When my twin brother Dave died, it was like half of me had been cut out and discarded. We’d always had a special bond. I don’t mean we shared some sort of telepathy, although I could usually sense his emotions and he mine, even when we were nowhere near each other. I just mean that we were very close to each other.
Even after we moved out of our parents house and into our own separate lives, I usually ended my day with a call from him where we would catch each other up on our lives. At the end of every call, he would always sign off with “Talk to you tomorrow, Spare.”
That was his nickname for me. Spare. Since he was born first by a few minutes, he would always joke that he was the original, and I was just there to provide him with spare parts if he needed a transplant. If only I could have given him those spare parts after his accident, but there was no hope of saving him. He died from the car crash before the paramedics could even get him out of the wreck.
For months after, I wandered listlessly. I stopped going to work and started going to the bar. At first, my wife was as understanding as she could be. She knew how close Dave and I had been. She did her level best to be understanding, but after a few months, I could tell her patience was wearing thin. I just couldn’t find it in me to care. I think she was on the verge of kicking me out of the house when it happened.
I was sitting at Tiny’s, about to raise another shot of whiskey to my lips, when I heard a voice ask me if I hadn’t had enough. I looked around, the full shot glass grasped in my trembling hand. It wasn’t just any random voice. It was Dave.
I searched the bar with my eyes, hoping to see him even though I knew it wasn’t possible. We had buried Dave. I’d been the one to throw the first handful of dirt on his casket. There was no way Dave could be talking to me. Then I heard him again.
“Come on, Spare. What are you doing? You have a beautiful wife at home who loves you. Yet you’re sitting at a bar, spending her hard-earned money. For what? Are you trying to kill yourself so we can be together again? That’s just dumb. I’m here. You can put the drink down.”
I slowly realized that I wasn’t actually hearing him. He was in my head.
“Dave?” I asked.
“Shh. You don’t have to speak. Just think it and I’ll hear it. You don’t want people thinking you’re crazier than they already do.”
“But how are you here?”
“I don’t know. I just sensed you needed me and here I am. The bad news is, I’m gonna need a little more practice at this. Just this little conversation is exhausting. I’m going to have to get some rest. You should too. Put the drink down, settle your tab, go home, and beg your wife for forgiveness. Oh, and don’t mention the fact that I’m in your head. Not even to her.”
“Okay Dave, goodnight.”
“Talk to you tomorrow, Spare.”
Hearing those words again, even in my head, gave me a chill. I never thought I’d hear them again. I quickly took his advice. Cindy was clearly dubious about my claims that I’d reform. Understandably, considering I was still very drunk. The next day, despite my hangover, I woke up early, put on my best suit, and set out to get my job back.
Unfortunately, the school had heard about my bender, and decided that maybe I shouldn’t be working with children.
As the weeks went by, I began to understand that word of my drinking had gotten around to the other schools in town as well. Nobody would hire me.
At least Dave was getting stronger. There were some days that I had to ask him to stop talking to me just so I could think.
One day, as I was resigning myself to flipping burgers while one of my former students lorded over me as my manager, Dave came up with a plan.
“Why don’t you look for something in the tech industry?”
“Because I was an English major. I don’t know anything about that stuff.”
“Yeah, but I do. Just let me take over during the interview. We’ll get the job. I promise.”
“Let you take over? How am I supposed to even do that?”
“Just let go. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Okay, that’s great. But let’s say you get us the job. What am I supposed to do when I’m expected to actually do the work?”
“Right. You should probably let me take over then too. We’ll just call it a time-share. Hey, you’re getting the longer end of the stick. I do all the work, you get to enjoy the off time with Cindy.”
I quickly agreed to his plan. Letting him take control took a little practice, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. To tell the truth, it was kind of nice. I could let my mind wander while Dave did all the heavy lifting. I even started working on that book I’d always planned to write. Only in my head, of course. I couldn’t actually write it while Dave was using my body.
True to his word, Dave got us the job. I was a little envious when we got our first check. It was enormous compared to my piddly teacher’s salary. Needless to say, even though Cindy was concerned about my sudden career change, that first check made her a believer.
It seemed we had the perfect arrangement. True to his word, Dave did all the work, then I took over in the evening to spend time with my wife.
Then one morning everything changed. I was in the bathroom shaving when I felt Cindy’s arms wrap around me.
“Thank you.” She said.
“For last night. I was beginning to think you weren’t attracted to me any more. Thank you for showing me I still turn you on.”
A pit settled into my stomach as I began to understand what had happened. The truth was, I had been avoiding sex with her because that was one thing I didn’t want to share with Dave. Apparently, Dave had other ideas.
“DAVE!” I screamed inside my head.
I could feel his reluctance to answer. Understandable, since I was trying to figure out a way to punch him without hurting myself.
“Look. I’m sorry Bro.” He said, somewhat sheepishly. “It’s just that you were completely neglecting this beautiful woman.”
“You know damned well why I was avoiding sex.”
“What, because you didn’t want to share her? I’ve got news for you, we are sharing her. Besides, did you notice the look in her eyes every time you refused to touch her? You might have straightened up, but we were still losing her. I just did what needed to be done.”
“No. You did what you’ve always wanted to do.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. All our lives, you’ve gotten the best of everything. Better job, more money, nicer car. Cindy is the one thing that I had that you couldn’t. She chose me and it ate you up inside. Admit it.”
“Okay, fine. I admit it. You never deserved her. I deserved to have her, not you. You’re just the spare!”
I was stunned speechless. He’d never called me that like he really meant it. Now he was dead serious.
“What did you say?” I finally stammered.
“You heard me. You’re nothing. You’ve always been nothing. Just my spare.”
“That’s it. I’m telling her everything.” I nearly said aloud as angry tears began to form.
“Go ahead.” He said, mockingly.
I opened my mouth to do just that. At least I tried to. I couldn’t make my mouth move. Dave started to chuckle. I tried to turn to her, to reach out to her. To do anything at all. All the while, Dave’s laughter rose.
“It’s okay, Spare. She never would have believed you anyway. Probably would have thrown you in the nuthouse where you belong. Unfortunately, I would’ve had to join you. I can’t have that. I’ve got big plans in store for the wife and I.”
Unable to do anything else, I began to scream inside our head, loud enough to make Dave wince.
“What’s wrong?” Cindy asked.
“Hmm? Oh, nothing. Just thinking about my brother.” I felt my mouth say against my will.
“You still miss him. Don’t you?”
“I’m getting over it.” Dave said, as he smiled into the mirror and resumed shaving.