The greatest hypnotist who ever lived was Shelly Shneerson. It was said of Shelly that you could be having a conversation with him in his living room one minute and the next minute you look up and it’s twenty-four hours later and you’ve just driven your mother-in-law and three cousins you detest back and forth to a bar mitzvah in New Jersey and you didn’t feel a thing. He is that amazing. He makes such trips completely painless, the Novocaine of emotional trauma.
My friend Sal has been going to him for years — he has a lot of unpleasant family obligations — but I always thought it was a little cuckoo until out of desperation I called upon his services recently.
“Shelly, I’ve got this problem.”
“Good. That’s what I’m here for. Problems.”
“My sister is getting married in Israel to a Hassidic Jew and I haven’t been on a plane since 9/11. I am terrified of car bombs in Israel. I feel totally oppressed as a woman by Hassidic dress codes. The thought of the whole thing makes me sick. Can you get me to and from this event unconscious?”
“Well, that is not how I work. Maybe you don’t want to go and shouldn’t go. Is there an alternative? Can you just send a nice gift? Or perhaps a double? Can you send a double?”
“A double? What do you mean a double? I don’t have a double.”
“We all have a double.”
“But that makes no sense.”
“It doesn’t have to make sense to be true. Send your double, the one who doesn’t care about these things and you, you stay here and feel comfortable and safe and relaxed at home.”
“It makes no sense. It makes no sense.”
“It doesn’t have to make sense.”
Back and forth. I became confused. And sleepy. I couldn’t think straight. Then I looked outside. There was snow on the ground! A minute before it had been sunny!
“Welcome back!” said Shelly. “You’re back from your trip. How did it go?”
“How did it go?” I repeated.
“Here. Let’s look at your pictures.” And he pulled out my laptop and found the file of photos and sure enough, there’s me, all modestly covered up, looking perfectly happy, a little dazed, dancing the hora at the wedding, a little drunk on the plane, looking like the person I wished I could be. My double. Apparently she had a very good time.
“Tell your friends,” said Shelly. “I do doctoral dissertation defenses as well.”
Gloria Garfunkel is a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has published short stories, flash and micro fiction and memoir in Natural Bridge, Eclectica, Six Sentences and a collection called A Perilous Calling. She currently posts stories at the online writing community Fictionaut.