by WFEATHER 08/22/05
Chapter 01: On Our Own
Only Siamese twins could be closer.
My big brother and I may not actually be Siamese twins, only fraternal twins, but, to borrow a cliché, we are effectively "joined at the hip." Society may frown intensely upon the profound love we have for each other, the profound love which has only intensified since shortly before our high school graduation, but – even though we try not to express our true emotions in public – we do in fact love each other deeply and plan to spend the rest of our lives together.
At least we have been able to essentially "buy" four years' worth of time together, thanks to college admissions specialists.
Our parents began encouraging us both as early as eighth grade to think about where we would like to go for college. Admittedly, our parents had a lot of money – part of it came from our mother's share of an office pool's lottery win, part of it came from a multi-million dollar class action settlement our father had smartly orchestrated. While they never truly spent a lot of money, my big brother and I both knew that we could attend any college or university in the States – and perhaps in the world – and not need to worry about paying for our post-secondary education.
By the beginning of our junior year of high school, my big brother and I had narrowed our choices to fifteen schools each. Interestingly, as we compared our lists, we shared eleven schools in common, with the top five identical on each list. It is often said that twins tend to share a special bond, able to "know" about the other at seemingly all times even when separated by great distances; something similar had apparently taken place in our minds as we individually chose where we would like to learn more about the world around us, the world which decreed that he and I are never to have the type of relationship we had nonetheless developed.
It was a few days before Christmas Eve of our senior year of high school when my brother received some very welcome news: Just as I had done, he had applied Early Decision to all of his top ten choices for higher education, and one of them had accepted him. I was genuinely overjoyed for him, certainly evidenced by my overly-enthusiastic hug... although he definitely did not complain.
My Early Decision acceptance never came, however. My grades had never been quite as good as his, so I was not particularly surprised that an Early Decision acceptance was not granted to me, but at least my applications were rolled over into the general application population. Plus, I soon realized that my twin brother and I could very likely be separated – perhaps even on opposite coasts of the United States – for the first time in our young lives. Those two elements combined to cast a gloominess over Christmas Break for me.
At least I knew that my big brother would be attending a school in the San Francisco area. Together, we began to research the area: the attractions, methods of transportation, the airports in the area, annual festivals and major events, apartment prices, restaurants... For me, it was great to know what I might be able to do when I went to visit him there, but I still felt both sad and mildly depressed at not knowing whether I would be able to share in those experiences with him on a regular basis.
Months passed. Then, in a span of three days, I was accepted by twelve of my top fifteen chosen schools. Once those acceptance letters had all arrived, I sat at the center of my bed, each letter spread out before me, and began to rank them all to help in deciding my future. An hour later, my choice finally made, I walked into my big brother's bedroom, and gave him a big grin. He knew.
We would not be attending the same school, unfortunately, as the college which had accepted him rejected me, but we would at least be in the same geographic area.
Toward the end of the school year, my big brother's girlfriend dumped him. Not three days later, my boyfriend dumped me. Only then did we realize that throughout our dating "careers" were we each looking for someone just like our twin, and even before my tears had dried, the foreplay had began. Not three days into the eighteenth year of my existence on this planet, I became my big brother's woman, and our love grew exponentially.
Perhaps because they knew that we had always been incredibly close (likely a natural extension of having spent nine months together in the same tiny space), our parents actually agreed with my big brother's idea that perhaps we should get an apartment together in the Bay Area. During the summer, we made several trips to California, searching for a nice apartment in a good neighborhood, a place where my big brother and I would not be constantly in each other's way, a place close enough to major public transportation lines that we could survive somewhat-easily without a car.
By mid-July, we had found such a place in Berkeley, just two blocks from the nearest BART station and with several bus lines also located within easy walking distance. It was a two-bedroom apartment in a complex with twenty total units, ten units on each floor. We would be on the upper floor, living above the laundry room and some of the storage cages. Since it was a second-floor apartment, we would also have a small balcony, really just deep enough to sit in a chair and still have relatively good legroom. The bedrooms were indeed small – smaller than our bedrooms at home – but sufficient for two college students. Gas, water, and basic cable were included in the rent; tenants were responsible for any other utilities or amenities they wished to have.
In one of his few "heavy spending" moments I have ever known, however, as my big brother and I were about to sign the lease, my father pulled out his checkbook and made one lump sum payment. "I want them to focus on their studies for their first year of college," he said as an explanation. "After that, they are essentially on their own, and should have found jobs to allow them to pay rent on their own." The landlord smiled and nodded, as if our father was not the first concerned parent to have taken this unusual step.
Before we returned to the hotel, we located an independent mailing store a few blocks away, and our father did the same thing: He paid for one year's rental for a mailbox my big brother and I would share. Since our landlord did not live on the premises and my big brother and I would likely be away in classes (or, eventually, at work) most of the time, this would allow for us to have packages delivered even though they would not fit into our tiny mailbox at our apartment building.
One month passed before we would finally move into our apartment.
It was a long, long day. We landed at Oakland International Airport about 8:45AM. By this time, we were nearly experts at using the AirBART and BART systems, and were in our Berkeley apartment seemingly minutes later. While our mother and I hung the curtains and unpacked the general things required for a new household, my big brother went with our father to go buy some basic groceries to get us started in life on our own. Then it was time to confirm the deliveries for that afternoon; we were sitting on the floor eating store-bought deli-style sandwiches when the first of the deliveries arrived, which ironically included the table and four chairs.
By dinnertime, all the scheduled deliveries had been made – the sofa, two futons and bedding, two desks with chairs, the table and its chairs, several bookcases, a few lamps, and plenty more. It was a Saturday evening, and we all knew that the restaurants would likely be crowded, so we instead went back to the grocery store, bought more deli-style sandwiches, and ate those on the way to the nearby BART station. We were quite early for our parents' late flight back home, but we all said our goodbyes nonetheless. I actually had a tear in my eye as our parents passed through the security checkpoint, then turned to wave to us one final time before rounding the corner and disappearing from view.
By the time the AirBART arrived, my big brother had me laughing again as he often does. My spirits were flying high once more. We were on our own at last; the world was our oyster. And as the AirBART pulled away from Terminal 2 with no one sitting near us, my big brother took my hand in his and offered me a warm smile.
Only then did I truly realize that our life as a couple deeply in love could truly begin. We were effectively alone in a strange city where no one knew us, so we could be (a little) more free with our growing relationship. And that realization warmed me from the inside as I patted his thigh with my free hand, looking up into the eyes which were so eerily like mine as I returned his smile.
The rest of the trip to our new "home" was effectively a blur in my mind. I just barely remembered transferring from the AirBART to the main BART. I remembered only tiny snippets of our quiet conversation. Then, suddenly, we were on the sidewalk approaching the back side of our building, looking up at the balcony of our apartment.
We entered the building and, strictly out of curiosity, I checked the mailbox. There actually was something awaiting us: an envelope clearly containing a greeting card of some kind, from our parents. As my big brother watched, I opened the envelope and showed him the cover, an artist's rendition of a pair of astronauts standing beside a spacecraft on a sparsely-vegetated planet as they regarded the star-studded sky in the background. Then I opened the card and read aloud:
"The universe is yours to explore. May you learn about life and about yourselves through your college careers and beyond." Both our parents had signed it, although our mother had clearly been the one to address the envelope and write the message inside.
"I certainly hope to learn a lot more about you during my college career and beyond," my big brother quipped with a gleam in his eye. "Ditto," I replied softly with a smile and a wink. Then we mounted the stairs, ready to enter our "home" for the first time alone.
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