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.