My sister and I were born from the same stuff.
I mean everything, right then, right there: same cereal from the same bowl with the same milk from the same carton with the same expiration date. Same cornflake. One umbilical cord suddenly dividing.
Not identical. That would be different. You and your twin would be the same. You're a boy and he's a boy. You both wear blue. You can wear the same outfits. You can make up your own language. You get two names for one face. That could be fun.
They'd listen but they could never hear me--when we were in the womb. That's what we were told. Oh, they could hear my sister's heart beating--"yep you've got yourself a strong baby, Mrs. Moran." But I was positioned in just such a way that they couldn't detect my heartbeat. My parents didn't know I was there.
And she'd thank God that the child was healthy, but she was always a little concerned at how active it was: kick here, punch, double-pow, pop to the kidneys, she's certainly taking a beating tonight, folks, from this young upstart from northeastern iowa boom-boom-boom!
"Doctors never said anything about twins," she'd tell herself. "Best not to think about that. Just make yourself sick."
And then, when it was time--rumble-rumble--and the big squeezes started happening--rumble-rumble-rumble--in that wet dark place--rumble-rumble-rumble!--where my sister and I were holed up--rumble-rumble-rumble-rumble!--I just said, "No thanks, that's fine, you go on ahead, I'm good here."
But she was already jockeying into position so that big slurping suction could grab her by the head and pull her down into that big screaming light, and when I spoke she turned around to look at me and said: "What?! Did you say something?!"--Rumble!-Rumble!-RUMBLE!
"No, that's, I'm just a little, I'm, um, that's fine, you go on ahead, I, uh...."
And she was in over her neck.
I didn't want it. That's all there was to it. The accomodations had been getting bit tight lately, but I was certain it had to be better then trying to get through that little tiny crack. I really didn't like the look of what my sister was going through right at that moment: her head was gone; her shoulders were being squeezed together in a way that looked incredibly uncomfortable; her feet were doing this little twitchy, kicky thing.
And then--slurp-slurp!-Slurp!-SLURP!--SPOOSH!--my sister was gone.
She was sucked right out. Nine months and you get close to a person. We didn't learn each others names until later, but those first nine months--I wish I could say I'd never forget them. Not that I was going to go jumping down after her. I figured: "She'll be fine. And while I'm waiting to see if she comes back, I'll just stretch out a bit and make myself comfortable. No hurry. If it happens, it happens, she wants to chance it, that's fine with me, I'm good right here--"
Yaddah, yaddah, blah, blah, obviously I was born. No choice coming into this world, no choice going..........well, best not to think about, you know, that.
Of course I tell everyone either that she was just being pushy--"she just pushed right by me and out she went"--or I say, "The birthing muscles of a mother who is bearing twins always first catches and delivers the child with the smallest head." It's line of which I'm particularly proud. My sister had to ask me to repeat it. Three times. It's a great line.
But I don't, I never tell, you know, what I really think about, why she....why she.... cuz she was born first..... I don't say what I think about....why.
I don't want people to think.....
I don't know.
The University of Iowa Theater department gave me a scholarship back in '84. I had gone up on their stage, blabbered and gesticulated, and a few weeks later they sent a letter up to my house outside Denver, Iowa (pop. 7320) that said, "You blabbered and gesticulated better than anyone else we saw. Here's some money to to pay your way while you learn how to do more of the same."
So the next day I checked out of studyhall and went to see Denver High's lone guidance counselor. I found her behind a mountain of unopened correspondence from universities and scholarship organizations. She was reading a book by Erma Bombeck. When she saw me, she took her finger out of her nose and cocked her head.
"You can stop checking into truck-driving schools," I told her. "I guess I'm going to college."
She nodded with vigorous approval and flipped a page in her book.
After one year at the University of Iowa the money went away. Mom, at her house, said, "Sorry," and turned out the pockets of her Donna Karan outfit to show me how empty they were.
Dad, in his house, said, "Go get a man's job at the local factory and stop being such a sissy-boy."
In a fit of defiance I took a job at an Arby's. Then I saved my pennies in a big jar for one whole year, bought a plane ticket, and moved to London. My work visa was good for a half a year. I adopted the dress, the lilt of the speech, and the habit of offering cigarettes around the table when I opened a pack. When I got back to the states, the clothes and the colored words annoyed people. That, and the way I would start each conversation with: "I just got back from London." They let me hang around though, because I kept giving them cigarettes.
I was a cook in a restaurant for a winter, was a carpenter for an opera festival in New York state for two summers, was a mailman for awhile, and after three years away, went back to the theater department at U of Iowa, gave up on blabbering and gesticulating, and started writing plays.
I was introduced to a very striking-looking woman at a party one night. Karla, someone said her name was. Her grip was strong, her eyes were steady, and her approach was direct. I learned later that she was the only person I would ever be able to trust completely. She is someone who, if she senses that I feel there's a bigger world for me outside a little tiny crack in the wall, will do whatever she can until I go through it.
Four months after meeting her, I proposed. We've got a home in Wilmette now. Our daughter just started kindergarten and our two-year-old son plays as my alarm clock in the morning. Nothing like having forty-five pounds of oversized two-year-old bouncing on your head at five in the morning.
Something about these kids of mine that I find very interesting: they're fearless.
Hard telling where they got it from.
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