Many times over the past few weeks, I’ve seen my father.
It’s not really him, of course. He doesn’t know where I am. But my mind seems to be playing tricks on me to make me think that it is him. I’ve seen him on the bus, at the mall, and on the street. Different men, each strikingly similar in appearance to my father.
It happened earlier today, as I was walking through the mall to get to the bus stop. I could have sworn I saw my father sitting in a chair in the middle of the mall. The man had the same hair cut and color as my father, the same weird slouch, the same sunglasses. I scurried past and continued to look over my shoulder, making sure he wasn’t following me. The man, a total stranger, but in my mind, he was my father.
Each time it happens, I go through a weird back-and-forth reaction process. I panic on the inside. At first, I let myself get lost in the panic and let it simmer, leading to inner chaos and unsafe feelings. Now, I try to immediately reassure myself that it is not him, that we are safe here and no one can find us. It’s not a cure, that’s for sure, but it keeps me from totally withdrawing or dissociating out of fear.
On the other end of that fear, is the desire to run up to these men and ask them if they are my father. It is something I have (thankfully) not managed to give in to doing, but the want is still there.
It doesn’t make much sense to me, simultaneously fearing someone and wanting to approach them. I don’t understand where that impulse is coming from. It feels like a confused child’s way of reaching out to her father. And I am a rational, 30 year-old adult who does not want to speak to her father ever again. What a contradiction.
Is it paranoia? I don’t know. Maybe there are just a lot of men that look like my father. He’s not atypical in the least, so it’s not a stretch to say there are many other similar men out there. But why haven’t I noticed them before? Why is this happening now, all of a sudden? And why do my reactions have to be so complicated?