"A swarming and splicing of desire and reality. . . " -- Alison of Oz
Wan announced to me that we had to go visit her sister. I didn't even know she had a sister. Now I knew. I hate visiting other people's relatives. I mean what has it got to do with me? The fact that someone that I am socially involved with is blood related to someone else couldn't possibly involve me in any way. Not in a million years. Look up the word 'boring' in the dictionary and the meaning should be listed as >visiting someone else's relatives<. Irrelevant. Time wasting. Stupid. A total waste of my valuable life that is not going to impact me in any way! However, it was one of those non-negotiable announcements that men sometimes get from the women in their lives. Wan and I had been living together for a while. Now we had to visit her sister. OK, I get it. Wan and I are getting serious and talking about marriage so now my future wife has to get her sister's approval. Women. Social animals.
Her sister lives in a remote part of Thailand. After an eight hour bus trip from hell we arrive. There she is. I'm tired. Barely functional. Near death. Can hardly move. But Wan on seeing her sister screams and leaps and runs and throws herself into her arms. The two of them are clasped in each others arms and spinning. When I finally get to within 'hello' distance I am stunned. Flabbergasted. They are identical. Identical twins. Medically identical twins. And since they have been spinning I now realize with a start that I don't know which one is my future wife. Wan reaches out and grabs my arm. Problem solved.
Wan: Honey I want you to meet my sister Wan.
Me: Your sister's name is Wan?
Wan: Yes, we are both named Wan. We are twins. That way there is no confusion.
Me: How can there be no confusion. . . oh, never mind (Thailand).
We spent three days in the dusty wilds of Isaan and I had to make sure that Wan the fiancee wore a hat everyday so that I could tell them apart. Reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with my doctor in the States who had identical twin boys.
Doctor: I tell you Dana this whole identical twin thing is a brain freeze sometimes.
Me: How's that Doc?
Doctor: Well, first there is the practical problem. You can't tell them apart. Parents who say otherwise are lying.
Me: What's the real problem?
Doctor: The real problem comes if you actually think about it.
Me: What do you mean?
Doctor: Well, you don't normally think about what the word identical means until you have identical twins. Identical means without difference. Now when you consider all of the permutations and combinations of chemical, and mechanical, and mysterioso things that go into the construction of a human being to have two human beings that are identical is downright spooky. I am an educated person, and a smart person, and a doctor, and an interested alert parent and I am still uncertain about the whole thing.
Me: What do you mean?
Doctor: Well, if they are identical without difference are there really two human beings? Discounting that there are two beating hearts: are there really two identical human beings, or is it really one human being and two bodies? Or is one a clone of the other? Or are they both clones of each other - no original, just two copies? And if neither one is the original and neither one is the copy in what way do you interact with them? My boys do not like to be more than ten feet from each other. They finish each others sentences. They dress identically without trying. I often can not tell who I am talking to. And they early on discovered that they could fool me--their early and first conspiratorial victory over the adult world. It's a constant mental circle and you always arrive back at the same unsolvable conundrum. Is it one person duplicated twice or is it one person and two bodies? Or is it neither of these? Is it some third category of abundant and mysterious life that only they can share with each other, and others can never fully understand? Sometimes as a loving, and interested, and alert parent I feel as if an alien life force is in my house in the bodies of my twin boys. I am convinced that they share knowledge between themselves that only they can make available to me--I can not access it on my own.
Reviewing this conversation with my doctor from thirty years ago suddenly two identical twin girls each named Wan seemed to make more sense - sort of. Anyway, soon after the trip to visit the sister in remote Thailand said sister decided to move to Bangkok to be nearer us (read: her sister). OK, no ploblum. She moved into our apartment building. OK, no ploblum. My future wife Wan got her identical sister Wan a job at her place of employment. OK, no ploblum. She spent almost all of her spare time at our house. OK, no ploblum (sort of).
Eleven months later and nine months after Wan and I had gotten married we all decided to take a three day holiday to Kanchanaburi. I welcomed this because I had been a feeling a bit off for the last month or so. Nothing dramatic or symptom obvious or even noticeable to others but something sometimes just didn't seem right. You know how sometimes there arises from out of nowhere some disquieting teredo worm of doubt in your mind about something. And you are not even sure what the subject matter is. Well, that is where I was at. Something was in me and I couldn't identify it but it was not something that made me feel comfortable. Anyway, off to Kanchanaburi.
