Identical, p.2

Identical, page 2

 

Identical
 



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  My right is her left,

  unblemished.

  We are exact

  opposites,

  Kaeleigh and me.

  Mirror-image identical

  twins. One egg, one sperm,

  one zygote, divided,

  sharing one complete

  set of genetic markers.

  On the outside

  we are the same. But not

  inside. I think

  she is the egg, so

  much like our mother

  it makes me want to scream.

  Cold.

  Controlled.

  That makes me the sperm,

  I guess. I take completely

  after our father.

  All Daddy, that’s me.

  Codependent.

  Cowardly.

  Good, bad. Left, right.

  Kaeleigh and Raeanne.

  One egg, one sperm.

  One being, split in two.

  And how many

  souls?

  Interesting Question

  Don’t you think?

  I mean, if the Supreme

  Being inserts a single soul

  at the moment of conception,

  does that essence divide

  itself? Does each half then

  strive to become whole

  again, like a starfish

  or an earthworm?

  Or might the soul clone itself,

  create a perfect imitation

  of something yet to be

  defined? In this way,

  can a reflection be altered?

  Or does the Maker,

  in fact, choose

  to place two

  separate souls within

  a single cell, to spark

  the skirmish that ultimately

  causes such an unlikely rift?

  Do twins begin in the womb?

  Or in a better place?

  One Soul or Two

  We live in a smug California

  valley. Rolling ranch land, surrounded

  by shrugs of oak-jeweled hills.

  Green for two brilliant

  months sometime around spring,

  burnt-toast brown the rest of the year.

  Just over an unremarkable mountain

  stretches the endless Pacific.

  Mornings here come wrapped

  in droops of gray mist.

  Most days it burns off by noon.

  Other days it just hangs on

  and on. Smothers like a wet blanket.

  Three towns triangulate

  the valley, three corners, each

  with a unique flavor:

  weathered Old West;

  antiques and wine tasting;

  just-off-the-freeway boring.

  Smack in the center is the town

  where we live, and it is the most

  unique of all, with its windmills

  and cobbled sidewalks, designed

  to carry tourists to Denmark.

  Denmark, California-style.

  The houses line smooth black

  streets, prim rows

  of postcard-pretty dwellings,

  coiffed and manicured from curb

  to chimney. Like Kaeleigh

  and me, they’re perfect

  on the outside. But behind

  the Norman Rockwell facades,

  each holds its secrets.

  Like Kaeleigh’s and mine,

  some are dark. Untellable.

  Practically unbelievable.

  But Telling

  Isn’t an option.

  If you tell

  a secret

  about someone

  you don’t really know,

  other people might

  listen,

  but decide you’re

  making it up. Even if you

  happen to know for a fact

  it’s true.

  If you tell a secret

  about a friend, other people

  want to hear

  all of it, prologue

  to epilogue. But then they

  think

  you’re totally messed

  up for telling it

  in the first place. They

  think

  they can’t trust you.

  And hey, they probably

  can’t. Once a nark,

  always a nark, you

  know?

  Kaeleigh

  I Wish I Could Tell

  But to whom could

  I possibly confess

  a secret,

  any secret? Not to my mom,

  who’s never around. A time

  or two, I’ve begged her to

  listen,

  to give me just a few

  precious minutes between

  campaign swings. Of course

  it’s true

  the wrong secret could take her

  down, but you’d think she’d

  want to hear

  it. I mean, what if she had

  to defend it? Really, you’d

  think

  she’d want to be forewarned,

  in case the International Inquisitor

  got hold of it. Does she

  think

  this family has no secrets?

  The clues are everywhere, whether

  or not she wants to

  know.

  There’s Daddy

  Who comes

  home every

  day, dives

  straight into

  a tall amber

  bottle, falls

  into a stone

  walled well

  of silence, a

  place where he can tread

  the suffocating loneliness.

  On the surface, he’s a proud

  man. But just beneath his not

  -so-thick skin, is a broken soul.

