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The Doppelgänger

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The Other Renée Zellweger

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The lights on the side of the Lincoln Tunnel zipped by her like flashbulbs going off on the red carpet at the Emmy's. She thought about how uncomfortable and frightening it must be to stand in the midst of the glitter, glamour, noise, and confusion of a Hollywood event, and she wondered how it affected her namesake.

Traffic slowed to a crawl, and she thought about the times when people either thought that she was the other Renée or wished that she was. One time in the crowded waiting room at the DMV, a voice over the intercom said, "Renée Zellweger, please come to Station 4.” She walked swiftly from the back of the room to avoid the possibility of a mob surrounding her. When she arrived at the station, the clerk asked, “Are you really Renée? You look like her.".

No, no, no, I'm not Renée, well, yes, I am Renée, but I'm not the Renée whom I think you want me to be. I'm not the Katy, Texas or the Hollywood Renée. I am not an actress.”

Not that she hadn't entertained the idea of what it would be like to be the other Renée. “She was a talented actress and was beautiful,“ she thought, “but am I not as beautiful in my own way?” Renée had big blue eyes that sparkled in the sunlight unlike her namesake's squinty eyes, an attribute inherited from her Norwegian mother, whose ancestors hunted reindeer in bright snow with eyes that evolved into slits to protect them. Her eyes were part of her beauty.

Renée knew that the other Renée would be a success at the beginning of her career after she sang the provocative song, Sugar High, at the conclusion of the movie Empire Records. She was so cute bopping with the band, then singing solo. Her friend, Kathy, nudged her in the movie theater and said, "Look, it's you, Renée!" After the movie, Chicago, she knew that the world knew how talented the other Renée was. Unbelievably talented. As good a dancer and singer as Catherine Zeta Jones.

She didn't like the attention she got when someone thought that she was the actress. She didn't like getting anything she hadn't earned. When the other Renée dyed her hair brown, she said that no one recognized her and that she was happy she could travel about incognito. Renée wondered how often she was recognized as someone whom she couldn't be, but was not about to dye her blonde hair brown to avoid being seen as someone she wasn't.

Sometimes, though, she gave in to her mistaken celebrity. She and Kathy visited a neighborhood bar one night, and on the walk home, a handsome man stopped her and asked for her autograph. She turned to her friend, now her pretend agent, and asked what she should do. Her friend said, "Ah, give him an autograph since he's alone." None of them had a piece of paper, so she signed his hand, writing, "All the best! Renée Zellweger." The man said he would never wash his hand again.

When he began to walk away, starstruck, Renée turned and said to him, "By the way, you had me at hello!

They laughed about the encounter on the walk home. "The man's lucky to have the autograph! Wouldn't you like to have Renée's autograph, too?"

If I met her at an autograph signing, she'd ask, "Who do I make it out to," and I'd say, "Renée Zellweger." After a brief, quizzical stare, she'd reply, "I'm not addressing myself in an autograph! Who are you really? You look a little like me, except for your eyes." And I'd answer emphatically, “Renée Zellweger." Then, she'd look at me, dazed and confused, and sign, "To Renée Zellweger All the best. Affectionately, your doppelganger, Renée Zellweger."

Midway through the tunnel, she thought about how much she had come to respect the actress. She was a woman with integrity, a private person who tried to keep her personal life private. She kept the whole Kenny Chesney affair as quiet as possible, except for what the press could glean without her permission, and she didn't air his dirty laundry. Renée thought it was his fault because she was going through a similar experience, not an annulment, but a bad breakup, a huge indiscretion on her ex's part. But, she wouldn't speak of it, like the other Renée, and simply used her words when a guy would ask her why a pretty, charming woman like her was still single. "I'm not single, I'm busy," she would answer.

After the breakup, Renée decided to leave Cleveland and start a new life in New York City away from the reminders of him, her Kenny Chesney. In the distance, she could see the end of the tunnel and the bright lights of the city beckoning. An exciting, new life lay ahead. Maybe it wasn't so bad that she bore a resemblance to her namesake. It was a good way to meet people, a conversation starter, and in a way, the actress was her hero, a woman of strength and talent.

When she passed through the tunnel, she released her grip on the steering wheel briefly, putting both thumbs up, one for herself, and the other for the other Renée Zellweger.

Michael Jackson Smith © 2015

THE ROAD TO FORT WORTH by Michael Jackson Smith: Very little was known about panic disorder when I had my first panic attack. There was no help available to teach me how to assuage the attacks, but I discovered that alcohol would dissolve my fear instantly. My website contains the kind of information that would have been a tremendous help to me in the early days of my illness as I searched for solutions for the panic disorder, agoraphobia, and alcoholism that incapacitated me. My book is the story of my journey into recovery. Read Chapter 8 | Top of Page

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