At Kanchanaburi we visited the Hellfire Pass museum which memorializes the many Allied and Thai people who lost their lives as slave labor conscripts to the Japanese. There was a war on: the Japanese needed a rail link from Thailand to Burma; and war prisoners and Thais were used for labor. The results were predictable. Abuse and death wholesale. The museum which was partly influenced and financed and managed by the Australians in cooperation with the Thai government is wonderful. Really first-rate. You can watch a historical movie and see historical photos, view a large table top model of the construction of the railroad, read about and witness various artifactia, listen to the Australian guides, amble through the surrounding forest, and walk for a bit along the rail path. Walking along the path of the rail line as it passed between the blasted out walls of rock on either side I got another one of those disquieting thoughts. As men do I was explaining everything and being Mr. Professor and Mr. Entertainer and picking up bits of metal and old railway spikes and showing them to Wan. She was smiling. That is what men do. They are constantly puffing away at the social-marriage balloon hoping not to lose the women's interest and the women are smiling back hoping that is what the man wants. It was cool in the rail trench and pretty and the sun on our backs was nice. The other Wan was behind us.
Back up at the museum building the girls had to go to the bathroom so I took the opportunity to go out onto the cantilevered deck that overlooks the forest. It's a fantastic view and gives a good impression of the madness of the whole enterprise. Looking at the natural tropical topography and forest the notion of blasting and pick axing and digging a railway from Thailand to Burma just looks insane. But those are only part of the mechanics. The lessons of logistics, and tools, and landscape, and scheduling, and goal setting, and health issues, and planning, are not the only lessons that this museum should teach.
The other lessons that this museum should illuminate or remind ourselves of is the value of human dignity and human uniqueness. We all deserve dignity because we are human and because we are human we are all unique. Every response to us should be based on our uniqueness and our humanity. An excellent example of this is when you get married. You are responding to each other as non-duplicatable totally unique human beings and declaring in a public forum at your marriage ceremony that you pledge loyalty for life to the notion of humanness found in your mate. Nothing could be more offensive than violation of this pledge of love and loyalty.
After the museum we went back to Kanchanaburi for a floating restaurant dinner on the Kwai Yai river and then over to the V.L. Guesthouse hotel on Sanchuto road to book side by side rooms for the night. Have you ever heard of the V.L. Guesthouse in Kanchanaburi? Sure you have! That's the hotel where when you get the premium rooms for more money the air conditioners don't work and they refuse to give you a discount in the morning. No, wait a minute; maybe that was another hotel in Thailand. Anyway, during dinner on the river I caught myself looking at my wife's face. Don't know why.
You know how sometimes you can just get a message? The wife of the soldier who knows instantly the moment he is shot? The person who knows irrevocably and it turns out medically correctly that they have cancer. The airplane passenger who suddenly goes wild with emotion until he is ejected from the airplane. The plane takes off. The plane crashes.
That night in the bed at the V.L. Guesthouse hotel in Kanchanaburi I lay with the bone deep dread that comes from irrefutable knowledge. I pushed myself up on my hands and pushed myself back against the headboard and the pillow and lit a cigarette. It was time to decompress. There were no guns in the room so that just left decompression. Cigarette over I very carefully put it on top of the air conditioner. Moving slowly and robotically to stay composed. Emotionally incandescent with anger.
Then I poke Wan in the shoulder. Hard. Not nudging or pressing or pushing or caressing. Poking. Poking isn't like anything else. It violates a persons space and then it violates their body. You poke into someone. It is assault. The kind of body contact that goes right to the brain of a sleeper. The kind of aggression and hostility and anger and human contact that can't be ignored. Another poke. Punching will be next. She rolls over and turns and looks at me. She doesn't look at my face or my figure. She looks into my eyes. And there is no wifely smile now because I am telling her something about a railroad spike. Her brain has processed my eyes and my pokes and she knows the game is up. This is middle of the night stuff.
Me: How long has it been going on?
Wan: About four months.
Me: What was the point?
Wan: There was no point. Identical sisters just do things.
Me: No they don't. Monsters do things. You are both monsters. Not human. Not loving. Not loyal.
Wan: You don't understand. . .
Me: When was the switch made?
Wan: On the bus trip to Pattaya four months ago when we stopped to buy fruit. We switched clothes in the bathroom and we switched seats when we got back on the bus.
Me: You fooled me!
Wan: We can fool everyone. We are identical twins!
Me: Why. . .
Wan: Wan will explain it to you. She is coming now.
Me: How do you know she is coming now?
Wan: We are identical twins. We are connected by a DNA cord of consciousness.
Just then as if on cue the bedroom door opened and there stood my wife. She stood and looked at me. No smile. Just the eye connection. Then she said,
"Honey, my sister and I are identical twins. We are the same person. Just two bodies. We both love you as one. It can never be any other way. I have the solution."
Then she came and got into bed with us.
Wan - Dana - Wan. Thailand.
© Dana. All rights reserved by the author.