It’s been a month now and my husband Julian’s twin brother Jules is still staying with us. My husband is getting restless with all the togetherness, but I don’t mind. I don’t mind in the least.
I like having Jules around. He complements Julian, he complements us, and does so in a way that makes life more exciting. There’s always just a tiny bit of edge to our interactions, the kind of edge that keeps me on my toes and reminds me that life is for living and it’s not just a bunch of time that I’m passing through—that experiences are precious. I didn’t realize until recently how boring and repetitive our life together, Julian’s and mine, had become.
Jules is the hot chile in the enchilada. It’s remarkable how unalike his identical twin brother he is. I guess that’s why it shocked me, literally, when I walked up behind Julian yesterday to share a quiet, intimate moment, something that seems to be a kind of an endangered species of late. I put my arms around him and cooed something nonsensical. Without turning around, Jules cooed back in this artificially sweet, sarcastic voice, “Wrong twin.”
I didn’t know what to do or say, so I said nothing, just dropped my arms and snuck away. My face was hot and red with embarrassment. Ever since, however, I’ve been wondering how I could’ve made such a mistake. Was my subconscious telling me something? Freudians believe mistakes don’t just happen but reflect some underlying feeling. I guess I’ve a lot to think about. In a way, I’m glad I did it although it was plenty dumb.
Today I got even more to think about. Julian was at work. He sells insurance. He must be good at it because he makes a nice living. We’ve got a pretty house in the suburbs, two cars and enough loose cash to take expensive vacations. I can’t complain.
Jules, of course, was not at work. As a self-employed writer he doesn’t have any money—that’s why he’s stayed so long with us—but at least his time’s his own. That’s a major compensation.
He doesn’t have to go to an office. He just takes out his computer, fires it up, places it on his lap and stares off into space until lightning hits, or thoughts gel or inspiration strikes or whatever it is writers wait for, and then starts hitting the keyboard as fast as he can. Today, however, the lightning or the gel or the inspiration must be on vacation. He sits and stares at the ceiling, the screen goes dark and the keyboard remains silent and still.
Cautiously, because I respect a man’s work habits, I stepped into the doorway and asked Jules if he wanted a cup of coffee.
“I’d love it,” he said, “and you can put some of that stuff in it.” The “stuff” was brandy, which all three of us had added to our coffees last night. It was still morning and I didn’t put the stuff in the coffee, but I did bring the bottle and put it on the table between us. “Help yourself,” I said, “I don’t want to give you so much it gets in the way of your work.”
“No worry about that today,” he said. “I don’t think I could compose a grocery list.” He filled up his coffee cup to the brim with brandy, and I did the same. When our cups were half empty, we filled them again with brandy.
It’s said that women get high quicker than men because we have less body mass. Whatever the reason, however, I was definitely starting to feel the effects of the alcohol. Maybe Jules did too, I’m not sure, but his behavior made me think he did.
I moved from my easy chair to sit beside him on the sofa and put a hand on his shoulder. He looked at me hard, a stare that I read as some combination of question and challenge. And assertion. Not aggression exactly but a wordless way of saying, “Here I am. This is me. I’m not somebody else. I’m not my twin. Just me. What do you make of that?”
I stared back, equally wordlessly. I didn’t know what to make of the situation. I didn’t know what to make of Jules. Hell, I didn’t know what to make of myself.
After wordlessness and motionlessness had gone on for what seemed forever, and thinking on it had gone on far too long, he finally said, “Still the wrong twin.”
That was that. I picked up the empty cups and the bottle and retreated to the kitchen. But in my head I kept hearing what sounded to me like a question mark at the end of Jules’s sentence, as if he were asking me if I believed he was the wrong twin rather than telling me he wasn’t the right one. That question mark may have been hypothetical or imaginary, but whether it really existed, it still shook me up.
It could have all kinds of consequences.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK