Barbarella
  • Barbarella

Sanity calms, but madness is more interesting.

-- John Russell

O vercome by hormonal surges, most pregnant women are a little crazy. My sister Jane, who was a bit off in the head before she got knocked up for the second time, surpassed crazy before the end of her first trimester. Now, after seven months of playing incubator, she's a paranoid schizophrenic. The true depth of her insanity would have gone unnoticed had it not been for our mother's car accident. After the accident, Jane and Heather joined Mom in her hospital room and eyed the fresh frozen plasma as it made its way through the transparent tubes and into Mom's bloodstream. "I wonder if this plasma is dependent on blood type," mused Jane.

"Well, I know that I'm B positive," Heather said. Mom, still lucid prior to the morphine drip, said she too was B positive.

"I'm definitely type A," said Jane.

"No, you're not," said Mom.

"Yes, I am . I know I am, because while I was in the hospital during Bella's delivery, the nurse told me I was."

Among the women in my family, scientific arguments are often based on nothing more than thin wisps of speculative evidence; victory is awarded to she who displays the most conviction. Jane's "evidence" was irrefutable. But Mom played her trump card. "That's impossible. You can't be A, because Dad is B negative," she said. Mom thought this bit of information would bring the argument to an end, but Jane was stubborn and insisted that the nurse wouldn't lie. While Mom, in a futile expenditure of energy, tried to persuade Jane, Heather called her husband. Sean is our scientific authority, our go-to man when it comes to questions regarding quantum physics or, more likely, matters involving the human body.

The verdict was in. Heather smiled, ended the call, and announced the resolution according to Sean: "If Cliff and Maria are both type B, it is impossible for them to have a child that is type A." Heather added that it was probably Jane's personality type the nurse had been referring to. Whether or not it's hereditary, my parents, who are both classic type-A personalities, spawned four aggressive and controlling go-getters, each of whom developed her own methods of getting what she wants.

Faced with this undeniable evidence, any sane person would have let the matter drop, so Mom and Heather were not at all surprised when Jane announced what, to her, was the logical conclusion: if it was impossible for Mom and Dad to have a child with type-A blood, then she must not be their biological child.

News of Jane's revelation spread fast. Despite the ridicule she endured, and regardless of how striking and immense the proof was to the contrary, Jane was convinced a conspiracy had been perpetrated. On an excursion to Target to find a Hello Kitty radio for Bella, I tried logic. "Mom was a kid when she had you," I said. "Dad hadn't even joined the Navy yet. Why would two kids from Brooklyn want to adopt ? Where would they find the money? Dad worked three jobs."

Jane's neuroses had already conquered this objection. "I don't think I was adopted," she laughed. "And I know that Mom wasn't with anyone else. Think about it. The hospitals weren't so strict back then. Accidents happened. I was switched."

I tried another tactic. "Jane, if there was a computer composite that blended Mom and Dad's faces together, it would look just like you."

"Maybe. But I look just like a lot of other people, too," she said.

"I've been approached in public by strangers who asked if I had a sister named Jane. I can't tell between my own voice and yours on a recording!" Her certitude over something so obviously false was frustrating.

"Here's one." Jane had found the pink radio for her daughter. The subject of our sisterhood was forgotten until later when, in a moment of clarity over a cup of coffee, Jane said, "I have my seven-month check-up this week. I'll ask the nurse to confirm my blood type."

The alleged discrepancy in blood type was a point of amusement for the rest of the family. Perhaps only Jenny -- the single fair-haired, green-eyed one in the bunch -- understood the depth of Jane's torment. For years, Jenny's peers (and sisters) taunted her; jibes often included the word "milkman." As the four of us grew, however, so did the similarities of our features. We now all boast the same prominent cheekbones, small upturned noses, toothy smiles, and crooked pinkies.

Jane's memory isn't faring much better than her sanity lately. As she drove home from her check-up, she called me to pass the time. Her manner was light and carefree, so I assumed she'd learned her real blood type and dropped the silly notion of being switched at birth. I asked, "So, what type are you? O? B?"

Jane answered with a gasp. "I forgot! I can't believe I forgot to ask! Maybe if I call right now--"

Jane disconnected the call before finishing her sentence. A few minutes later, she called back. "Okay, I got a hold of the nurse and she said she'd have to check my file for my blood type. I told her it's very important that she call me right back because my family is arguing about whether or not I'm related to them." I refrained from suggesting that she was the only person debating the matter. "She laughed, but I told her I was serious and that she really needs to call me as soon as-- Oh! That's my other line, I'll call you right back."

I sat waiting for her call and marveled at what I hoped was my sister's temporary ability to suspend all reason and embrace the preposterous. Stranger things have happened, I thought. Stories of freak accidents are always making their way onto talk shows, news reports, and magazines at the checkout counter. If the nurse tells her that it is impossible for her to be my mother and father's offspring, no amount of exposition or elocution about how alike we are could reassemble her shattered identity. What if ?

My phone rang. "Yo," I answered.

"Yo," said Jane. I could tell by the tone of her "yo" that she was all business. "Okay. She called me back. I know what blood type I am."

"And?"

"Well... I'm B positive," she sighed. Then she added, "We're related!" as if she were the first person to realize that the light goes out when you close the refrigerator door.

"Yeah, you dork, I know," I said. Jane hurried off the phone again, this time to call Mom and tell her that she is, in fact, her daughter.

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