Mona looked outside. She and her twin sister Dona were on Don Valley Parkway in Toronto, Ontario. It was bright and sunny outside. Just enough to keep the mild autumnal chill at bay. Maple and other deciduous trees bled in all shades of blood. But they had yet not shed most of their foliage. Individual leaves seemed unsure and hesitated before breaking the bond and take the final plunge. The entire valley looked crimson, like the open heart of a patient at Toronto General Hospital where Mona worked as a nurse. It was the time when a sweet melancholy descends on the heart like fluttering dry leaves. One wants to leave behind all the cares and snares of life and walk hand-in-hand, quite quiet, with one’s soul mate, under the caressing sun on a dusty forest path strewn with dry crumbling leaves.
Mona felt suffocated in the car. She wanted to be out in the sun, under the clear sky, bare feet, feeling the gently yielding soft cushion of freshly fallen yet not crumble-dry leaves under her feet. She did not belong to this car. It was unfair to keep her here. It was still unfair to not let the world and the family know that she did not belong to them. Even it was unfair that her husband Harry was so loving and considerate, and she doted on her two children. If it were not so, it would have been easy for her to decide. Perhaps decided she was. She was only hesitating to let go of the branch gently. She would then, together with another leaf which came her way from nowhere, waltz down on the hammock of the cool breeze awash in golden sunshine. It would be a short time before they fell to earth and became des feuilles mortes. But it was enough. It was necessary. She had stopped to try to understand how and why this happened to her. But she would not like John to ‘unhappen’ to her. At any cost. Without knowing it she opened the door of the car.
Dona whispered in alarm without raising her voice or taking off her eyes from the road, “What are you doing!”
Blushing, Mona murmured, “Sorry. I didn’t realise what I was doing.”
Nowadays she did not know what she was doing. She was living as if in a trance. She was doing all her household duties like a robot—without thinking or realising. Her thoughts were always hovering around John. Her brain was busy finding new ways to meet or talk to him. But meeting or talking was not the solution. She wanted to be with him all the time!
“How could you ever leave poor Harry and darling Mellisa and Anthony? How would they survive?” said Dona, as if all along they were discussing this subject only.
“That’s what bugs me. That’s what’s so unthinkable and painful!”
“I’m so busy with my husband and daughters that I don’t have time to even die. They are so dependent on me that I cannot imagine they can survive even one day without me. If God tells me at this moment, ‘Dona, your time is up,’ I will have to tell Him, ‘OK, Boss. But not so abruptly. Please give me some notice period. I want at least one year to prepare my family to survive without me.’ At the end of one year, I may be again asking for more time.”
“I know. I used to feel the same way. I used to think that I’m the happiest married woman on the earth. My life was so complete. Amongst my office colleagues, they cite our example when they talk of the made-for-each-other couple and stable marriage. In fact, they joke about us that we are mad-for-each-other. I used to think that marital disharmony and divorces are for others. They happen to others. Like accidents.”
“Then what has come over you, Mona?”
“I dunno. I still love Harry and children. I know little about John. We came from Europe; he from Australia. Yet… It’s so difficult to explain. It seems I have known John all my life. Maybe all my previous lives too. You know what I mean. It seems all my life was just a preparation for this moment. All that happened to me, what I did, all was just to lead me inexorably to this encounter with John. This was bound to happen; this was inexorable, inevitable, and ineluctable. At the hospital, some patients suddenly die—with no good reason. We, for want of any good name, call them, ‘IWIK’ cases—I Wish I Knew. I don’t know how I lived without John. How I considered myself supremely happy. How I didn’t know that I was living for him! Suddenly my husband of fifteen years means nothing to me! My two children hardly count! No, no, they are always in my heart. But they will survive. They will grow into a fine young lady and gentleman. I am ashamed of even thinking like this. It seems shameful and selfish. Maybe I will suffer for my sin, if it is that.”
They had gone to attend a church wedding of a distant relative from France. When the guests knew that they were identical twin sisters, they started talking about twins and how similar they could be in looks and manners. Some said their emotions and feelings also are the same. Mona always wondered, as did Dona too, how come these people talk so much about twins when they themselves were not being allowed to say anything at all! Similarly, nowadays, when she heard them talking of love, she wanted to cry, ‘Shut up, stupid women! What do you know about love?’ But they never shut up. They talk and talk, and write books and make films. Knowing nothing!
