Photo by Sara Catterall
Whenever I asked about my twin brother, my mother would explain he was buried under the patio at the back of the house. I found this quite comforting, and I used to enjoy the barbecues we had there, feeling at least the four of us were all together as a family.
However, as I grew older, Billy began to annoy me. My mother would often say to me he would have been quicker at mental arithmetic than I was, or he would have played the Appassionata Sonata with more feeling, or he would have won the school steeplechase instead of ambling in at the back of the field.
"If Billy's so fucking brilliant, how come he's dead, then?" I said without thinking. I recoiled from the anticipated slap, but it never came. Instead, she flushed, and an odd look came into her eye. She looked at my father as if for approval, and he gave the slightest of nods.
She explained Billy wasn't really dead at all. Instead, he had been chosen to take part in an important but highly secret government project to test out the validity of Einstein's theory of relativity. He had been sent off to space in a rocket flying close to the speed of light, and when we were reunited on his return, we would be taken to a laboratory and compared to see if our differences could have been predicted by the theory.
"So when's he coming back?" I said.
My father explained that, unfortunately, this was still classified information. But I was satisfied with what I had learned. I had, after all, established an important principle: that in order to get at the truth, it is sometimes necessary to risk hurting the ones we love.