The trouble with twins

“Oh you have a twin?” the sweet greyed haired older lady will ask as I’m stretching her freshly surgically repaired shoulder and admiring the Graceland-Home of Elvis sweatshirt she is wearing. I will ask about the sweatshirt later in efforts to continue our small talk, and she will tell me about the ducks at the Peabody Memphis as well. I can’t wait to talk about the ducks. We come to this little bit of information about my family history as we dance back and forth with information of each other. I ask about her precious husband (as she puts him) and she asks if I have any brothers and sisters. You know, the little small talk that a therapist and a patient do on their first visit as a way of her finding out if I plan on ripping her arm completely off of her body or just partially. I tell her I have never torn an arm off yet, but then again, there is always a first time for everything. She nervously laughs. I stay straight faced. Fortunately for me, it doesn’t take long for me to form a rapport with someone, and we are soon telling stories of murderous pasts or a scandalous present. I’m cool like that.

“I most certainly do,” I will reply in excitement, even though when asked if I have any siblings I stated I had an older sister and a twin brother. No one ever comes back “Oh, you have an older sister?, they just want to find out more about the brother. My sister is lovely by the way, in case your were wondering.

“I grew up with a set of twins, the Davidson sisters” she excitedly chimes back, as if her knowing twins in her past somehow lets her in to my world of superpower twindom, “they were the most darling young girls”. Who uses darling anymore? I like this lady. I may try and see if she can adopt me. Maybe she can take me to Graceland someday. I’ve never been.

“Oh really?” I respond, remaining silent in the fact that I kinda hate the word ‘set of’ when people are referring to being a twin. We aren’t sheets, salt and pepper shakers, or books. We certainly aren’t a consolation prize people win for having children, “and Johny, tell her what she won….well Skip, she not only wins a lovely little girl, but wait, she walks away with a matching set of twin boys!!!” Why do people do that? I know it is innocent and they don’t know any better, but for some reason I do get a little testy with it. I mean, doesn’t twin automatically kinda refer to two things already?  Isn’t it like repeating yourself? I find it funny when people package twins, or triplets for that fact, as a ‘set of’ things. I can’t say I don’t blame them, but I will ask the older lady later when we start talking about her grandchildren “so you have a set of grandchildren in Yukon and a set of them here in the city?”. She won’t catch on to what I did, or that I am having a play on the word she just used to describe my bunk buddy during pregnancy, but I like to slide little things like that into conversations, kinda helps pass the time. 

Yes, I know I am being a bit of an ass.

“Yes, ma’am, identical twin actually”. This is when the getting gets good in conversations like these. She then perks up more than she already is and excitedly asks back, “you mean you guys look alike?”

identical twin: (noun) either member of a pair of twins that are produced from a single egg and who look exactly alike.

In my head I say, “yes, that is the definition of identical isn’t it?” But, having been in this situation a thousand times, I calmly and earnestly chime back “well, we don’t so much anymore, but yes, we are technically identical”. Again, I don’t blame people for this question, it’s really quite the circus act to have someone that looks just like you. I just find it amusing how most people lose their vocabulary skills when presented with a freakish person.

Of course I will say something like ‘most everyone that grew up with us can easily tell us apart’, and how if she was to see him at the store she would first be confused, but after talking with him for a minute she could start to tell the differences. I say this not that people will tell the difference physically, they will simply know it isn’t me they are talking to because my brother will sound much more caring and intelligent than I. They know I am not that sweet.

“So if you see me out and about and I don’t say hi to you, it’s not me being rude” I inform her, “its just my brother”.  She giggles a little bit. They all giggle a little bit when I say this phrase, the one I think I have said hundreds of times over the years. The phrase I have learned to incorporate into every first conversation I have with people. I call it my “Legal Disclaimer” sentence, my ‘get out of jail free card’. Why do I insert this small but useful phrase into conversations? It’s simple, I really can’t count the number of times I will have to tell someone it wasn’t me when they ask “were you at Target last Tuesday?” 

