by John F. Carver

    Deja vu, a friend of mine says, is not the re-experience of a past life, as I have often thought, but something far more amazing. He believes that when we are still in the womb God tells us of important events in our lives that are not subject to change. Later, long after we are born, we retain some of that prenatal information and experience certain events as for a second time; deja vu. But whatever it is, it can become quite a problem should it occur too frequently. One begins to imagine all sorts of things, as did the man in the following story: David first experienced a vague sense that some events in his life had happened before, but as time went on the feeling grew to the point he was positive it had all happened before. He would be standing by the door to a restaurant, smoking a cigarette, when he would suddenly feel that he had seen the same cars go by, that he had seen the same people coming and going, and that even the snow that fell around him had fallen in precisely the same way at some time in the past, not at any discernable time in his past but perhaps in some past life, if such things really do exist, and he was becoming more and more convinced that they did.

    The problem escalated to include what should have been strange occurrences, but which seemed more and more familiar to him. For example, he was walking home one evening from his favorite restaurant when he noticed a man running down the street from behind. It was unusual but nothing to get upset over, and yet he found himself feeling alarmed. The man did not stop but rather grabbed the purse of the woman just ahead of him and sped off with it. Another man, further ahead, heard the woman scream, assessed the situation, tripped the purse snatcher and recovered the purse though the purse snatcher got away. David found it (a new experience to him) a thing that happened as if he were vividly recalling it rather than experiencing it for the first time. It was, he was sure, definitely not something one could explain away as simply a case of deja vu, all over again.

    “That was really something,” he said to the woman. “I felt like it had happened before.”
    “I know what you mean,” the hero of the situation replied. “Deja vu, I guess.”
    “No,” the woman replied.
    “You felt it too,” David said, feeling sure he was right. “But there is only one thing that bothers me. What happens next?”

    The hero and the woman looked at each other for what seemed an eternity to David. Then they turned in silence and began upon their way again, leaving David standing, mouth agape, in the snow that seemed to fall for a second time in the light of the street lamp where they had all been standing.

    “What happens next?” David yelled at them as they seemed about to disappear ahead of him. “What happens next?”

    David’s problem had reached a new level. He was not only sure that it had all happened before, but that others knew it. He was, to make it short, convinced him he was the only one in the world who did not know what happened next. But no matter whom he asked about it, no one would tell him what he sensed they all knew. Perhaps it was too horrible to speak of, but perhaps it was because what happened next, happened to him and everyone felt it was best that he didn’t know. It was very frustrating and he felt as if he were going mad.

    The problem finally got so bad that David took to raving in public. And, one time when he was particularly upset with a waitress the police arrived and took him to the nearest mental hospital where he proceeded in questioning the psychiatrist on duty so vigorously that he found himself in a seclusion room.

    “I remember now,” he shouted though no one could hear. “I remember what happened next.”