Monday, April 16, 2012
I:The Other Hamilton Sister::Smoke
I sit, contemplating memories that I shouldn't have. Memories that are clearly not mine. Wondering if there is some tiny strand of truth to the notion that twins have a connection that goes beyond their shared lives. It's been a long time Theodora. What are you up to that these thoughts and feelings burn me to the dark pit that stands in the place of the soul I've never had and can't possess? Why now? Why do these memories plague me at the time I'd given up; the moment I'd tried to immerse myself in a life that wasn't meant for me? I'd gone to great length to lose myself. How did you find me and why did you send me these strange memories, ever more strange than any I could imagine from you? Memories that work at the very fabric of the shadow of my inner self that pretends to be a broken soul. And how can any of this be possible when in truth we are not real twins when we've only shared a womb as creatures created by man and not endowed with life by god. I'd given up and you so mercilessly pulled me out of that tailspin and gave me gifts that beg me to make more of this wretched life than to immerse my hollow self in my own pity. How dare you make me care again?
I watch the smoke curl up at the end of my hand. It looks as though my fingers are on fire. Winding itself around the long nails and climbing straight up to wither away at the edge of my face. It's disgusting. I know. I don't much care. I don't smoke these things anyway. They are here for ambiance. I've played this wretched character too many nights. This cigarette has become an ironic symbol. The glow is like the embers of my being releasing the grey smoke of my phantom soul into the air.
I lift up my right leg and cross it over the left until the knees are neatly stacked. I'm creating a tell for the perv across the room. I call him that because I've watched him observing me half the night. Perhaps I'm being unfair. He could be an ardent admirer of beauty. I lift my skirt, what there is of it. This is a way to show more flesh and yet less substance. It's certain now I'm blocking the view of what he's been trying to see. It's a tease. His eyes haven't wavered. He's like the rest. They're all the same. And I'm not much different. I've become the damned leading the damned.
Tom, that's what I call them. It's for peeping Tom. Whenever they catch me saying it, it quickly becomes Tom Cat. He's been here long enough intently gawking. He should have pounced by now. I pivot on the bar stool to afford a better view. I watch from the corner of my eye. His movements are subtle. He's rich with intent where his eyes are concerned. Maybe he's unsure about interrupting my work. He doesn't realize that he's the other half of my work.
This is how I make money. It's not what everyone thinks. I just have to get him to buy me drinks. He pays a god awful amount for my cola's and his liquor and I get a fair commission. I watch him drink himself under the table and I move on. I can't claim it's much of a living, but it's all I got. Nice work for a clone. The best I can expect on this suck rock planet, New Terra. I'm pretty sure this job isn't helping our image here, but that was tarnished to begin with.
I can't say people here think well of clones. I don't blame them. I don't have fond memories of clones myself. Even if I'm one, by most definitions. My problem with elitist groups like the Clone Colony Collective is that they have rules for defining what a clone is. I don't fit the mold even though they left genetic markers in me to make it impossible to deny what I am. I'm an outcast of the outcasts.
My understanding is that I'm not quite acceptable because I came into the world in a most normal fashion. Being a natural live birth makes me something disgusting to the average clone. I'm just as broke up about it as they are, but it was their leaders who decided to bring us into this universe.
Us is me and my sisters.
If Tom were sitting next to me where he's supposed to be I'd be telling him all of this. Spilling my guts, only today I'm halfway relieved as this all has a strange feel of something disgusting. It's just a story,My names Angie my sisters are Betty and Lucy. Bet you thought I'd say Betty and Veronica. The Toms like that joke. Personally I don't quite get it. But I try not to be judgmental, they always listen to my story. So, I tell them I'm the Alpha and Betty is Beta. We're the first two prototypes. Lucy our little sister was sorta in the middle and I'm not at all sure if there was going to be an Omega. I never tell them our real names are Amber, Theodora, and Lucia. I'm Amber.
I tell the Toms that Lucy passed away, and that's the truth. I think her death sealed Omega's fate. Lucy was supposed to be the golden child. Betty and I we were failures, but I don't tell the Toms that because I'm not all that fond of the fact.
We would have washed out of the program, but they let us be Lucy's babysitters. That whiny brat didn't make things easy. But, I shouldn't blame her, not for whining. I do blame her for taking us into her nightmare. That was uncalled for. Well, if we'd believed her, instead of laughing at her, maybe she would have been less inclined to prove there is a boogeyman. I guess we laughed too hard.
Lucy wasn't really our little sister.
We're triplets. Identical in shape and form if not in mind. Lucy was too odd to be like us.
Lucy knew better than to take us there where that horrible thing was lurking. It snatched us up in one fell swoop and held us like the catch of the day. I'm not sure what Lucy had to do to get us loose. I know Betty and I were certain we were going to die. What that beast did and what it tried to take from us had us hoping it would finish us quick. Lucy got us out somehow, but it cost her. I know that bastard sucked her soul out of her. Despite what people say about clones having no soul. If I've no soul then why do I care and why does it hurt? And why does it feel like what isn't there is slowly being torn from me every day?
