A woman sees her double on a flight to Atlanta. Could they be sisters?
Derek Berry Thorpe
I'm a few feet past the crying baby in row nine of this Delta flight when I see myself already sitting in my seat.
It scares me to see someone looking exactly like myself just a short distance away. My breathing shallows and my nipples grow stiff under my bra. Perhaps I'm not scared at all. Maybe it's full-on excitement at the thought of finding out who this woman sitting in13A is.
Clearly, she boarded before me. I did not see her in the seating area at the gate, but I was late getting here anyways. I'm always late.
I'm just at row 12 and she still hasn't seen me. She's busy opening a bottle of Advil or something, and taking a couple of pills. I don't know, maybe she gets nervous before takeoff. Her hair is a few shades lighter than mine, but I can't tell if it's naturally so from where I am right now.
The middle seat, 13B is still vacant and I stop to put my carry-on in the overhead bin. The old guy sitting in the aisle seat is looking at my bare tummy as my shirt rides up. I can tell. He wants to help me put it up there but I wave him off. He gets up anyway to let me through to sit in the middle seat. By this time, I see my twin put away her pill bottle and look toward me.
The way her eyes and mouth both open, I know she freaking thinks that we look alike too. I sit down and we both do the 'Oh my God' thing at the same time. She introduces herself. Says her name is Stacy and tries to shake my hand, but I'm so taken by her mirror image, that I half hug and kiss her on the cheek. Her hair smells nice, maybe Pert shampoo. I check out her roots as I kiss her cheek. It seems like her hair color really is naturally blondish. It smells like she's wearing Red Door or perhaps one of those Chanel Parfums.
I tell her my name is Trisha but everyone calls me Trish, and she does too. Our last names are different and she even lives here in Detroit. She says she's not adopted but both of her parents live in Wisconsin.
We laugh a bit too loud and the old guy next to me groans as if to say, 'Damn, are these bitches going to be loud like this for the whole flight?' Stacy says the laughing is really helping her headache and that it's drowning out the crying from the snot-nosed kid in front of us.
I like her.
Just then, this cute woman with dreadlocks and a red, yellow, and green headscarf stops at our row and says I'm sitting in her seat. She's probably right, so I turn to Stacy and tell her to check her boarding pass because she's sitting in my seat. Turns out Stacy misread her seat assignment and she's supposed to be in 18A and not 13A. I've done that before a couple of times. It's kind of a bummer, but we promise to chat more when we touch down in Atlanta. There is a lot more I want to find out about her. We shift around to allow her to switch seats.
I sit at the window and the new lady slides in next to me. Her name is Barbara and she's from Jamaica. We start to chat a bit but not nearly as loud as with Stacy and the old guy on the end is happy about that. Barbara looks nervous at take-off and I hold her hand. I make a mental note to text Gary, my husband about how much Stacy looks like me. I have this nagging feeling that we share relatives somewhere, somehow.
The pilot makes a great landing in Atlanta even though it's blinding rain. The water droplets are crashing into the outside window pane. I get my carry-on out of the overhead bin and lift down Barbara's also as she told me on the flight she is nearly five months pregnant. I look behind for Stacy and she's still sitting in 18A. She smiles and motions for me to go ahead and she'll catch up.
Out on the concourse, I walk with Barbara for a while but we don't see Stacy at all. Barbara wants to take a selfie with the two of us so she can send it to her boyfriend. I take one with her but there are so many people in the airport and we still don't see Stacy. Barbara says she has to pee something fierce and thinks she might be a while in the restroom.
I hug her and wish her well with the new baby that will be born in my birth month. I know that I'll never see her again and I try not to be sad. She goes through the slit in the wall, turns and waves goodbye to me. No sign of Stacy. Maybe she had to go pee too and the Atlanta Hartsfield is huge. I never got to ask her where she was headed and we never exchanged numbers. I try not to get upset. I get very emotional at the slightest thing but I can't help but think Stacy and I are more than just coincidental strangers.