  In his courtroom, he’s a tough

  but evenhanded jurist, respected

  if not particularly well liked. At

  home, he doesn’t try to disguise his

  bad habits, has no friends, a tattered

  family. A part of me despises him,

  what he’s done. What he continues

  to do. Another part pities him and

  will always be his little girl, his

  devoted, copper-haired daughter.

  His unfolding flower. But enough

  about Daddy, who most definitely

  has plenty of secrets. Secrets Mom

  should want to know about. Secrets

  I should tell, but instead tuck away.

  Because if I tell on him, I’d have to…

  Tell on Me

  How I’m a total

  wreck. Afraid to

  let anyone near.

  Afraid they’ll see

  the real me, not

  Kaeleigh at all.

  I do have friends,

  but they don’t know

  me, only someone

  I’ve created to take

  my place. Someone

  sculpted from ice.

  I keep the melted

  me bottled up

  inside. Where no

  one can touch her,

  until, unbidden, she

  comes pouring out.

  She puddles then,

  upon fear-trodden

  ground. I am always

  afraid, and I am vague

  about why. My life

  isn’t so awful. Is it?

  We Live in a Fine Home

  With lots of beautiful stuff—

  fine leather sofas and oiled

  teak tables and expensive

  artwork on walls and shelves.

  Of course, someone used to

  such things might wonder

  why there are no family

  photos anywhere. It’s almost

  like we’re afraid of ourselves.

  And maybe we are, and not

  only ourselves, bu
t whatever

  history created us. There are no

  albums, with pictures of graying

  grandparents, or pony rides

  (never done one of those)

  or memorable Gardella family parties.

  (The Gardellas don’t do parties,

  not even on holidays.)

  No first communions or christening

  gowns. (We don’t do church, either.)

  Of course, no one ever comes

  over, so no one has ever wondered

  about these things, unless it’s our

  housekeeper, Manuela. Have to have

  one of those, since Mom’s never home

  and Daddy often works late, and even

  if he didn’t, he wouldn’t clean house

  or go to the grocery store. Normal

  parents do those things, right? I’m

  not sure what normal is or isn’t.

  But It Really

  Doesn’t matter. Normal

  is what’s normal for me.

  I’ve got nice clothes,

  nicer than most. Pricey

  things that other girls would

  kill for, or shoplift, if they

  could get away with it.

  I have a room of my own,

  decorated to my taste

  (okay, with a lot of Daddy’s

  input) and most of the time

  when I’m home, I hang out in

  there, alone. Listen to music.

  Read. Do my homework.

  What more could a girl ask

  for, right? I mean,

  my life really isn’t so bad.

  Is it?

  I Clearly Recall

  Once upon a time, long

  ago, when everything

  was different. Mom

  and Daddy were in love,

  at least it sure looked

  that way to Raeanne

  and me. How we used

  to giggle at them, kissing

  and holding hands.

  I remember how they used

  to joke about their names.

  Ray[mond] and Kay

  How fate must have been

  a bad poet and wrote them

  into a poem together.

  Then Raeanne or I would beg

  them to tell—just one more time—

  the story of how they met.

  Mom Always Started

  I was in college. UC Santa Barbara,

  best university in California.

  I had this really awful boyfriend.

  I thought we’d run away

  and live happily ever after.

  Thank God he got arrested.

  Then Daddy would humph

  and haw and take over.

  So there he was, in my court

  room, with a despicable

  public defender failing

  to come up with an even

  halfway decent excuse for

  why his client was driving

  drunk. In one ear, out

  the other. I’d heard it all

  before, and anyway, the only

  thing I could think about

  was this creep’s gorgeous

  girl, sitting front and center,

  hoping I’d go easy on him.

  And Mom would interrupt.

  Actually, I only hoped that

  until I took a good, long look

  at your father. Then I kind

  of hoped he’d lock up my

  boyfriend for a long time.

  Then we’d laugh and my

  parents would kiss and all

  was perfect in our little world.

  But That Was Before

  Daddy fractured our world,

  tilted it off its axis, sent it

  careening out of control.

  That was before the day

  his own impairment

  made him overcorrect, jerk

  the Mercedes onto unpaved

  shoulder, then back

  across two lanes of traffic,

  and over the double yellow

  lines, head-on into traffic.

