Matthew Olzmann

The Man Who Was Mistaken

No, I’m not the Associate Dean for Faculty: Teaching and Learning,

you’re thinking of Gary Hawkins, is what I told

the second student this week who thought I was Gary.

Gary: who, like me, is bald and wears glasses.

Gary: who once, ten years ago, was mistaken for Moby.


Moby: who, like me, is bald and wears glasses.

I am not Moby. I am the man who was mistaken


for the man who was mistaken

for Moby. I’m okay with this distinction.


I am not Jesus. But in 1996, I shared an apartment with a guy

who would go to parties in Detroit and dance until his ankles bled.


He came home once, talking

not about Moby, but “the idea” of Moby.


I was trying to play a video game (Street Fighter, I think)

and was about to win the thing,


which is when he said, You know that part

in “First Cool Hive” where the music stops being music

and starts being tongues of fire descending across the land?  


Which is when I said, No.


Which is when he said, Stop being cynical.

I’m trying to say I had a spiritual experience.

That the spirit was inside the music. I’m talking about Jesus.


Which is when I said, Wait. You think Moby is actually Jesus?

Which is when he said, I think we all are.


Which is when my guy on the TV screen

got his head kicked in and died. The game was over.


I didn’t know what he was talking about. But,

looking back, I realize that music and the spirit

are fused, like that point on the horizon


where you can’t tell the earth from the sky from

the smokestacks that ignite them both.


Am I saying that one face in the crowd could be any other face?

Am I saying we’re not that different?

Am I saying we’re all connected?                                            


No. I’m saying my roommate ate a lot of drugs

and would come home and say crazy shit.


Once he thought our furnace was talking to him.


Which is when I said, Why don’t you tell me

what the furnace was trying to say?


Which is when he said, It said

that me and it would always be enemies.


Which is when I said, Son, that’s a fight you can never win.


Which is when he said, Okay, and then went

outside to dance on the hood of his car.


Which is when the cops came.


Perhaps he was right. Jesus was inside the music.

And that music was inside my roommate.

And the state could not tolerate it.


So they sent their troopers to make him stop.


What did the music tell him?

It told him the world was on fire.


He danced anyway.


So many people in the world.

When they dance inside the pulse of smoke

machines and strobe lights, I can’t tell one

from the next from the next.


There’s a word for the fear of being unable

to distinguish yourself in a place like this.


I am not Jesus. I am not Moby.

I am not Gary Hawkins.


I’m the guy who looks like that other guy—Him

the one who has changed,

the one who could be someone else.



“The Man Who Was Mistaken” first appeared in Forklift, Ohio, Issue #28.