Deception – Twins, Part I

elizabetholdhamDeception, Musings4 Comments

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Somewhere around age 3

They wanted to know if we had extra-sensory perception, or ESP.  We were called out of class, my sister and I, to participate in a student-led science experiment during our last year of high school.  The two scientists, a boy and a girl in grade 11, were testing all identical twins at the school. I remember several pairs of identical twins out of 1,600 students – a small population of us.

We had instructions. As sender, I was to turn over a card, identify the image and transfer my thoughts to her.

They sat us on opposite sides of a table, facing each other with a stack of textbooks in between. We couldn’t see below each other’s shoulders, but we could make eye contact. I was presented with a set of cards that each had one icon – a star, a cross, a checkerboard pattern, squiggly lines. My sister had the same icons arranged in a grid on a single sheet of paper in front of her. We had instructions. As sender, I was to turn over a card, identify the image and transfer my thoughts to her. As receiver, she was to indicate the same icon from the selection in front of her.

The two students sat next to us as observers. I saw in my sister’s eye a gleam and knew we were thinking the same thing: please let us figure out a way have ESP.

Being a twin has always fascinated people. “What’s it like to be a twin? When you look at your sister, is it like looking in the mirror? Can you read each other’s minds?” Short answers: 1) I don’t know anything other than being a twin. It’s normal. 2) I don’t see myself when I look at her. I see my sister. 3) Reading minds? Hmmm.

My mother brought us up to have our own identities. On the advice of Dear Abby, who was a twin herself as well as famous advice columnist, our mom determined that we should not be dressed alike or paraded around. When we were little, she color coded our shoes so that our extended family could tell us apart – red for me and blue for my sister. It worked until the day we insisted on choosing our own shoes. We promptly reversed the years of color coding, and at the next family party, I didn’t understand why my aunts, uncles and cousins were suddenly calling me by my sister’s name.

So she and I were distinct. We had different friends. We had different interests. We read different books and listened to different music.

But we also shared similarities. We were athletic and played sports together. While she preferred other subjects and I preferred English above all else, we both got good grades and were in a lot of the same classes. She and I were active in church and community activities. We were very competitive, and we often faced life side by side as a challenge.

Which brings me back to the ESP experiment.

Screw science, and bring on the ESP bragging rights.

Though we were ostensibly subjects in a science experiment, I saw it as a game to win, and I was pretty sure she was with me. Screw science, basically, and bring on the ESP bragging rights.

I pulled a card with a cross, looked at my sister, and lowered my eyes to the crucifix she wore around her neck. She pointed to the cross in front of her. I pulled a star and looked sideways at the star earring I wore. She pointed to the star. My eyes moved to a math textbook that had geometric squares. She pointed to the checkerboard. It wasn’t always as easy as that, but we came up with a system that got more right than wrong.  She and I switched places, and we continued with the same system until we finished as both receiver and sender.

We were successful.  When we completed the test, the two students looked flustered. They stared at us then conferred with each other out of ear shot.  They came back and sat down facing us. One of them questioned us. Be honest. Did you cheat?

I don’t know if any of the other twin pairs who took the test cheated as we did. And I would wager that none of the other twins exhibited signs of it. So when our results showed that us “communicating with our minds,” our student scientists couldn’t believe what they’d seen.

My sister and I burst out laughing and confessed. The scientists looked relieved more than angry. We re-took the test without cheating and without displaying ESP this time, much to the satisfaction of our testers.

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