In 2006, we fall off a tandem bike. You pick me up and pick gravel out of my mouth.


You bought this bike for us because we can’t have children. You wanted the two of us to bring something to life, to move something together that we can only make move together and wouldn’t be able to make move without the other person.


We can’t make the bike move properly. Compared to a usual bicycle, the tandem bicycle has double the pedalling power. There was a picture of a couple in matching bright blue suits in a magazine you got me the other day and the caption was ‘power couple’.


You said, “me and you.”


You carry me in one arm and the tandem bike in the other all the way back to the B&B. We are staying at the seaside for the weekend. Our B&B is the yellow one on the sea front. We tried to ride the bike in a little park next to the beach so it’s not too far. You are sweating and not speaking.


Back in our room, you prop me up on the bed and go into the bathroom to cry. It’s a big cry, a sloppy one. Both taps are running on full but I can still hear you pull off wads of toilet paper and spit in the sink; it’s a phlegmy spit, I can hear how thick it is. The shower starts running.


You put on Eastenders before you went to the bathroom. There’s a couple arguing in the street because one of them might have kissed the other one’s friend. I want the woman to slap the man round the face. I would love to slap you round the face. Not that I don’t love you and not that I want to see you in pain but it is so big and so dramatic and people on the telly sometimes kiss afterwards anyway and the kiss is always bigger than a normal kiss.


You come out of the shower a big, sweaty man-lobster. You have been ages. A really big and dramatic chunk of time. You ask me if I’m alright. You say


“Shall we just have a night in tonight? I’m really–I’m really tired, I think it’s the travelling, travelling always makes you tired, doesn’t it?”


You are up half the night. You go to the bathroom about ten times, you get completely naked and then put on your t shirt again and then put on your boxers again and then take them both off. You put the little light on and read a leaflet about SeaWorld for twenty minutes. The seagulls are going off when you are finally still and start to snore.


You sleep late. We go into town in the afternoon.


Instead of carrying me today, you use the wheelchair. You bought it a few months ago so you could wheel me round the park, round the shops in our new, smaller town.


You went to this seaside town as a child with your mum and little brother. You are talking about the pier and the time your brother pushed and you thought you were going to fall in the sea. You tell me about all the rock you ate, so much that you threw up and your sick was bright and beautiful and your mum sang ‘all things bright and beautiful’ at your sick on the pavement. We are trying to find the joke shop you and your brother bought matching clown masks and wore for a family friend’s halloween party.


We find it next to a betting shop. You wheel me in.


We are trying on big, plasticy masks when I see her; naked, inflated, blonde hair that isn’t real hair.


The joke shop man says,


“Not quite as fancy as yours.”


And laughs.


You do not say anything for a very long time and then you say,


“Excuse me?”


“How much was she? In the thousands, aren’t they, one’s like that?”


“We’re going.”


You wheel me out. You wheel me back to the B&B in silence.


In 2004, you ordered me online. I was £5000 because I was the newest one, the most realistic one they had at the time. Your friend was showing you them on his big PC and you were both laughing at the losers who buy these and saying how they look like a collection of dead women. You said it was grotesque, actually. That it was sad that people felt they needed these but also aren’t they just for men who want a silent, submissive woman? Or maybe even for necrophiliacs. The two of you got into quite a debate about the psychology behind it, whether or not these men were excessively lonely, mentally ill or plain old misogynists; maybe a mixture of all.


But on page 10, at the bottom right, was me; 100% silicone, brunette, size 8, cup D, realistic vagina, three working holes. In one photo I’m wearing a lavender nightie, netted, very thin. In another, I’m naked and posed on a bed. The last one is a headshot. I stare back at you; sat on a kitchen chair next to Ben sat on a computer chair, can of lager in your hand, saying,


“Wait a minute mate, let me look at that one, she looks like someone, doesn’t she? Who does she look like? Do you know what I mean? Looks really fucking familiar, it’s weird.”


Ben makes a joke about a girl you went to college with and clicks on page 11.


“Go back a sec.”


I look out to you.


You go home and sit at your own big white PC in the corner of the living room. You find me again on page 10.


You say,


“Is it really you?”


You swear I nod.


You spend all your savings on me. In two months, I am delivered from California to your flat in Manchester. The first night, we just cuddle in bed. The following day, you paint both our faces white, draw an extended red mouth, put a red nose on the two of us. You say;


“This was what it was like, wasn’t it? Me and you like this. Before. I’ve always known it. I’ve always dreamt it.”


It is 1836. I am painting your mouth on again because I kissed it off, again. I am so in love all I can think is:


I am so in love, I could burst, I could fill up like a balloon with all this love and pop.


