It is time for me to come clean and admit to the world at large that I am a fraud. Nothing but a fraud. In fact, not even that for I am but a fraud of the fraud I am. I am an impostor, pretending to be my Doppelganger when in truth the only thing we have in common is our DNA. Oh, I admit we look the same (as the German word for “ghost of oneself” implies), have the same nose, eyes and ears, the same hands, feet and genitals; in fact in every respect our bodies are identical. (Never mind that a ghost doesnt have a body; it appears to and that’s all that counts.) But except for these incidental likenesses and the minor fact that not only are our voices, both oral and written, similar, but so—as if this should exonerate me—are our souls, I lay bare my great lie and admit to being a sham. Or, as I say, a sham of the sham I am: a “doppelshammer.”

All my life I have been posing as Max Randolph, stealing his very breath, not to mention his words, dreams, inclinations as if they were mine. The truth is, not a shred of evidence supports this fraudulent claim other than the superficiality of a common history . . . from having the same parents to sleeping in the same bed every night. But other than that I admit to a life of nothing but shameful circus tricks, constantly imitating to the point of asking people to believe I was this other so-called I.

I can bear it no longer. I have to unburden myself, confess to the species I pretend to belong to and whose greatest gift (since I am not alone in this game) is for such play-acting as mine: pretending to be—not what one is not (that would be pedestrian in the extreme), but precisely what one is.

Therein lies the shame (and sham), both mine and that of the human race. I hasten to add, however, that I do not pardon myself an iota from the sin of imposturism simply because it is endemic to my species. No, I claim my responsibility—and my sin and shame—as if I were a species unto myself; or, on the other hand, were the entire human race. You see how great is this burden I bear. Not merely does it tear me in pieces until I blurt out the truth of my fraudness, but I know that this ineradicable fault common to my kind is entirely mine, even if every man and woman and child can be said to bear it equally with me.

There is, it appears, no cure for being human. None expect to confess that not only am I a fraud when it comes to being myself, but I am a fraud as a human being. Or at least I feel strongly that I am, strongly enough to confess it. (And what redeems us from the sin and shame of existing better than confession? The Roman Catholic church, for all its scandal to truth, has monopolized better than any institution this particular truism.) There is no way for me to prove that I am not an alien, some kind of monster from another world. But much as the unorthodoxy of my sanity may point to the fact, I cannot in fact call it a fact and must rely at last purely on feeling, conjecture and fantasy when I argue my case for being not merely an impostor, as I say, but not even a man in the commonly accepted definition of that term.

I agree there is still the question, if not the compelling evidence, of DNA. But put that little peculiarity aside for the moment to consider with me the greater mystery of how life can manifest itself as not-itself, how a man—let’s give him the benefit of that doubt—can be both himself and not-himself at the same time. Like me, he can be a fraud of the fraud he is—and in fact not so much a fraud as a clown of the infinite. And as a human being, again giving him the benefit of the doubt that he is one, he incarnates the absurdity of his species and of existence itself.

And yet, as I say, one bears the burden alone, or feels as if one does, which amounts to the same.