I can’t remember the moment my parents told me that I had a twin brother, but I can never forget the day they told me his name.
We were in the car, and I had that uncomfortable bubble of anxiety swelling up deep in the pit of my stomach. The words felt heavy when they tumbled out of my mouth, “What was my brother’s name?”
My mom was silent, she whispered something to my dad, and whatever he replied with led to her uttering a quiet, “Monroe.” Since that moment I stopped asking questions about him.
Growing up, I had always felt a sense of guilt surrounding the loss of my brother. If someone asked me how many siblings I had, I would respond that I used to have a brother (to their discomfort), and the day after my birthday was -- and continues to be -- a day of quiet mourning spent in my room wondering what life would be like had he grown one year older alongside me.
The concept of twinless twins is relatively new to me, despite having been one the entirety of my life. When I discovered what I was and the fact that there were others like me, I realized it was time to start making a change in my life.
Following a date with my boyfriend, I found myself falling into a deep depression. The source of this depression was plain to see, (especially to my boyfriend who has been my biggest support throughout the constant loop of acceptance and denial regarding Monroe’s death throughout our years together). The movie we had seen had dug up something deep within my heart which I had been avoiding.
The movie we had seen contained a scene in which a woman’s twin brother was murdered right before her eyes. All the emotions I had been holding back came rushing to the surface. We left the theater -- something which, as a self-proclaimed movie fanatic I otherwise never would have considered. I’m certain everyone around us was under the impression that our date wasn’t going well.
The evening that I returned home, I lay in bed feeling miserable with my eyes fixed on the ceiling. I’d been depressed for a while, plagued by nightmares and anxiety. That scene in the movie had awoken something deep inside of me.
While I’ve always been aware of my brother and increasingly aware of how painful his absence is, I’d reached a point where it was easier to tune it all out and try to pretend that I truly was born as an only child rather than half of a pair of twins.
Unfortunately, my years of effort had all come crashing down on me, and I was feeling lonelier than ever. Despite my boyfriend’s best efforts at consoling me, we both knew this was something I had to face on my own, because it was a unique sort of pain that only I could understand.
So, determined for help, or at least answers, I turned to the one all-knowing deity of my generation – the Internet.
To my shock (because for some reason I had managed to convince myself that I sincerely was the only one facing this pain), I found several websites describing exactly what I was going through.
There were support groups for people like me – not people who had lost their twin after getting to know them, but people exactly like me, the twins who didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye to their sibling and still felt the bitterness of being abandoned by their first best friend before they even knew what abandonment was.
I learned that twinless twins feel a strong drive to succeed enough for two people, because they want to make up for their sibling’s absence, and this drive was part of what helped Elvis Presley rise to fame. (His middle name was originally spelled Aron to parallel the spelling of his twin’s middle name, Garon, but he later changed the spelling when he longed to separate from his brother’s death and form his own identity).
My studies also brought forth other information which answered more questions I’d been dwelling on for years. The loss of a twin causes a devastating deep-seated fear of abandonment.
So that's why, when the girl I was best friends with for five years cut me out of her life, I took it with as much heartbreak as a middle aged woman facing a divorce.
For years I wrote furious letters littered with profanities only to shred them and throw them away, every song I wrote was about how hurt I was by her actions and about how angry I was with her. I was acting as if a piece of me had died along with the ending of this youthful friendship.
The problem wasn’t my friend leaving me, it was a part of me feeling as though my brother’s death had been some sort of foreshadowing of what would happen throughout the rest of my life.
I was terrified that I was destined to regularly lose people, so those friends and loved ones I did form close bonds with were subjected to constant questioning as I contemplated escaping before they could hurt me or be taken away from me.
Thankfully, I've learned to manage this, through the love and support of those in my life.
Following all of my research regarding twinless twins was a lengthy period of sadness. My moments on campus at my college were spent in silence, I would avoid making eye contact with my friends for fear that they might strike up a conversation and try and see if I was alright. I intended to do as much work as I could without speaking, and leave immediately after.
I still have moments where I break down, I still fall back into old habits and worry that I’m going to be abandoned, but I manage my time wiser. I allow moments throughout the day for mourning and worrying, and once those moments have passed, I carry on with my life. Not just for Monroe’s sake, but for my sake as well.
I learned what it was like to lose a loved one the moment I was born. It's ugly, agonizing, and the pain lasts a lifetime.
But at the same time, it’s beautiful and it reminds you of everything there is to do and see in this world -- if not for your own sake, then for theirs. Monroe isn’t here anymore, but if he was, I know he would be immensely proud of me.