I was coming out of the movies at Union Square and saw a mother dropping off her twin daughters, presumably to see a movie. The mom was youngish, or at least youngish looking, and her twin daughters were 14 or 15 and both undeniably sexy. The mom noticed me watching and was giving me the stink eye, but I hung around at the periphery anyway. There are a lot of people around Union Square but not as many creepy ones as there used to be, but I still didn’t really stand out. Once the twins were safely deposited in the theater I approached the mom.
“Excuse me. MIss?”
She was ignoring me, which is to be expected. All strangers do is ask, for change or cigarettes or time, and who really wants to talk with anyone after a certain point? Especially some strange middle-aged guy who was just checking out your daughters, which I definitely was, even though I was probably older than their mom. Still, I didn’t have any realistic designs on them. No drugs or candy or fancy car. And I wanted to talk with the mom.
But she was saying “what?” with her eyes.
“I don’t mean to bother you, but I’ve got to ask. I’m writing a book about twins.”
This is kind of true. I’ve been trying to write books about many things or anything, among them, twins. My idea was to have identical twins who hated each other. It would be frustrating to be stuck living with a doppelganger, especially if you’re inclined toward self-hatred. Every fake laugh or mannerism you hated about your twin, you’d have to immediately concede you hated about yourself, too.
She was walking and not really looking at me.
“You must get this all the time, but how do you tell them apart? Can you?”
She kept walking but relaxed. Maybe she was more comfortable as we got further away from her daughters. She smiled and shook her head.
“It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”
I wasn’t sure what she was talking about but nodded my head.
“I mean, they’re identical twins. How am I supposed to be able to tell them apart just because I’m their mother? I’m not Superman. But I have to pretend, and it makes all of us miserable. They take it as an insult, or at least pretend to. I know they’re lovely girls, and they can be lovely people, too, sometimes, but they love tricking people. Especially their boyfriends. Whenever they want to dump someone, they pull that twin nonsense. They know that they’re identical, that they’re asking the impossible.”
Most women demand the impossible, but while it’s okay for a mom to slam her daughters, it isn’t okay for you to do it.
“I’m not sure Superman could tell the difference.”
She shook her head.
“He could. There are people who can.”
“Really? If you can’t tell them apart, how can you be sure they’re right?”
I used to pretend I could tell identical twins apart. It makes them uncomfortable. They make me uncomfortable, so I try to make them uncomfortable back. Don’t try to use their names or any other magic tricks. Just tell them straight out “I can tell you apart so don’t try to fuck with me.” I told the mom and she shook her head.
“Don’t you think I’ve tried that? Maybe that would work for a little while, but not if you’re with them all the time. And I can tell because it scares them.”
We wish people weren’t so self-centered, that they would pay more attention to other people (meaning us), but the people who actually do are frightening. It isn’t normal.
“What’s your book about?”
“Identical twins who hate each other. They dare each other to do an escalating series of pranks, like pretending to be retarded. Eventually, one of them dares the other one to fake his or her own death to get rid of them, which he or she does. But that one comes back years later and starts murdering all of the other one’s friends and acquaintances. They have identical DNA and the other one is legally dead, so the cops come for the legally living one and she tells them it wasn’t her, it was her evil twin.”
The mom’s head snapped up. That usually means a person thinks it’s an interesting idea. I do, too, but for the life of me, I can’t write it. I keep trying and failing. I can’t figure out if they should be male or female, and I don’t know enough about biology or the law or police procedures and I’m too lazy and paranoid to find out. You can’t borrow books from the library about police procedures, you have to sign for them and read them at the branch, which of course they keep a record of and forward to the appropriate authorities. If the police come to get you, they want to know if you’re familiar with their procedures from their point of view, and most of us aren’t that empathetic because they usually come at 4 a.m., when you’re tired or high out of your mind or otherwise dead to the world and least expect it. That’s the only one of their procedures I’ve been able to figure out, aside from the mug shots, fingerprinting, etc.
“I thought you were lying about the book. That you just wanted to ask me out or something.”
Technically, I was lying about the book. I have no intention of ever trying to write it again. And now this woman wanted me to ask her out. I looked at her and she wasn’t bad.
“Are you married?”
She nodded her head.
“Want to grab a drink while the kids are at the movies?”
I looked back toward the movie theater and saw the twins sneaking out. When mom turned to look, they had just made it around the corner.
“What is it?”
“Nothing. I thought I saw someone.”
She looked at me, then looked at her watch and shook her head.
“It’s tempting, but I shouldn’t. They’ll know.”
This is something that has surprised me about my exes, and one of the few things I’ve learned about women. They actually care what other people think of them enough to alter their behavior, but they also get insulted if you don’t push at least a little.
She furrowed her brow, determined. Now she was acting, too.
“No. I really can’t. It was nice to meet you. Good luck with your book.”
Even thinking about that book, or writing any book, gave me a headache.
“Thanks. Good luck with the kids.”
“It’s too late for that.”
If she had been lucky, there would have been only one of them, or maybe none, but at least this way, she hadn’t had to get pregnant again just to give some kid company. The only thing creepier than twins or other multiples is an only child.