By Paul McGuire © 2008
She looked like she had been living in Europe for a while. Eight months? Nine? Almost a year? She dressed like a European with elaborate French scarves and an Italian purse, but all her mannerisms gave off strong vibrations that she was an American.
Duncan knew her for about a week. He met her outside a church in Barcelona when he was sort of lost and unsuccessfully trying to read a shitty tourist map that he picked up at the airport that did not label the dozens of smaller ever-winding pedestrian streets. She offered her help and he quickly accepted. Her sharp Midwest accent gave her away.
They hung out for three nights in a row during Duncan's short vacation in Spain. They would meet for a late dinner and walk around El Born hanging out at the various small bars or sometimes just sitting outside in one of the plazas. The conversations drifted back and forth between their times traveling in Europe and occasionally dug deep into their pasts.
"Io? So you were named after one of Jupiter's moons?" asked Duncan as he sipped a beer.
"Perceptive of you," said Io. "Most people have no idea. Not a clue."
"I know a bit about moons. When I lived in Portland, there was a poster on the back of the bathroom door that listed all the different planets and their moons. If I didn't have anything to read when I took a dump, I'd read the map. I got a crash course in astronomy."
"That's sort of disgusting and disturbing."
"Sorry about that."
"Don't worry. You know what's really disgusting and disturbing? The names of my brother and my sisters."
"What do you mean? No fuckin' way... Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto? You're bullshitting me."
"No. I'm serious."
Io showed her passport to Duncan which confirmed that her name was indeed Io. She handed me Duncan her phone. He looked at few different entries... Ro, Gany, and Cal.
"What's that bullshit?"
"The names of my brother and sisters."
"Ro Gany Cal? What are you guys a hip hop group from the 1990s?"
"You didn't believe me. There's proof. Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede. And here's the shocker. My mother? Her name is Jupiter."
"Makes sense. She's the center of the universe and her children revolve around her.
"You have no idea."
"So do you get along with them?"
"Sort of. But not really. My father was fighting cancer ever since I can remember. He was constantly in and out of hospitals and always recovering from a surgery. We always struggled for money which was made worse by my alcoholic mother. For a while, Cal was the rock in the family. He really kept it together until his life completely unraveled. He had a chance to be a major league baseball player but that never materialized."
"Cal was a ball player? Was he any good?"
"Cal was the best athlete in our school. His problem was that he couldn't throw a curve ball."
"Fidel Castro couldn't throw one and ended up overthrowing Cuba and ruling it his way."
"Well, Cal also had a weakness for the wrong women. He met a girl in college that was his downfall. She was pushing him towards a life outside of a career in sports. In all fairness, Cal had a very slim chance at a career in baseball. At best he could squeak out a feeble existence for a few years in the minors and hope to get lucky. But Cal never had a chance. After one season of winter ball in the Dominican Republic, he walked away from baseball. He was miserable down there. His Spanish was bad. He caught a nasty parasite and his girlfriend constantly begged him to come home. He was doomed. He quit the game and tried the real estate business. His girlfriend's father was big into real estate and set him up with a job. But that never worked out. He spent more time at working buying and selling sports memorabilia over the internet. When he figured out he could make three times as much money on the trade show circuit, Cal quit his job."
"And I'm guessing it didn't turn out too good?"
"Not at all. His girlfriend broke up with him. He had a bum arm so he constantly got prescriptions from his doctors. He started abusing those heavily and got super addicted. Pills let to heroin and he blew all his money on junk. Then he got involved in a fake memorabilia scam involving autographed baseballs from Hank Williams."
"You mean Ted Williams? The greatest hitter of all time?"
"Yeah, Ted Williams. Didn't I say that?"
"Actually you said Hank Williams. But it doesn't matter. I get it. Cal was a guy who had big dreams but those dreams never panned out because he let a chick get in his way. The tragic result was a morbid addiction to drugs as he tried to run the ol' Ted Williams faux autograph grift."
"Yeah. Now he just got out of jail and is living in a halfway house in Tuscon. I think he's working in Starbucks and studying to become a plumber."
"And tell me about your sisters."
"I have two sisters. My twin sister is named Ro, but Gany is the non-twin."
"Wow, you're a twin?"
