Even though my brother was never fully formed, the essence of him lurks within my bone marrow, influencing every decision I make.
The seeds of our existence were planted in 1974, when my parents took the Amtrak from Cleveland to Poughkeepsie for their honeymoon, and sat across the aisle from a woman traveling with twin girls. That night, they read the Beatitudes from the Bible they found in the drawer of the motel nightstand, and my father fed quarters to the Magic Fingers bed massager until the reality that they were actually “married” sank in. Then my mother curled against my father’s back under the thin orange bedspread, and prayed that their lives together would be blessed with twin girls.
Nine months later, after I slid into the world covered in vernix and blood, waving four tiny arms instead of two, and the doctor gruffly acknowledged that I was a boy, my mother realized that God never gives anything freely.
Most of the world sees me as an only child, but I am a twin. And the unique nature of my “twinness” goes beyond the shared intuitions and tendencies toward ESP that normal twins experience. Because we share a body, my brother’s desires and aptitudes guide me as thoroughly as my own. Nobody ever understands that part though. My mother is the only person who acknowledges the sacred bond that I have with my brother, but she is convinced that my twin is a female, and she refers to him as Patricia.
The doctors smile and shake their heads condescendingly when I tell them that my brother has his own feelings and talents. I keep trying to convince them that he’s the one who knows how to play the piano, not me. I can barely pound out Chopsticks, but those assholes think I’m just making up stories when I tell them that my brother lets me know he wants to play by tickling the insides of my palms with his soul. I can’t really explain it - other than to say that it’s an undercurrent of awareness, an unexplainable phenomenon - kind of like the Taos Hum, which is 100% real. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
I fascinate people, but I also disgust them. It’s the yin and yang of what defines my life. Sometimes people mock me - like the fat guy wearing pajama bottoms who called me a freak at the grocery store this morning. He was riding around in one of those motorized grocery carts - you know the ones that are supposed to be for the elderly or people with disabilities, but the only people who ever use them are fatties. I was tempted to give him a quadruple flip-off, but I promised my therapist that I would embrace that bullshit philosophy about being kind “because everyone is fighting a hard battle". Supposedly Plato said that, but I have my doubts. Plato was a logistician. He probably would have said something more like, “Be kind, because everyone has an ulterior motive".
Even you. Do a little self-reflecting, you know I’m right. Maybe you want to sit next to me on the metro just so you can have a good story to tell your family at dinner, or you’re one of the many women who have pursued me over the years, because you know that four hands are probably way more fun that two. Maybe you just need to take a picture, so you will always have something to remind you to be grateful for what you don’t have.
I don't want to sound bitter. I am grateful that my brother turned me into a virtuoso pianist. People truly appreciate the music. Sometimes they even give me roses after my performances, and I keep them until the petals wither and drop - because gifts that are freely given are rare, and that gives me hope. Still, living in this body is a burden, and there are days when I obsess about how to get the fuck out. I’ve written the goodbye letter to our mother a thousand times. It always ends the same way: “We gave it everything we had, but it wasn’t enough.” And by the time I unlock the gun box, my palms are tickling so badly, that I just sit down at the piano and start to play.
*The Speakeasy at Yeah Write is the place to submit your poetry or short fiction (750 words or less). Every week there are different prompts. Click on the Speak Easy badge below to see this week's prompts.