All the other lives I live, based on people who accidentally use my email address as their own

I am a woman with a friend named Helen. Helen is a fan of email forwards. She sends me an astonishing photograph of a long line of Canadian Mounties standing shoulder to shoulder on one of those rickety hanging bridges over a ravine and muses, in all caps, whether the Mounties were allowed to choose where in line they stood. She appears to own some property in Florida and sends me updates when the hurricane hits (the house is fine!). She is planning to come visit and writes to ask if she can borrow “Gary’s” car when she gets here. Gary might be my adult son but it’s unclear. At this point I reluctantly write back to Helen for the first time to tell her I’m not who she thinks I am. She does not respond, but continues sending the email forwards.

I am a graduate of the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, a fine institution that never, ever, ever takes your name off their alumni listserv, no matter how many times you click “unsubscribe.” After graduation, I start looking for work. I sign up for employment newsletters and get a lot of emails from job sites. Success is imminent, probably.

I am someone with a friend who bought a heater that looks like an old-timey fireplace. She sends me a picture of it, sitting in her living room where there is also an enormous Chinese fan and several candles and a carved wooden giraffe. She says the heater was a good deal.

I am a member of a church in Australia, I think? The church choir is working on a children’s music program and sends a LOT of emails about the big show. They use the word “blessed” a lot and I have to remind them a few times that I’m not who they think I am. Throughout, they continue to spell my name “Ersula.”

I am a British woman with a family that is planning their summer reunion. They have a cottage on the coast and are talking about playing badminton. When I write to let them know they’ve got the wrong me, they are gracious and apologetic and say it’s nice to know there’s “another one of us” across the pond. God damn it, why didn’t I just go along with this?

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