I learned I was a twin when I was four years old. It was during my first visit to the home of someone outside our small circle of family. It was a place where no one knew the danger.
You see, up until then every home I visited had certain walls decorated with draped cloth. The cloths were so unimportant to my toddler mind I hardly gave them a second glance. Though I knew instinctively, or more probably, I knew from training early on, that the drapes were not to be touched.
But there they were, consistently, in every home I entered. Until I met a girl at a park.
Four is too young to be at a park alone, so I imagine an unwittingly friendly babysitter or careless cousin was at fault. Whoever they were agreed we should follow the girl home, to step foot into a house where no one knew about the drapes.
So it turned out, at the home of some random girl from the park, I first saw my own reflection. Somehow I knew it was mine, the same dark hair I saw curling around my chin, same teeth missing. Only, it wasn’t just mine because as soon as my eyes met the ones in the reflection everything changed.
That was nearly twenty years ago.
I describe the feeling of switching much like the revolving doors I used to see in old-school horror or spy movies. The character steps onto a certain tile or pulls a lever or says a phrase, and the wall shifts around and turns into another room. It is quite the same, only my secret room is my prison and my sentence is unknown.
We both learned early on to avoid anything that produced a reflection like people learn to avoid staring at the sun –we sense that it is there but, since what happens when I look at my reflection is worse than going blind from the sun well, we both avoid it at all costs.
We learned that time on the outside would last for as long as we could outrun a particular body of water or pane of glass. To everyone on the outside, to my parents and my friends, there is no disruption in the realms of existence. The Earth moves on like nothing happened. My family knows, though, can tell in an instant when it is me or when it is her. It’s easy to read preferences from their expressions after one of us slips up and the switch occurs.
It should all be mine, every single morsel of time. I was the one they chose on the birthing table after the curse landed on our family. It was me they decided to save. But then they met her because of some stupid girl in the park who was ignorant of drapes and left reflections on nearly every surface. A vain girl with vain parents who needed a mirror right when they walked into their home, they were the reason it was all taken away.
Once they met her, they “loved us both” and the word share took on new meaning.
The longest I have waited in the prison behind the glass was a year. “A year” was my family’s mercy, their one rule. If it hit a year without a switch, my parents would force us to stand in front of a full length mirror to trigger it. It was the only way, they said, to let us both live.
But what type of life is this where I enter into it over and over to see someone burn down every decision, every long term plan I’ve made? What type of life is this where my own body is used without my consent? A reflective food tray in the hospital once triggered the switch after she decided to undergo cosmetic surgery. A sequin bikini once led me into a hot tub with three naked women and one happy man.
And what have I lost? Countless moments that mattered cut short because unknown reflective surfaces.
This is no life to lead. I am twenty-five years old but only experienced fifteen of them. The girl in the glass will continue to leech my years, stunt my life.
I learned I was a twin when I was four years old. Now I have a job offer in my inbox and a marriage proposal impending and I’ve decided, it’s time to kill her.
I am standing in front of the first drape I ever saw. It’s the heavy velvet one in our living room, a dark slate gray that complimented our burgundy rug.
There is this moment during the switch, a mere second where the mirror is empty. I caught it two switches ago. Then I thought about it for the entire three months I waited for her to catch her reflection. I am better at it than she is, I can, and do, usually go the full year. She has lost her free pass to the world mere days after she has stolen it from me. I am usually the one in control, rightfully so but still, the thought is enough to make me reconsider my plan. To maybe…not murder my sister.
No. I deserve all my days and the plan already in place.
I formed a theory that in that moment the mirror is empty, whichever of us in transit is vulnerable. During this time, I still remain in my body to see and process that the mirror is empty so, maybe, she wouldn’t have a place to settle. Maybe if I destroy the mirror in that moment, I will destroy her along with it.
The crowbar is cold against my palm. I reach down to lift the corner of the drape, pulling it slowly up my reflection forms first in the shape of my jeans, the belt around my waist, the t-shirt along my stomach and up my torso. I pause at the neck, adjusting the weight of the drape more securely in my fist. I lift the crowbar up and poised to strike. The reflection’s chin appears, the mouth turned to show my own determination.
My breath had caught somewhere along the way. I settle my nerves with a deep breath before moving the drape one last centimeter. Our eyes meet, I still dictate the reflection and I see my own resolve tighten the skin around the edges of my stare. I wait, the seconds stretching to minutes as I focus on the flickering reflection in the mirror. Then, she is gone and I strike the crowbar down.
There’s a moment when time comes tumbling to life again, speeding up as I step back. The crashing glass is quieter than I thought it’d be, softer than even the crowbar hitting the wood floor and…if I had known those would be my last thoughts outside of my prison, I may had thought of something more important. Because in the next minute I am staring through cracked glass at a slate gray drape, counting the time as passed again.