It was the day I’d met my father for the first time.
He wasn’t at all like I’d imagined which stood to reason since I’d never even seen a picture. We looked nothing alike. He appeared to be of Scandinavian descent, while I was a dead-ringer for a young Zelda, Queen of the Gypsies. This meant I must favor my mother whoever she is — or was. My father and I looked at one another, poker-faced. He then put an odd-looking device up to the opening in his throat and began speaking like a cartoon character.
Cancer of the esophagus? Whoa! Was it hereditary? I touched my own throat wondering if that would be our commonality.
I was unable to focus on what he was saying. The sun blazed white-hot through the window, temporarily blinding me. Good. I didn’t want to look at anything. What I did want was for The Sperm Donor to stop making that goofy noise.
“Where have you been? Why now after twenty years?”
In his Donald Duck voice, my father explained that he couldn’t tell me, that in doing so his security clearance might be compromised. And then he winked as if we were old buddies (imagine?), “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
I didn’t care at this point where he’d been or what he’d been doing.
“Where’s Mom?” I lit a cigarette and blew the smoke away from him. Manners count, you know? But in retrospect, blowing second-hand smoke away from a cancer victim is about as effective as taking birth control pills after you’ve become pregnant. At least I’d maintained the façade of politeness. “What’s her name? Is she still alive?”
My father eyed my cigarette with lust so I offered him one. He took it, but didn’t light it. It must have felt good just to hold it.
“Your mother’s name is Beverly,” he squeaked through the device. “She’s alive…very much so.”
Beverly. My mother is alive and her name is Beverly. “Where is she? Do you know?”
“She’ stayed…she’s at home.” He couldn’t or wouldn’t look at me.
“At home.” My throat tightened. “You live together then…”
“For twenty-five years…married…”
How could this be? “But I’m only twenty…why did…?” I wanted to throw up.
My father stared out the window. He’d placed his talking device in his pocket. Did this mean the conversation was over? I think NOT!
“Talk to me! Tell me why…! You have to!”
Nothing. My father said nothing. Then finally, after several minutes my father yanked his voice from his pocket: “Twins. We had room for only one child.”
It was as if I’d stepped out of my body and watched the scene unfold as if on TV, but no remote control by which to turn it off.
A twin. I’m half of someone else.
“And you kept the other one.” My body trembled like a Chihuahua in an ice bath. “Why? How did you…? How could you…choose…?”
Dad was sweating now. Drops of pearly salt had formed on his forehead. “Bianca, that’s your sister, your twin. She…Bianca…” Dad was choking up; couldn’t spit out what he wanted to say. Either that or the device was malfunctioning. Oh, how I wanted to climb down his throat and pull out his words!
He began again. “Bianca was born with…a defect. Horrible, horrible…defect. No one would have wanted her. But you, you were, you are perfect and healthy and beautiful. There was really no choice…”
“Shut up!” I screamed. “Just shut up!” I grabbed the device from his hand and ran, and ran, and ran…
Until I woke up.
Two nurses had come in my room, each holding one of my day-old twin daughters whom I’d named Beverly and Bianca.