I check into the Hyatt-Regency downtown. The convention is tomorrow right here in the same hotel so I won't have to go far after breakfast. It's busy in the lobby. All the big imaging companies in the world are here to show off their new toys. The Japanese company I work for is the new kid on the block. Me and my team are planning on wowing the socks off these guys with our cheaper, smaller mobile CT machine. I am the team coordinator and I go directly to the exhibit hall with my carry-on to check on our set up progress. For the most part, they are on track but one of my guys who is bringing the shielding for our portable scanner missed his connection in Minneapolis and won't arrive until the morning. Without that, we can't give free screening CT scans.
I get really upset and frustrated and let fly a few F-bombs. Someone tries to reassure me everything will be fine but I still feel like crying. A lot is riding on this exhibition, and if we aren't ready, we won't be able to attract new orders. I don't want my team to see me tear up, so I walk around the exhibit hall for a few minutes. I feel better as I check out our competition. I see a few people I know in the business. Half I like; the other half I'd like to stick an ice pick through their eye. Yeah, I'm not too friendly if you cross me the wrong way. What am I thinking? There is no right way to cross someone.
I sip my coffee and watch some guys set up a display to raffle some promotional gifts at the end of the convention on Sunday morning. One of the prizes is a huge panda bear donated by a Taiwanese company. I think we should have come up with a prize for the raffle too, but that's on me, so I forget about it. I'm not good at admitting failure.
Early Saturday morning, my cell rings and wakes me. Sanjay, the guy who missed his connection with the CT shielding, tells me he made it to Charlotte in North Carolina over-night. He's rented a van to drive to Atlanta because no flights will bring him in until after midday. He reassures me that the shielding will be up and ready by 10:30, which is thirty minutes after the convention starts. I try not to get upset because Sanjay is a smart problem solver so I let it pass and tell him to drive safely.
Before I get out of bed to shower, I think about Stacy and wonder where she is in the world right now. What are the odds my 'twin' would be sitting in my assigned seat on a flight to Atlanta? Growing up, I wished I'd had a twin sister. Even a fat, ugly, mean, older sister would have been fine. I'm still not convinced that she's not at least a cousin or something. I make a mental note to interrogate my mom on any family secrets that I might not know about when I get back to Detroit.
In the shower, I realize I still haven't texted Gary about Stacy yet. He's going to get such a big kick out if this.
After the worst breakfast in the history of scrambled eggs, I walk over to the exhibition hall. Our booth looks good and I tell the team the updated news about Sanjay driving in with the shielding. It's still early and I walk around the corridors, people-watching and practicing my shop talk about our portable CT scanner.
I see a pretty Hispanic woman setting up a booth close to ours with the shape of hips that Gary likes. He's an ass man and I wish I had a little more junk in my trunk to wow him sometimes. She's cute too, and I shouldn't think like that, but I also wonder if Gary is cheating on me right now. There's no one at home but him. I trust him, but you never know.
Last year I tested him to see if he'd take the bait. I faked like I was going out of town and I hired a bimbo to roll up on him at his favorite bar and try to seduce him. Yeah, I'm crazy-sneaky like that. I watched him from a corner booth with shades and a wig. Sure, he talked and joked with her but he didn't take her home, didn't even see him take her number. Even though I hired the skank, it made me so mad to see her touching on my man.
One of his buddies did leave with her though and I'm still upset Gary never told me about it. To hell with that wing-man code. He and his wife still come over to the house and I wonder sometimes if I should tell her.
By 9:30, Sanjay arrives and begins to set up the shielding. The doors to the expo open promptly at 10 o'clock, and by 10:15, he tells me we can begin scanning safely. We barely missed a beat in the end. Sanjay is a very resourceful guy and I thank him.
The hall fills up nicely. I look attractive in my granite shaded suit. My skirt is short, but not too... but I am showing a bit of the ol' cleavage. I stand in front of our booth smiling and handing out pamphlets, trying to attract vendors under our tent. It's slow at first but then two radiologists from Nevada come by and seem really interested. They are thinking about starting a mobile CT service for the rural county areas and beam the images back to their office in Reno. I give a great presentation. The doctor with the glasses is very serious but the other one with the beard seems particularly preoccupied with my boobs. That's cool. My Japanese boss reminds me to use every legal hook that I can to make a sale. I ask them if they want a free brain CT but they decline. The bearded doctor asks if I could meet with them at 4:00 to talk numbers after they consult with their investors. I try not to show too much excitement but I'm doing cartwheels in my head. We take a photo and I walk them out onto the floor and confirm our meeting for later.
