Being a Twin
"Broken Yellow Highway Lines"
I lay flat on my stomach, staring into the growling teeth of the vent beneath the bottom step. She had followed me to the base of the stairs, resting herself against my back. No one truly understands how it feels to have someone fit against the curve of your spine like they were intended to be a part of your body until they were peeled away from you like skin from an orange. It is a kind of knowledge only gained from sharing a room until you are born. This was always how I explored the house in my young, soft days; as creatures that roll on the ground. And never alone.
She wasn’t scared of anything when we were young. She would climb into my bed and hiss at the nightmares that were clambering up over the quilt with their long yellow nails and teeth and that oh, so terrifying monster Falling. She used to smile at me while we sat side by side on that obnoxiously loud paper used in doctor's offices, barely squeezing my hand when nurses plunged needles into that soft, fleshy bit of arm they know exactly how to find. I usually cried. But even my tears failed to phase her. She blew each salty tear gently into my cheeks, making them feel juicy and full and much better than if I had let them fall. ‘You don't need to cry’ she would explain.
Eighteen years we spent like this. Hidden in the secret staircase, even when it became cramped and full of awkward, angled limbs, pinkies linked under dinner tables, screaming songs out the car windows, not trained but somehow always in tune with each other. We loved others, but it was never the same. And as we grew up she always fit herself into the empty space at my back and blew my tears away when I wept.
How to explain this closeness but to feel it? How to explain the perfect fitting of palm against palm, every finger finding its resting place between each finger? How to explain that each of your atoms call to hers, never complete unless you are together? How to explain how you were engineered in tandem, like two pieces of a structure designed to fit together into one, cohesive whole? And how to explain that strange, unfamiliar sense of emptiness once you are apart? 93 kilometres separated us. 58 miles. It felt as though a chaotic, corrosive mixture of stars, dark matter, and broken yellow highway lines had been poured into that empty space at my back. That distance felt like the sound headphones make when you plug them in but no music is playing. For 18 years I could close my eyes, reach out and find her. But when I tried to listen for her through those 93 kilometres, instead of the usual buffet of inside jokes, jumbled song lyrics and her soothing calm, there was only static. It was like walking off a step I didn’t see. My mind lurched forward and landed on the cold pavement, scraping its knees. I couldn’t see her voice. I couldn’t hear her smile.
This new emptiness persisted. It remained like the pain of a toothache, easily ignored until you are alone at night. Her voice echoed on the phone and she wasn’t there to blow away my tears and I tried to speak in voices that sounded happy but she knew I was crying. I told myself to be brave. She told me she’d visit soon. I told the emptiness it wasn’t there. I laid on the floor so my back would be less lonely.
Of course, over time and little by little, she saved me. She made me remember that there was a reason for the stars and highway lines between us. She helped me swim through that muted quiet, and become friends with the static in my headphones. She found clever ways to leave little bits of herself with me when she had to leave. My hands learned to feel less useless without their counterpart to hold. I figured out the trick of whispering my own tears away in the mirror when they came and I managed to rest the curve of my spine against the cool brick of my dorm wall. It was enough. But it was not the same. And I know now that it will never be the same as when we shared that room before we were born.
Being a twin is one of the most unique and inspiring experiences that very few people get to fully understand. A lot of my creativity is inspired by being a twin and my twin sister, as I love to explore my identity as half of a whole. This first piece, “Broken Yellow Highway Lines”, is about the experience of leaving her for the first time in September of 2018 to go to universities 58 miles apart.