by Sara Weiss
If I could have cloned myself when I had my daughter, I might have, the way a polyp divides itself into two distinct selves and produces an identical twin with indistinguishable genetics.
While my clone stayed home to nurse the baby, lulling her into a milky slumber, I’d be reclined in business class with my coworkers, flying across continents to explore the oceans, collecting specimens from the deep in sealed Plexiglas cylinders, then examining their bioluminescence in a dim room. I’d call the team to join me at the microscope, and our eyes would widen as we took turns gazing at a new specimen, a new species, not a fish or a worm, but both. After publishing our findings, I’d travel to various cities to present them to rapt educators, PowerPoint slides of the ghostly blue organism lit up on the screen.
On the subway home from the lab, though, I wouldn’t be able to stop staring at that M&T bank sign, the one with the newborn baby with a shock of black hair, creamy cheeks, and an open mouth. I would crave my own daughter’s pillowy cheeks, and when I thought of her latching onto me, lightning flashes of pain would spark across my chest. I’d wish it was me, holding her warmth in my arms—me and not my clone.
I’d feel exhausted by the film of dirt on the floor, the layer of oil on my forehead, the clack of the train, the garbled voice announcing each next stop, and I’d want nothing more than to be home snuggled with my little nugget. What had I missed that day? What new sound had she learned to make? Did my clone discover that she detested a new food, like pineapple? I wouldn’t want to miss the baby hilariously wincing as she pushed it between her lips. In moments like this, I would feel such red-hot jealousy toward my genetically identical twin that had been cloned from a polyp.
In the middle of the night, when I was just getting home, I’d open the door and find my clone at home, sitting in a rocking chair in the dark, the baby asleep on her chest, a flickering image of a whale projected onto the ceiling. I would come over to place my hand on my baby’s peach fuzz head, but my clone would widen her eyes in a warning. Don’t you dare wake her up.
We did it! I’d say to my clone, telling her about the presentation on the fish-worm, and the wine reception afterward.
Good for you, my clone would say, her eyes glazing over, remembering she once had the same dreams as I did.
She once wanted to explore the deep oceans and scoop up bioluminescent specimens. Now, she longed even just to ride the train alone, looking out the window and thinking her own thoughts. I could tell her that the train ride alone was lonely, that I missed the baby so much it hurt.
Maybe we could switch places for a while, I’d suggest, but my clone would shake her head no.
She’d say others seem to be able to do it all and be both people and everything without having to clone themselves—but not us.
Not us, I would agree.
Sara Weiss holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work appears in Literary Mama, Lilith, Mutha Magazine, Bustle, Brain Child, Five on the Fifth and other places. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband, two daughters, and their smallish dog.