My Other Name Is Meaghan

I was drunk for the first time heading to a club with my sister and our friend. We booked a cab and headed downtown, my friend talking with the cab driver in the front while my sister sat with me in the back.

“Do you think we’ll be able to get in?” the club, my friend meant, referring more to me than herself and my sister. They were buzzed; I was drunk for the first time, an experiment in what my limit was. It turned out to be a lot.

I don’t remember what he said, something encouraging, that we should be able to get in as long as I walked straight and spoke as little as possible. The small talk continued with my friend and the driver while I spoke nonsense to my sister in the backseat.

And then cabdriver found out we were twins. Probably small talk, how we three knew each other, where we were going. He looked at me from his mirror and asked, “If I kissed your sister would you feel it?”

And that question struck a chord in me because it was within a time that I was learning to say no, particularly to men I seemed to encounter at that time who didn’t know the meaning around me. I wanted to shout, I had so many words in my jumbled mind that I wanted to spill forth but instead of the harshness I felt I said, “I don’t think that’s an appropriate question.”

And he laughed at that. He laughed. And all that anger filled up inside of me burning in a familiar way as the vodka I’d had earlier though this was stronger and much more dangerous. I felt words sharp on my tongue but my friend diverted the conversation away to another topic knowing what he said was inappropriate, knowing I was upset, knowing that we would be out of the cab soon.

And when we finally got to the club I got out of the cab without a word while I let the sharp words on my tongue stab the ground below me.

***

My sister’s name is Meaghan, and it is also my other name. Not in any official or legal sense, only that people will look at me and call me by my sister’s name and vice versa. It’s a name I respond to now, a name I don’t correct people on. I know they mean me even if they say my sister’s name. It comes from years of experience.

We’re fraternal twins. I look more like my dad and she like our mom, I’m quiet and she’s loud. We’re different in many aspects, and the same in many more. Some people like to know which one of us is the evil twin.

Keep asking and you’ll find out.

She is sixteen minutes older than me, though I am commonly mistaken for the elder twin. It’s a joke now for new people we meet, or people who just discover we’re twins. I don’t like to ask though, I prefer to wait however long until they bring it up, see if they guess right, see how they think.

We were born premature, originally meant to be Valentine Babies but were apparently impatient and moved ourselves up, December 23rd, Christmas Babies. Our parents were always very good to us, celebrating them both as separate days (BECAUSE THEY ARE!) and always treating the two of us as individual people. It’s why our names don’t rhyme or have the same initials.

We used to dress the same when we were little, but that’s more so because we were kids and didn’t care so much then, identical outfits or the same outfits with different colour schemes. It wasn’t even that we always dressed alike when we were young (though we did when we were babies and toddlers, our parents admitted to wanting to show off they had twins) but that we had a lot of the same outfits.

It was common knowledge that we were twins when we were young not only from our same clothes or identical haircuts but because you can’t really hide the fact that you’re a twin when you go to school with the same people for however many years in elementary school.

Elementary school in general was a horrible time in a school with teachers who didn’t care and students who were unbelievably cruel. They liked to make fun of my sister and I, say all the cruel things only children are capable of saying:

“Which one of you is the smarter twin?”

“Do you love each other? Like, love each other?”

“You know you can’t both marry the same person.”

“Can you read each other’s minds/feel each other’s pain?”

“Did you know that when one twin dies the other dies right after?”

Silly, stupid, and hurtful things most of which don’t come up in conversation anymore, though some of it still does. I’ve told my dad about this, about how frustrating and inappropriate people can be sometimes.

“They just don’t know what it’s like,” he’s said. “They’re curious.”

Which I understand, but my dad also isn’t a twin, and I haven’t told him everything that people have said to us.

***

Most people don’t realize we’re twins, or even sisters some of the time because of how different we look. I remember in high school a guy in my class said he had met a girl who he thought could be my best friend only for me to tell him that that was my twin (though he wasn’t wrong). Some people guess sisters because we look similar enough to each other, and maybe it’s in the way we talk or interact with each other that makes them guess that too.

We don’t look like how people expect twins to look like.

Identical, which is stupid because there are seven different types of twins. But people have an idea of how twins should look, how twins should act, how twins should be and anything that deviates from that expectation is wrong or “not really” twins. My mom used to watch a lot of documentaries and whenever she’d find one on twins she’d tape it for us all to see. They were always interesting, but what always annoyed me was the focus on identical twins, all these tests and interviews with twins that were the same, focusing on the sameness, and not the differences.

Like twins are one person instead of two.

***

For a long time we were called The Girls or The Twins or The O’Connor Twins (there were a lot of twins in my high school). We’ll still get called that occasionally, and it isn’t a bad thing to be called, not a bad nickname to have, but it was something that started bothering me in university.