  That was before the one-ton

  truck sliced the passenger

  side wide open. That was

  before premature death, battered

  bodies, and scars no plastic

  surgeon could ever repair.

  Yes, that was before.

  Afterward

  Mom didn’t love Daddy

  anymore, though he stayed

  by her side until she healed,

  begging forgiveness, promising

  to somehow make everything right.

  In fact, since the accident,

  Mom doesn’t love anyone.

  She is marble. Beautiful.

  Frigid. Easily stained

  by her family. What’s left

  of us, anyway. We are corpses.

  At first, we sought rebirth.

  But resurrection devoid

  of her love has made us zombies.

  We get up every morning,

  skip breakfast, hurry off

  to work or school. For in

  those other places,

  we are more at home.

  And sometimes, we stagger

  beneath the weight of grief,

  the immensity of aloneness.

  No One Else Suspects

  Not our neighbors.

  Not our friends.

  Not even our relatives.

  No one

  suspects Mom’s real

  motive for running

  for Congress is to run

  away from us. No one

  suspects

  the depth of her rejection,

  or how drowning

  in it has affected

  my father,

  a powerful district

  court judge, a man who

  puts bad guys away,

  slumped down

  on his knees,

  unable to breathe,

  unable to swim,

  unable to stop

  begging

  me to open my arms,

  let me stay,

  and please, please love

  him the way Mom used to.

  Raeanne

  Kaeleigh Closes Herself Off

  From Daddy. And I think

  she’s completely insane.

  I crave his affection.

  No one,

  no one normal, that is, will

  understand. Yeah, yeah,

  I’m all fucked up. My mantra.

  But if anyone actually

  suspects

  how fucked up I am, they’ve

  yet to let me know.

  And, really, why would

  my father

  be so taken with her, but distance

  himself from me? We’re

  identical. Except for the egg/

  sperm thing. Would he fall

  on his knees

  in front of me, if I were

  more like Mom and less

  like him? Would he come,

  begging,

  to me, too,

  let me stay,

  if he realized I want to love

  him the way Mom used to?

  But Obsessions Are Personal, I Guess

  Daddy’s obsession

  with Kaeleigh strikes at the

  heart of me. But looking at it real

  objectively, I think I understand. She’s

  soft. Pliable. Gullible. It’s easy enough to

  believe his declaration that should someone

  root out his secrets, he’ll swallow a bullet.

  You know, he just might, though I see him

  as much more likely to pick up that gun

  and shoot Mom, especially if he’s on

  a bender. More and more of those

  lately, both for him and for

  me. My own obsession.

  Falling into a state

  of numb.
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  Numb

  Sometimes that seems like a great

  place to be. Closed off from it all,

  in no need of love, no need of family.

  To be honest, I’ve erected a huge,

  huge wall between myself and Mom,

  myself and Kaeleigh, who I avoid

  whenever I can. Can’t stand that hurt,

  ever-present in her eyes. Eyes—

  and hurt—that mirror my own.

  Anyway, she makes me mad, mad

  that she hides in her own mind so

  well. Hides there from Daddy.

  The only person I want to be close

  to is Daddy, and he doesn’t even see

  me. It’s like I’m not even here.

  Most of the time I muddle through,

  pretending I don’t need to be held,

  need to be touched, kissed.

  But then need swells up, a thunderhead.

  Storms down, sweeps over me

  like a summer flash flood of need.

  Numb Cannot Fight Such Need

  So I turn to Mick, valley hardass

  in more ways than one.

  Mom says, That boy is trouble.

  You steer clear, understand?

  Like I give a rat’s shiny pink

  butt about what Mom thinks.

  Actually, I’m amazed she even

  noticed. Maybe she has spies

  who keep an eye on us when

  she can’t be bothered. After

  all, it wouldn’t do for a daughter

  of a United States congresswoman

  to get pregnant, now would it?

  Oh, she would shit, if she had

  any real idea of the things I do

  with Mick. So if she has spies,

  they must be voyeurs. I know

 

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