“Which one?” I ask, knowing where this is going, and also knowing that I wasn’t at any Target last Tuesday, but I can’t help the urge to add to the storyline. 

“The one right over here off Memorial”, as they undoubtedly point south (every time they point south) when the Target off of Memorial is directly east of my office. 

I squint my eyes and look up for just the slightest bit of time, looking like I am in full thought mode, you know the one that makes me seem like I am internally asking myself “was I at the Target on Memorial last Tuesday?”. Of course I wasn’t, I was holed up at Evoke coffee in Edmond last Tuesday afternoon killing time til I had to pick up my kid from school, but I replay “No, that wasn’t me.”

“Well, it must have been your twin brother!” they will exclaim, as if they had seen Big Foot himself, so excited in their detective work in finding the ‘twin’ brother. And this adds to the sweetness people have. Most people will simply refer to my brother as “your brother” but some people, in their charming way of keeping the magic alive, will always refer to him as “your twin brother” even after I tell them I only have one brother. I think it’s cute and playful that some people always like to throw the word ‘twin’ in front of ‘brother’. For example…”what does your twin brother do for a living?”, or “what is your twin brother’s name”, but I tend to like “does your twin brother like the same things you do?”. Of course, all earnest questions, but when I find out you have a sister, your only sister let’s say for this purpose, and I also find out that she is a nurse, I don’t ask “does your nurse sister have a name?” Or, “what are you getting your nurse sister for Christmas?”  Again, I think people fall into a lovely trance once they find out I have my very own dobbelganger.

Back to the Graceland lady.

“I bet you guys played lots of tricks on people when you were kids, right?’. Again, this is probably the second or third asked question I get from people. I feel like they may have watched too many After School Specials about the twin that took the ACT for the sick one at home with Chicken Pox, ensuring that they both would be able to attend Harvard together, and later open a coffee shop named “Double Shot Coffee Shop”. Also, do I come across as someone that looks mischievous enough to have performed such twisted acts as a child? I suppose I do.

“No, we really didn’t do anything crazy like that” I say.

“Oh”, she says, relaxing a bit, acting as if I tell her I told her I couldn’t come to her house for Christmas. “That’s too bad, I think I would have had fun with having a twin”.  Really? I think to myself. I always love when people say this, like, you would have tried to knock over a bank and then have an ‘eye witness’ say that they say you at the park riding your bike at the time of the robbery? 

The truth is I love it. The funny questions, the looks, the idea that I somehow am this magical mythical being. I mean really, how many times have you been able to say “Listen, I’m not who you think I am” when approached by a stranger at the mall? We will stop and do small talk, they will looked somewhat disappointed when I tell them that I am not the twin brother they were hoping to talk to. And yes, I do on occasion have to produce my driver’s license to prove to them that I am pretty sure I am not my brother, I mean, I am not my twin brother. 

Oh, and to answer the other stupid question I get asked a lot, and perhaps you may be secretly wanting to know…NO, we can’t feel each other’s pain. Although one time in high school I did scream out loud when my brother got hit during football practice. Not that I felt it. It was just a really gnarly hit. I think everyone felt it. 

I cannot wait for the little lady to come back for her next visit. I can not wait to see what fun vacation sweat shirt she will be wearing, or what her ‘precious’ husband had made for dinner since she can’t cook. I will ask about her set of grandkids in Yukon and the set here in the city, and she will probably tell me that I tried to kill her the last time she was in. “Oh I wasn’t trying to kill you” I will say slowly, “I was just trying to rip your arm off”. She won’t laugh. I will. Thank God for wearing masks these days. But I am hoping she will ask me a question, the one that will undoubtedly make me laugh…”Were you at Target the other day?”, and I will giggle and internally readying my automatic response, knowing damn well I was not at any target recently, “which one?” I will say.

“That one over there,” as she points south. 

“Nope, that must have been my Twin Brother”.