The writer is a Huntington Woods attorney and an adjunct professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School. This column is republished with permission.
By Andy Doctoroff
He was my second self, the air I breathed. We instinctively held hands, as if his were mine and mine, his. When we were overalls-wearing toddlers, we touched the tips of our tongues before jerking our heads, giggling, and saying at exactly the same time, “Yeech!”
I cannot distinguish the two of us in childhood photographs snapped by Dad. Facebook’s advanced facial recognition algorithms confuse us to this day.
The world we inhabited growing up during the 1960s and 1970s was uniquely our own, a walled city built on a foundation of snuggles, secrets, and sameness.
Deep into adulthood, only one conversational barrier separated us: women. A verboten topic.
“I don’t want to talk about it!” Tom interdicted time and again, quickly lowering an iron portcullis to prevent further passage.
Stacy, my wife, had long thought Tom might be gay, with Exhibit A being his inscrutable dating history.
But Tom’s suspected homosexuality made zero sense to me. I repeated this syllogistic mantra: Tom and I are identical twins; I am not gay; therefore, Tom cannot be gay. (I had heard nothing about epigenetics.)
It all changed on a blustery winter evening in 2003, after the deaths of Mom and Dad when I unwittingly wrenched 40-year-old Tom out of the closet.
Tom was visiting from China where he flourished as an advertising executive. Stacy and the kids had fled the house to escape the combat in which the two of us were locked — his marital status being the casus belli.
Screaming that I no longer knew him, I presented Tom with a Hobson’s choice: Admit a selfishness so deeply rooted that it prevents you from having a girlfriend or tell me you’re gay!
Hostilities immediately ceased. Only the sound of air rushing through Tom’s expanding and collapsing lungs pricked the silence. His hands trembled like aspens; tears flooded his hazel eyes.
“I’m gay! I’m gay!” Tom quietly moaned, as if he were a repentant sinner in a confessional. I stroked his forearm, contrapuntally whispering, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
Still, I mourned. I mourned the workaday pleasures his imagined family would never experience with mine. I mourned the hope that marriage would bring Tom comfort and joy.
Decades pass. We are now 58 years old.
Tom likes to say that Nicole, Alana, and Matthew are his kids as much as mine, which genetically-speaking is a fact. Tom and my family have bonded like polar ions, and his virtual presence thanks to FaceTime makes him more of a fixture in our home than the plumbing.
Our relationship is better, closer, than it ever was. I long ago learned about twinks, otters and bears. We are each other’s best therapist. The words we speak are narcotic; they bind themselves to our nervous systems and quickly tranquilize. My slightly arched eyebrow, or his pregnant silence, often renders superfluous the need to verbally explain or defend.
But despite our congenital intimacies, despite his having opened his home in Shanghai to a longtime partner, despite his being loved by so many, despite his having moved to New York City where he nobly reinvented himself professionally (he will soon receive a masters of social work), Tom would not have described his life as fully realized.
Never had he entered a spiritual communion with a man who would always daub his tears and hold him tight.
Until now. Tom will soon marry the man about whom he has long dreamed. On their wedding day, I will raise a glass to toast Tom and my new brother, just as Tom toasted Stacy and me a quarter-century ago. I will repeat his own celebratory words: “I feel only the kind of ineffable joy an identical twin feels for his brother.”
Alas, an ineffable joy tinged with sadness. Approaching my seventh decade, I must finally share the only person who has been forever mine.