A faint searchlight ran across our faces before darkness enveloped us again. A symphony of drowned out shouts and screams flooded in. I felt the nervousness course through her veins, sadness filled her lungs and nourished mine.
‘I never volunteered for this.’ I said.
‘Neither did I,’ said Gerald paddling at my side, ‘but we might as well enjoy it while we’re here.’
Gerald was my twin and, even when we were foetuses, he had an enviable ability to make the most of any given situation. But I’d been here before. I knew the drill. I knew this safety wouldn’t last. I had an awful feeling that at any moment we’d be extradited from that safe, warm subaqueous world into a clattering land of cold mystery and expectation.
As Gerald’s tiny limbs pawed through fluid, grasping at whatever he could see, I retreated to the fringes of our mother’s womb and vowed there and then never to volunteer for anything in my life. And that’s pretty much how we would go through life together, I would struggle to comprehend how I’d become a reluctant participant in all and any situation while Gerald took everything in his stride and seized whatever he could with exuberant hands.
The time I sat at the edges of the theatre watching his graduation after I’d quit, the time I became best man at his wedding to the girl I had seen first ten years before, when he got promoted over me after I’d secured him a job at the company I spent my life at, Gerald seemed to capitalise on his life the way I watched mine slip through my fingers.
And when we both died, expiring as we were born — delicate and weak, lying in a darkened room with fluid in our lungs — Gerald smiled as the darkness closed in for the final time, content that he had taken every chance he could; while a slight ache niggled at my side as my final sigh expired, an ache that told me I should have taken more opportunities. I vowed there and then on our death beds that I would volunteer myself more the next time around.