Geoffrey only very rarely wishes that he could get away from theatre. Even when it’s making him most miserable, it’s in his blood and his brain; imagining leaving it behind is much like imagining having his arms amputated. Besides, like Ellen says, it’s not like he knows how to do much of anything else.
On the other hand, he quite frequently fantasizes about getting away from New Burbage and doing theatre somewhere other than a theatre town. Wouldn’t it be great to live somewhere where, when you order a double double coffee, there’s a less than 10% chance that the guy at the counter will come back at you with “Toil and trouble!”? Geoffrey was sick of that joke fifteen years ago; it’s the major reason he switched to taking his coffee black.
Ellen still takes hers light and sweet, though, and Geoffrey is chivalrously buying for both of them, so he flashes an insincere smile at the joke and moves to the other end of the counter to wait for the drinks to be ready.
He’s so wrapped up in plans for the upcoming season (Charles Kingman would make a wonderful Lear—totally impractical idea, of course, but surely Geoffrey’s allowed to fantasize) that he doesn’t hear his order being called. When the phrase “double double” pierces his fog (the girl working the coffee machine has one of the world’s shrillest voices, she ought to hire herself out as a dog whistle), he reaches out for the cup, but another guy’s already picking it up, so Geoffrey backs off.
Geoffrey idly watches the other customer walk off with his two cups of coffee and paper bag of baked goods. The guy wears a black leather jacket; his hair is bleached, teased, and gelled. He reminds Geoffrey a little of what Ellen’s ex-boy-toy Sloan might grow up to look like, though this guy’s wiry-tough rather than hulking. There’s another man waiting for him by the door—improbably, a Mountie in full dress uniform. Geoffrey wonders for a moment whether he’s for real or just someone running around in costume, but that’s not the sort of dress-up people usually go for in New Burbage. Then he catches a glimpse of the Mountie’s face as he and his friend walk out the door, and does a double-take.
The guy looks just like Geoffrey. Just like him, Comedy of Errors levels of identical-looking. Maybe it wouldn’t be so obvious to a casual observer, because of course Geoffrey’s ratty sweater and long, flapping coat are about as unlike the Mountie’s red uniform as possible. Geoffrey’s mess of curls doesn’t look much like the Mountie’s short, carefully slicked hair, either. But it’s hard to mistake the face you shave every day (well, every second or third day, anyway). And that guy’s walking around with Geoffrey’s face under his silly hat.
By the time Geoffrey has his coffees in hand, the Mountie and his friend have disappeared, and Geoffrey’s calmed down a little about the whole thing. It would be nice to have some reassurance that he didn’t just imagine his doppelgänger, because while Geoffrey’s mostly made peace with the fact that he regularly converses with a ghost in a campy yellow suit, he strongly prefers for his reality to match up with everyone else’s. But as either hallucinations or weird coincidences go, this one seems benign, and after all, if long-lost twins were good enough for Shakespeare, who is Geoffrey to complain?
And he finds it oddly comforting, as he drives back to the theatre (absently sipping at the wrong coffee), to imagine that there’s an alternate version of himself walking around out there somewhere in the world, living an entirely different life. Devoting himself passionately to the pursuit of justice and catching criminals, rather than to coaxing truth and beauty out of a company of cantankerous souls and a few centuries-old words on a page. Maybe the blond man is a Mountie, too, and shares not-Geoffrey’s work; if you can believe the cop shows on TV, police partnerships are every bit as close as the creative partnership Geoffrey shared with Ellen when they acted together. Hell, maybe the blond man and the Mountie are lovers, too—a path Geoffrey might easily have taken if he hadn’t given himself heart and soul to Ellen. He hopes they’re happy together; he wishes his fantasy-self a partner whose heart, like Geoffrey’s, is inclined to mate for life.
“You’ve been drinking my coffee,” says Ellen, wrinkling her nose as she takes the lid off her cup to peer at the contents.
“I know, sorry, I got distracted.”
“You? Really?” She smiles and tugs him down for a kiss. He happily responds to her cue, licking the taste of coffee from her tongue, ruffling her hair with his free hand. Ellen is mercurial—all right, so is he, he can admit that—and while that can be harrowing and exhausting and just plain annoying, it does give Geoffrey a deep appreciation of the moments when everything between them is simple and good and easy.
“So, what were you thinking about that was so distracting?” she asks when they come up for air.
“I think I’d like to do Comedy of Errors next season,” he says. “I just had an idea about how to do it.”
“Tell me tonight,” she says, taking his hand. “Right now, we’re going to be late for rehearsal, and it wouldn’t do for you to get in trouble with Maria.”
Geoffrey reacts with the comic outrage she expects and allows her to tow him into the theatre, while his mind contemplates the dramatic possibilities of Mountie uniforms.