There was a guest who had come from France to attend the marriage.
She said, “Have you heard the latest news from Finland? It just happened last week. This is sort of first of its kind. Two Finnish identical twin brothers, aged 71, were killed the same day in identical bicycle accidents. A truck hit and killed one of the twins while he was cycling early on Tuesday in the first week of March on the west coast of Finland.
Before police could identify the body and inform family members, his brother was killed on his bicycle by a second truck a kilometre down the road.”
Amongst the guests, there was also a renowned physicist. People turned to him and his scientific view on the subject.
He said, “Science deals with certainty. However, today science is standing at the crossroads of uncertainty and possibilities. There is an Uncertainty Principle that says that we cannot measure both the mass and momentum of a particle with certainty. In Quantum Mechanics it is held that the world (at least, the world of subatomic particles) is only in a state of probabilities till it is observed. Further, it has found that two particles, called entangled particles, could interact at a distance seemingly at a speed many times faster than the speed of light which is not possible according to the Theory of Relativity as according to it nothing can move faster than light. I can only say that if such interaction is possible, twins may be entangled in some mysterious ways.”
They started discussing similar cases. Mona and Dona had heard these scores of times, though this Finland one was new. They had heard about entangled particles also for the first time and, somehow, liked it.
Mona glanced in despair at Dona. Dona had fixed her eyes on the road ahead. Dona was a very careful driver. In fact, she was the designated family driver. They both became eligible for the driving license the same day. But Dona went ahead and got it. Mona delayed. It became an established practice of the family that whenever Dona was in the car, she would drive the family. Mona suddenly realised how beautiful Dona was. Even after two children. Her light blue eyes were the perfect foil to her peach face. Her shoulder-length blond hair encircled her oval face like a dark halo. Dona too had once long hip-length hair. One day, within six months of their coming to Canada, a boy kissed her in school. It was Dona’s first full kiss on the mouth. Unfortunately, the boy whispered, ‘Mona, I love you!’ Dona slapped the boy, wept bitterly, and then and there cut her hair. Their mother ranted and wept and threatened, but they did not tell why she had cut her hair. Dona looked exquisite in her short hair. She recalled that while in college they had been jointly (what they called ‘twinly’) declared beauty queen of their city. Before marriage, Dona had no dearth of boyfriends. Mona remained more or less aloof.
Mona squeezed Dona’s right hand and raised it to her mouth and kissed it. Their eyes met in the mirror. Dona smiled and said, “Those were good days, n’est-ce pas?”
Mona said, “As twins we not only look alike, our lives also have moved parallel to each other. We desperately fell in love with boys more or less having the same height and built and manners. We married within the same month, had children approximately at the same time, and live and work in the same locality. However, it seems that the similarities have ended there.” She wanted to add, “You will remain faithful ‘till death doth part us’; I have to leave but have no idea how and when.”
Dona momentarily withdrew her gaze from the road and fixed it on Mona. “Exactly, when we had everything more or less the same, then how come you alone fall in love? How can you leave your family when I will always remain with mine?”
Both fell silent. Mona’s eyes wandered over the canopy of crimson over Don Valley while Dona fixed her eyes on the road.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a car pulled off the single incoming lane and tried to overtake other cars. It had obviously misjudged the distance and speed of Dona’s car. There was no space to pull in. In a desperate attempt to overtake and squeeze into the small space available ahead, it increased its speed. The car was coming at great speed directly on to them. Mona saw it and the man driving it with great clarity and detail—even the red scarf around the driver’s neck—as if in slow motion. She saw herself and Dona as little kids playing in their home in France. She saw her Junior High friends in France smiling and laughing. She felt sad leaving them behind and coming to Canada. And then she saw John. She saw nothing of between her Junior High and meeting with John. Instinctively she knew, not in the subject-object type of knowledge, but as a revelation, that it was the ineluctable destiny.
She felt no emotions. It all felt so natural, so logical, and so self-evident. Just before the collision, she closed her eyes and surrendered herself calmly to the inevitable. There was a head-on collision on the driver’s side.
When Mona came to, she found herself in the hospital. Harry and the children were there. The driver of the other car was a Mexican who had come to Canada for the first time. He died in the hospital.
Dona was survived by her husband and two children aged eleven and thirteen.