Two For One
My name is Craig Perdman, which I’ll admit is strange, because Craig Perdman died. I don’t really know the details, and, really, the woman who told me seemed like she didn’t have enough information (or the inclination) to really explain it to me, anyway. But he died at sea, on a trip with his family. He bled out on a boat. I don’t know if I’m sad about that.
Craig and I were fertilized together; our egg divided and split. It’s called polyembryony, and it’s been nearly forty years since we stole the trait from the DNA of nine-banded armadillos. It’s basically the same thing that happens to make natural twins, but the armadillos do it as the rule, and not the exception, and since then, so do we.
We were born nine months later by C section. There are countless benefits to caesarian, including bypassing some of the complications and less pleasant aspects of natural childbirth (like vaginal tearing). Finally, though, it was twinning that put an end to most natural childbirth. Studies discovered women became less attached to the second fetus if they were never forced to deliver them.
And that was the last time I ever saw Craig; Mom was stroking his head, the doctor handed me to a nurse, and I was taken away. In some of my darker hours, I’ve wondered, if maybe I’d pushed to be the first one out, if that would have been me; but I suspect she chose him from a sonogram, and twin or no, I’d have been found out.
I’ve spent most of my life asleep in a refrigerator; you can call it suspended animation, and you can dub me a human duplicate with accordant rights and dignity, but it doesn’t alter the fact that I’ve spent the last thirty years as a human TV dinner. I was informed that I was exceptionally lucky, because Craig never broke any major bones, and the only organ he ever took from me was a kidney, and hell, I had an extra anyway.
I suppose I can’t entirely complain. The fridge used virtual classrooms to socialize us (although it was really popsicles sharing secondhand information on what it took to be people). I received pictures and journal updates from Craig. I lived so exclusively through him that I felt like I was Craig in High School. I remember wondering who I’d end up asking to my prom, and how, powerless I felt when Craig told me who he’d chosen.
Now Craig’s dead, and, it’s like they thawed me and gave me his name tag, and that’s it. But I don’t know his wife. I don’t know how to do his job. I wouldn’t know the first thing about trying to be a father to his kids. But I guess no one expects me to. I got a letter from Craig’s lawyer. Since he died at sea, his brain couldn’t be salvaged, and his family didn’t want a replacement Craig. The lawyer used a lot of different metaphors for freedom, but none of them felt any less like being abandoned; he gave me a check, a small portion of Craig’s life insurance, to start over, and wished me luck.
And walking the streets, I found I recognized things around town. I don’t know what it was about Craig; maybe because we were twins we had a bond, or maybe he just remembered how easily our roles could have reversed, and he felt bad; it could be that I was someone he could talk to who would never share his secrets; but he always kept his journal up. At first I felt like I was home, eating in restaurants, and finally tasting the food I would have swore I remembered from growing up.
Then I, I think I saw Craig’s wife, er, widow. No. I, I know I did. I recognized her. It was more than déjà vu, because it was like I should know her; I felt like I loved her, even though we’d never met, and even though the emotion was more of a painting in a gallery than tangible. And she recognized me, and I… I think I broke her heart. Her face collapsed in on itself, and she started to cry, then she ran. I realized I wasn’t home at all- just squatting in someone else’s house.
I bought a plane ticket. I was lousy in geography, but thankfully the board didn’t have state information on it, so picking a city at random was at least random. I wish I were the kind of person who found that kind of uncertainty exhilarating; I just hope Riverside is a nice place to start another life of my own.