Last Friday, I was selected to share a short story at the Midtown Reader’s Story Slam. The theme for February was “Attachment.” Here’s what I did with it:
I ate my twin in the womb.
I know, I know, lots of people say that, but in my case it’s true. I devoured him, bite by bite.
It took months. I had no teeth, you see, and flippers for hands. Try eating a hamburger with mittens on, and you’ll get the idea.
Anyway, my brother. I ate him. I guess I knew that someday we’d be separated, and I couldn’t stand the thought of that. I couldn’t imagine life without bumping up against him every second of every day. I figured if I could hide him inside my body, we’d never be apart. And it worked. I felt him, from time to time, nudging up against my lungs, or squirreling his way through the marrow of my bones.
Then he started talking to me.
The first time it happened, I was two. A friend of my mother’s asked for my name – why do adults do that? She knew perfectly well what my name was. She’d given me monogrammed diaper covers when I was born – no matter. She asked my name, and from somewhere in the vicinity of my left kidney, a small voice said, “David.”
My name is not David.
I was so surprised I couldn’t answer the woman. My mom said I was being shy. I was emphatically not being shy – I was dealing with a crisis! My twin brother who lived in my body was speaking to me. I needed a moment. I toddled into a corner and sat with a crinkly thud.
“Hello?” I whispered.
Hello, he replied. You don’t have to whisper. I hear inside your head.
Oh, I thought.
Yes. Oh, he agreed, and hugged my esophagus.
From then on, I had a constant companion. My parents remarked on how self-reliant I was, how easily I entertained myself. They took all the credit. I let them.
When I was four, my parents had another baby, a boy. They named him David.
Not David, David muttered in my clavicle. I called the baby “Not-David.”
Not-David was nothing like me. He cried in the night, was perpetually after my parents’ attention, and needed constant stimulation.
Perhaps he’s lonely, David mused. He must not have a twin. Poor thing.
What should we do? I asked.
We should probably eat him, David said, matter-of-factly. There’s always room for one more.
Triplets! I was delighted. Not-David would stop being so needy, and David would have someone to talk to all the time. To be honest, sometimes my twin was a distraction. It was no longer acceptable for me to stare off into the middle distance for hours at a time. My parents were starting to notice.
I studied Not-David, who was asleep in his bassinet. Where should we begin? Top? Bottom? Fingers? Toes? You didn’t have bones when I ate you. You went down like a Jello jiggler.
Lucky you, David said.
I touched one of Not-David’s silky earlobes. Seemed as good a place as any. I took the scrap of flesh between my teeth and, after a deep breath, bit down as hard as I could.
Not-David began screaming.
I had not managed to sever the lobe, merely puncture it. There was a good deal of blood, and Not-David’s flailing was getting it all over the bassinet. He was purple with rage.
Perhaps he did not want to be eaten, David observed.
Perhaps, I agreed.
My mother came running. Then she also began screaming.
Should I be screaming too? I asked David.
Best not, he said, from the back of my neck.
I’m so glad I have you, I told him.