doppleganger, unfair comparisons, replacement boyfriends, interchangeable boyfriends

Chris Wiewiora is constantly aware of being compared to ‘the old Chris’—his new girlfriend’s previous boyfriend.

Kisha and I sat next to each other on a couch in the common room of her dorm watching The Virgin Suicides. Kisha was an RA and had a bedroom to herself, while two freshmen girls shared the other one. I scooted toward Kisha. My first move was putting my arm up and over her shoulders.

Kisha took my hand in hers and circled my palm. I liked that she liked me. I acted like I was watching the movie. One by one, the girl actors killed themselves because their parents didn’t allow them to go out with boys. Kisha glanced at me, every rotation of her finger tracing my lifeline.

We kissed. Just a light peck. I kept my eyes on the movie. The door started to unlock.

Kisha moved away from me. My arm slung to my side. One of Kisha’s roommates came into the dorm’s common room.

“Oh,” the roommate said. “I didn’t know you had company.”

“This is my boyfriend,” Kisha said.

“The new boy,” the roommate said. She titled her head, her hand already on her doorknob, ready to leave us in the dark.

“I’m the ‘new’ Chris,” I said, standing up, offering my hand.

“He’s funny,” the roommate said, shaking my hand, while looking at Kisha.



The first thing Kisha said when my mom served chicken stir-fry was,

“Chris wasn’t a meat eater.”

I looked at Kisha. I couldn’t believe she was talking about her ex-boyfriend. My mom glanced at me, but changed the subject, asking about Kisha’s parents.

Kisha said her mother was a beautician and that her father knew how to work on cars. On a date, before we were having sex, Kisha had told me that her father was a cook and that her parents were divorced. But she didn’t mention it at my parents’ table.

For dessert, my mom served apple pie and vanilla ice cream.

“How many scoops would you like?” Mom asked Kisha.

I was about to say that Kisha was lactose intolerant.

“Two,” Kisha said.

Kisha looked up at me, overwhelmed. Her face made me think she wanted to prove she could fit into my family. I watched Kisha take a spoonful. I didn’t tell her to stop.


I had already agreed to go visit Kisha’s mom and wanted to get it over with. At the table, her mom looked thirty years old in the face—her skin was taut, she smiled without sag, and had firm cheekbones. During lunch, I complimented Kisha’s mom and in return she commented that I was in-shape. I said that most afternoons I went running. Kisha’s mom asked if I used sunscreen, but I said I tanned well.

“Chris used to get red just walking to class,” Kisha said, staring down at her plate. I dabbed my mouth with a napkin, covering my frown.

“You don’t want to look like an alligator,” Kisha’s mother said.

I looked over at Kisha for some help, but she didn’t meet my eyes.

“Are you saying I don’t have good skin?” I asked.

“I’m not saying that,” Kisha’s mom said. “Just that…it could be better.”

After lunch, we left. Kisha and I couldn’t have talked if I had wanted to, since the loud wind swept in through the open windows of Kisha’s car. The rush of air reminded me that my motorcycle would be back from the shop soon. Kisha had asked me if one accident was enough. I thought about how to make Kisha eat her words. I wanted to tell Kisha that I didn’t want her with me.


Over the phone, Kisha told me she had invited her ex-boyfriend Chris to come to an art event that we were going to for a date. Kisha didn’t know what the big deal was.

“I wouldn’t ask you to be friends with my ex,” I said.

Kisha said she would ask him not to come because she loved me.

I refused to say it back to her. Kisha asked me if I still loved her. I said, “Can I come over and talk to you?”

“If you’re going to break up with me then tell me, because I don’t want to waste my time,” she said.

“I’m coming over,” I said, and hung up.

I drove my motorcycle to Kisha’s dorm, because I could get there faster. My blood rushed inside me like the gas fueling the engine. The torque pulled me forward.

On the way over, a motorcyclist in the opposite lane gave me “The Wave”—taking his left hand off the handlebars and dropping it by his thigh, flaring his index and middle finger into a peace sign, acknowledging the brotherhood of riding. I mirrored him, and with my right hand rolled the throttle, while the pipes growled underneath my feet.

At her dorm’s door, Kisha shoved a clipboard into my chest.

“I want you to do this for me,” she said.

We sat in her room as she asked me to answer fill-in-the-blank questions about our relationship:

Q. I want _____.

Q. She wants_____.

Q. The thing that makes me mad is_____.

Q. The thing that makes her mad is_____.

Q. I will_____.


A. this to work.

A. all my time.

A. the other Chris.

A. I’m stubborn.

A. try.


My answers disarmed me, because I wasn’t honest. We ended up going to the event together. But the whole time I thought how you’re not supposed to be backed into a corner and forced to review your relationship with your girlfriend like a job evaluation.

My real answers: I wanted us to be over; she wanted me to love her; she wasn’t going to be able to separate me from her ex-boyfriend; I would not work on the relationship; and that I planned to leave her.


Read more stories of Assumed Identities on The Good Life.

Image credit: Orin Zebest/Flickr

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About Chris Wiewiora

Chris Wiewiora earned his MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. His nonfiction about relationships has also been published on the Billfold, Nerve, the Rumpus, and many other magazines. Read more at


  1. This is good writing

  2. I don’t know if this is an appropriate reaction, but I enjoyed reading this. 🙂

  3. Michelle M. says:

    i don’t mean to dismiss your feelings (and, of course, with a start like that it means i am) but how long was it between her break-up with “old chris” and her starting a relationship with you? she really shouldn’t have brought up her ex so constantly, especially since it seems like this thing b/w you and her seemed so new; it’s something you save for later on, i think, when the two of you are more comfortable with each other in most, if not all things. it seems like she’s still hung up on her ex and is using you as a clutch, hoping that being with you would erase her pain or something…or it could be something else entirely, i don’t know.


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