My twin brother Elam and I were born prematurely in Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital in Jerusalem. I weighed 800 grams, while my brother was a bit bigger at 1.2 kilos. Our parents named us Omer and Elam. In Hebrew, our names share the same first letter, ayin – ע – which also means eye. We were so small, palm-sized, that our parents went to a doll shop in Jerusalem to find clothes that would fit us.
The Torah passage we recited on our bar mitzvah, assigned by date of birth, was the shortest of the entire year – and we split it in half, like we did with the rest of the world. My brother’s half of the world was centered on music, his love for classical and jazz. He drifted from piano to cello and finally settled on double bass – the largest stringed instrument in the entire orchestra. When he moved to New York City, he took the double bass from gig to gig, lugging it to Harlem, Jersey City, Bed-Stuy and the West Village, in snowstorms, under the glare of the summer sun, when leaves fell from the trees and carpeted the sidewalks, in the piss and chaos of subway stations. He carried the double bass around like a second person, another half.
For years, I was famous in my class for having the smallest handwriting. I loved drawing little things, imagining endlessly vast miniature worlds inside the hearts of trees, beneath layers of wood and bark, intricate clockwork interiors of screws and turning gears.
Now, my brother and I live two streets apart in New York City, and we always meet in the middle. Last week, we went to the udon place for lunch, and my brother brought his double bass because he was on his way to a gig. There was a sudden burst of summer rain, and we were caught under the tarp, slurping noodles from our bowls. A man in flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt, hoping to escape the rain, hid under the tarp too. Looking at us for a moment, he asked: Are you brothers? We nodded. Twins? We nodded again, and went back to our food. When we were finished eating, my brother carried his double bass, heading downtown in the direction of his gig, while I went back to my tiny studio, to work on a novel about twins.
Image © sswj