When John first saw Michael, his twin brother, right-side up instead of upside down, it was the most disorienting experience of his life—even more disorienting than the hazy memory of their faltering first steps. It wasn't Michael's ashen complexion, the bandage on his head, the hospital bed, IV, or beeping machines. He thought it might be lingering anesthesia, but his stomach only grew queasier as his mind cleared. Though he'd seen those same features right-side up every time he had ever looked in the mirror, there was something very unsettling about seeing Michael the same way.
Michael's eye-lids began twitching wildly as he entered a dream; John had to look away. He stared at the ceiling and wondered what other adjustments he'd have to make. Learning to look at his brother without vertigo hadn't been imagined, let alone discussed. He tried to think of other unexpected consequences, but his only specific concerns, to which he returned over and over as he failed to specify others, were walking and football. Would he have to learn again? Would he be as good as expected? Could he go pro like his parents and coaches said? He tried to imagine playing like a regular person but couldn't.
A hoarse voice said, "You look like an alien."
John turned to it. Michael was staring at him, mouth open, eye-lids half-closed.
"Any particular type?" he rasped back.
"Brown with skull ridges on my forehead? Goateed?"
"First thing that came to mind."
"What's dumbass in Klingon?"
"I just woke up, jerk. And I'm still trying to look at you without wanting to throw up. Something about your face ...."
"I know, yours too. And it feels like you're still there."
"Weird, isn't it?"
Before Michael could answer, a cameraman backed into the room. Dr. Richards followed with a beaming smile, and a sound technician holding a mike boom trailed on his heels. Richards announced that their surgery was a complete success and then asked how they felt. The camera swept around to point at them. They exchanged a significant look, silently deciding who should be the spokesperson and whether he should needle the TV producers even though they had paid for the surgery. Each decided, and spoke, at the same time.
"Like fucking Klingons," Jichael said.
Liz stood over John, and Bobby over Michael. They whispered encouragement and reassurances, their heads nearly as close together as the brothers'. John could see Bobby out of the corner of his eye, smiling but clearly nervous. He was saying to Michael, in his measured way, that they'd be out on the field before they knew it. Michael could just make out Liz chattering to John about football, dating, no more sponge baths, college and more, all the while stroking their hair in long, slow strokes beginning at one's brow and ending at the other's.
After some minutes, Liz and Bobby switched sides. The two cameramen stayed put, bobbing their cameras to pick up each parent's worried-but-brave face. Both John and Michael rolled their eyes as if to say, "Really?" Liz and Bobby's subtle expressions combined to reply, "Yes, really, now stuff it." So they stifled a collective sigh at the pandering to the producers and tried to appear interested in hearing everything again. But they couldn't ignore the unsettling way their mother's hand lingered each time it traveled through the valley of their interconnected skulls.