Cosmopolitan (Philippines) - - Contents -

Twin con­nec­tions are for life.

I love my sis­ter more than any­thing else in the world. I know lots of sis­ters say that, but Gia and I have been joined at the hip since birth. Phys­i­cally it was true—born con­joined, then sur­gi­cally sep­a­rated—and af­ter­wards it was like we still shared the same heart. Mine would flut­ter when she fell in love, and hers would race when I went on my morn­ing runs. Our par­ents named us Gianna and Schin­ina, af­ter our grand­mother and great­grand­mother, who had twin sis­ters of their own. There have been twins in our fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions, all of them women. We’d brag about it if the world weren’t so damn pa­tri­ar­chal.

My fa­ther is some­one peo­ple fear in­stead of re­spect. He plays fa­vorites, and Gia got the short end of that stick. At one point she and I looked noth­ing alike—her fig­ure had whit­tled away from all the din­ners she skipped to avoid Papa’s chas­tise­ments. “He’s old enough to be your fa­ther,” he would spit out. “I’d rather die twice than give you away to that son of a bitch.” He has no idea I come to see her ev­ery week­end.

Gia fell in love in col­lege, as so many do. But he was dif­fer­ent. A his­tory pro­fes­sor. Mar­ried. They met late at night, and of­ten. De­spite my mis­giv­ings, I was care­ful not to be­tray her, but whis­pers spread quickly in Manila. Papa was in hys­ter­ics when he found out. His large hands com­pletely cov­ered Gia’s frag­ile lit­tle neck. She was no longer wel­come in our home. I rushed up­stairs to help her pack her things. Papa was still scream­ing out threats as she walked out the door. I wrapped my arms around him, hop­ing he’d look down at my face and think for a mo­ment that I was her. But he only be­came more bel­liger­ent. Since then, life has never been the same.

Sun­day morn­ings are for her. I buy a box of pizza and make the 3-hour drive to sit by her side and un­ravel. When I lost my schol­ar­ship, she lis­tened as I whined about the things I could’ve done dif­fer­ently, how much harder I should’ve worked. Af­ter my first breakup, she stayed quiet as I re­called ev­ery ex­cru­ci­at­ing de­tail. And even when Papa beat my mother un­til she was a crum­pled, cry­ing mess, even when she found him in bed with an­other woman, Gia didn’t say a word. Of all the weapons my fam­ily fought with, her si­lence was the most vi­o­lent. Sun­day morn­ings are for her, but mostly they are for me.

To­day is Sun­day. Our birth­day. I bring her cake this time. I wish she would say some­thing, any­thing, but all I hear is the sound of my own whim­per­ing voice. I cut her a slice and place it atop her tomb­stone.

I think about the pas­sen­ger seat where she died, and the pro­fes­sor she loved so much who lost his life driv­ing her to free­dom, and how she never could have known the day we turned 22 would be her last.

“chin,” she used to say, “I don’t need to die happy, but I want to die try­ing.”

I blow a can­dle and make an im­pos­si­ble wish.

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