I watch them walk away when someone pokes me hard in the ribs. I nearly choke on the water I'm drinking. I turn around and it's Stacy with a big smile and open arms. We hug and get loud again just like on the plane. She looks good. Nice tight purple shirt and her hair is pinned up in the back. I get a chance to compare our bodies for the first time really. I'm about an inch taller and my boobs are a little bigger than hers. She's got blotchy reddish skin, especially on her chest but her hips and butt are fuller than mine.
I ask her what the hell she's doing here and she says she's an alternate showcase personnel. She floats around the hall to relieve people going on break. I'm even more convinced we are related looking at her again. I ask her how she's doing and she says she's got another one of her headaches but otherwise she's good. She sees my almost empty bottle of water and takes it from me. She swigs down a big gulp to help swallow two Advils she takes from her pocket. I don't care at all that she swipes my water but I'm sure I'm not going to drink from it again and I toss it in our waste bin.
The rest of the team doesn't quite share my enthusiasm about seeing me chat to a look alike. I beg Sanjay to take a pic of us hugging under the tent then I ask Stacy if she'd like a free brain CT scan. She asks how long it would take and decides she can do it before she needs to be at her next booth to relieve someone. She fills out a card with her email and cell number and Sanjay sets her up under the scanner.
The imaging actually takes longer than I estimated and Stacy rushes off to her next booth as soon as it's done. Stacy yells that she'll come back later. I hope she does. But I begin to think about what if she doesn't come back to say hi again. How would I ever find out who she really is? So I do something crazy. Well, sort of semi-crazy. I actually stop Sanjay from putting someone on the scanner again before I can check out the headrest under the CT imager. I lie and tell him I think there is something that needs adjusting, but I'm really looking for a strand of her blonde hair she might have left behind. I see a nice long one stuck in the bedding and twirl it around my finger. I tell him everything is cool for the next study and he gives me a strange look. Then I go to the waste bin where I threw my water bottle away. She was the last one to drink from it so her saliva is on the nozzle. More DNA of Stacy to compare with mine. I know I'm sneaky sometimes. I grab it from the garbage and hope no one sees me acting crazy. I put both the empty bottle and the hair strand in my handbag and smile.
Our booth gets really busy over the next few hours. I hand out loads of cards and pamphlets to interested passersby. Still, though, our greatest interest comes from the two radiologists from Nevada. I should begin to get ready for my number crunching meeting with them. I look at my phone clock and it's 4:03. Shit! I squeal and I nearly drop my phone. Why am I always late to everywhere? Where did those guys want to meet again? The quiet conference rooms near the lobby. It'll take me five minutes to get over there.
I scuttle over there in my classy pumps really trying not to wring my ankles. This deal might be worth seven figures if I play my cards right. I get access to the conference rooms and I'm coming down the short hallway and I see the two doctors coming out of one of the rooms. In my most apologetic voice, I sing my sorry tune for being ten minutes late. Both of them look at me like I'm crazy and ask why I was apologizing. The glasses doctor says they already had the meeting and it was over. I ask them what the hell they were talking about and they again look at me like I'm from Mars. They say one of our employees showed up and said her name was Stacy. They say they assumed she was my sister and that she did an awful, unprofessional job in closing the deal. She pretty much convinced them to go with my competition and that the deal was off.
I blow my stack. I guess I scared them a bit, but I was not happy that Stacy showed up to steal my business out from under me. I tried to explain Stacy does not represent my company but they back out of the conference hallway and leave without saying anything else.
Long lost sister or not, that bitch was going to get it from me. Nobody takes anything away from Trisha. Ever.
What would have happened if I was on time and found her talking them out of my deal?
I march back to the exhibit hall and all of the crew know that I'm pissed. Sanjay tries to introduce me to some new interested clients but I tell him I'm going onto the floor to look for Stacy. I tell him if she returns to our tent to call me immediately. He tries to get me to calm down but I barely make eye contact with him.
