If You Weren’t You Who Would You Like to Be?

by Matt Triewly



Friday, I went to a party. It was a sixtieth birthday party for a work colleague. I was flattered we were asked. He didn't invite everyone.

It was a fairly low-key affair and I/we mingled and chatted with the other guests most of whom I knew already. I have to confess that underneath I'm an individual who is fairly introverted but who over the years has developed a false personality in order to survive in this world; I'm actually quite content with my own fantasies and speculations. Occasionally I'll observe the clouds passing overhead too. The problem, however, with creating a false persona is that one is expected to live up to it and to be honest I can find that a bit draining; I'm depended upon (though maybe I'm not and it's just me that thinks that) to be always telling jokes and anecdotes.

Anyway, there was a point where we were all just sitting around the room and not saying much at all. It felt awkward and I felt compelled to try and kick-start things. So, I said to everyone, "Here's a question, if you weren't yourself who would you like to be?" Nobody came up with Jimmy Saville or Rolf Harris, which was a relief (topical bad taste humour, I know). After a bit of murmuring a couple of people came up with things about how they'd like to be famous musicians or artists of some sort, but the general consensus was to be an individual with talent. Of course, I couldn't actually answer the question honestly which was hypocritical since I'd been the one to pose it. You see, saying, out of the blue, that you frequently desire to be a young and gorgeous, lesbian sadomasochistic slut or a slave to a cruel, highly intelligent and heartless beautiful mistress will raise eyebrows even in these times of 'It's cool to like 50 Shades' - I have to work with these people. Well, despite this thought-provoking question the discussion soon petered out and we wandered outside into the garden to pastures anew. I hasten to add that as it was raining there were no seagulls hovering overhead though I wouldn't have put it past the malicious bastards to have sneakily followed me from home. Once outside, partially sheltering from the rain, we got talking to another guy from work and his missus who was quite upfront about the fact that she was a feminist - this was a female who said she didn't take any shit from anyone. However, she did admit (isn't alcohol a wonderful thing for loosening the tongue) that she respected a strong man who knew how to handle her. I can't remember how I actually responded to that, but it was along the lines of, 'For every strong woman there's a stronger man.' I may also have mentioned something about spanking - as you do. She then nearly, nearly, confessed to being submissive in the bedroom. My missus reckoned she was definitely into spanking and being a slut - interesting. I reckon I'll have to suggest we all go out for drinks and a meal one night...

So, that was the highlight of the evening.

In the morning I was replaying the events of the night before in my head whilst at work and the question I had posed - if you weren't yourself who would you like to be? And then I remembered from when I was a teenager there was one particular person I wanted to be - Pete Duel.

Now, for those of you who don't remember, Pete Duel was most famous for portraying Hannibal Heyes in the seventy's television series Alias Smith and Jones. Google it for more info. Anyway, Heyes was a smart-talking, likeable outlaw who was now attempting to go straight with his partner Kid Curry in order to be granted amnesty from the governor of the state. Each episode they'd get into some sort of scrape where either Kid Curry outdrew the baddie or Hannibal Heyes outsmarted, with wit and style, the villains. Often both. They were both attractive characters to an inadequate, ugly and mainly unhappy youth and I daydreamed about living their adventurous life. Of the two it was Hannibal Heyes who I gravitated more too, and I saw Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes. When no one was around I would attempt to affect Heye's mannerisms in the mirror. I would practise saying, "That's a good deal?" I would see myself as resembling Duel even though the only thing I shared with him was brown eyes. I wanted to be five foot eleven as he was described in the wanted posters. I think I loved him. Or rather I loved the character and person I sought to be. It wasn't a sexual love either.

And then he killed himself. Pete Duel that is. Shot himself in the temple. Blew his brains out. Was found sprawled out naked under the Christmas tree, amongst unopened presents, by his girlfriend of the time, Dianne Ray.

I was fourteen years of age at the time when I had been walking past the newsstand when I had seen the headlines: Star of Alias Smith and Jones Found Dead with Gunshot Wounds. It was the 31st December 1971. New Year's Eve. I had rushed home and put on the news to discover that it was Pete Duel. Shocked. Devastated.

After a bit I realised through television he would be kind of 'immortal' because his image would never fade, and he would never get old. Or rather never get older than thirty-one. And thirty-one became a significant number for me - ironically, I was thirty-one when my mother died suddenly too seventeen years later. Duel had of course died in the early hours of the 31st too.

His death permeated every bit of my being. I wanted to die at thirty-one. Suicide was glamorous. In death one would gain the love and adulation one lacked in life. It was an act of redemption too - one's shortcomings would be overlooked, and sins would be forgiven.

I also attempted to see look-alikes of him - individuals with long dark hair, high cheek bones, a wide smile and warm brown eyes - everywhere in a vain attempt to 'resurrect' him. I failed. Of course.

Universal Studios also failed by recasting Roger Davis as his replacement too. In the end I stopped watching the series - Davis was a good actor but could never replace Duel. Also, the scripts were beginning to get weak. I'm not certain if they'd had his younger brother Geoffrey Deuel take on the role it could have succeeded either. Not that he would have done.

As the years rolled on by Pete Duel diminished in my mind. Hannibal Heyes was a fiction and Duel a troubled young man who drank too much and suffered from depression - a dangerous combination. I revised my opinion about suicide too in time - it was only an 'aesthetic' from afar and a cruel 'fuck you' for all those who loved you. I also began to see suicide as Schopenhauer did - a question put to the universe by the suicide that would never be answered, like hollering into the abyss and waiting for the echo.

I have rambled on too much but this I know (from a voice in a dream) - you can't win in this world but put off losing for as long as you can...

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