We had been called that variety of nicknames in high school and now in university it was getting less. We were in a bigger school and studying different things, though sometimes our classes would line up because her major was my minor and vice versa. There were people who knew we were twins, and the friends we’d make in our faculties found out eventually.

And that wasn’t a bad thing, though it did lend itself to the same predictable questions that people would ask. And truthfully now I don’t remember who it was or if it was anyone in mine or my sister’s faculties who called us “The Girls” or “The Twins” or if it was just some of my high school friends still keeping the nickname strong but I remember being irked by it.

Because it wasn’t that I disliked being a twin or was starting to dislike it, but while it is something I am it isn’t all I am. Yes, my sister and I were born on the same day, but I am more than that, we are more than that. We are more than our birth date, our birth order, our similarities and differences. We are two people, two individual people and our parents had always made sure we were individuals and I couldn’t understand why no one else could see it.

“I’m Sarah,” I remember telling a former friend. “We’re not just ‘The Girls,’ we’re not just ‘The Twins.’ She’s just Meaghan and I’m just Sarah.”

Which wasn’t a great description of what I was trying to say, still isn’t but I don’t know how to word it. Only that I am a twin and I love being a twin, but I am not my twin and my twin is not me. I am Sarah.

I am Sarah I am Sarah I am Sarah.

***

My sister has an autoimmune disease.

I don’t.

“But shouldn’t you?” People will ask sometimes, obsessed with the sameness they expect and we have to explain that we are fraternal twins, that we are different, that one being sick doesn’t equal the other being sick.

“I bet you must be jealous of her good health,” people will sometimes say to my sister. They mean it in a humourous way.

(It isn’t.)

They like to ask about that most, about why I’m not sick, about how she feels that I’m not sick. They don’t ask about what it was like to watch her get sick, what it was like to watch her in pain, to see her after her surgery, after her diagnosis. They don’t want to know about what that kind of pain feels like, how much it hurts, about how helpless it can feel.

Because how could they ever understand?

***

In the past year my sister and I have done a lot more things separately. This isn’t a bad thing, more inevitable and something that we’re both getting used to. My friends are reminding me that I can hang out with them without my sister and I have to remind my sister that I can’t always go with her to certain things she feels bad about not inviting me too (not every situation needs a third wheel).

It’s a process.

The first big difference for us was last New Year’s Eve. She and her boyfriend had planned something together and I was going to a dinner dance with two of our friends. It was the first big event we weren’t spending together, and it was weird to adjust. Getting dressed for different things, leaving at different times, wondering what the other was doing, if they were having a good New Year’s Eve.

My friends and I were at a table with three other people and we started talking and this time it was me who ended up mentioning I was a twin. It wasn’t necessary and I don’t know why I did it. Maybe because I missed her, maybe because I thought it was strange that she wasn’t there, maybe because I was so used to telling people, to so many people knowing I’m a twin.

But no one at our table cared that I was a twin. It was just a random fact I mentioned, a footnote. Something that could be brought up later if the conversation dulled but wasn’t. The conversation ebbed and flowed like good conversation should, learning about each other, what the other does for a living know that most of the people at this table will never interact with let alone see each other after this night.

And it was strange to be me that night because I realized I didn’t really know who that was, who Sarah is. My sister and I have spent so much of our lives together that I am starting to learn who I am without her. And that isn’t a bad thing, or a sad thing but a healthy thing, something that needs to happen.

Something that I am so excited to learn.

***

I have known my sister since before I knew anything. When I was a dot inside my mother and couldn’t think, couldn’t feel, couldn’t know anything I knew my sister.  She has with me forever; loving me, protecting me, and knowing me like no one else has, maybe like no one else ever will.

“What’s it like to be a twin?” They will ask.

But I don’t know the answer to that one. Because all I’ve known and remembered is being a twin and having a twin. I don’t know what it’s like to have a sister who isn’t a twin, how not to be a twin. It’s who I am, who I’ll always be.

But I know we have a bond, though I can’t prove whether or not my sister and I’s bond is the same as the bond between sister’s who aren’t twins. And I don’t know how to describe it, only that I have talked to other twins and they know what I’m feeling. Some indescribable connection, some sort of knowing and chord between us that I know will never break.

Our lives twist and turn around and away from each other, but never too far away. I know that we won’t always live together, won’t always see each other every day, maybe won’t even be able to talk to each other every day but that doesn’t mean our bond will break. We are twins, but we are ourselves, and we will always be both and the same and different all at the same time.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

(Lovely picture of my sister and I by the one and only Jenna McGill from our trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida!)

 

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