They say that everyone has a twin somewhere in the world. And you always see bad made-for-TV movies about these unsuspecting doppelgangers, where one is some movie star, CEO, or just plain rich person and the other is a real loser and ends up impersonating the other twin and totally screwing up the poor schmuck’s life. I actually thought I was safe. That no one in the universe could possibly look like me. Wrong.
I met the bitch at a Little People of America Conference in St. Louis. I know what you’re thinking. How cute. Admit it. You’re picturing the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz with those annoying voices toddling around a hotel wrecking havoc. Well … you’re right. And since I was in denial about being a little person for the first twenty-five years of my life, it blew my mind to see a thousand people I could actually look in the eye instead of the crotch (though that does have its advantages … Sorry.) Anyways, the conference was held in one of those huge Marriott’s and the staff was so freaked out, they bent over backwards to make us comfortable–to the point of annoyance. There were makeshift steps leading up to the super-tall front desk, which gave me horrible vertigo; I ended up dropping one of my crutches and beaning some unsuspecting little person. Boxes rested in front of water fountains, near the toilets, urinals … anywhere that might cause a reach problem. This was great, but it might have been more helpful if the staff “adapted” their prejudices.
A friend and I were transported by a hotel van to the snitzy downtown area for dinner, and the driver gave us explicit instructions to call the hotel when we wanted to come back. After dinner, we asked some average-sized person to put the money in the phone and dial (this was before phones were accessible).
“Hello. We’re guests at the hotel and we were wondering if you could send a van to the corner of X and Y for us?”
“It’ll be a while. We’re busy with the midgets.”
“We are the midgets!”
Can you imagine? Oh, by the way: the word “midget” is a slur to little people. It has that side-show circus connotation for us, so don’t say it. Dwarf is O.K. Admit it: you’re picturing Dopey, Sneezy and Drunky, right? Anyway, do you want to hear about my evil twin already? Well, at every Little People’s Conference, there’s a talent show which actually reminds me more of the Gong Show. There are few honestly talented people, but the rest end up lip synching to “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” or “Simply Irresistible.”
Since I was new to the organization, I didn’t realize this and signed up. I did a dramatic reading of a very funny Anne Sexton poem entitled “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Well, unfortunately most of the audience had never read a poem before, let alone seen one performed and I was practically booed off the stage.
The next morning on my way to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, I hear this “pssst! pssst!” I looked over and there was this little woman leaning against a mirrored wall.
(Holding out hand) “Hi! I’m Tekki. What’s…
(Dramatically puffing on a cigarette) I have gotten so many
compliments on your act last night … I just say, “Thank you.”
I took a good look at her. She did look like me, in a scary, cartoonish way, like those caricature drawings with big heads that artists do of you in restaurants. She was exactly my height. Her features were bigger, exaggerated. I was sad to note her boobs were bigger. By the way, I have the smallest boobs of any little person you’ll ever meet. Everyone else’s are huge, even the guys. Well, they do say when God closes a door, He opens a window. I’m still looking for my window. Anyways, I was elated to note that Debbie also had a much bigger butt.
We ended up spending the entire day together in the hotel bar sipping blue drinks with umbrellas and somewhere between slurred stories, I must have invited her to visit me in Chicago. Since she lived in Florida, I thought I’d never see her. One Saturday in August, my bell rang. I flicked on the closed-circuit TV in the vestibule and didn’t see anyone. Ring. Ring. I looked again and noticed the top of her head. (Two curls ironically stood up like horns.) I was about to embark on my own journey into hell.
I planned the perfect evening with my gay friend, Matthew, and his cute brother, Andrew, who wasn’t quite sure which way he wanted to go. We took a taxi to my favorite restaurant, Jerome’s, where we dined on the romantic veranda. Debbie ended up polishing off an entire bottle of red wine, and her teeth and gums were red like some dwarf vampire as we pushed her into a taxi. She stood behind the driver and caressed his perfectly bald black head:
“Oooo I love your head … Can we get together later?”
I pulled her back onto the seat, imagining this love-crazed taxi driver stalking me down the streets of Chicago, thinking I’m her.
