I was covered up pretty well, wearing my beanie and my North Face ski jacket (because it’s jarringly cold here in Michigan for a San Diego-an accustomed to 70 degree winter days) and it was something about my clothing covering up the other visual cues of my body and the stubble and the lighting and who knows what else that did it. I looked in the mirror and saw myself – someone in his mid 20s, perhaps. I experienced a “first impression.” I looked a bit more serious, more rugged. It’s the first time this type of thing has ever happened to myself. It’s been 15 minutes since it’s happened but I’m already forgetting what it was like.
It’s usually someone you see regularly, someone whose mannerisms you are acquainted with. The vision might be triggered by the person in question wearing a certain style of clothing, doing a certain action, going about with a certain kind of hairstyle, carrying himself or herself in a certain way, or me, the viewer, looking at him/her at a certain angle with light shining on him/her in the exact way – it might even be the thoughts and mood that I may be experiencing at the moment – any number of infinite unconfirmable, unidentifiable parts of some abstract equation that all combine together to complete a secret formula unique to every individual.
When this secret formula is achieved, the “vision,” if I can call it that, begins. As soon as I am aware, I immediately fixate my gaze on the person in question, trying to preserve what I see. They never notice – they go about doing exactly what they were doing before the vision started for me.
From when it begins to when it decays a few seconds later, it feels like I can see an older version of their face. Overlaid on the perfectly normal face my eyes are perceiving are slightly more wrinkles on his/her face, a slightly more mature manner in their speech, perhaps a slightly different body language – in the space of a few seconds, my brain is augmenting reality, and yes, it looks like I’m seeing an older version of the person.
I’m always skeptical of things like this – there’s usually some neurological behavior that explains most “unreal” things, so I try my very best to store what I see in my long term memory to see if after the moment passes, I can look back on the memory rationally and evaluate its realness. So I concentrate as intensely as I can on what I’m experiencing.
Yet as soon as the moment ends, either due to focusing so hard on it, or some other cause far beyond my ability to explain, the vision rapidly decays in my memory. I grasp at it, doing my best to preserve it somehow, but it’s just so unlike anything I experience that I don’t think my brain knows what to do with it. So after half an hour or so, I forget the image. When I tell myself I do remember it, I’ve just tried to remember it so many times that it’s different than what is was in the moment (I think this one explanation for what happens) But I remember that I experienced it. And it just baffles me.
Is it what I think the person will look like in the future? If it’s some sort of unconscious thing, then what’s the reason it happens? Confirmation bias? But it happens so randomly, with no pattern apparent in either my thinking or surroundings, and the whole thing just feels so otherworldly and abstract compared to the usual day-to-day sensory input that I’m used to experiencing, and it happens for random people at random times (and the same person more than once, sometimes). It’s weird. It’s also oddly personal and spiritual.
I don’t know why it happens. I’ll never know whether my “vision” turns out to be correct or not. All I can say is: it exists.
A cool quirk of nature.