Now I have to deal with worthless tears rolling down my cheek. After putting us into that mess, she's not worth this. But, the crying serves a purpose. Mr. Tom across the way has noticed. He's on his way to comfort me. I know what he really wants. It's not what he'll get. But, when I play the cards right he'll pay for it. I try to avoid his eyes. His eyes tell me lies I can't afford to buy lest he touch the heart and then the soul that isn't there.
Tom sits in the bar stool next to me. His arm engulfs me like a cradle does a baby. At first it's a slight and tentative action that grows less so for each moment I don't rebuke him. He's talking to me, consoling me. Maybe asking what's wrong or if he can help. I wouldn't know. I see his lips move but the words are like white noise to me. I have an attention problem. I've been this way since that one time in JumpSpace under the thumb of that creature. It's why I crave the contact of even this stranger to take away the bitter taste left from an encounter with indescribable terror.
Somewhere in the moment of his unusual comfort my head finds this stranger's shoulder. I'm pressing hard against him. I make faint attempts to dwell on anything else other than what I'm sure Tom must think of me. This whole town knows I'm the Clone Slut. I've a reputation to maintain. I do my thing at night then vanish in the morning. Into the mountains. Up where my friends are. Where everyone is smooth. Without a care for where you came from and what you do with your life. The one place I'm not a castoff clone.
I'm here, on New Terra, because mom and dad ran away with me in tow.
Theodora, Betty, was the wise one. She took the general's offer. The general was LJG, League Jump Guild. He promised steady work and decent wages. I wonder how Theo is making out with all of that.
I worry about mom and dad, even though they aren't really our parents. Mom did carry us in her womb. That doesn't much count with clones. It's just a different sort of vat, an inferior one at that. I struggle to understand how I'm supposed to feel about it. I say it doesn't make a difference. I'm betrayed by tears that might protest.Life wasn't pleasant after the project broke down. The general promised a lot. Still, he was one of those many who set this all up to begin with. He killed Lucia as much as that monster in JumpSpace. Her blood and her ashes are on his hands. I worry about Theo. I wonder if she thinks about me.
Tonight's gentleman is being awfully tender. I'm not used to that. I push his drink a bit further away from his reach. Sipping my cola I look at him. He's still absorbed in his one-sided conversation. I rest my scattered golden truss upon his shoulder and try to listen to the rhythm of his voice. If I can't focus on his words I'll focus on his tone. Dad and mom were never this tender. It was always, "Make sure Lucia does this. Have Lucia do that. Keep Lucia happy." If they'd only known it all amounted to "send Lucia into the jaws of death."
I almost ask Tom what his real name is. That would be bad. Wrong. None of this is real. My real life is in the mountains with my friends. Tom will be gone tomorrow to be replaced by another Tom with the new night. I look at him with suspicion. I'm not at all sure this isn't one of the Tom's of a bygone night. That's happened before. They usually are aggressively abusive if they can recall that the other night ended with their face pasted to the table instead of my breasts.
He's too kind to be a dissatisfied customer.
Jack, my boss and bartender, has worked his way over to us. He's swishing the corner of a towel into a shot glass. After giving me a severe look he pushes Tom's drink back up next to Tom's hand. He waits for me to move, so I keep still. Jack has only my interests at heart. I can't live if I don't have money. I can't have money if Tom doesn't keep buying drinks.
Tom picks up the glass and empties it. Jack has the next one on the counter for him before he can lift a finger. Tom tosses money into the great jar there in the middle. That's good, a part of that is mine. Before I allow my self to backslide I stand up. Tom instinctively encircles me with both hands to hold me there. I have to be gentle but firm in explaining that I need to use the powder room. I really just need to get out of his gentle reach long enough to let the harshness of reality intrude on my state of mind.
Still trying to make things difficult for me, Tom gently lets me go in warm fuzzy pieces. I use my forefinger to touch my lipstick and I use it to smear his lip just a tad. He smiles genially. I walk away giving him coy glances from over my shoulder.
Inside the bathroom with my hands on either side of the sink I take one long look at myself. I could just as well be looking at Theo or Lucia. But, Lucia's a ghost by now so I'd rather not go there. Tears swell and continue to smear my makeup. I look into the mirror. I place the remaining piece of my cigarette balanced on its filter on the ledge at the bottom of the mirror. The smoke runs across the mirror in the direction that the ventilation takes it. My eyes are a mess, so I begin wiping them gently until they are clean, so I can re-paint them. I can't take out the redness but some eye-drops will help a little. My whole body shudders and I long for Tom's gentle touch. With a harsh shake that tosses my hair in the air I try to push those thoughts away.
By the time I'm finished I'm certain Jack will have Tom more under the bar than over. It's better this way. That those who have souls do not mingle with those whose soul is in question. I really don't feel soulless, but to be honest I don't know how that should feel.
Now I'm all fixed and ready to proceed through my night. Once again anchored with the reality that my real life is in the morning in the mountains. I pull out a new cigarette and light it, leaving the tiny smoke stack in front of the mirror. One last look through the fog of smoke to assure that I look presentable. I touch the glass.
This here, right now, is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
Copyright 2012 J.L. Dobias