I go from stall to stall, crisscrossing the corridors but I can't find her so I begin asking personnel if someone looking like me going by the name Stacy might have filled in for them on breaks. A couple companies say yes but they don't know where she went after she was done with them.
I probably spend too much time looking for Stacy. There are some issues back at my unit that need attention. Lots of texts from Sanjay and others are coming through. I return, still livid. But before I deal with the issues, I hunt down her info card she filled out for the free CT scan. I call the number but it goes straight to voice mail and I leave a rather salty message for her to call me back.
It's after 6:00, and the exhibition is done for the day. No sign of Stacy. I probably leave ten or so messages on her phone. I have dinner with Sanjay and the rest of the team and we make a plan for the disassembly at noon tomorrow. I am moody and not good company. When I get back to Detroit, I'm definitely sending the hair and saliva samples for DNA comparison. I reach down and feel for the bottle in my bag to make sure it's still there.
I'm at breakfast the next morning alone. I plan to put yesterday's events behind me and stop stressing about losing out on the deal with the Nevada doctors. Perhaps I'll make a better deal today in the few hours we still have left. Fewer people are on the floor today. I'm done obsessing about Stacy and I feel good about my job and my staff. I meet some nice sincere folks otherwise who are nothing like that backstabbing bitch.
A few rows over, in the center of the exhibition hall, there is a buzz and cheering as the raffle is being drawn. I hear applause and whistles as someone wins the oversized panda bear. I am not interested. In fact, I am strangely missing my husband quite a bit. I can't wait to hug and kiss him at our front door and smell his cologne. I decide then that I'm going to try to get an earlier flight home than Gary's expecting and surprise him.
It's near noon and Sanjay and the crew begin to breakdown the set. I thank them for a great job and I make an excuse that I have another meeting to get to and I have to head to the airport. I can tell some of them think I don't want to help with the cleanup but I really need to see my Gary. I make a final check through the units you know, just to say goodbye to people I like. I check my phone for messages. Just one from my boss in Japan and that's it. I lie and tell him things went very well.
I'm already checked out of my room so I get my carry-on out of the tent and head for the airport. At the TSA security checkpoint, the pot-bellied agent scanning my bags asks why I'm taking an empty water bottle on board. I ask him if it's a crime. He says no and I tell him to mind his Goddam business and I put my shoes back on.
I manage to get the earlier flight back to Detroit and it's on time. We take off without incident. I check the weather and see that it's cold and a foot of snow has fallen over the two days that I was gone. I'm still excited about seeing Gary and I hope he's wearing that Invictus cologne that I like when he hugs me.
I'm given an aisle seat. A uniformed military guy is sitting at the window, marines perhaps. I feel safe and I nod to him and thank him for his service. I get through a fair amount of paperwork for about an hour or so then my thoughts drift to Barbara and her baby again. I wonder if she'll have twins.
Before I know it, it's time to land in Detroit. There is just enough light left to see the snow on the ground below.
I breeze through the airport concourse and head towards where I parked my car. I got a lucky spot close to the exit on the ground level right in front of departures. I am coming down a crowded escalator and a woman with a huge panda bear pauses just before the exit revolving doors. She takes a sip from a bottle and swallows a couple of tablets before she picks up the bear and starts to exit through the revolving door.
Holy shit, it's Stacy!
She's far away but I know it's her. She's wearing the same tight purple shirt that she wore at the exhibit yesterday. I would never wear the same blouse on two consecutive days. I shout out her name and wave to get her attention. All the people on the escalator look back at me but I could care less. Stacy is already through the revolving doors and doesn't hear me.
I can't wait my turn and nearly break my neck trying to get by people on the escalator. A few parents don't appreciate me shoving their kids out of the way. Eh, they'll live, I've got a confrontation cooking.
Through the glass, I see the attendant hailing a taxi for her and one is right there already. I run to the revolving doors. My carry-on is not cooperating on its wheels and I'm tempted to just leave it in the airport. But I remember the empty water bottle and her hair strand are still in there. She stuffs the oversized panda in the back seat and closes the door. The driver is closing the trunk with her luggage and my stupid case gets stuck in the door for a second. I yank on it so hard the handle breaks. I rush up to the yellow taxi, yelling her name, but he drives off.
