053: Wandering with Gregory Peck

One of the worst days of my life was when I heard a voice narrating my life, which is either a sign of schizophrenia or coma.

How does it sound or feel, you ask? Or you ask, Wasn’t that a movie staring Will Farrell called Stranger Than Fiction?

The answer to the second question is: that’s a different idea. As to the first question: it was loud and it felt like I’d become somewhat of the butt of a joke.

In any case, what makes my particular experience disagreeable was that the narrator was timed incorrectly, meaning that the voice I heard narrating my experiences uttered things that had happened at some other time or had yet to occur.

Which made the process of identification difficult to understand at first. Let me provide some instances. The first thing I do in the morning is make coffee. I pour the water after filling the filter basket with grounds. Months ago, I poured in the water and as I poured the water, I heard a man say in a clear, deliberate tone, “He opened the door to his car and emptied the coffee cup onto the driveway.”

The first thing I thought was: Gregory Peck is in my house. Or, why would I hear myself pretending to be Gregory Peck and why would I say “He opened the door to his car and emptied the coffee cup onto the driveway” as Gregory Peck. Of course it would be impossible for Gregory Peck to be in my house as this wonderful actor died in 2003. I concluded that this was some sort of mental anomaly, some trick of the early morning mind. Soon I was drinking coffee and forgot about it. But then, an hour later, during a conversation with Gerald, the narrator returned and in that wonderful buttery, mushroom-chewing voice of Gregory Peck, it said, “Suddenly, the cashier turned to him, raised a ripe plum, and said, ‘This one reminds me of a blood-soaked Saturn.'”

I said, “What?”

Gerald said, “I said The Netherlands played much too reservedly.” I pretended to agree with Gerald and went back to my office. As I entered the office, Gregory Peck said, “And he thought, ‘Why are the clouds so fluffy?'” I sat in my chair. And it suddenly occurred to me that, indeed, just yesterday I’d looked into the sky and asked “Why are the clouds so fluffy?” and recently the cashier had actually compared a plum I’d purchased to the planet Saturn. I stood up. Gregory Peck said, “He got out of bed, put on a pair of slippers, went to the bathroom and brushed his teeth.” I went to the coffee machine in the small refreshment area and Gregory Peck said, “In the nick of time he grasped for the branch and hung on for dear life.” I recognized all of these as events from my own life.

No one in the office heard this voice. All appeared normal. Gerald was standing at Lucy’s office. He was holding an imaginary Jabulani in his hands, probably instructing Lucy on the proper method of catching this disastrous technology.

Gregory Peck visited me throughout the day. He spoke in my head on my drive home. My wife asked me through dinner, “Why are you smiling like that?” In answer, I had to make up funny Gerald stories to make my outward response to Gregory Peck’s insistent and accurate narrations of my life appear to her as normal.

After dinner, I concluded that yes, Gregory Peck was in my head and he’s narrating my life, but he’s not doing it as it happens, but as it did happen: My life in the past tense and in the third person. I had become a “he,” a “he” who tripped on the sidewalk, smacked my brother on the cheek, broke his leg at football, stood at the unemployment line, told my wife how lovely she was in that dress, swerved in traffic, and, yes, considered murdering a neighbor whose dog insisted on watching my every movement from the fence and I had fantasies that there must be a camera in its collar.

Yes, yes. I went through all the typical reactions: Why was this happening; how to stop it; whom to call or whom to ask; why these moments and not others. One day, Gregory Peck said, “And then Gregory Peck said, ‘He opened the door to his car and emptied the coffee cup onto the driveway,'” which was, of course, exactly as it had happened. Then Gregory Peck said, “Gripped with terror, he wondered if Gregory Peck was in the room . . . and he considered whether he was going mad . . . ” which was not quite as I’d remembered.

Things moved on. But then Gregory Peck said something very strange. Gregory Peck said, “Suddenly he realized that he’d forgotten his wallet.” I hadn’t remembered forgetting my wallet. The next day, I pushed the speed somewhat aggressively and was stopped by a policeman. He asked for my license and, yes, I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten my wallet. After this strange incident, things grew even stranger. Gregory Peck said, “He pointed to the screen and identified where profits had gone up” and “The day was particularly hot and humid. The air quiet, still, and heavy. He knew that he would have to go, face things, deliver this horrible news” and “The device with which he would strangle the dog became heavy, like a dead snake.”

I wondered about the future. I wondered about accuracy and how a man might change things to come, if having them narrated before hand could somehow alter potentialities, outcomes, events. Yes, I wondered about consequences and inevitability.

You asked, “how does it feel.” I tell you it feels as if every step you take forward might lead you off a cliff.

Gregory Peck became my companion, my voice, my agent, he became my inner “I.” He said, “He wondered if all futures were dark. He wondered if Gregory Peck had license. Was Gregory Peck evil or some strange gift?

Gregory Peck said, “One day he found himself in the woods. He looked left, he looked right. He moved ahead. For some reason he remembered being here before. Recognition, though subtle and discontiguous, came from patterns formed by branches and the glow of light on the ground. A different voice spoke in his head now, relating the familiarity of things, telling him that soon the answers would come, that he must focus on a point ahead and concentrate, and that, really, the solution was simple, the solution to the voice, Gregory Peck’s voice, would soon be solved but the precise moment of this knowledge was unknown. In any case, all would soon be made known. Yes, he remembered being here before, and yes, he could just as likely have been somewhere else, too. But that now, at this moment, he told himself, he was here and not somewhere else. And what a strange thing it is.”

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