Your boyfriend has a twin brother. They look nothing alike but your boyfriend is always trying to play tricks on you as if he and his brother are identical. Often your boyfriend’s twin brother shows up on dates you planned with your boyfriend.
Going on a date with your boyfriend’s twin brother, who takes great pains to talk and act like your boyfriend, is almost the same as going on a date with your boyfriend, even though your boyfriend’s twin brother looks nothing like your boyfriend and has a terrible personality. He eats the things your boyfriend likes, gives a reasonable imitation of your boyfriend’s opinions. At the end of each night, your boyfriend jumps out of the bushes and shouts, “I caught you! Out on a date with my twin brother.” Sometimes this happens in public and people laugh and clap because they think you are doing a play.
Your boyfriend and his twin brother try to do other twin things. They talk in a secret language you don’t understand, only actually they’re speaking Spanish and you understand everything. They try to solve mysteries. They wear the same clothes or radically different clothes. “We switched places once, to try to trick our parents into getting back together,” your boyfriend tells you.
But it could be your boyfriend’s twin brother who tells you this. You are on a date, and you can’t tell if your boyfriend and his brother have switched places or not. You find that you can no longer tell them apart. This might be your boyfriend’s twin brother, or maybe your boyfriend is having a bad day. This might be your boyfriend, or maybe your boyfriend’s twin brother got an unflattering haircut.
“It didn’t work,” your boyfriend or his brother says. “It was very disappointing.”
Your boyfriend works in porn. You thought this might bother you but it doesn’t bother you at all. Your boyfriend travels to Florida or California or Texas for work. You notice porn is filmed where it is hot outside and the sun is always shining. Your boyfriend is never called to Maine or Minnesota or Wisconsin to film pornography. Which is fine, you are unconcerned that the weather other places might be better. Your boyfriend deposits his pornography paychecks in your joint bank account, and it doesn’t bother you to see his income listed on your bank statements. You make about the same amount of money, which is cool. That is totally cool with you, that your boyfriend is doing enough pornography to make a regular income. Your best friend calls you up to tell you he saw your boyfriend on the Internet doing some “sex stuff.” It doesn’t bother you that he says it like that. You’re proud of what your boyfriend does for a living. You are proud of your boyfriend and, most importantly, you are not bothered that your best friend called you up. You and your boyfriend have sex sometimes. While you are having sex you imagine your boyfriend having sex with other people and it doesn’t bother you that imagining your boyfriend having sex with other people is more arousing than imagining your boyfriend having sex with you. After, you lay in bed next to your boyfriend and it doesn’t bother you that you don’t have muscle definition or visible abs. You are awake, your eyes open, long after your boyfriend has fallen asleep. It’s getting hotter outside, global warming, probably, and that doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t bother you at all.
Your boyfriend enrolls in community college without discussing it with you, which is the kind of thing he’s always doing. “I thought some fresh air would do me good,” your boyfriend says.
You aren’t pleased, but you want your boyfriend to have a good experience at community college, so you go with him to the store to get a nice tent, a sleeping bag that’s warm enough, a gas lamp. You and your boyfriend spend some time standing together silently looking at fishing poles. “Do you know how to fish?” you ask your boyfriend.
“Community college is about learning, you know?” he says. “Maybe in community college I’ll learn things about fishing.” You get him a fishing pole just in case.
When you drop your boyfriend off at community college, you are surprised to discover that you feel nervous for him. You want him to succeed and be liked. You want him to get good grades and improve his life. As he walks to the cabins, you notice that he seems much older than everyone else at community college. You feel one last stab of hope that he’ll fit in. You don’t know if he packed enough clean underwear.
A week goes by before you get a letter from your boyfriend at community college, and in the meantime you feel apprehensive. The letter sets you at ease. Your boyfriend is doing the usual community college things, making arts and crafts, singing around the campfire, learning to swim, participating in a late-night panty raid on the girls’ community college on the other side of the lake. He doesn’t mention if he’s used the fishing pole.
You remember your time at community college. It was very different. The sky was always dark, incipient rain never falling, the clouds heavy. There was a problem with ghosts in the cabins and lake monsters in the lake, and the slashed bodies of the other students were always turning up in bushes and under picnic tables. Your boyfriend says nothing about lake monsters in his letter, although he does say that sometimes he hears other students crying in their bunks, homesick. Nobody was homesick when you went to community college, but then, you went to a better community college than your boyfriend.
With your boyfriend, something urgent is always happening. Maybe he’s in a fight with his best friend, or someone at his job got murdered and he’s got a lead on the killer, or he has a project due at 8am and he’s overslept, or he’s pretty sure someone is following him everywhere he goes, but he can’t talk about it. Some days you only see your boyfriend at meals, but he never gets to eat, much less have a conversation. He gets a call when the fork is halfway to his mouth. He gets a text just as he’s folding his slice of pizza in half. He cuts a neat triangle from his waffle and just then, someone bursts through the door with news.
When your boyfriend calls out for delivery, he asks for two cheeseburgers, extra fries, a side of the special chili, macaroni and cheese with extra cheese, fried pickles. At breakfast he asks for waffles, sausage, biscuits and gravy, a spinach and feta omelet, extra bacon, breakfast tacos, mini blueberry muffins. He always orders two pizzas instead of one, extra breadsticks with his lasagna, he always tells the waiter he wants an appetizer. He orders all this food and then he can’t eat it because something is always happening. He is running toward something or he is running away from something. He is dropping his fork to rush out the door; he is dropping a full cup of frozen yogurt to melt as he runs down the street.
Small creatures follow wherever he has been. Worms and ants emerge from hiding to pick at scraps of egg. Rare beetles emerge from hiding to steal pepperoni. Birds fly away with dinner rolls and rats nibble at cheeseburgers. Sometimes, hoping to catch up to him, you follow your boyfriend’s trail of uneaten food, and along with the ants and beetles, the birds and rats, you feel like you are another kind of scavenger.
Zachary Doss is the editor of Black Warrior Review, and fiction editor for Banango Street. His work has has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Fairy Tale Review, Caketrain, DIAGRAM, Paper Darts, and other places.