One face has burrowed itself deep into my brain and I can never tweeze it out. It is a face I know better than my mom's or former president Reagan's or even the cute but secretly evil face of my ex-boyfriend Lee. It is the puffy, beer-bloated face of Robert Bruce Macatee, the face on my fake ID.
I was 18 and my dorm friend Betsie had found a Velcro Guatemalan wallet, full of credit cards and $75. For a month, every day, we just looked at it on her dresser. We had planned to return it, but instead we carved it up like cavepeople with a carcass: wallet to Betsie's boyfriend, credit cards to Kate to cut up her coke, $75 to dinner, and the ID to me.
I apologize, Robert B., wherever you are.
Some people like architecture students or others good with Exactos are able to dissect and dig through their real ID, rearranging numbers and dates until they have transformed their paper selves so beautifully that they actually deserve to buy Penthouses and malt liquor. These people are usually sensible, not talkative, and very anchored in their personas.
Then, there are those of us who eat Hot Pockets and watch TV, who can't peel fruits and took courses like "The Circus in America" and "It's Only Rock N' Roll" are the sort who steal the selves of others (or, if you're lucky, like Larry, you have older brothers who are bartenders and will give you the fake IDs they confiscated from past pip-squeaks).
No one warned us that by filching a false identity we would also lose our minds.
We spent long hours memorizing our new dates of birth and Social Security numbers. I sat in my dom room in a Stanislavskian haze memorizing Robert Bruce his oily face, his mullet cut, his tie-dye Dead shirt until he melted into me: "Who is my mother?" I would ask myself, "What do I eat? What are my fears? Who am I, really?"
My friends were similarly frenzied and fragmented. Julie's ID, Mary Halpin, was giddy, grinning, and preppy, and every time Julie used it, she felt compelled to lead us in a cheer. Lisa's ID was the stressed-looking Vivian Lopez, and when Lisa used it, she erased her Irish heritage and assumed a Latino self, drinking her whiskey sours and dancing to Dee-Lite in shameful brownface, like Natalie Wood in WEST SIDE STORY. She felt hollow inside.
The real Robert Bruce would have kicked my ass. He was a guzzler pickup truck straight boy. I went out to gay clubs humming Soul II Soul in a Le Chateau mock turtleneck and wedgecut. He would have hated himself.
The Loompanics Unlimited catalog has an entire section devoted to how-to Fake ID publications. "Government paper reality is ONLY PAPER," they explain, asserting that identification is a form of social control. This adds a whole new hyper-awareness to us fakers who have always understood the po-mo notion that our real selves are not real. But now we have to feel crappy because we never did anything noble with our fakeness, like crossing a border to escape genocide, or helping slaves to freedom like Harriet Tubman. All we did was slip by some doorman and drink rum and cokes.
One book in the catalog, The Heavy Duty New Identity, is a guide to completely transforming yourself into someone new, erasing your past without a paper trail and "hardening" your new identity, which I am sure freaks out any dork like me that was desperate to drink. We spent so much time becoming blotto and soft with our fake IDs that hardening ourselves sounds horrific. I have no hardened part of me, only a little laminated face in the pit of my constructed self that is not myself.
And now, even though I am way past the drinking age, Robert Bruce sits in me like swallowed gum. He is a part of me. I can't get him out! Robert Bruce is me! Forever! </end>
A frequent contributor to STIM, Mike Albo's "Peddling Paranoia" [Link] appeared in issue 7.3. He lives in Brooklyn.