International Writers Magazine: Short story about identity
started out as a game. Wed answer to whatever name we were
called and pretend to be that person. It was fun at first, like
cowboys and Indians, but as we got older we started to take it
very seriously. At first our parents could tell us apart, there
was a family bond that gave them an advantage most people didnt
have, it drove us crazy. Outsiders didnt stand a chance.
At any given moment you could think you were with my brother but
youd really be talking to me. Youd be telling me your
secrets, buying me ice cream, and professing your to love me.
The whole time youd never know that I was there.
The game started
to get really intense in our teens. We decided to make up rules, rules
we would always have to live by, no matter what. We came up with ways
to mislead people. There were tics that would forever be assigned to
one of us and not the other. Jackson would always have the sniffles,
so if you came up to one of us and assumed it was Jackson that one would
fake like he had a runny nose. Jacob had itchy ears. Youd be surprised
how well people pay attention to things like that when youre a
twin. Even our keen parents welcomed the easy to spot traits and fell
under our spell.
We consolidated our clothes so neither one of us had a definable style.
Most of our outfits were bought in doubles, the stuff that we only had
one of would be shared. Sometimes the game worked against us. I remember
once my brother took Dads car in the middle of the night. He had
been trying to get the car for a month so he could drive down to the
beach and spend the night with his girlfriend Mary. Mary had liked the
fact Jackson always had a runny nose. She thought it was cute and enjoyed
tending to his minor ailment.
In order to get his courage up to take the car, Jackson got into some
alcohol. He crashed the car into a ditch. My brother was fine, not a
scrape on him. The car wasnt completely totaled, but messed up
"Jackson?" my Dad yelled out. He had developed this stern
pitch that rounded itself out in a question when he got mad. He looked
at me with a raised eyebrow, unsure if it was really me. I took my handkerchief
out and blew my nose, it had Jackson stitched into it; my brother had
an identical one. "You better explain yourself!"
"Please Dad." I said and sucked air through my nose. "Dont
be mad at me, Ill pay it off, I swear."
"You bet youll pay it off, and Im taking the interest
out of your ass."
Dad went for the extension cord and chased me around the house whipping
it at me. I thought I could out maneuver him, but then I got caught
up rounding a tight corner. He was wild with anger. The plug caught
me in the eye, damn near ripped it out of the socket. I found out at
the hospital later that night that Id be blind in that eye for
the rest of my life. I cried hard when I found out, not because of the
sight that I had lost, but because I would have to live out the rest
of my life as one person.
The months it took for my eye to heal were the worst of our lives. I
was stuck in my identity and my brother was stuck in his. Despite our
miserable lots we held hope that once the bandages were off wed
have some chance at normalcy. The doctor said he was hopeful, the eye
was still intact, he thought there was a good chance I wouldnt
need a prosthetic. When I looked into the mirror it was horrible. My
perfectly matched blue eye was now discolored, milky, dull, and different.
I was devastated, however my brother showed no emotion.
"Dont you have anything to say?" I sniffled. He shook
his head no and dug his finger into his right ear. The very next day
my brother was in the hospital with his own problem. He had gone home
to work on the car that I had crashed and the craziest thing happened,
a tiny spring nestled in the engine shot up and pierced his eye. The
very same eye my father had taken from me. There was some question regarding
the legitimacy of such an accident. "What are the odds?" people
frequently asked. We were sent to counseling. Our parents feared we
suffered a psychological disorder prevalent amongst identical twins.
They were afraid we had the need to be identical and couldnt accept
being unique. It helped our case that we never had one class together;
we both worked separate jobs, and never really hung out with the same
group of people. When you live two lives you want as little overlap
as possible. The suspicion died down.
It started out as a game, but now that game has ended. Im standing
at my brothers coffin, surrounded by family; mine and his. Looking
over to his wife and children I feel such loss. She is no longer my
wife; those are not my children. I will still see them but it can never
be the way it was. No matter how many times I enter their home I will
never be a father, I will never share that bed again. My own wife, sits
next to me and wipes a tear from her eye, she does not know how sad
she should be. She has no idea that when they bury this man, they bury
her husband as well. There is a name etched in stone above the plot
where my brothers body has been put to rest. I just dont
know which one of us has died.
© Timmy Waldron Feb 2005
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