Why you should care

Because you are still the only you — even if your name says you’re not.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Katie?”

“Yes?”

“It’s Billy.”

“Billy?”

“From work.”

I wasn’t exactly sure who Billy was, but there were lots of people I didn’t know from work. I had a low-level advertising job that no one noticed. I spent most of the time hiding.

“I guess you’ve heard what happened.”

It was September 11th, 2001, in San Francisco, California. Approximately 7:45 a.m.

“Yes. The TV’s on right now. Awful.”

Billy and I paused, sharing the moment.

“Listen,” he said finally, “Gary says there’s no work today.”

“Gary?”

“Yeah. Gary. This is Katie Crouch, right?”

“Yeah. But I don’t work for Gary. I work for Jeff.”

“Jeff!” Billy laughed. “He left last year.”

I used to watch a lot of disaster movies. Tidal waves swamping cities, comets smashing into the earth, that kind of thing. The World Trade Center collapsing seemed congruous with a dimension change where my boss would suddenly be a guy named Gary. If told the sky would now be teal forever, I would have believed it.

“OK,” I said.

“Wait, just to make sure. Katie Crouch, with red hair?”

“Yes.”

Red hair.”

“Yeah, I have red hair. It used to be redder but —”

“And you play the violin?”

“Me? No. Uh-uh.”

“You write?”

“Yeah. Ads.”

Ads ?” He sounded disgusted. “Katie Crouch doesn’t write ads .”

“I —”

“We write reports. Scholarly reports.”

“Look. I’m definitely Katie Crouch. But maybe there’s another one?”

The building on television was really falling down now. My roommate shuffled out and turned up the volume. Billy seemed to have had it.

“This sure is some joke, lady.”

“But I —”

He hung up.

I went through a lot of suffering being a Crouch. For one thing, when read out loud, my surname sounds very much like “Crotch.”

At the time, people still used real phone books. It was a perplexing day, and I was glad to have something to focus on other than the obvious. I checked and yes, I was the only Katie Crouch listed. You could see how maybe the other Katie Crouch didn’t list her number, and so Billy would call me.

But how could there be another Katie Crouch? It seemed impossible. I know you Sally Smiths out there are wondering what the fuss is about, but I went through a lot of suffering being a Crouch. For one thing, when read out loud, my surname sounds very much like “Crotch.” And Katie can be easily rearranged by the schoolyard bully as “Krusty.” Who would take “Krusty Crotch” to a seventh grade dance? It’s a British name, but sounds German, earning me instant distrust among many of the dwindling World War II generation. It’s not even the kind of ugly name that gives one solidarity with an ethnic group. Really, I’d take Buttlanski over Crouch, just because I could eat perogies with pride.

But now there was supposed to be another person not only with my name, but also my coloring and professional skill. I ignored the thought for a while, until her ghost began to turn up all over the city. Fines for 28 Days at the video store that I didn’t accrue. I thought the apocalypse movie thing was mine! Then at my yoga studio, the other Katie took two of my pre-paid classes. This time I was pissed. But the very reasonable, very Zen yoga lady made me Katie A . Crouch to prevent further mistakes. Seemed like a good solve, but it still ticked me off. Why should I be Katie A?

I have moles shaped like Texas on my shoulders, and sometimes I eat cold butter in the dark.

Over the years, more phone calls even, oddly, to my new cell phone. What was with this Katie Crouch, I wondered? Was she anti-telecom or something? And then, one day while recounting this story, one of the people listening to me actually knew Katie Crouch.

“Oh, she’s awesome!” he said. “Totally pretty and funny. You should meet her. Want me to set it up?”

I did not refuse outright. But his description of her was too much. Not only was there a redheaded, writerly, yoga-and-end-of-world-film loving Katie Crouch in my city, she obviously was a better one than I was.

Which ultimately proved itself true, when, two years later, Katie Crouch actually emailed me. The message was something along the lines of:

To: crouch.katie[at]gmail[dot]com

From: Katie.crouch[at]gmail[dot]com

Katie Crouch! It’s Katie Crouch! Isn’t this weird? Heard so much about you! Let’s get lunch or something! Wouldn’t that be fun? OK! Email Soon!

Katie Crouch (ha)

And I … Katie Crouch the Grouch, pressed delete.

I’ve lived 13,775 days being the person I am. I have moles shaped like Texas on my shoulders, and sometimes I eat cold butter in the dark. I’m pretty sure the other violin-playing, totally pretty and funny Katie Crouch doesn’t do that. But what if she does?

Doppelgänger, that would be my own personal apocalypse. So no offense. It’s not you. I just don’t want to know.

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