Who IS Evelyn Salt?

By Robert Brenner

Who is Evelyn Salt? You may as well ask, Is identity fixed and unchangeable, or is it subjective, an endless labyrinthine funhouse of twisting perspectives?

For example, I could be Jorge Luis Borges, the famous dead  Argentinean literary author. I specialize in stories like “The Garden of Forking Paths” about the mutability of identity. Do not be troubled by the “fact” of my death; facts are no match for the power of my ficciones. Currently I may be writing—and  you may be reading—a screenplay for a spy thriller called “Salt,” even though it doesn’t look anything like a screenplay.  I have a weakness for cheap pulp melodrama and  literary hoaxes.

Or I could be Evelyn Salt–a beautiful American CIA agent. My job is interrogating Russian spies as if the Cold War were ongoing.

Or I could be KA-12,  a Russian sleeper agent. I’ve been living undercover in the United States for over twenty years.  Like those losers in Montclair, New Jersey—except I didn’t get myself caught.  My job might be to assassinate the President of the United States. Or it might be to write this.   

Or I could be Angelina Jolie. I’m a beautiful Hollywood star, and the stuff that tabloid dreams are made of. I play KA-12  who’s pretending she’s Evelyn Salt, 

Or I could be Wanda Biedermeier,  a housewife from Buzzard’s Breath, Arizona. I follow Angelina in all the tabloids—the breakups, the affairs, the pregnancies, the adoptions, the tattoos.  Sometimes I know so much about her I think I’m Angelina.

Or you know what?  I could very well be Kurt Swimmer, making believe I’m Jorge Luis Borges by writing this.  I’m a screenplay writer.  I’ve written screenplays for a dozen movies—including “Salt”—but you’ve probably never heard of me.  No, I’m not bitter. I just should have stuck with my original dreams to be a serious literary author—like,  say, Jorge Luis Borges.

Or I could be Wanda Biedermeier again. Who the hell  is this Jorge Luis Borges person? I’ve never heard of him. Sounds like an illegal alien, if you ask me.

Or I could be  Dr. Yu Tsun. I am a character from Jorge Luis Borges’ most excellent story “The Garden of Forking Paths.” Someone please to be telling me what I am doing here?

Or I could be Skippy Biedermeier (no relation). I’m an accountant from Montclair, New Jersey–yeah, where the spies come from. I’m sitting on the PATH train reading this on  my e-reader on the way to my boring day job and thinking what the hell?

Or I could be Robert Brenner, a freelance writer with literary pretensions. My work has appeared in New York magazine, the Huffington Post, Open Salon, and Happy. I live in New York City with my wife. I am not a CIA agent, a Russian sleeper spy, or Jorge Luis Borges.