357 | Twins: An Identity Crisis

November 16, 2014
Sunday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #357: Twins: An Identity Crisis


Dear Family,

Once a year, or thereabouts, I get to be a twin again, when Michael comes to visit me. I look forward to the extra scrutiny, drama, hassle, and attention he brings with him with every visit because it reminds me of days gone by.

We used to love dressing alike, just so people would notice. Most people only see twins when they are little, kept together in a twin stroller at the mall. The novelty of seeing identical twins in public was obviously fascinating to the masses, so we liked to give the public what they wanted.

Michael and I developed code words to clue each other in to someone staring at us, unsure if their eyes had deceived them or not. Typically, they’d enlisted a companion or two to gawk our direction, waiting for us to face the same direction so they could make a positive match. One word from Michael, and I’d turn whichever way he did, giving the onlookers a decent profile so they could return to their busy lives, happy at a rare twin sighting.

Visits from Michael provide no less spectacle now than those days did years ago. It seems as if EVERY inmate I’ve ever told about having an identical twin has the exact same response: “You know what you should do? You guys should switch places!”

I’ve had to craft some half-gracious responses, something like, “Ha! Yeah, that would be interesting.” Of course, they haven’t considered the clear drawback this plan would mean for Michael and his family, who can tell us apart.

Philosophically, I like the idea, of course: I could get a “weekend pass” to do whatever I’d want (there’s a few people in hospitals I’d like to visit), and Michael could meet all the awesome guys who are some of my closest friends. The problems with such an idea are more psychological.

See, what I’d really want is for Michael to be able to experience prison in some of the ways I have, with all the weird and wonderful and crazy mixed in. That doesn’t come on a weekend, and he’d never have the feeling you get on the realization that you’ve got years and years of this ahead of you. So, in a sense, the weekend visit wouldn’t do him much good. And my little weekend jaunt would only serve to show me all the life I’m missing out on out there, when I’ve worked at being content with where I am today.

Most of this analysis goes beyond the average prisoner’s will to listen, I’ve discovered, so I let them go on and on about what they’d do if they had a twin brother, telling me stories of twins who have successfully swapped places in prison.

On my way to the visiting room to see Michael, a bunch of officers who had just entered the prison for their shift passed by me. One young woman who knows me saw me and lit up. “You have a twin!”

Now, I have so many possible responses to that statement. I could go with the sincere: “Yes, I sure do! It’s fun,” or the sarcastic: “Really? Thanks for telling me!” “No kidding, Captain Obvious!” or something similar. I chose something in between, just to confuse her. “Really? How’d you know he was MY twin?” Man, I never get tired of this.

Michael, on the other hand, has had officers say, “Wow, so you’re back?” thinking I must have paroled and am now visiting someone, just a week after they last saw me in prison garb.

They should know better, so Michael has responded with, “Yep, I just really miss this place,” then watched the guards’ realization sink in when he sits down at a table with me.

This time, a case manager who knows me well kept staring at Michael while he was in line to check in. Finally, he approached him and asked, “Hey, what is your last name?”

Without missing a beat, Michael stared him down and responded coolly, “You know my last name. I just HAD to come back to visit these guys.” When the case manager saw me later, he told me the whole story, laughing at how Michael had fooled him.

For our birthday this past summer, I agreed to write down the story of how I used Michael’s identification to my own advantage, just before going to prison. He’d wanted to be able to share it with people who didn’t even know he had a twin. I wrote it for him, just including the facts of my self-serving ID swap, exactly in the format he wanted.

Not included in that story was how deeply I regret my actions now. Also, not included was the fact that my behavior had negative consequences for the innocent twin brother and his family. I’ve attached the story here so you can read it and understand how I was behaving just before coming to prison. Out of control and uncaring about anyone but myself, I’d become an idiot.

Well, Michael finally found out about warrants out for his arrest when his family was pulled over and he was placed under arrest in front of his sweet wife and kids. Five patrol cars and a supervisor vehicle were on hand to take in Michael the Fugitive and impound his vehicle. By God’s grace, he was released once he was able to successfully pin the violations on me.

I’m grateful for a twin who has traveled this crazy journey with me, fully aware of the personal consequences it means to be the one who looks just like me. His support continues to bless me.

So, now that I’ve given you a bit of the back story, enjoy reading the story of me abusing my twin-ship. And, thanks to Michael for letting me send it out for you to enjoy. We’re just giving the public what they want.