Talking to
The Mirror

    Tertuliano Maximo Afonso is calling to speak to the actor who he has never met but who he has seen on video, a man who appears to be his exact double.

May I speak to Senhor Daniel Santa-Clara, asked Tertuliano Maximo Afonso when the man's wife answered, You're the same person, I presume, who phoned the other day, I recognize your voice, she said. Yes, I am, May I ask who's calling, That hardly seems necessary, your husband doesn't know me, You don't know him either, but you know his name, That's only natural, he's an actor, and therefore a public figure, So are we all, we are all more or less public figures, it's only the number of spectators that varies, My name is Maximo Afonso, Just a moment. The receiver was placed on the table, then picked up again, the voices of both men will repeat themselves as a mirror repeats itself when placed in front of another mirror, Antonio Claro speaking, how may I help you, My name's Tertuliano Maximo Afonso and I'm a history teacher in a secondary school, My wife said your name was Maximo Afonso, That was just for brevity's sake, my full name is Tertuliano Maximo Afonso, Fine, how may I help you, You have doubtless already noticed that our voices are identical, Yes, Totally identical, So it seems, You see I have already had several occasions now to confirm this, How, By watching some of the films you've appeared in in recent years, the first was a fairly old comedy entitled The Race Is to the Swift, and the last was The Goddess of the Stage, I've probably seen eight or maybe ten in all. Really, I must say I feel rather flattered, I had no idea that the kind of film that I was, for some years, obliged to appear in could be of such interest to a history teacher, although, needless to say, the roles I'm playing now are quite different, Well, I have a good reason for watching them, which is why I would like to talk to you in person, Why in person, It isn't only our voices that are identical, What do you mean, Anyone seeing us together would swear on their own life that we were twins, Twins, More than twins, identical, In what way identical, Identical, quite simply identical, My dear sir, I don't know you and I cant even be sure that your name is what you say it is or that you really are a historian, I'm not a historian, I'm just a history teacher, as for my name I've never had any other, we don't use pseudonyms in teaching, for better or worse, we teach with our faces uncovered, That hardly seems relevant, look, lets just stop the conversation right here, I have things to do, So you don't believe me, No, I don't believe in impossibilities, Do you have two moles on your right forearm, one above the other in a line, Yes, I do. So do I, That doesn't prove anything, Do you have a scar under your left kneecap, Yes, So do I, And how do you know all this if we have never met, For me it was easy, I saw you in a beach scene, I can't remember which film it was now, but there was a close-up. And how am I to know that you have the same moles as I do, the same scar, That depends on you, The impossibilities of a coincidence are infinite. The possibilities are too, it's true that our moles could have been there at birth or developed later, over time, but a scar is always the consequence of an accident that affected a particular part of the body, we both had that accident and, in all probability, on the same occasion, Even admitting that such an absolute likeness could exist, and notice I'm only admitting it as a hypothesis, I can see no reason for us to meet and I don't understand why you've phoned, Out of curiosity, nothing but curiosity, it isn't every day that you find two identical people, Look, I've lived my whole life without knowing it, and I haven't missed knowing it at all, But now you do know, Then I'll pretend I don't, The same thing will happen to you as to me, every time you look at yourself in the mirror you will never be sure whether you are seeing your own virtual image or my real image, Frankly, I'm starting to think I've been talking to a madman, Remember that scar, if I'm mad, then we probably both are, I'll call the police. Oh, I doubt very much if the police would be interested, all I've done is make two phone calls asking to speak to the actor Daniel Santa-Clara, whom I did not threaten or insult or harm in any way, what crime have I committed exactly, You've upset my wife and myself, anyway, that's enough, I'm going to hang up now, You're quite sure you don't want to meet me, you don't feel the slightest twinge of curiosity, No, I don't feel any curiosity and I don't want to meet you, That's your last word, The first and the last, In that case, I must apologize, I had no evil intentions, Promise me you won't phone again, I promise, We have a right to our peace of mind, to our privacy, Of course, Good, I'm glad you agree, There's just one thing I'm not quite clear about, if you'll allow me, What's that, If we're identical, then will we also die at the same moment, People who are not identical and don't live in the same city die at the same moment every day, That's just coincidence, simple, banal coincidence, This conversation has come to an end, we have nothing more to say, I just hope now you have the decency to keep your word, Look, I promised i wouldn't phone you again at home and I won't, Excellent, Once more, please accept my apology, Apology accepted, Good-bye, Good-bye.

--- From The Double
José Saramago
Margaret Jull Costa, Translator
©2004 Harcourt
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