The attendant stops me from running into the busy street and asks if I want a taxi. I consider getting into the next one to follow her but I might get stuck with a sissy driver who doesn't want to follow my lead. I decline the taxi only because I got a great parking spot and I can practically see my Acura SUV roof from where I'm standing. I can get out of the lot and merge into that traffic flow where the garage exits.
I note the cab's tag and see that it's sporting a 'Motor City Pizza' sign on its roof. I'm going to follow this look-alike Stacy to where ever that cab takes her. I can feel the hair on my neck stand up and my nipples get all hard again.
I have to hold my luggage like a football because the handle is broken. It's slushy with the snow and I don't know how I don't slip and fall. I get to my SUV in less time than I anticipate. She starts up like a dream and I peel out of my spot. There is a driver ahead at the pay arm and it looks like she's fiddling around trying to decide which credit card to pay with. I lean on my horn and the noise bounces around the parking structure. The soccer mom is startled and seems to panic a little. I can see her beady eyes trying to look at me in her rearview mirror. She's probably trying to figure if I'm a cop or terrorist. Either way, she wants no part of me and hurries with her transaction. I decide that she took enough time for the both of us and I squeeze through behind her without paying before the arm comes back down.
The road is wide there before we have to merge into the airport traffic and I zoom around the slowpoke and beat her to the exit. The Acura skids a tad so I switch to my 4-wheel ice weather drive mode. I merge into the six lanes of slow traffic and I see five yellow cabs ahead of me. None of them have the 'Motor City Pizza' sign on their roofs.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
They must have beat the light. I swear some more and pound my hands on the steering wheel. Then, lo and behold, the taxi carrying Stacy and the panda pass me on the left, two lanes over. I feel a surge. Like I want to cut them off right now and cuss her out, but I try to calm down and just slip into the lane behind them.
We get out on the open highway and head South on I-94. The road is pretty much clear of snow and driving is not too bad. I keep them in sight two car lengths ahead. I don't know if that is the approved distance to tail someone as I've never done anything like this before. What am I going to do if Gary calls on the cell? He'd freak if he found out what I was up to. I can see both their shadows through the back window of the cab. She's on her phone judging by the way her head is cocked. I dial her number again but it goes to voicemail.
I admit to myself that this is crazy. I don't know where this woman is going. At what point do I say this is far enough? I live in Dearborn, which is generally in this direction, but suppose she's headed to Southgate or Trenton.
Gary is going to kill me. I'm right behind her now. She's laughing on the phone in her purple blouse that she's worn for two days straight. How could she do that knowing she'd see the same people the next day. I feel like bumping the cab from behind. Just a little nudge. If the roads were dry I might actually do it. I hatch a plan for when she pulls up in front of her house or apartment. Hmm, maybe she's even going to a boyfriend's place.
I figure I can pull up in front of the cab when they stop. Before she gets done paying him, I'll open the door on the panda side and slide in. I'll keep the stuffed toy between us in case she's got a knife or mace or something. I'll tell that bitch off before the cab guy can figure out what's going on.
Crap! I'm so deep in thought I don't notice the flashing indicator lights on the taxi. I nearly miss the exit they take and the Acura skids in the snow. I take the ramp way too fast but I manage to keep from running into the guardrail. I swear so loud, I nearly total my SUV. Stacy's fault again.
She's close to home now. I follow not too far behind on these local streets. I didn't see which exit we took, not paying attention and I look around trying to get my bearings and read street signs. I see a CVS pharmacy that I have shopped at before. I see a street sign... Colson street. Colson street? Colson street! What the hell? This is Dearborn, approaching it from a different way I'm used to. She lives in my area?
I follow the yellow cab. He doesn't know where he's going. He's lost or maybe he's just trying to run up the fare on her. He doubles back and heads...
Wait...this bitch is heading straight for my home! I know it. I know it. You have got to be kidding me. She's sitting in the back of that raggedy-ass chariot with the 'Motor City Pizza' sign on the top, heading straight for my home. I know it.