We are two female clowns; it’s our niche. Our show is a duet and we are introduced as twins from Romania even though we were born two years apart in Ohio and Louisiana.


We are doing the biggest crowd pleaser show tonight, the one where we plait our hair together and spend the whole show trying to get away from each other. We run around the stage, we try to cycle away from each other but the bike is a tandem bike. You say it is the opposite of us, our opposite dance.


No one knows we are in love. No one knows women can be in love with other women. Through our whole lives together, we never tell anyone. We never kiss on the lips in public.


In our shared trailor, we talk about all the times we have died. My favourite death was the time I fell from a tree like an acorn. It was a letting-go death; accidental but fine. I was seventeen and married and pregnant. I never met you then, you were an elderly, alcoholic man in China. You didn’t love your wife and I didn’t love my husband.


In this life, we are both able to remember and talk about our past lives, both with each other and apart. We talk about the lives we had when we didn’t meet like talking about our childhoods.


“Do you think you’d have loved me still as a bear in Alaska? A cheetah in South Africa?”


“Do you think you’d have loved me still as a turtle in Australia? A mole in Yorkshire?”


“You were a mole?”


“In one of my first lives, yes.”


“Funny. It suits you. You’ve always been shy.”


“You’re not scary here, though, like in your lives before.”


“Maybe I’m soft with you.”


In the morning, you are talking to a worm.


“I wonder who you are”, you say, “I wonder if you are anyone I know.”


“He reminds me of my ex husband.”


“He reminds me of my ex wife.”


We prod him about a bit.


“Is there anyone else that you’ve met before?”


“Just you. You?”


“Just you.”


The first time we meet, we meet as two worms. You are caked in mud, cake covered, dry. We meet on a farm in France, near the pigs. Over a day, we eat an entire dock leaf together. It is unsaid, but we are racing each other. I am winning, I am stuffed full, a worm-turkey. After we finish, we lie side by side in the mud.


A little girl comes, sits down with us. We both think she has come to give us food; she is playing with a handful of leaves and sticks. She presses a small stick in the middle of my body. It takes a few minutes but she cuts me in half.


In 2024, we meet blindfolded. I touch your face and accidentally put a finger in your mouth. I hear you laughing. You touch my nose and pinch it for a bit too long. I prod your cheeks. You stroke my chin. I kiss you to see who you are.


You are the third person I kiss that day. One by one, four men are led into a room with me for a minute. We are not allowed to speak or see each other. We can only touch each others faces and kiss.


You and I kiss for 48 seconds.


The TV show is called Love is Blind.


In bed that night you say,


“Did you know Judas kissed Jesus to identify him?”


“Are you trying to be ominous?”


“It’s just a nice little fact.”


The next day, we go on a date to a motorway service station Costa. We talk about realms. We talk about familiar and unfamiliar.


Costa: familiar, the same everywhere. There is one close by to where we both live in different parts of London. In the motorway service station, we take the same orders we normally do.


Motorway service station: unfamiliar, neither of us have been to this one before because neither of us drive. The Costa in a motorway service station is no one’s local Costa, most people are alone and eating their dinner which is fine here.


You say,


“They would never put non chain shops in motorway service stations. Imagine the panic.”


I say,


“There was a psychological study that proved we buy branded products when we feel fear.”


You nod very ominously. I nod with you.


In my kitchen, we address it.


“We’ve met a few times before.”


“As worms, as clowns. One time I was a sex doll.”


“Was it love the whole time?”


“It was me and you meeting a lot.”


“It was real love sometimes though, and sometimes it was just me and you–”


“Meeting again.”


“I remember being all these things, I remember the whole life and who I was and what happened but, does memory make me, me? And does memory of the you in the life before make it love in the life we are living now?”


“But it keeps going anyway. It keeps happening; the meeting and the love.”


We meet each morning in bed. In our early thirties, we have two children. In our early sixties we have three grandchildren. We ride our tandem bike in the country roads of our retirement home by the sea; we keep active in our old age.


On my deathbed, in the hospice, we worry about the next life.


“I just want to be the same as you.”


“What if we don’t meet in the next life? I’m awful without you.”


I don’t meet you again until I am a cat. You cry into my fur when your mum hits you. I don’t know if you know it is me or not, it doesn’t really matter. I am the cat-me, you are the girl-child you. You are my favourite of all the children.







Annie Dobson

About Annie Dobson

Annie Dobson studies at Goldsmiths and is a member of the Writing Squad. She was recently published in Flight Journal.

Annie Dobson studies at Goldsmiths and is a member of the Writing Squad. She was recently published in Flight Journal.

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