The twins sit back to back on the branch of the tree. Reflected. Assumption holds out a right hand, Avarice a left. Fingers intertwined, they sit in the rising sunlight, counting the minutes down. When the sun breaches the horizon, they murmur in unison.
Tuesday 18th – Year of Elders, 1967 – The Village of Almado
This is the story of Assumption and Avarice as they told it to me.
They were born on this day, I don’t know when. They are neither as old as they look nor as young – their words not mine. I think they’re being difficult on purpose. They can be, just as they can be evasive when I ask questions they don’t wish to answer, though I know they could.
They tell me there was only supposed to be one of them.
Their mother was a teacher, a kind woman who spent her whole life at the same primary school, teaching the same grade, and their father was a postman. He liked to garden, and build things with his hands. Normal people with normal lives, that’s how they refer to their parents. They say, too, that there is no such thing as normality. What some see as normal is nothing but a denial of all the things they cannot accept.
Their parents shared that denial. Until their mother became pregnant.
Remember. There was only one child. Only ever one.
And then there were two.
The doctors told her she was foolish, that the second child had been there all along, but even they could not explain how her belly was twice the size overnight. They rationalised it. The second child, they said, had been back to back and therefore not easily visible, and had simply moved. Nothing more unusual. They changed their plans for her delivery and left it at that, no more to be said or done.
If you don’t see it, it’s not there.
The twins were born at dawn, one after the other in silent, easy progression, their pale flesh and pink eyes driving silence through the delivery suite as though the babies were born with two heads each. The teacher and the postman didn’t care. All they saw were two happy, healthy babies. They ignored the solemnity of the doctors, the pity of the midwives, the quiet horror of their family.
Their normality became wider, whilst those around them refused to adjust.
Assumption and Avarice will not say who was born first, but both admit there was never more than one until five months. Then the one grew lonely and called for another. An exact copy.
‘How can a foetus be lonely?’ I asked them.
‘Perhaps one who knows it should not be alone,’ they replied.
It is true that they are one of a kind, duplicated. Two bodies of one mind, one soul. Exact replicas. To look at Assumption is to see Avarice and vice versa. All their traits match, their voices, too. They even smell the same. Neither takes offence if you name them wrong, but they know who they are and will always honestly tell you. Or at least I think so.
How do you know they’re telling the truth when there is no way to tell them apart? I believe them because, when I am with them, I feel entirely myself but I question everything. When I am away from them, I feel as though I am fading, and I question nothing. I want to question my normality, because I know that it has changed. I am the only one who accepts this and I do not wish to forget.
It’s important to remember, because all of the changes are within me. If I forget them, I forget myself.
‘Look, she brings a cake.’
‘Her mother’s daughter, that one.’
‘What shall we do?’
Assumption and Avarice stare into each into other’s eyes across the table. Outside she comes to their door, holding a cake on a plate. White icing with pink letters that yell: HAPPY BIRTHDAY. It couldn’t be more jolly.
‘Wait,’ they tell each other. ‘The birds are not yet singing.’
© Ren Warom 2014