In reality I am physically unaltered: exactly in the form that nature, in all its bloody-mindedness, intended me to be, but in my imagination I have pimped myself so much, that I am no longer certain which parts of me were factory fitted. I have tried to improve myself so often that I have no idea what is the original me. I try to become what I think I should become, but somehow I always remain the same old model with just a slightly increased capacity for uncertainty and more doubt than a born-again agnostic at a Mormon wedding. If I were to write a new life for myself it would not be the life that I have now, but it would feature exactly the same people, in exactly the same relationships. I would never want to change most of those around me – changing socks stresses me out – and those I do want to change are not the kind to listen. The only thing to be truly different, I suppose, in this alter-life of mine would be me. The circumstances in which my unaltered phalanx of friends and family would exist would be changed only because I would be different: altogether more successful; less willing to do exactly the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time; less likely to take a course of action that a more rational mind might conclude could almost have been designed to make things worse; less likely to find myself standing, emotionally naked in the midst of all of those I hold most dear, with nothing but a sense of indignation and the kind of rash that you only ever get when you’ve run out of cream.
The alternative me would, by the by, be somewhat more wealthy than the actual me. Not that wealth necessarily equates to happiness but, let’s be honest, we all assume that it does limit anxiety. The worry of working out how to hang on to what you’ve got, must surely be somewhat less pressing than the worry of how to get it when you don’t have it, particularly when there’s somebody very large and very ugly on the other side of the door waiting to take it off you. Money is not the root of all evil, but it does provide a very convenient route to it. If I had it, I would use it wisely, for the benefit of myself, my family and the wider community. And to buy chocolate.
This wealth, of course, would come to me not by good fortune, but entirely through my own efforts. My demi-century-worth of assorted scribbling would not have been consigned, largely unread, to a locked desk drawer (actually several large tea chests in the attic and more Flash Drives than you can shake a memory stick at) but would have been read, accepted, produced, published etc etc. My alternative self, it goes without saying, is infinitely more talented than I, has more teeth and a sense of humour that women swoon over – as opposed to breath that has the same effect.
Obviously alternative me, as written by me, would be everything that actual me wishes to be, but with the kind of good-humoured, charitable soul to which I dare not aspire… and, if I’m completely honest, I’m beginning to resent him already. In truth, I have an uneasy feeling that however carefully I attempt to re-write this new man he will end up being uncomfortably like the old me, so I’ll probably leave him where he is and attempt, instead, to make the best of me. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it…