Frontpage Summary Full text (free) Audiobook (free) Buy the book Videos Podcasts

5.2. The twin sister

The next day I had the morning shift at the radio.

Alma joined me in my lousy car. I was late, so we said goodbye in the parking lot, and I saw her go up to the university and on towards the student town nearby.

There she lived, she had said, in a room in a small collective where five or six students shared a kitchen, bathroom and living room.

When I got home in the afternoon, she must have been waiting for me; maybe she was walking around the picturesque streets of Kampen. She may have seen me coming, but most likely, she went round after round and at last discovered that the balcony door was opened for ventilation when I unlocked the front door and went in around five o'clock.

It only took a few minutes before the doorbell rang, and there she stood. Straight up and down, expectant and with a smile on her face. The same slightly blushing smile.

«May I come in?» she asked.

The voice was a bit squeaky, of the sort that probably does not fit so well in a choir. There was a hint of nasal sound, and I picked up a touch of singing when she spoke.

«When she gets old, her voice either shrinks, or she stops using it», I thought.

During this, she talked to her stomach, the middle part which had already presented itself as well protected from external shocks and without delay sought balance.

Her voice seemed undersized.

She undoubtedly had a lot to convey, but her eyes, mouth, and body did the job.

Right now, it was rocking a little from side to side, and her head bowed modestly while her gaze looked cocker-like up at me. The handbag in one hand, like yesterday. The coat was on, like yesterday. The hair fell free. Light, a hint of municipal grey, but slightly wavy. Still half long.

She looked like an older woman in a fairy tale. Or Little Red Riding Hood – thought the wolf. A mixture. She's beautiful, I thought.

«Come in. Have you been waiting for me?»

I probably got no answer.

She took a tentative step over the doorstep as if it were a boundary. She took off the dark shoes but did not place her outerwear on the hanger I handed her but quickly went into the living room. She looked around to understand where she had been last night.

I still have this picture inside my head; she actually still wore the coat where she stood.

I had a one-bedroom apartment in a five-story brick block from the 1930s, similar to those found in large numbers throughout the city. There was a long, narrow entrance hall, a small bathroom straight ahead, the living room to the left and the kitchen and bedroom to the right.

The apartment was on the first floor and had a long balcony facing the street, which, to be honest, was quite dark because there were similar blocks across.

It was exactly what I needed.

I had painted the walls white and laid some chess-patterned plastic tiles from IKEA on the floor in the hallway. Everyone had these at the time.

The walls were spartanly decorated with theatre posters in large frames, also those in plastic and from IKEA. Antigone, Dario Fo, Strindberg. Marilyn Monroe. The iconic photograph of James Dean on his way home from a party in the rain in Times Square in New York with a cigarette butt in the corner of his mouth.

Along one wall stood a three-seater sofa in orange fabric, strongly influenced by the dubious aesthetics of the seventies and with completely worn armrests. There were two chairs, a table and a low, white bench with a stereo and a Grundig television set with a wobble and, therefore, a picture that sometimes flickered annoyingly.

On the long wall stood two speakers, each on its homemade wooden plinth. They were bought at Oslo Hi-Fi Center ten years earlier for the confirmation money and sounded fantastic. Epicure 10, in case you're wondering.

Most striking, however, was a vast, floor-standing reel-to-reel tape recorder, a professional Telefunken M10, acquired from the Norwegian Technical Museum for five hundred kroner, about fifty dollars. NRK had donated such a large number of these discarded machines to the museum that several were resold.

RadiOrakel, the women's radio I was involved in, had four or five pieces, plus one for myself. It was a specialised machine for editing radio programs. The world's best for the purpose.

Alma must have wondered what kind of guy I was.

She looked a bit out of place but walked around and touched some of the things before sitting down on the soft sofa, a little towards the end that turned into the room but not far.

I followed and sat down next to her.

She was within my intimate zone.

I'm like the princess on the pea.

If someone comes closer than twenty mattresses, I feel uncomfortable. I'm a traumatised only child, a wolf on the run.

You don't cuddle wolves.

Alma neglected it. The problem did not belong to her world.

«I have an identical twin,» she said unsolicited, responding to the uncertain expression she saw.

«Her name is Maria.»

All the names in my story about «Alma» are pseudonyms.

I watched her for a long time.

The need for mattresses had evaporated.

Did she say anything more?

Undoubtedly, but I was so put off by the thought of a second Alma that I do not remember anything.

Identical twins usually look almost precisely the same. I certainly did not ask her anything – in sheer fascination.

She never showed me a picture of her twin sister. She said nothing about what Maria did or how she was, but she sometimes told me that she had met with her or was going to visit her. Maria was just there, as a matter of fact.

What did I think of Maria?

She must have looked a lot like Alma. The exact figure, height, hair, face shape and voice. Mouths. But the eyes? Could she have had Alma's teasing and hot flashes? The same way to take in the world?

Is it conceivable that two people, even biologically identical twins, can appear and be perceived as so similar that you do not know who to love?

The questions lead straight to the impossible. How do you see the two souls in bodies, facial expressions and reactions that are identical? Of course, you see them as different.

But how?

I have met identical twins before and have also gotten to know them a bit, so I know that similar shells hide very different personalities. Of course, it is so. If not, we could not talk about anything but bodies and biology.

Of course?

Although identical twins started out as equal, they were shaped differently every second after that. They have met different people and made their own experiences and observations that have initiated trains of thought along deviating roads in the same forest.

Even when they were unconscious babies and toddlers, they interpreted the world individually. Like me and you and everyone else, they needed to understand the world; they needed security.

Although they probably performed in pairs most of the time, they interpreted things differently. Tiny nuances in the perception of the world and the people around them became slightly different automatic strategies and shaped them into two distinctly different psychologies later in life.

They were identical when they were conceived, but only seconds later, they were on their unique life journey, with individual traumas, joys and experiences.

I still imagined that the two together formed a whole. Alma was, in a way, only half of something bigger. When Alma was sensitive, alert and playful, Maria must have been the more down-to-earth, firm and strict, I thought.

I would have known so much more about Alma if I had met Maria. The two were created from the same template. By getting to know Maria, it would be possible to say something precise about Alma's personality. What she had that Maria did not have.

I never met Maria.

Why was I never introduced to her? I've been wondering about that later.

Alma gave an understanding that it was not necessary to meet her. It was not on that plane she wanted to be with me. She did not suggest introducing me to anyone, not family or friends.

I'm unsure if she had any contact with friends or girlfriends at all.

She had Maria.

I have heard that identical twins have a symbiotic relationship where they feed on each other and play together on a level more profound than the rest of us can understand.

It sounds almost a little spooky.

Are we beginning to suspect that Alma is not a sheep?

Not even a herd animal?

What traumas had made her like that?

I did not think so then, but now that I understand myself better, I see that Alma had the same symptoms of similar mental injuries as myself.