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My clone was excited to be alive.
My clone was excited to be alive. He alternated between marveling at the earth and sky and thanking me. “This is the hand where they took the cells?” “Did it hurt?” “You must have been brave, Adam.”
I asked him why he was grinning so much and he said because he had never experienced anything before, it all felt so new and fresh. He didn't have my memories, only my knowledge, like he had read it all in a textbook.
At school everybody was excited to meet him and ignored me. They could tell the difference because of the 1 tattoo on his hand, which he was, of course, excited to show everybody.
“This is me! I'm clone number one!” Then he pulled me into the circle (even though he should have known I wouldn’t like being touched) and pointed at the bandage on my hand where the scientists had taken my cells. “See? Adam was very brave!”
Nobody was impressed. They'd all seen band-aids before. That was nothing compared to a clone.
He became friends with my friends instantly. Then it felt like everybody in our high school. Then the teachers. The teachers liked how excited he was to experiment. So did all the girls.
This will end, I reassured myself. He is different from me because he is new. He hasn’t experienced anything. When he is not new, he will be just like me. Soon enough, the only difference will be the tattoo.
But it didn't end. A month later, he still slurped milk like a little kid and laughed when he saw the sun rise. He was tired each morning from staying up on the phone with girls, but he stayed happy, buoyant like a beach ball.
One day at breakfast I said: “I think it's not experiences in general. It’s that you haven't experienced a break-up or my dad yelling at you or failing a test. When you actually suffer, you'll be weighed down like the rest of us.”
He looked at me very seriously and said: “I'm going to think about that, Adam. That's interesting. I'm going to think about it.”
Who knows if he did. The next time I saw him, he was in the hallway, playing guitar for an audience. Playing music wasn’t allowed in the hallways but I saw teachers walk by and greet him and it made me want to puke. I ducked into the washroom to get away from it but in the mirror I only saw his face. They weren’t my eyes in the mirror, they were his.
But then they weren’t my tears in the mirror, they were his. And then I knew what I had to do: I had to make him suffer.
I took the secret path home. Until he was made, only I knew about it. On the walk I thought about him suffering like this: It was going to happen eventually anyway. It would be better for it to happen in this controlled environment rather than something even worse. In a way, I was preparing him for the suffering that would one day greet him in the real world.
And then: he wouldn’t be different from me at all. He’d be happy sometimes and grumpy sometimes and sometimes people would ignore him. And then we could all move on with our lives.
The day he caught the stomach bug and had to stay home, I knew it was time: I stenciled in the fake tattoo and biked to school.
For the morning, I just blended in. I tried to act like him and did an okay job. But inside, I felt sick. Everybody was excited to talk to me, to tell me what they were up to, to vent to me, to invite me to things on the weekend. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I felt green rage churning through me like sludge.
After lunch, I initiated phase two. I found every girl he liked, all the ones he called, and told them it was over. "I" had been calling them as a joke, "I" had only pretended to be nice and like them, "I" thought they were kind of pathetic. At first it was easy. It was what I always imagined him saying to me.
Most of them cried. Most of them looked crushed. I thought seeing their faces crumble would make it easier, because I knew it would hurt him, but somehow it made it harder.
It didn't take long. When the bell for fourth period rang, I biked home. As I biked, I became more and more nauseated. Their tears replayed again and again. At one point I had to stop biking and lie on the grass. What did I do? I thought to myself. What have I done?
When I got home, my clone was waiting for me on the porch, on one of my mom's rocking chairs. For the first time since he'd been born, he looked sad.
I stopped at the step and he spoke down to me. "Adam, you hurt people today."
"Good. Now you know the world's not fair."
The clone shrugged. "I already know that. I know everything you know."
"Then what's wrong with you? Why aren't you like me?"
He shrugged. "I am like you."
I ignored him. "There must be something. They must have changed something in your DNA."
"I'm just your clone, Adam."
"Then why are you happy and I'm not?" I yelled.
He looked at me for a long time. Then he patted the seat next to him. I sat but refused to look at him.
"When I can’t sleep at night I think about this. And lately I think happiness is one of those things that isn't fair," he said. I could tell he was staring at me as he spoke, but I couldn't face him. "Some people just bend towards happiness and others don't. All I can do is try to help you." He sighed. "That's why I'm going to call the girls and apologize for how I acted today."
I was stunned. "You don't want me to tell them what really happened? Aren't you mad at me?"
"I'm your clone, Adam. I owe you forever. And I can fix things with them. If I can't, well, I'll live. Because I love you, and I want you to be okay."
I swung to look back at him and we reflected back and forth in our eyes. Something fell away from me like a scab or a cataract.
"Take my name," I said suddenly. "You're better at it."
Adam looked concerned. He called me Adam but I didn't respond. Instead I stood.
“I am going to go find the right name for me.” Before he could respond, I hugged him. Then I got back on my bike and rode away.
I biked out of the neighborhood, away from where anybody who went to our school lived. I found an old trail and biked down to the lake. I sat next to it and laid in the sun, though it was setting and its shadows moved quickly.
I opened my eyes and tried to see each thing as though it was the first time, just like Adam would. That this was the first sunset and the first wave that had ever lapped at my feet and that they were good. That this was the first sand to clung to my feet and my first mosquito bite and that they were good. That this was the first breeze and the first cry of a gull and that they were good.
Slowly, maybe hours later, these things stopped resisting being the first thing.
Then I biked home for the first time and our parents hugged me for the first time and I hugged Adam for the first time and we went to school together the next day for the first time. It was exciting and it was new and it was good. I wanted him to keep the name and he wanted to give it back and in the end we found a solution.
People thought it was funny that we were both named Adam. The girls thought our apology was enough. They thought it was funny that we both apologized. We all went out for ice cream with Adam’s friends until we got bored, then Adam and I walked home together, talking about school and our plans and how we would beat Halo together. When we got home Adam said he was having so much fun we should ask our parents for another clone. I said not yet, no, not quite yet.
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