Paparazzi by Joanna Ruocco

It is best to be a mediocre person, a person that can be easily replaced. In the succession of generations, there will be many people who think and do what you think and do, and who inspire the same kinds of feelings in other people that you yourself inspire in other people, and you know that it works the other way too, that before you were born there were people who thought and did what you think and do, with adjustments made for available technologies and prevailing opinions, and you are the replacement for at least one of these people, and it would be comforting for the loved ones of the person you replaced if these loved ones traveled through time and encountered you; you would anchor the time-travelers emotionally, because they would recognize something about you, something they couldn’t put into words. Even without traveling through time, this sort of thing happens. You meet a person and the person reminds you of another person; the person is the same kind of person as the other person, and you can make space in your brain by realizing that many people are actually one person with different names and faces and not always in the same city; one person is in many places and as soon as you meet them you know plenty about them, even though it is hard remember which name to call them by. Some men always call their girlfriends by the same name. This can mean a man calls his girlfriends Rachel, Rachel, Rachel, although often, because he is a linear thinker and believes that sequence must be a form of progression, he adds numerals, Rachel 1, Rachel 2, Rachel 3, or it can mean he calls his girlfriends, babe, babe, babe; the point is that it doesn’t matter what he calls them; many girls are actually one girlfriend. There is no reason to be angry when this happens, when you are called Rachel, when you are called babe, when a time-traveler looks at you meltingly and reaches out for your hand. It is much worse to be a special person, an irreplaceable person, a person who dies one time and is lost to everything forever and who is lonely the whole time she is alive.
Joanna Ruocco co-edits Birkensnake, a fiction journal, with Brian Conn. She is the author of The Mothering Coven (Ellipsis Press), Man’s Companions (Tarpaulin Sky Press), A Compendium of Domestic Incidents (Noemi Press), and Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith: A Diptych (FC2). Her most recent book, Dan, was just released by Dorothy, a Publishing Project.