She's trying to steal my husband from me, knowing that I'm out of town. Trying to entice my Gary with her full hips. She stole my contract from me and now this imposter is trying to steal my man. I know it. I'm so ballistic right now.
Sure enough, they turn onto my street and pull up in front of my snow-covered lawn. My lawn. I'm going to tackle this heifer on my lawn and beat her down. She's already paid the cab guy and she hauls the large panda up the walkway to knock on my door. The porch light comes on as I park my Acura in my driveway. I can barely breathe. Gary opens the door. That's right Gary, kick her in the nuts.
I'm a mess watching this. I finally get the damn door open and run through the snow to tackle Stacy in my front yard. Oh my God, why is Gary smiling? Can't he see that's not me? I go away for two days and you forget what I look like, Gary.
I can't even yell, I'm so mad. I'm running and I fall in the snow near our garbage bins. My keys drop and I can't find them buried in the snow. He's laughing at the big bear and she's hugging and smelling my husband. I get up out of the snow and scramble to the closing front door. I yell out her name at the top of my lungs and pound on the door for them to open up. I'm really loud out here.
"So how was the flight?"
She languishes amongst the fibers of his sweater in the crook of his neck, inhaling the scent of safety. "It was good. Smooth landing. Gosh my headache has already begun to ease up now that I'm home with you, Gary. I missed you a lot. Oh, I'm still so cold. I hope you built a fire in the back room. Come sit by the fire with me and warm up."
She cleaves away from the full embrace and locks elbows in stride towards the hearth. Both pause at the same time as the noise outside startles them equally.
"Do you hear that? Who the hell is yelling and pounding on the door like that?"
She carries on down the hallway. "Gary, would you see who that is, dear? Then come join me by the fireplace. Is that my Acura in the driveway under all that snow, hon? I'll show you the picture of that woman who looks like she could be my twin. Where's my phone?... Gary...Gary... who is it, dear?"
Gary converses with someone in the doorway, then falls silent.
"Gary, answer me. Who's at the door? Who are you talking to? Gary..."
The sound of heels colliding with the hardwood floor grows louder. One in front of the other, slow, deliberate, confident...
"It was your taxi driver. He said you left your cell phone in the back seat. He said it started to ring so he stopped and brought it back."
Gary's forehead is etched with tension.
"Oh, how nice of him. Geez, I'd die if I lost that thing."
"I answered it." His voice, now hollow, is filling with something other than welcome.
The fire dances with its embers. "Who called?" She twists from the couch to look back to him.
"Okay, what did he want?"
"He says that he's worried about you. That you were acting really strange at the convention. He didn't want to say at first, but eventually, he told me the brain scan you took at the conference is really 'funky'... his words. He says he thinks you need to see a doctor immediately about the unusual mass in your brain."
"Oh that Sanjay...'unusual mass'. I never know when he's joking. Here, hand it over and let me show you my doppelgänger. She was on the plane with me, then she showed up at the exhibition hall too... Here, have a look at this one. Sanjay took this one."
Taking the phone, he looks at the photo and purses his lips. "Which one of these two men do you think looks like you? Glasses guy or bearded guy?"
"No, silly, give it back, I'll show you a better one. Here, me and her in the airport."
"Hmm, so do you actually think you look just like this black, pregnant lady with dreadlocks, Stacy?"
"Sure. She did at the time."
Gary stands in between Stacy and the fire, and lifts her erect for a quiet embrace. He lays her head against his chest and strokes her blonde hair. "I've seen what Sanjay is speaking about. I already called our doctor while you were away. I'll come with you in the morning."
Stacy looks through her bay windows into her snow-covered backyard. "A couple of headaches are no big deal, Gary. But I'll go if it makes you feel better."
Outside, the image of Trish appears at the window. The snow begins to fall again but none of the white flakes can settle on her. There is a vacancy in her stare that almost matches Stacy's.
Gary continues to stroke her head and the mass inside Stacy's brain stops moving. The pounding fades away to nothing. It fades away to nothing... and so does her twin sister...her Twishter...Twisha...Trisha.