Addie & Emma at Christmas

Twins: An Excerpt

Singular life is what other people possess, and I belonged, only ostensibly, to their club, the life I’ve lived a charade. I could only flirt with the idea. In truth, an interspecies all our own, we’re not tied to any particular habitat or climate zone, and as a result, I’ve come across very few others like me—other identical twins, and the distinction between identical and fraternal is a critical one—but I’ve scoured the library of our literature, I’ve studied us, I’ve taken notes, I’ve drawn conclusions. We’re an uncontained primitive tribe; scholars in every field seek us out for research and evaluation: they would like nothing more than to confine us, live amongst us, observe us, transcribe what we say, examine us under great magnification, run their hands through our hair, slide our cells under a microscope, and exploit us to advance their scholarship in every imaginable discipline, including but not limited to linguistics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, genetics, and medicine.

Anecdotal stories reliably follow the same script: identical twins that look the same, act the same, talk the same, only too content to co-exist, playing and living together, regurgitating that classic twin fantasy of marrying a set of themselves in the opposite chromosome, their every dream actualized with a double wedding, sequelled with—the icing on the proverbial cake—fourway co-habitation, some perverse mutation of a phantom conjoined couple. We inherit more, Emma, not less, my genomic brothers and sisters would explain, demonstrating as much with their physical display of linked arms, touched foreheads, why resist, their gesture seems to be asking, why deny yourself every twin-sisterly delight. But it’ll require more than a pantomimed smile and a mirrored pose to convert me. Line them up in front of me, as far out as the eye can see, and they’d still never be able to convince me. I’d just resolutely walk away from them—every last pair—and hold on to my remonstrance of hostile frustration—an expression my sister doesn’t wear.

At seventeen and a high school graduate, I abandoned that two-story, red brick, white-walled house I consider my childhood home (our third house), turning my back on the wall-mounted ten by thirteen of us, where we posed shoulder to shoulder in studio make-up and matching denim vests. I forced a smile, and slammed shut the cabinet door to our towering stacks of photo albums overlaid with pictures of the happy couple everyone thought we were. I bid farewell to every friend of mine that was a friend of hers, from kindergarten through senior year, every teacher that taught us separately or together, every soft-spoken accomplice afraid to say our names and get them both wrong, and our parents who’d long ago said their own goodbyes to each other: the time had come to break up with my sister and court myself.


Book categories: Anthologies