They say everyone has a double, a doppelganger, someone who’s their mirror image. What if you just met your double? What if you were a thirteen-year-old kid who’s gay and you just met your double?
Brian grabbed my shoulder and steered me to the chair next to Todd. “Tony, sit, eat! Your lunch is getting cold. The food’s bad enough without having to eat it cold!”
So we both sat. I was next to Todd. My look-alike. I sort of pushed my food around, then ignored it. Todd’s friends gathered around us, introducing themselves to me, touching both of us on our backs, or shoulders, or arms, like they needed reassurance that Todd was still Todd and to make sure that I was real, and asking me tons of questions that I tried to answer. After things quieted down a bit, Todd and I sat looking at each other and talked. It was like talking to myself in a way. We were so alike, and we wanted to find out about our similarities and our differences, what we each like and don’t like. Turns out we liked and didn’t like most of the same things. Music. TV. Movies. Books. Sports. Writing. My favorite food is fried chicken, Todd’s favorite food is fried chicken. Todd likes vegetables, I like vegetables. There were some differences, too. I like singing. Todd likes computers. I like to run. Todd isn’t into sports. I love Mexican and Thai food, Todd doesn’t like spicy food. Todd likes tofu, I try to avoid tofu like the plague. Way too soon the first bell rang, and we had to go to our fifth period classes.
Brian looked at us as we all stood up and gathered our trays and backpacks. “How come we haven’t seen you in any of our classes?”
“I don’t know. I have homeroom with Ms. Kellerman, then English, then World Geography, then Chorus, and then Algebra 2 and Trig.”
Todd looked at me, grinning. “I have old lady Dillingham’s homeroom, she came to Wilson this year from Edison just to haunt me, then Computer Tech, Algebra 2 and Trig, World Geography, and English. I guess we just missed out being in the same Geography and English classes. What do you have the rest of the day and what teachers?”
I pulled out my class assignment card. “Uh, Spanish 3 with Markham, Biology with Weil, PE, and Creative Writing with Porzio.”
Todd grinned at me. “Fucking amazing. Uh, sorry about swearing, I usually don’t swear as much as this, but…”
“That’s okay. What about your classes?”
He pulled my hand around so he could see my assignment card. “Yup. We have pretty much the same classes the rest of the day.” He shook his head and looked at me. “The same classes for fifth through seventh periods. I have Journalism eighth period. I’m gonna be on the Wilson Roundtable staff. That’s the school newspaper. Get it? Wilson Knights, Roundtable newspaper.” He grinned at me, and the grin turned into a smile. He was still holding onto my hand. I didn’t want him to let go because it felt so nice. He looked at my assignment card again, let go of my hand, and looked at me. “We’re both writers. I’m into journalism, I’ll bet you’re into writing stories. Maybe the Great American Novel!”
We both laughed. “Yup, you’re right. Maybe I’ll include our story in the first volume of my Great American Novel!”
Brian grabbed our arms and started pulling us. “Enough chit-chat! Classes beckon! Let’s go!”
We dropped off our trays and started walking to our Spanish class. Most of the other kids from Todd’s table said ‘bye’ and headed for their classes, talking with each other, probably about Todd and me. Brian, the cute girl with the blonde hair, and the tall boy with red hair walked along with us, so I figured we were all in the same Spanish class.
Todd looked at me. “What do you think our teachers are going to think about us when we show up in class together?”
I laughed. “I don’t know, maybe that we’re twins until they find out our last names aren’t the same. But it should be fun!”
“Sweet! I love having fun, and confusing teachers.” He turned and looked at me while we walked across the quad. “Tony, we look so much alike. We’re even dressed alike today. We could probably fool the teachers pretty easy, don’t you think?”
“I guess.” I turned to the girl, remembering that she said her name was Heather when she introduced herself, I guess I remembered because it was a different name. Normally I have trouble remembering the names of people I meet. “Heather, do Todd and I sound alike, are our voices the same?” I asked.
She looked at Todd, then at me, and nodded. “Your voices sound almost exactly the same. The main difference is that Todd swears and says dirty words a lot, and you don’t seem to do that. I think you could fool teachers if you pretended you were each other.”
Brian chimed in. “I agree with her. Tony, if you can start swearing more, and use lots of dirty words in your conversation, or if Todd would clean up his potty mouth, I couldn’t tell you apart if my eyes were closed. Of course, I can’t tell you two apart when my eyes are open either!” He laughed.
“Shit, you know I don’t swear or use dirty words that much!”
We all laughed, and Todd blushed. “Uh, well, maybe I could clean up my language a bit.”
The boy with the red hair looked at me. I couldn’t remember his name. “You know, I don’t think Todd’s mom could tell you two apart. I don’t know your mom, Tony, but I bet it’d be the same. You should go home together and see how long you could fool your moms. It’d be a blast.”
“Oh, man, that’s a great idea Greg.” Todd turned and looked at me. “Can you come home with me today and see how long we can fool my mom? When she figures it out she’ll have kittens!”
I laughed. “Okay, but then I’ll need a ride home. Your neighborhood’s a long way from mine. That way, you can come home with me, and we’ll see how long we can fool my mom! She gets home from work around 4:30.”
I looked at Greg. He was grinning. “I wish I could be there! With a video camera!”
Todd pulled open the Spanish classroom door and let Heather then the rest of us go in first. Nice, he has good manners, just like me of course. “We’ll do it, and give everyone a complete, detailed description of my mom’s reaction. And about what happens with Tony’s mom, too. Let’s meet tomorrow before school. We can meet in the quad and we’ll give you guys a blow-by-blow playback of what happened.”
