The Other One
I sit here, and I watch him.
The other one, in the mirror.
I made the mistake of looking away an hour or so ago, at a dark movement that I saw in the corner of that other darkened room, and when I looked back, he was already sitting there, looking at me, a slight grin on his lips.
In the films, and on television, the evil twin always has a goatee, and a rakish, debonaire smile.
But up until the accident, I had always thought of myself as the charming one, and a common joke at the boarding school had been that neither one of us could grow a curling hair, on our face or anywhere else besides. So there’s no easy way of knowing, which of us is good, and which not quite so.
I try to trick the other one, by moving my head this way and that. I try on a quick smile. I blink fast, and the illogic of using that as some kind of test only occurs to me afterwards.
Every time I expect to catch him, his movements are perfectly in synch with mine, and I start to relax.
But then, the times when I forget to feel anxious, I notice a slight delay. Or he winks at me, and I don’t feel the echo of it on my own face. Or he wears a hat. For just a second. A bowler or something like it.
The worry is, I thought I was a pretty rational guy. I have a life, now. A job. A girl, who is waiting for me at a restaurant downtown. I’m holding it together enough right now that I want to call her, make some sane sounding excuse for standing her up. But my phone is in the other room. And I’m scared of what might happen if I take my eyes off the other fellow for too long.
And the longer it goes on, the more uncertain I become, of the basic things. Which brother was I, anyway? – I’m starting to question for the first time in a long time. Am I the one who ended up recovering in a hospital bed for years after the incident, or the one who did his own stretch in a rubber room, following that same catastrophic event?
Which of us was it that got to walk away? And which of us is it that might now want his revenge? And why revenge, anyway, in this convoluted family opera we’ve found ourselves bewildered in?
Which of us is sitting in our parents’ old bedroom, in this vast old creaking townhouse, the inherited embarassment of old money weighing down the bricks around him, and which is in the mirror?
Looking into those identical eyes, I’ve lost track. Every few minutes, when I start to gather myself, a figure seems to move in the room behind the other one, and its body language, its mannerisms, even in the dark, seem familiar to me. Just like his. Just like mine.
I sit here, frozen. Terrified. Of the man sitting facing me. Of the shape in the dark behind him. I have a fantasy, that the shape will step forward into the halo of light around my twin and I, and put its hands on his shoulders. Its face will look like mine and his, and etched with an endless sadness.
And then I’ll feel the heavy hands on my own shoulders. And I won’t know what face I’ll see when I turn to look.
Or what the other one, in the mirror, will do then, once I am no longer watching.
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