This is the first, and hopefully the last, time I write this sentence: I just killed a man. It wasn’t in Reno and I didn’t do it to watch him die, but it was because his existence ran its course and his presence was a danger to me. I mean heck, I might be able to argue and justify my defense in a court of law. But no judge would dare hear the case of Silas Robert Zimmerman v. Silas Valentino. How one man from Damascus, Pennsylvania, was struck down by his very own version of Dr. Jekyll. In comparison to the time lapse of the universe, Silas Robert Zimmerman lived a very short life (2 years), but then again, who doesn’t in those terms?
He was known by a first-name basis at a liquor store miles from UO’s campus and his appearance at a nearby market was guaranteed on the weekends. The only existing photo of Zimmerman is of him wearing someone else’s favorite blue sweater where if you held the right thread, the sweater would slowly unravel as you walked away. This single photo will never rip nor tear; for it is laminated. Under a black light, this photo lights-up like a pinball machine played by Donkey Kong Champion, Billy Mitchell. This one-of-a-kind photo is on an ID for a 25-year-old Pennsylvanian boy named Silas Robert Zimmerman, who just recently died because he never existed. Silas Robert Zimmerman was the name on my fake ID.
Fake IDs can be seen as a right of passage for our generation. For those who decide to gamble with the die and obtain one, a fake can be the equivalent to your first AIM email address. They’re generally silly, short lived and when you look back on them years later, you laugh to yourself at how foolish you once were. The first time I encountered a legitimate fake ID (oxymoron aside) was when I was a junior in high school. A friend of a friend’s friend who went by the nickname Rebel Rob had a fake ID claiming his age slightly above 18. I asked him why he didn’t just tack on the extra three years to buy beer and his response was that he only wanted chewing tobacco. References to The Breakfast Club’s “So I can vote” abounded.
Junior year of high school melted into senior year and at 18 years young, I scored my first fake. It was an older friend’s expired ID and it stated my ripe, true age of 18 to a prime 29 years old. Event though this age difference was clearly noticeable, the fine people behind the counter at my local Latino market never questioned its legitimacy.
During my freshman year at University, I was the equivalent of Morgan Freeman to my dorm’s Shawshank Beer-Demption. I acquired cases of grape Four Loko every weekend until I, in true idiot fashion, almost indirectly turned myself into the Department of Public Safety.
During a routine dormitory write-up for consuming alcohol on the premises, I handed over my fake ID, full of incorrect information about myself, to the resident advisor, hoping to dodge the excruciating slap-on-the-wrist punishment. As the RA jotted down the false information, reality caught up and gerrymandered its way into my then conscience. Oh Fudge, I thought. Surely they would figure out the misinformation and I would be in double trouble minus the Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar solo. I was correct and on the following Friday morning, I awoke to three voicemail messages…
The first was from my caring, older sister asking if I was okay. Oh man, I remember, this isn’t good.
The second voicemail was from my father. At this time, I was only entering the sixth week of my freshman year and calls to home were pretty much non-existent. The first call home my pop received regarding my college experience was courtesy of DPS looking to be put in contact with his son. (In hindsight, I gave my dad a run for his grey hairs.) My father’s voice message was a mixture of confusion and rising anger.
Luckily I didn’t have time to worry about it because the third and final voicemail was from an officer of the Department of Public Safety requesting a meeting that very morning. I skipped my astronomy class and entered the belly of the collegiate beast: The Department of Public Safety’s Officer Station. Our meeting was fairly brief and I escaped with a warning but I’ll never forget the hand diagram presentation the officer showed me depicting the laws owning a fake ID breaks: identity theft, obstruction of justice, etc. I left the meeting feeling as if I dodged an atom bomb and patched things up with the family. (I lied and said that it was all a giant miscommunication/mistake.) The thought of owning another fake was nowhere near my future goals.
But the beer well dried and months later an opportunity arose to buy a fake ID using my photo and information from the fine people of the People's Republic of China. I laid out the pros and cons and a few weeks later, my glossy and laminated new identity arrived concealed in a calculator. That day marked the first for Silas Robert Zimmerman. (I chose the moniker as an homage to my childhood hero: Bob Dylan. Though not one person ever caught the reference.)
It was Zimmerman, not me, who entered bars, clubs and countless hangovers. We shared something that only one person can own: a body. He had something I needed (age) and I had something he needed: being a real person. We worked well with one another and to say I don’t miss him would be a lie.
It must have been a few nights after my 21st birthday when I led Zimmerman down to an imaginary riverbank of my mind. I had him face the water, back turned to me, and I told him to tell me of his happy place on a farm filled with rabbits. Let’s do it now said Zimmerman in a tone so quiet it may have never existed. Let’s get to that place now, Lennie, err, Silas.
The gunshot was never reported and the smoke never cleared for the assassination of Silas Robert Zimmerman was done with the simple removal of an old fake ID from my wallet.