In 1993, some months after I sold my first reliable car, my second car was an
Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme which I bought used from a car-rental outfit (Alamo, I
think). The car looked good but had a curious personality—it always broke down
on major holidays and some weekends. I spent a lot of money on towing services,
and I came to know my mechanic at the G. M. dealership very well.
He was a white fellow with blue eyes and dark hair and beard; he was born in
Waipahu and lived in Ewa Beach. He spoke English inflected with Pidgin as could
be expected of someone who grew up in Hawaii and did not obtain a significant
amount of education. His forearms were tattooed in blue ink—on his right arm was
a jaguar-cat on a prowl. for more than a year, I saw my mechanic at least once a
month, but luckily for me, the car dealership was across the street from my
apartment, so it was a short walk home.
At that time, my parents lived in Brooklyn, New York where my late father
worked as a travel agent for one of his former competitors in the travel business.
My father was an affable person who gladly gave discounts that gouged his
commissions, but he was not greedy, and as result he was an agent made popular
by word of mouth. Once in a while, he would send to Honolulu small groups of
tourists to whom I gave an informal orientation free of charge. In 1993, papa
sent a group of Russians from Moscow who retained me as an interpreter and
driver—a service for which I actually received a payment. The tour group
comprised men only from a fledgling Russian Bears—American Football team
that came to Honolulu to see the Pro Bowl—an annual televised exhibition for
the NFL elite. Along with the players came their impresario—a sixty something
pudgy character in a beach hat which he must’ve bought at an ABC store near
his hotel in Waikiki. As we walked through the festive parking lot at the Aloha
Stadium, he kept on handing out the Russian Bears posters to pretty girls most of
whom burst into laughter. The impresario remained undeterred.
After the game, six of the eighteen Russians crammed into my Oldsmobile
Cutlass, and I led their two other rental cars to Waikiki where they invited me to eat
with them at Sizzler across the street from Fort Derussy Park.
While we were waiting to be seated—another group of tourists walked into the
restaurant; some of them were sunburned attesting to a day at the beach; they
spoke Russian. In Russian culture it is almost customary (although not obligatory)
to exchange a greeting of recognition when the speakers of that language meet in a
foreign environment. The football players asked, “where are you from?” and “by
what fates?” while first the women and then the men, mostly in their early-to-mid
thirties piled into the lobby. at the end of this newly arrived procession, I saw my
car mechanic. I was about to say hello to him when I heard him speaking perfect
Russian with the other members of his group. I stared hard at him, and I realized
that his hair was light (dark blond to be exact), his eyes were grey (not blue), and
he had no tattoos on his forearms. I asked him in Russian where he was from; he
told me that he was from Tiumen’.
“What do you do there?” I asked him.
“I work in the oil fields,” he said.
“Are you an oil-rig mechanic?” I asked
“I’m an oil field engineer,” he said.
“Do you speak any English?” I asked
“Not a word, “ he said.
“Do you like fixing cars, “ asked.
“No, that never interested me,” he said and gave me a funny look which I think my
last question deserved.
As I stood there, I asked myself whether I should tell him about his doppel-
ganger who fixed my car; I wondered whether I should have tried to set up a
meeting, but then I asked myself—what would have been the point. They looked the
same, they wore their hair and beards the same way, but beyond that there would
have been no point to putting these two people face to face except for a spurious
and unnecessary pleasure of seeing a shock of recognition. I did not see any point in
that, and I did not say anything, and as result, these strange twins never met, nor
had an inkling of each other’s existence.
I saw my mechanic a few more times, until after yet another break-down, my car
made me so exasperated that I just gave it away to the resident manager of the
building where I live. He drove it away, black smoke billowing from under the white
I often thought about the twin-incident in the months and years to come. I
analyzed the set of facts: 1) two identical twins with different eye and hair colors
lived in two very different environments; 2) the chances of their ever meeting were
infinitesimally small; 3) no one was supposed to see them in proximity or make a
connection. I felt as though against strangely astronomical odds, I became privy to
seeing something I was not supposed to see—two almost identical individuals
(though of different lineages) one of whom was placed in Waipahu, Hawaii, U.S.A.,
and the other in Tiumen’, Siberia, Russia.
Had it not been for the sickly Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, I would have never
met my mechanic, and had it not been for my native knowledge of the Russian
language, I would have never had sauntered into that Waikiki Sizzler at the same
time as my mechanic’s double. Yet it happened, and I wondered whether there was
a reason for my having become a witness—but to what?—that still remains a big