by Johnathan Williams
Welcome to my mother’s womb. Now, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to educate you on reproduction so I will just point you toward the subject of this journey into the uterine gauntlet. Amidst the swirling mass of zygote and gamete a twin is being formed. There are two ways this can happen. The first is when two slap-happy sperm fertilize two eggs. Each of these eggs gets its shot at life and grows up to become a fraternal twin. Don’t get me wrong—anatomically speaking, sperm with this kind of ambition are anomalies; I don’t want invalidate their efforts, but there is a more interesting type of twins. You know the type I’m talking about the type of twins that look like they were stamped out of the same mold at the Baby Factory. Identical twins are formed when an egg is fertilized and that egg decides to split in half. Each half of the egg goes on to become a human with genetically identical material. Two halves of a whole from the very beginning. A state of being that never really leaves a twin.
If I sound partial to identical twins, it’s because I have one of my own. I am two minutes older, several inches taller and, don’t tell him I said this, better in every conceivable way. Actually, this isn’t even remotely true. See, I am a very rare variety of twin called mirror image identical. Our egg decided to split a little bit later than most twins do, which has pretty large impacts outside the womb. In concrete terms this means that I have had my exact reverse at my side from the very beginning. His name is James Williams. I was born as half of a whole egg, if you will, always swirling around with someone that both irritated me and complemented my personality in every way. I’m right-handed and he is left. I am a writer while he manages to not only understand, but also enjoy calculus. I’m silly and he’s serious. Optimism versus realism, aloofness versus introspection, athletic and theatric, strong and weak, logical and emotional, cautious and daring, gay and straight, yin and yang, the peanut butter to my jelly. James would argue I’m more stubborn but I, of course, would contest that. We’re still working out who’s the leader and who’s the sidekick.
Some people spend their entire lives looking for a soulmate, but I was born with mine. Siblings are like pre-programmed best friends, but a twin is like an instant spouse.
Though it may not seem like it, there are ways that my twin and I are similar. Neither of us understands when to quit, and depending on the situation, neither of us really knows when to shut up either. James has the same ambition to change the world that I do, and he has the same ability to love unconditionally and understand even the darkest people in this world. We share a lot of traits, and the traits that aren’t shared just end up being complementary. That’s why it sucked to grow up then have to leave each other.
When my twin and I split ways, one of us bound for Germany and the other planted firmly in rural Virginia, my entire world changed. Realizing that you can no longer lean on a crutch is what I believe the world calls growing pains. It’s losing someone with whom you’ve built half your world, which causes that world to crumble. I had to paint my shadow as I walked because he was no longer there by my side, like he always had been. Because of a tiny miracle in the womb, I was born into a world of opposites and balance that most people never know. Somewhere out there in the great country of Germany, I have a straight, buff, serious version of myself. I haven’t made many memories without him up until now.
In my mother’s womb, for some reason, a cell split. That cell grew into two whole people with a relationship so complex I hope I’ve explained half of it. One egg cracked down the middle and hatched two people: two radically different souls sitting on either end of a seesaw that never tipped. The thing that has always made us so special, and gives us our crazy twinning super powers, isn’t that we split ourselves half and half. It’s that we are two beings mashed, sometimes messily, into one super being where all of our ups and downs work out in a perfect balance.
It sucks not having all that right next to you, but there could be worse things than having to grow up and become your own person. After all, he is out there, just a phone call away, ready to argue long hours into the night and balance me out whenever I need it.