It’s not easy having a twin. Someone who looks like you, thinks like you. Someone who can get inside your head, sticky little fingers poking around even though you ask her nicely to stop.
Jean and I are identical but there’s something different about Jean. Jean is quiet. She doesn’t like to talk to other people. She only talks to me — talks with her eyes, with her mind. I want to talk to other people but Jean won’t let me.
When we were younger everyone thought it was cute. Mommy and Daddy smiled at us in our matching dresses, holding hands like tiny porcelain dolls, sweet and inseparable. But it’s only cute when you’re little. Get a bit older, keep wearing the matching dresses and holding hands, well — people can’t help but think of those girls from “The Shining”.
Jean likes the matching dresses. I don’t.
They tried to assimilate us, thought that maybe separating us in school would be a good idea. I could tell from the screams ripping through my skull that it wasn’t, but it still took the first week of third grade for the counselors to retrieve us from our different classrooms and send us home to Mommy. Jean had just stopped, stopped everything — eating, drinking, almost blinking — in a form of catatonic protest. She made me do the same.
I liked my new class. I wanted to make new friends. Jean had been furious when the teacher led her down the hall away from me, but that was nothing compared to when she looked inside and saw my blossoming hope to become my own person, someone Jean couldn’t touch. In my head she screamed and cried and threw tantrums and gripped my throat with her sticky invisible fingers until I gave in and stopped eating too.
It’s like being in an echo chamber with your own voice shrieking at you. You know it’s not you and yet somehow, it is. It’s maddening.
You’re supposed to love your sister. Aren’t you? When I search my heart for that feeling I always come up empty, and yet there’s still that phantom cord running between the two of us, a kind of passageway from my mind to hers like the tunnels that ran under ancient asylums.
I grew up learning not to fight. Jean’s the stronger twin, she always has been.
When we were 13 we began to bleed on the same day, at the same time.
In her own sick way, Jean tried to be a friend to me. After all, we were all we had. Mommy and Daddy became leery of us, unnerved by our silence and constant staring eyes. I didn’t blame them. But Jean didn’t understand. As far as she was concerned it was us against the world.
We might’ve been okay except that last week, we turned 17. I heard Mommy whispering furtively to Daddy about “facilities” and “better places”. Somewhere to send us away. I buried this new knowledge in my head but Jean found it, she always does, digging away with her grubby little fingers in the soft parts of my mind.
She took my hand in hers and lead me to the kitchen. She got the jug of milk out of the fridge and set it neatly on the counter. She looked at me and demanded, silently, that I fetch the rat poison from beneath the sink.
For the first time in a long time, I told Jean ‘no’.
Get the rat poison from beneath the sink.
We stared each other down, one girl as a mirror image standing silently in the kitchen’s sunny afternoon light.
She didn’t move but I felt her grip tighten around my throat, shutting off my flow of air, bullying me once again into doing what she wanted, always what she wanted!
And I found suddenly, miraculously, that I could do it too.
My phantom fingers closed around her neck and I saw her eyes go wide, eyes that could’ve been my eyes, eyes that were never scared unless it was my own reflection but it wasn’t now — Jeanwas scared.
She let go of me then. She stared, unblinking, unbelieving. Her mind, too, was silent.
She took the milk and put it away, an expression less of defeat and more of someone who’s decided they didn’t want milk after all.
Jean stayed quiet for a long time. I felt her fingers probing at me, gentle now that they knew what I was capable of, but I began shooing them away like flies on warm food.
Yesterday, she came to me in our bedroom and sat on her bed. She waited a moment, as though she understood the gravity of the situation very well indeed, as though she were an aging businessman with the orders to lay me off and not my teenage twin sister.
Jean struck me a deal.
We could either exist fully together, or fully apart. There was no room for middle ground. We were one, or there would only be one left.
I can’t be silent for my whole life. I want to cry out to my parents that I’m still here, I’m all right, I don’t need to go away and I love them very much, even though Jean’s never let me say so.
And so here we are, twin girls in twin hospital beds, our fevers rising, organs shutting down. The doctors are baffled. They’re running test after test but no one knows what’s wrong… except us.
I’ve managed to keep her out of my head by entertaining myself on the Internet, but I can feel her struggling for the upper hand. If she gets it, well… this is the last you’ll hear from me.
I’m going to see if I can stop her kidneys now.
I hope my sister dies soon.