I laughed. “Uh, okay, but I hope it’s not really gonna come to ‘blow-by-blow!’” We all laughed. We looked for five seats together, and found them in the first two rows next to the windows. Todd and I sat next to each other in the first row, Greg sat on my left, Brian was behind me and Heather was behind Todd.
“I hate being in the front of Spanish class. That way I’ll always get picked on to answer questions the teacher says in Spanish, or do translations, or decline a verb, or something. I’m too shy to be in the front!” Greg’s expression made it look like he was serious.
Heather poked Greg in his back, and he turned to look at her. “Don’t be a wuss. You got straight A’s in two years of Spanish at Edison. What makes you think you won’t do as well in Spanish 3? And you need to stop being so shy. I’m gonna make it one of my personal objectives to pull you out of your shell and bring out your winning personality, Greg!”
Greg was blushing. I looked around at Heather, and she was looking at him with an expression that told me that she really, really liked him.
The teacher, Mr. Markham, walked into the classroom, and leaned against the front edge of his desk. “Good afternoon, class. Welcome to Spanish 3. As you probably know, you’re going to be translating, reading, and writing Spanish.” There were a few groans. “I hope you enjoy this class. It’s not going to be easy, proper Spanish spelling and grammar will count.” There were some more groans, louder this time. “In this class you’ll make major strides in increasing your Spanish vocabulary. That will make reading and writing Spanish much easier. Now, before we get right to work, I’m going to take roll for the good folks in the administration office. As I call your name, please stand up and say ‘here’ so I can see who you are. I’ll be reading your full names. If you prefer a nickname, please tell me what it is while you’re standing.” He looked around the classroom, and when he got to us he stared at me and Todd and smiled. “Looks like I have twins in the class this year. Welcome, boys.” I looked at Todd. He was grinning. So was I. Mr. Markham took the attendance sheet, which was on a clipboard, and began calling out and checking off names, looking at each student as they answered to their name.
“Abrams, Norman.” “Here. I prefer being called Norm.”
“Alright, Norm. Allen, Beth.” “Here.”
“Anderson, Todd.” Todd nudged me with his elbow then stood. “Here.” He sat back down.
Mr. Markham looked up from the attendance sheet at me. He had a confused look on his face, probably wondering why there wasn’t another ‘Anderson’ on his list. I could tell he wanted to say something, but he didn’t. It could have been that Todd and I were twins, but our parents divorced and we each moved in with a different parent, and the mother started using her maiden name, or maybe she remarried and that twin took his stepfather’s last name. My folks had talked about how teachers have to be real careful with what they say to kids these days.
“Case, Brian.” “Here.” So, that was Brian’s last name.
This continued until he called out my name. “McKinley, Anthony.” I stood. “Here. Please use my nickname, Tony.” I sat down.
Mr. Markham looked at me, then at Todd, and back again. Todd and I were grinning. “Todd and Anthony, you boys are twins, aren’t you?” There was a buzz of conversation among the rest of the kids in the class.
“No sir, we’re not twins,” I replied. ”And, please call me Tony instead of Anthony. The only time I’m called Anthony is when I’m in trouble.”
The class laughed.
Todd then said something that surprised me, but made me so happy inside. “We’re not related, we’re just look-alikes, and friends.” He turned and looked at me, smiling. Wow, Todd said we were friends. I smiled big-time. That was so cool, because I did want to be his friend.
Mr. Markham looked surprised. “I’ve never seen two students who looked like identical twins but weren’t related. You must have caused a lot of confusion in middle school.”
“We went to different middle schools,” Todd replied. “Tony and I had never seen each other until today. We met for the first time in the cafeteria during lunch.
Mr. Markham was looking at us and shaking his head. “This is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 23 years of teaching.”
“Uh, Mr. Markham,” I said, “it’s even more interesting. Todd and I are the same age and have the same birthday. But we were born in different cities, Todd was born in Chicago Illinois and I was born in Glendale California, so we know we’re not twins separated at birth.” I smiled.
The rest of the class started talking to each other, and I knew they were talking about me and Todd.
Mr. Markham sat there looking at the two of us for about ten seconds. Ten seconds is a long time when you’re waiting for someone to say something.
“You boys should be written up in the newspaper. You two are amazing. Let’s hope you’re as amazing when it comes to Spanish 3. Okay, class, let’s hold it down now. The excitement is over.” He smiled at us, wrote something on the attendance sheet, and continued taking roll.
The only names I paid attention to were “Miller, Heather” and “Lennox, Gregory.” Now I knew all their last names.
When Spanish was over, Todd and I went to Biology with Heather and Greg. Brian had PE sixth period.
Todd looked at us and grinned, kind of an evil grin. “This Biology class is gonna be so cool! We’re going to learn all about sex, how all the bits and pieces fit together and how they work and how babies are made!”
Heather punched Todd in his bicep. “No more potty mouth, remember?”
“Jeez, that hurt!”
Heather punched him again. “And no more swearing! I’m going to make it one of my projects to clean up your act, Todd Anderson!”
“Fu… OUCH! Stop punching me! Your knuckles are like steel, and that hurts. Now my arm’s gonna be sore for a month! Hmm, maybe I’ll have to be excused from PE. That’d be cool!”
“What I have to say is, clean it up or you’ll get it again. And again! You have been warned!” Heather burst out laughing, and so did Greg. Todd didn’t, he just kept rubbing his right bicep. I suppressed my laughter, but I couldn’t hide my grin.
Todd looked at me. “Hey, Tony, aren’t brothers supposed to come to the rescue of each other? Next time Heather punches me, I want you to beat her up for me.” Heather smirked and then laughed. Then Todd burst out laughing, and so did I.
I could tell these kids were really good friends. And it seemed that I’d been accepted into their group. Neat!
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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