TWO OF A KIND
Jonathan Herman was trying to get off the phone with his mother.
She was saying: “I read that these celebrities who have very expensive jewelry don’t ever wear their jewelry. Instead, do you know what they do? You’ll never believe it!”
But Jonathan knew what these celebrities did.
“They have exact replicas made,” his mother told him. “And they only wear the replicas. They keep the real jewelry in a safe place.”
Jonathan could believe it. It sounded odd, but it was practical. “Ma, I have to go. I have to get ready.”
Jonathan Herman was going out, on a blind date with a woman he’d been set up with by a service. Jonathan was going to wear a green and black outfit he liked: green slacks, shirt and tie; black socks, shoes and belt. Jonathan Herman never worried about wearing anything too good. Jonathan Herman never worried about ruining his clothes because he had two of everything.
He met his date at Dodeci, an Italian restaurant near his apartment, and asked about her family early in the conversation. Her mother was the librarian at Wickwire Middle School and her dad was a carpenter. Her older sister was in pharmacy school; her younger sister was seventeen. Her grandmother on her father’s side was living with them. After dinner, Jonathan told the girl that he’d had a nice time and walked her to her car.
Back at his apartment he tossed his shirt and socks into his hamper; sprayed his pants with fabric refresher, looped his tie over the hanger bar in his closet to let the wrinkles escape overnight, shined his shoes, and went to bed in his boxer shorts and undershirt. He’d do a wash come Saturday. And if his pants were never cured of the smell of Dodeci, or if his shirt sleeves were permanently branded by his antiperspirant, or if his tie never released its creases, that would not be the end of the world, because everything Jonathan Herman owned was easily replaced, if only once.
And he’d replaced items of clothing before. It was something he’d avoid if he could, but his keeping a brand-new second of everything allowed him not to think twice about wearing out anything he owned. Bringing up a reserve meant only traveling to the self-storage mini-garage Jonathan rented about fifteen miles from his apartment. He didn’t have the room at his place to keep his backup wardrobe.
At work the following day Jonathan spilled tea in his lap but it did not stain his pants.
Several days later, Jonathan went on another blind date. This woman’s mother had passed away when she was in college. She lived with her father, her father’s fiancée, and her soon-to-be step-brother, who was eight years old. Jonathan put her in a cab after dinner.
“I don’t know,” he told his mother later that evening. “I just didn’t really like either of them. They were nice enough, but nice enough isn’t enough.” While his mother told him to be less picky and to give the next girl more of a chance, Jonathan was reinforcing a shirt button that had come loose. He’d learned to sew in junior high and had never forgotten how. “No matter what,” his mother was suggesting, “go out with the next girl a second time.”
The next girl had eyes of different colors and Jonathan could not make it through dinner. He excused himself during the salad and when he came back from the men’s room he explained that he was very sorry but he was really feeling ill and he would have to go home right away but he would call the girl and make it up to her as soon as he felt better. Jonathan didn’t go back to his apartment right away. He went for a beer to soothe his nerves. Eyes of different colors! What must her driver’s license read? And what would she do if she had them poked out? What color glass eyes would she get?
Jonathan drained his glass and was getting up to go when a teenager with a lit cigarette in his hand walked into him, burning a hole in Jonathan’s end-on-end white shirt with the tab collar. Jonathan was a little annoyed that the bar was serving minors, and bothered that this minor was also a smoker, but he didn’t get upset about his ruined shirt. Besides, it gave him something to do, while he was supposed to be on a date. Jonathan drove from the bar to the self-storage facility, fifteen miles away.
He looked around his rented hangar, his extended closet, and thought that if he didn’t want to have to rent another, he was probably going to have to go through this repository and identify those duplicates of items no longer in his rotation, then get rid of them, donate them to charity. Jonathan was not as diligent in removing from here those pieces whose counterparts he’d stopped wearing because of changes in fit or fashion as he was in only buying things he could buy two of, in which practice he made no exceptions. But he wouldn’t go through it all tonight. Another time. Jonathan located his other end-on-end white shirt with the tab collar and took it with him. Then he locked his closet-away-from-home and left.
At work the next day, Jonathan was careful not to get dirty, but only because he didn’t want to have to change before his date with the fourth girl the service had found for him, a fourth girl he would have to buy dinner but who would no doubt fail to bring to the table that certain something, whatever it was that Jonathan Herman was looking for in a companion.
Jonathan met her after work and ordered them glasses of wine. Because maybe he was looking too hard for something he couldn’t name, Jonathan made a conscious effort not to ask too many questions this time out, since he didn’t know what answers he was hoping for anyway. They made it without incident through salad and soup and bread and after conversation about what he did and what she did and her quirks and his pet peeves over the main course, they ordered coffee and dessert. And although Jonathan had not already decided that she was not the one, he couldn’t honestly say that she did anything for him, but if he was ever going to find a better half he was going to have to give someone more than half a chance, and so he didn’t just say good-night to this girl after he’d paid the check, but he asked her if she’d care to take a walk around the town.
He continued to let her do most of the talking. Jonathan was listening, but he couldn’t help but be distracted when they passed a clothier, closed that late in the day but advertising a sale that entire week. Jonathan smiled to himself and made a mental note to return. Then something his date was saying brought him back.
“Your twin?” Jonathan asked. She had just mentioned a twin, hadn’t she?
“My twin,” she said. “My identical twin.”
Jonathan stopped walking and the girl stopped too, looked at him looking at her. She was not beautiful, but she was pretty enough. And she was nice enough. And so there, standing before the window advertising shirts and slacks and ties and shoes at two for the price of one, Jonathan placed a hand on the girl’s hip, leaned forward, and kissed her. Then he said, “I would like to see you again.” He added: “And I would like to meet your twin sister.” And as the girl was saying that she’d also like that, Jonathan was thinking that sooner rather than later he should return to his warehouse and make some room.
“Two of a Kind” appeared in Cosmopsis Quarterly 4, Fall 2009.