Claire Donato

My Ex-Husband’s Doppelgänger

Once a month, I take a walk with my ex-husband’s doppelgänger, a graphic designer with whom I share a checkout shift at my local food cooperative. At the food cooperative, my ex- husband’s doppelgänger and I cooperate with one another. Can you bring this cart back to its vestibule, I ask my ex-husband’s doppelgänger, who pushes the cart away from the register where I check strangers out. During lulls in service, my ex-husband’s doppelgänger stands next to my register, offering me blueberries. It has become routine, this offering of blueberries. I was thinking about your blueberries earlier today, I tell my ex-husband’s doppelgänger, and extract a blueberry from its plastic shell. As I place the blueberry in my mouth, I think about micro-plastics getting caught in fishes’ gills and, in my mind, envision a fish—a carp, tilapia, or mackerel; a haddock, cod, or rainbow trout—washed up on a sandy shoreline. Its colorful likeness, encumbered by the micro-plastics, is captured from above, as if by a camera drone. Its eyes face skyward. How will it find the ocean? Via this question, a foreboding melancholia plagues me. This feeling feels at odds with the blueberry’s bright hue. As the fish limply drapes across the surface of my mind, I cannot perceive whether my melancholia is in response to it, or to its exterior world. Nor do I imagine my ex-husband’s doppelgänger possesses the sort of interior sensitivity that might attune him to this quandary. For the sensitivity I possess is as rare as hen’s teeth: most days, I smell the past or taste the dead and am awash with grief.

On our walks, which span approximately 20 blocks, my ex-husband’s doppelgänger tells me about his family. In it, there is one mother, and one father, although these two archetypes are no longer married to one another. One archetype—the mother—is now married to someone else. My ex-husband’s doppelgänger does not care for the mother’s new partner. Together, we commiserate. What else is there to do, after all, but bitch? I have to go home for Christmas, my ex-husband’s doppelgänger says, and I squeeze his hand with my eyes, because he will not let me touch it. This is because my ex-husband’s doppelgänger is devoted to a life partner who makes demands on his attention, and so too demands his sexual exclusivity. And this demand is fine by me. I no longer want to fuck just anybody. That period of my life is complete. Now I am in a new period, wherein I desire to walk down familiar streets with someone unbeknownst to me, beginning at one point and ending at the next, as if we are attempting to draw a line between the past and a future with our bodies. When I attempt to draw these lines alone, the lines do not exist. Only in the company of a stranger is the passage of time real.


Claire Donato lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is the author of Burial (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2013), a not-novel novel and The Second Body (Poor Claudia, 2016; Tarpaulin Sky Press, reissue forthcoming), and is currently at work on a number of writing projects, including a novel, a collection of short stories, and a full-length LP of songs. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including The Believer, BOMB, Territory, Poetry Society of America, DIAGRAM, Bennington Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Fanzine, and The Elephants. Currently, she teaches in the MFA/BFA Writing Program at Pratt Institute, where she received the 2020-2021 all-campus Distinguished Teacher Award.

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