I kind of hate being a twin.
It might seem strange to you, because of how fortunate am I to have had a partner in crime with whom I could swap classes, fool exasperated parents and trick unsuspecting teachers? I cannot even recall the countless web of lies and deception we were able to weave to narrowly escape from trouble. I can imagine you are wondering what could possibly be more exciting and offer more opportunity for adventure than having a Fred Weasley to your George, or a Zack to your Cody?
I’ve been a twin for almost two decades now, and I still think back to the glorious first three minutes of my life when I would’ve been my parents’ only child – just a blob of flesh, placenta and dried blood quivering at the new sensation of fresh air and freedom. I still consider those precious few minutes to be the most glorious of my existence, for all too soon I would be joined at the hip, (not literally, thank God) to a chubby baby with whom I’d share a face, parents, and the majority of my life. From then on, we were doomed to a childhood of matching outfits, identical mushroom haircuts and a lifetime of being called the wrong name. And then there was that time when right front teeth fell out at the same time, and left others wondering if they’d seen double of a pathetic looking, scurvy-afflicted child, with an insatiable desire for candy.
We spent literally every single second of our childhood together. It would be like having a ghost trail perpetually besides you, except the ghost would sometimes be chatty and sometimes moody, and your shin would bruise and sting when she kicked you. We had to share everything: meaning the friends I made never felt like they were really mine and all my worldly possessions had to be inked with my name in an emphatic black scrawl. But that never stopped her from reading my padlocked journals, which were mainly preoccupied with complaints against the evil lying in the bunk bed below mine, or redepositing the silver fortune from my pink piggy bank into her blue piggy bank with grubby little hands.
And so I spent my childhood engaged in warfare that mimicked the strains of world politics pre-1989. I “accidentally” threw a wooden cube at her head and with unexpectedly perfect aim, sending her to hospital with a gash on the centre of her forehead that bled scarlet like a melting bullseye. Relations got even rockier when she played a prank on me that pulled off a whole toenail, leaving my whole foot throbbing in agony. This all happened before we turned 10.
My parents were the reluctant diplomats whose constant reprimands and head-shaking were fundamental in their campaign for peace in a war-torn household. The most infuriating thing about their strategy, however, was that they would end every stern admonition with a sad shake of their heads, and all-knowingly tell our red, scrunched-up faces that we would some day miss each other.
What is even more infuriating, however, is time revealing that parents are almost always right.
I do miss her.
I miss her because last year she moved halfway across the globe to a new world, a new country, a new university- all without me. Before this, the longest time we’d gone without seeing each other was six days. Now it’s been six months and counting.
Obviously life changes – that is the one thing you can never change – and though things are different, they are somehow better. It’s as if the black shadow that kept me anchored down for all those years snapped off, and I was suddenly a hundred and fifty pounds lighter; no longer my sister’s twin but me. Just me. The reflection in the mirror belonged to me, and suddenly the number of times I had to correct someone who’d mistake me for someone who was no longer in the country decreased exponentially. My face was mine, and mine only. Ordinary was a sensational feeling. Loneliness is not. These were the truths I uncovered in the days and months after her departure, when I finally understood the reality of being alone.
But I would never go back.
When your sense of self becomes so embroiled in another’s, you lose all control. You suffer an identity crisis, because your identity no longer identifies you, but rather is a conflation of two personalities dismissed as one. I hated how difficult it was for others to discern the millions of differences between us, because it flooded me with a sense of insignificance. Here was this human attributed my history and my accomplishments and my face. I felt like no more than a clone of my sister – I was replaceable. And it meant I was redundant.
We were ten when we found ourselves in a new home with adjacent rooms separated by a piece of thin, hollow blue plasterboard. We communicated via a secret language we’d invented, which consisted of a series of knocks and bumps, set free in different rhythms. When the darkness kept us awake, we’d knock secret commands through the single wall that separated our knobbly knuckles, and take comfort in the resounding reverberations only we could hear.
I’d still knock to her if she could hear me. And she’d still be the only one who’d understand.
It’s not as difficult now to remind myself that being a twin is not the most interesting thing about me. As time passes, perhaps the sense of inadequacy that haunted me almost as dutifully as my twin did will fade, as we both realize that we are needed; if not by anyone else, then at least by each other. For though we may not be conjoined, it is an indisputable fact that there are parts of us that are inextricably conjoined, and will be for the rest of our natural lives.