Fraternal, or Fraternized, Twins
We’d lived there a week before we realized she was two people. They came out into their yard together, in matching sundresses and hats. Our mother stood and wiped her gloves on her jeans. “Look boys,” she said. “You’re not the only set around here.”
“They’re identical,” Mike said, like she’d mixed up The Simpsons with Family Guy.
“Either way.” She shrugged and turned back to the flowerbed. “Right across the street. I guess I’m the only one who thinks it’s strange.” She was already untangling the roots of another snapdragon, but we watched them like scientists might as they got into their car.
It didn’t take us long to decide they were a couple. After we got to know the other kids in the neighborhood it wasn’t even a question. In the not-so-hot part of summer we staked out their house, writing down the times they came in and out, how many bags of groceries they carried up the steps, what time the lights switched off. We couldn’t believe that two sisters could be in love. It felt weird to think about when I looked over at Mike peering out the window with his binoculars, his shirt in a heap at his feet because the air conditioner broke the day we turned it on.
“This place isn’t as big,” Mom had said when we packed our stuff. “You’ll have to share a room, like me and your aunt Kathleen, a hundred years ago.” She put a hand on my shoulder, the other on Mike’s. “It’ll be fun,” she said, but it didn’t sound like she believed it.
We weren’t sure what two girls did together. Earlier that year, they’d brought all the fifth grade boys into the lunchroom and all the fifth grade girls into the library and told them what a man and a woman did together, even though most of us knew already. Watching what we’d decided was their bedroom window was like thinking about two electrical outlets together. Then we started joking about what would happen if you put two cords together, and we unplugged our lamps and threatened each other with the prongs, kind of stabbing at the air and clunking them into each other. We had funny voices to go along with it.
I’d never thought about falling in love with my brother, but when I told him maybe we’d grow up and live together he thought it sounded cool. He asked if we’d sleep in the same bed, and I said yeah, probably. Then he asked if we’d sleep naked in the same bed, and it took me a minute but I nodded. That night we tried it, but we were too scared to take off our underwear, and we just kind of hugged until we fell asleep.
When we did start sleeping naked we’d stopped watching the twins across the street. I told Mike that I loved him and wanted to be his husband. He said it back, and he kissed me without opening his mouth.
I was starting to get worried. I was thinking that he thought this was just a game, like haha we’re playing house except we’re two boys. When I started to shake from just thinking about it I’d remember the part where he told me he loved me too, and even though it didn’t seem like he meant it I’d stop shaking and slide in next to him under the covers.
One night he asked me if I remembered that time, way back at the beginning of summer, when we’d wondered what you were supposed to do with two cords. I must’ve looked stupid because he leaned over and whispered in my ear. I said okay and he pushed down the covers and showed me what he’d figured out in the shower. It looked strange to see that burst out of him, to see his body jolt like he’d been electrocuted, but when I tried it nothing came out. It felt like something broke when I turned it on. He wasn’t even watching anymore. He was putting on his underwear, and before long he was snoring, over in his own bed. Instead of seeing into the future I could hear it. It made me shake like before, except I couldn’t make myself not shake. He’s not you, the future said, like it didn’t even need to think about it. Like it knew.
All rights reserved to Patrick Nathan.