You ever question your love for people as an adult? As children I feel that we are reared in a way that teaches the word love without always providing the context of its meaning or actions. We are introduced to family and we are taught to say that we love them. To be completely honest, I’ve questioned the love I have for my grandparents and even for my father, a few years ago. Lately, I find myself grappling with the relationship I have with my twin brother.
I decided to post this picture, not because it’s the most attractive or appealing for either of us, nor because its the only picture you’ll find of us, together, within the past few years, but because I feel it is indicative of our relationship. It almost feels foreign, strained and weary, frayed but present. My brother asked to take this picture and I was instantly annoyed. That appears to be my inclination, a defense mechanism of sorts, my first instinct most times he asks me to do anything. But, what I love most about this picture is the depth of its honesty. The half moon smirk on his face makes me feel loved. I feel like he sees me, he is proud of me and he wants to take a picture, with me.
I get it. This all sounds extremely weird to most because the idea or image you have of twins is Tia and Tamera, or Mary Kate and Ashley, two individuals that not only look alike, but are inseparable and best friends. I can’t think of a time where that was our experience. It probably started at birth, I was born May 26 an hour and eight minutes after Kenny and we probably haven’t been much closer ever since.
Looking back on my childhood, as I survey our “twinship” I feel guilty a lot of the time. We went through all the normal twin things to do. My mother dressed us identically, despite there always being a good foot between our heights, well into middle school. In fact, we were even in the same classroom as students up until the third grade. That year my mother made a decision to hold Kenny back. Y’all know I consistently pride myself on the way I was raised; moreover, the efforts of my mother. She was seamless and perfect, to me. She saw that when it came to education Kenny was not excelling. Rather than put him through a system that would allow him to pass on and be left by the waste side later, she refuted the public school system and made the decision she felt was best, one she felt would put her child in the best position for success. I asked her a couple of years ago if she regretted that decision. She doesn’t.
I think that decision gave us space to grow apart further. Kenny has always been quiet, introverted and my polar opposite. I don’t know his experience of me during those school years and I don’t really have a clear glimpse of him in mine. I went on to excel in academics. I was active in middle school and by the time we got to high school I was a superstar. I had found my passion in theatre, played sports, did chorus, band, pep rally and continued to make good grades, but where was Kenny? What was he doing? I couldn’t tell you, and that pains me. We rode the bus together, sat side by side from the elementary all through high school and I can’t say anything that would let you know who he was.
Soon after, maybe my sophomore year of high school, Kenny made the decision to go and live with my Dad. He had always been closer with that side of the family, conversely, just like the nature of our relationship, I was closer to my mom’s side. Growing up we had to go to my fathers every other weekend but by the time we got to high school we were old enough to make our own decision. There is no coming back from that. Any inkling we had of closeness was surely cast out into the shadows that come with the rift of separation.
As I ponder on our childhood experiences I feel an enormous weight of guilt. It’s something I constantly try to shake but I can’t help it. I feel badly that we didn’t have a more similar experience. For years I blamed me. I felt it was my fault because I was always living in some parts of the fullness of myself. So much so that I have wondered how could he have any space to breathe? Not that he’d have to compete, I just feel like I didn’t make it easy for him to find space enough to be himself. I know that we all have to be who we are. I can’t take responsibility for any of his shortcoming and it would be foolish to think I would ever have to deny myself the ability to be me for him to breathe; still. I can remember sleeping in twin beds that were next to each other. We had a small room and our beds were close enough in space where I could reach over and soothe a scar he’d have by tracing the tip of my index finger around it until he feel asleep, and just as easily kick him hard enough to stop his constant snoring when he found sleep sooner than me. It never stopped his snoring for too long. Sometimes I feel like I may have kicked him out of the womb of our mother and into the world that hour and eight minutes ahead of me. Time that he may have needed just as badly to come into himself wholly.
All throughout college people would be surprised to learn that I actually have a twin brother. Many times people didn’t believe me because I didn’t talk about him enough or never produced a picture. It’s ironic because whenever I’m asked an interesting fact about myself my most anticipated answer is the fact that I have a twin brother. I always say it, and then combat or lessen it by saying, “but it doesn’t count because we’re fraternal.” What I’m really saying is that a lot of the times, I guess I didn’t really consider myself a twin because we are so vastly different, and not close. I remember making male friends in college and I would always hold them in such high regard. I revered the men in my life I was able to grow close to because as a gay man there was a yearning in me to connect to black men, and bigger than that, I had a desire to know what it feels like to have a brother, because so much of my own experience excludes my twin.
The parameters of our relationship is not something that makes me most proud. I don’t look forward to feeling the regret of not being closer, of navigating through this world further away from him, but I love Kenny. He is my twin brother and no part of me questions that further.