yosh corrected patiently. “I’m looking at a girl who’s wearing too much makeup and jewelry. She probably doesn’t know anything about literature or cult films, and I can just imagine the vacuous, drooling stare she’d give me if I brought up current events.”
“Ummm…” I intoned with a frown.
“However,” Yosh continued, “when I get to be your age and the ‘dirty old man’ genes kick into action…” he left off with a big goofy grin.
I smirked and shook my head, “You little shit.”
“Pervert,” he retorted.
“Hey,” I snapped in a mock disciplinarian tone, “she’s probably legal.”
“In West Virginia maybe,” he laughed. “That girl’s like 15 years old.”
“Don’t forget you’re half West Virginian,” I countered.
“Yeah… Thanks for that legacy,” he said sarcastically.
“You should ask that girl out,” I said, between bites of spinach pastry.
“Dad,” Yosh warned.
“What?” I shrugged defensively. “You should. It’s a good exercise. Don’t you have a class dance coming up soon?”
He rolled his eyes, “Ring dance.”
I loved it when he did that, my own father hated it, “So you should ask her out to that. It’s a good practice at social interactions.”
“I’ve already got a plan for Ring Dance,” he countered, sipping soda through a straw, “I’m gonna sit outside with some friends and laugh at the kids attending it.”
I frowned, “That’s what I did.”
“I know,” he said. “Grandma told me.”
“Yeah, that was pretty cool,” I acknowledged, “but I should have gone. We can mock school social functions for their institutional nature, but their intentions are good. It’s practice for dating and sex; otherwise, you’ll be all neurotic about it like me. A few high school dances will break you in, show you it’s not a big deal.”
“I’m too busy with my intellectual pursuits,” Yosh said.
“I call bullshit,” I said with a smirk. “You think I don’t recognize my own rationalizations?”
He didn’t answer, only looked at his plate, and I decided to let the matter drop.
“Grandma says you should have married before having me,” Yosh said after a bit.
“Yeah, well, Grandma…”
“Other kids have mothers,” he noted. “It gets them in touch with their feminine side.”
“My overly sensitive feminine side is the problem,” I pushed my glasses up on my nose.
“Other kids have two grandmothers,” Yosh went to push his glasses up on his nose, and remembered the eye surgery had made them obsolete.
“Maybe technically,” I acknowledged with a shrug, “but not all kids get to meet their grandparents. Many die before the grandkids are born.”
“But those are not…” he rushed to counter and a watched his mouth catch up to the idea his mind was trying to express, “conscious decisions. You chose to have a clone that wouldn’t have a mother or maternal grandparents.”
“Technically,” I raised a finger, “you do have two pair of grandparents: mine. We both have the same grandparents, and the woman you call grandma is really your genetic mother.”
He slouched in his chair and took a noisy slurp of cola, “So my mother and grandmother are the same person.”
“You have two possible perspectives on the same woman,” I nodded my head. “Genetically she’s your mother. Generationally she’s your grandmother. It’s all how you look at it.”
Yosh sulked noticeably, “Whatta gip.”
“Yeah,” I grinned and nodded in agreement.
We sat in silence again, exhaustion from the day’s explorations catching up to our immobile selves. The blood diverting from our extremities to our digestive tracks in response to the carbohydrate influx was adding to the slow down. My droopy eyes found his and I gave him a goofy grin.
“What now?” he asked, wiping his lips with a napkin.
I pointed at the line of movie posters leading into the multiplex cinema I’d been eyeballing absentmindedly during our lunch, “We’ve got a whole afternoon to kill. That’s like three or four movies. Right?”
“Dad…” Yosh began sternly.
“Eight bucks to watch movies all afternoon?” I cocked an eyebrow. “You don’t want to exploit the system?”
“Buy one ticket and hop theaters till midnight,” he shook his head. “One of these days we’re gonna get caught.”
“Is that a bad thing? What’s the worse that would happen? They’d kick us out?” I argued. “Really it would be a good thing… a character-building experience.”
We exchanged looks for a moment and both broke into peals of laughter.
“Come on,” he said standing up with a beckoning wave. “We can just make the four o’clock showing of that new horror film, ‘Humunculus.’”