She shook her head and sighed.
"Gany, the non-twin, was the oldest and always struggled to find herself. Her true self. In many ways, we're constantly on that journey but Gany took it to heart more so than the average person. She went through different phases. When she strayed towards religion it didn't shock her friends. In the previous year alone, she attempted and stopped veganism, lesbianism, and Hinduism. When she gave Christianity a twirl after 9.11, everyone thought she'd get bored with it in a few months like she had done in high school with the clarinet or the debate team, or during college when she was really into swing dancing, Dave Matthews Band, and yoga classes."
"Swing dancing and Dave Matthews?"
"Yeah, it was the late 1990s. Anyway, she got really involved with the church. She married a preacher's son and moved to Colorado. They weren't in some runaway cult or some sort of ultra-right wing religious right zealots. There church was Lutheran based but with one twist. Their community was bracing for the Armageddon. They dispatched to small mountain towns in Colorado and in parts of Idaho and Canada preparing for the worst. Their goal is to ride out whatever apocalyptic storms come their way. And when it's over they will spread God's word to the people left behind. Gany thinks she is one of the chosen ones given the task to repopulate the earth and start over from scratch. God's chosen ones. Gany was chosen. And once she was chosen, no one ever saw her again."
"So why do you have her cell phone?"
"Oh that's not the cell phone, that's the church's number. If you call that, they will know how to get in touch with her. She used to send me these long letters explaining her thoughts on politics and government were eventually leading up to a massive world war that will trigger some sort of nuclear explosions and people will die and if they don't then the government will release some sort of virus that will kill off 90% of the population. She had these absurd ideals of current political situations all over the world. She tried to convince everyone in the family to move to Colorado because that would be the only safe zone."
"What's in the tap water in there?"
"That's it. She doesn't drink the public water system."
"Real mountain streams. Living off the land. Nothing wrong with that. She believes in something and she feels as those she's preparing the world for goodness even though she is in completely whacked out Waco cult up in the mountains somewhere waiting for WW3 to begin. But her intentions are noble. That's far more admirable that the guy running the rat race trying to make money so he can buy more stuff and breed consumers that will sit around and buy more stuff. You should admire that trait in your sister."
"I do, in a way. I always wondered what she would do when she snapped out of this phase. But it seems to have taken hold. She was an eloquent writer. Probably the most talented person in the family when it came to being able to express yourself. That's why it seemed so odd that she was the most open thinking out of all of us and felt as though God chose her to fulfill his word at some time in the future. Her outlook is bleak but feels that she's going to be the light amidst the darkness."
"OK, so your older sister is a Jesus Freak living up in Colorado prepping for the apocalypse. Your older brother is a washed up ball player con artist. I'm dying to know about your twin. Tell me about Europa."
"Europa? We call her Ro. My twin. The ying to my yang. She's the actress. She always wanted the center of attention. I think it comes from being an identical twin. She always needed to be more noticeable than an exact replica of me. And my mother is the most theatrical person you will ever meet. She's the most energy sucking person on the planet. It was as though. She and Ro were constantly fighting for everyone's attention, especially when my father was the sickest. It drove my father insane. No wonder he wanted to die. And it turned my mother into the stage mother from hell."
"She moved my sister to L.A. the summer before our senior year in high school and we really couldn't afford it. I got stuck in Wisconsin at home with my sick father when Ro got to live the great life in California."
"So is she famous or something?"
"She struggled for a long time and only booked one cereal commercial in three years. My mom had her audition for everything around town. Then she ended finally caught a break and ended up on a reality show."
"Which one? Maybe I've seen it."
"You probably never saw it before. It was called Good Girls Bad Boys."
"Oh my God! That's why you look so fuckin' familiar. Your sister is Ro Hume from Good Girls Bad Boys? Holy shit. Your hair is shorter and a different color but holy shit."
Io rolled her eyes and finished off the rest of her beer. She waved at the bartender but he ignored her.
"Sometimes the service is so slow in Europe," Io said hoping to change the topic.
"Oh my God. She was my favorite character on that show. I can't believe she slept with three of those biker dudes. Wait a minute, didn't I see her on TMZ before I left for my trip? Isn't she going out with that guy from the Real World? The paraplegic Republican?"
Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.