First published Feb 17, 2015
As a small child and well into adulthood, I felt a part of me was missing. It was as if my soul existed both within me and without me, and I had no agency over the part outside myself.
I could not explain this sensation in any way that would allow another human to understand. To others, I seemed strange. My feelings were often bizarrely incongruent. For example, sometimes, when things were going badly, when I was hurt or deeply disappointed, when my heart was broken and by all rights I should be crying, I’d be filled with a strange sense of satisfaction or happiness.
The day my father died, I was weeping and mourning with my family, feeling all the pain any adult child might feel at the loss of a beloved parent. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of joy and peace. I stopped crying and sat wordless, smiling beatifically. In an instant, I no longer felt like grieving.
By then, people were used to my strange moods. They shook their heads and reminded each other in whispers that I’d always been odd.
Sometimes, too, in the middle of a happy time, when it seemed everything was going my way, I would be stricken by a sadness that sucked all the joy out of me. On my wedding day, I could not stop crying. I loved my husband. He was the right man for me. I was thrilled to be marrying him. I had no doubts. And yet, I was filled with inexplicable sadness. They made no sense, not even to me.
Eventually, my husband and I moved to the city. One day, a friend became angry at me because she said I had snubbed her in public. I had no such recollection. “You looked right at me, smiled back at me, and kept walking.”
Then it happened again. And again.
Sometime, strangers would approach me, greeting me familiarly, calling me by a different name. When I denied I was who they thought I was, most did not believe me. Some thought I was joking or playing a game. One or two became angry or insulted.
I began to seriously question my sanity. I was used to my unexpected emotions but I would never ignore my friends. I was not rude. I worried that the issues which had plagued me all my life were now progressing into a serious mental disorder. Was I losing touch with reality? Was I losing hours without knowing it? Was I losing my ability to recognize familiar people?
I did not share my fears with my husband so as not to worry him.
It went like that for perhaps a year.
Then, one day, I was in a café, reading a newspaper, having a my lunch. Out of the corner of my eye, I perceived what I believed, in that first tenth of a second, was my own reflection. In the next tenth of a second, I realized this was not so. We were not moving in tandem. We were not dressed alike.
I looked again, this time, more carefully. She hadn’t noticed me yet.
I could not stop myself from staring. Finally, I stood up and walked over to her table, and sat down in front of her. She picked her face up from her book, first in annoyance at being disturbed, and then, her jaw dropped in incredulity.
We were not merely two people who looked similar. We were identical. Even to a mole on high on our right cheek.
We sat there for what felt like a long time, just staring at each other. She too, had had a lifetime of disconsonant emotion. Her recent encounters with strangers and the upset of friends at having been snubbed had also made her question her sanity.
But now, the logic was beginning to dawn.
“Birthday?” I asked. Just one word. She immediately understood the importance.
It was the same as mine.
When we were little more than a cluster of cells, we split in two. “I” became “we” inside our mother’s womb. There, we shared one soul. When our forms became more distinct, our soul also split in two. One soul, one set of DNA, two separate people.
We came into the world minutes apart, and clung to each other in our first hours. Others saw us as two, but we still felt as one.
Our mother was sick and poor and alone, not able to care for us. And so we were given away to those who could. No one would take us both. Those with the power over our lives decided it was best for us each to have a loving home, rather than to remain together in an orphanage. Cleaved yet again, both from mother and each other.
We were too young to remember any of this. Even our adoptive parents did not know we were twins.
That was the first time in our lives we both felt whole and that our feelings made sense.
We each had places to go, obligations to keep. It was painful to take leave of each other but we arranged to meet later that evening, in the same cafe. We talked until the place closed down. We then went back to her apartment which was closer than mine. Her husband and son were already sleeping, but she insisted I peek into the boy’s room to see him. My nephew! Flesh and blood, twice in one day!
From that day on, we were as inseparable as two separate people can be. Our families became one. Our children played as cousins. Our husbands became as brothers.
We still felt each other’s feelings, but they were no longer a mystery.
We both lived to be quite old, and died within months of each other. And here we are, together, waiting to be born again. Perhaps as one, perhaps as two.
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