27 Nights

The 1st night, I asked Kendra when she had first been attracted to me.  About three seconds after I saw you, she said as she ran her fingernails through my chest hair.

The 2nd night, we were walking around the mall.  Holding hands was our new thrill.  I was holding hands with a therapist.  I was holding hands with a leggy brunette.  I told her about Kim Philby, the MI5 agent who had betrayed all of England by passing all their secrets for over 20 years to the Soviets.  She told me about Alice Miller, who had developed a theory about the gifted codependent child.  We were giddy but tired from having slept only three hours.

The 3rd night, Kendra sat down and calculated that we had been together for 56 hours straight.  It was like being drunk without drinking.

My life is going to hell, she finally said.  I have to get back to my life.

Arriving home, I took a 20% off discount pizza hanger off my door handle.  I watered the spider plant.  I threw away the brown meat in the fridge.

The 6th night, she told me how much trouble her father had been growing up.  Once, just to cause trouble, he had put his mistress on the phone with his wife.

When he gets a little liquor into him, she answered, there’s no stopping him.     

Later, she said, Troublemaking runs in my family. 

I didn’t know whether she was serious or just being cute.

The 9th night, she told me about her meek, accommodating mother, and how she had made a decision never to be like her.

The only thing that sustained me through all the craziness, she said, was my twin sister Kara.  You really don’t know what love is until you’ve had a twin.

The 13th night, I met Kara at a gig.  She looked just like Kendra except for something, I didn’t know what, maybe more concern in her brow?  No, that wasn’t it.  A loneliness?  Perhaps.  She was a singer in a country-rock band and looked good onstage, her long, dark hair cascading down her back as she swayed to the music.  In between sets, Kara sat with us and turned down free drinks from her fans.  She had a more fluid way of looking at things than her sister.  I chalked it up to seeing everything through the lens of the music subculture, melody and flow, as opposed to Kendra, who was fluid in a different way, seeing everything through the lens of personality types and decision points.  At one point, Kendra said, All you need to know about someone is the decisions they’ve made.

How did your parents tell you apart?  I asked.

There are differences, Kendra said, then added with an unexpected bite, but I’m not going to get into that, and quickly turned away.

She made it sound like I was asking their breast sizes or something.

Throughout the evening, over the course of a few beers and three sets, I studied them both.  Obviously, the original blueprint had been the same, but along the way, some developmental variation had crept in.

The 16th night was a Tuesday.  We were in bed at my place when I pointed out my journal on the bedside table.  I’m proud of my writing, and thought that a couple things I had written about her were quite lyrical, so I read them to her.

She’s like the smart kid in class whose intelligence is beautiful and mysterious.

That was my favorite.

The next morning when I left for work, she was still asleep.  Smiling at her in her slumber, I decided I couldn’t disturb her even to kiss her.

The 19th night was a surprise.  While sitting in a sidewalk café, Kendra became quiet.  After a few minutes, she emerged from wherever she had been.

I read your journal, she finally said.

I stared at her.  I didn’t know what to say.  It sounded like she was confessing to an indiscretion, but that wasn’t the tone of voice she was using; there was no repentance in it.

I read the part where you questioned whether you had chosen the right twin?  Where you wondered if we made love in the same way?

Her voice was steely and cold like I had never heard it before.

Why did you do that?  I finally asked.

Do what?

Read it.

Jesus Christ.  You wanted me to read it.  You read to me from it.  And in the morning, you left it right there.  It was a total setup.

I was stunned.  She was the therapist, so maybe she knew something about my intentions, I don’t know.

By the 23rd night, I was going through a certain amount of withdrawal.  Sitting at my kitchen table eating a 20% discount pizza alone and listening to some stupid podcast about spies, I suddenly spoke out loud.

You’re not supposed to read another person’s journal.  They didn’t teach you that in shrink school?

Neurology face 1a

On the 24th night, I finally got ahold of Kendra on the phone and she didn’t hang up.  At first, she was cold, but after I mentioned that I still felt that she was beautiful and mysterious, her reserve melted away.

I miss you at night, she said.

I miss you, too.

The rest of the conversation rested on apology.  I didn’t apologize and I knew she wanted me to.  It was a standoff, like two gunslingers standing in the middle of a dusty Texas town, their hands resting on their pistols.

Goodbye, she finally said.

I wondered if she meant goodbye or goodnight.  I wondered if she was finally firing her pistol.

Goodbye, I said, firing back.

The 25th night, I got a call from Kara.  She was in tears.

My sister isn’t talking to me, she said.  We talk every day, but for the last eight days, she’s refused all my callsI don’t know what’s the matter. 

The 27th night, I asked Kara at what point she had been attracted to me.  I looked into her big brown eyes, which somehow seemed bigger and prettier than Kendra’s.  It was like being with Kendra, but at the same time, not.  Kara smiled gently.  She stroked my chest.  I’ve always hated my sister, she said, and she’s always hated me.


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