Posted on: January 28, 2013

My dad once told me when you can’t sleep at night, it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dream. If Jared is dreaming about me, I hope it’s the kind of dream where one person morphs into another, and he’s kissing her and then suddenly it’s me, and he wakes up breathless and damp with sweat.

I’m always awake now. At night I walk around the complex, listening to a whole bunch of nothing. I’ll hop the fence and check on the pool, watch the water bugs paddle around. Some nights, bats swoop down and skim the surface of the water, eating. The lady in 1B leaves her television on all night, and the light flickers through her lace curtains and onto her junky patio with its overflowing ashtrays and dead plants.

In Jared’s dream, I hope he’s falling, and I’m looking down from the top of the cliff.

I moved back in with Dad, for now, but I don’t know how long that’ll last because I can’t stand being around people who feel sorry for me. Like I gave him my part of the rent, and then the next day I called to pay my cell phone bill and they tell me it’s been taken care of. I’m no charity case. I’ve got a new job now, at Movie Gallery, and it doesn’t matter how sleep deprived I act, my manager won’t fire me because I’m the best employee she’s got. Some of those dumbasses who work there couldn’t alphabetize correctly if their lives depended on it, and let’s be real, that’s half the job.

Back when I first met Jared, Laine and I were still working as hostesses at Red Lobster, which we hated. Lobsters are just giant cockroaches that some genius decided to slap with a thirty-dollar price tag. It’s such a scam. God knows Nebraska’s not anywhere near the ocean, so all that crap’s been on trucks for days. I’m way better with movie people than I am with bougie lobster jerks. I think that’s how I knew I’d like Jared. He came in Red Lobster with his mom and some lady who wouldn’t stop laughing this obnoxious helium laugh, and he looked like he just wanted to die, and then I gave him my number on the back of a coupon when he left.

He called like an hour later. We drank a bunch of beer in the WalMart parking lot with his friends, and when they left to get stoned, we went to me and Laine’s place and watched this weird movie about a midget guy who inherits a train station and doesn’t want to make friends, but then falls in love with Patricia Clarkson. When Laine met Jared the next day she got all accusatory, like why didn’t I invite her to go to WalMart too. Jared told me later he figured she was used to thinking of herself as the more beautiful twin, which I guess pretty much explains our entire sibling dynamic from the dawn of time until now.

I don’t really think too much about what I look like, and I’m not just saying that. I always just looked at Laine and figured since we’re technically identical, if she looked good, I probably looked okay. We have the same face. The same body. The same weirdly double-jointed elbows. She just believes in hairdryers and spandex, and I guess I’ve got other shit to do.

Dad never liked Jared, I’ll give him that.

“I don’t know, Natty,” he said to me after meeting him. “He’s a little shifty. Is he nervous about something?”

“He doesn’t really do parents, Dad,” I said.

“That’s only going to fly for another year or two, you know. Like little kids acting like they’re shy? At first it’s cute, but then after a certain point, say twelve or thirteen, it’s just rude.”

“Ok, Dad, I’ll tell him to work on it.”

“Don’t lecture him for me. I’m just observing.”

Of course now it’s all gotten terribly predictable, like I’m living some sort of soap opera. Any day now I’ll develop amnesia and no one will be surprised. After I caught Jared making out with Laine under the shadow of the diving board at the complex pool, Dad gave me the “boys come and go, but sisters last forever” talk. Jared, shocker, insisted Laine was pretending to be me. I said, “Jared, when you’re sleeping with someone, you should know the difference between her and anyone else.” And he just shook his head and went outside to smoke, and when I went to look for him, he was gone.

But I think the best part was when Laine said, “I’m sorry, Natalie, I just don’t know how it happened. This just feels, like, so real. You can understand that, right?”

But I still come out on top. If, right now, at three a.m., as I wander through the parking lot of my old apartment, he is dreaming of me and wakes, he will roll over in bed, and there’s Laine, wearing my face. In the moments between blurry disorientation and awareness, he will find me again. I’m completely unavoidable.

And when Laine wakes up with an unsettled feeling she can’t explain, she’ll go to the kitchen for some water. She’ll glance up at the sliding glass door, and she’ll briefly think it’s her reflection she sees, not her twin.

It’s incredibly powerful, just being alive. For every woman who’s been left for another, I pity you. You have to resort to slashing tires and snapping in public and horrifying ways—stalking the other woman, confronting her in the grocery store or the nail salon. Sending a barrage of threatening and ultimately embarrassing text messages. I don’t have to do any of that. I just have to be awake while they sleep. And I just have to be here when they wake, staring out at them from the other woman’s face, which is, of course, my own.

Photograph by: Whitney Ott
Written by: Dot Dannenberg

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