My next level of hell was a club called The Orbit Room, Matthew’s and my favorite haunt, a cross between the Jetsons and the Flintstones. It was leveled years ago; in its place stood a strip mall. Only the good die young. Matthew and I immediately rushed to the dance floor. (Tekki dances.) I looked over and spotted Andrew in a cushy red booth with this horrified look on his face, Debbie wrapped around his neck like one of those horrible fox stoles with the heads still attached. I ran to the rescue.
“Debbie, come to the washroom with me.”
Big mistake. The washroom was on the other side of the club and we either had to make our way across the dance floor like mice in a maze of clomping, gyrating giants or tightrope along the edge. We chose the latter. Big mistake number two. The dance floor was lined with young men, with very tanned legs, in shorts; they were like bronze gods. And Debbie paid homage to each one. To this day, guys still come up to me…
“I love how you touched me at the Orbit Room.”
In the washroom Debbie insisted on wearing my lipstick and asked the other women the following:
“Don’t we look alike? Who do you think is prettier?”
Back at the red cushy booth, Andrew had beat a hasty retreat and Matthew was entertaining a couple of our lesbian friends. Debbie chained smoked in a corner.
“I hate this music. Let’s go somewhere else.”
It was the mid-eighties, and industrial music was big. The most industrial Debbie had ever gotten was whistling at construction workers. One of my girlfriends winked at me.
“Let’s take her to Paris …”
Not the city, but the glitziest lesbian dance club in Chicago. When we got there, Debbie heard “Proud Mary” playing from the parking lot and dashed in ahead of us burning everyone’s jeans with her cigarette.
“I love this song. Let’s dance.”
I leapt onto the mirrored dance floor with her. (Tekki dances.) The music segued into “Color my World.” The lights dimmed and everyone around us coupled close. I looked at Debbie. I imagined her huge breasts touching mine, somehow completing me. Well, while in Rome … I mean, Paris … I pulled her close (I mean, friends slow dance all the time at the Little People Conventions.) She complied, but something went wrong; she looked up and noticed that all the couples were women. She pulled away and slugged me.
I flew across the dance floor, crashing into one of the mirrored walls, shattering it, unconscious. While Matthew kneeled at my side–sobbing, thinking I was dead, two big bouncers picked up Debbie and threw her outside to wait for the police. I was whisked to Thorek Hospital while Debbie was handcuffed and taken to the police station at the corner of Addison and Halsted–my next level of hell.
You see, they booked Debbie under my name because I had given her my driver’s license, money, compact and lipstick to keep in her purse so I could dance unencumbered. Big mistake. For her one phone call, she disguised her voice and called my parents in the burbs. So at three in the morning, my father, fueled with rage, sped into the city and bailed her out. Debbie thought his black Lincoln Continental was a limousine and got in back. Since he could only see her in the slit of the rear view mirror, he was convinced she was me and swore at her all the way to the suburbs, where he planned on punishing me by holding me hostage for the rest of the weekend. Debbie took my Stair-Glide elevator (like the one on that show “The Farmer’s Daughter”) up to my slumber-party bedroom which had been enshrined by my parents since I moved–and smoked it up with her damn cigarettes. At 6 a.m. she used my blue princess phone to call a taxi, paid for the ride to the city with my $40 and used my keys to get into my apartment.
And when Matthew brought me home, I found her in my red silk robe, drinking a Bloody Mary made from my Absolut vodka … and said:
“Where the hell have you been? I’ve been worried sick.”
She blew out of there later that afternoon. Of course I had to drive her to the airport. I had to go to court, and I had to do her community service, picking up trash after the Taste of Chicago.
But don’t worry. I paid her back when I visited her in Florida–at her wedding.
Tekki Lomnicki is the Artistic Director of Tellin’ Tales Theatre, a company whose mission is to shatter barriers between the disabled and able-bodied worlds. She has been a featured storyteller at “This Much is True” and “Story Club South Side” and does solo performance around Chicago. Check out video clips of her solo pieces at Tekkilomnicki.com. Unfortunately her Evil Twin passed away in 2009, but she continues to haunt her.