Vanishing Twin Syndrome

By on Nov 3, 2013 in Fiction

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Twin ultrasound with superimposed drawing of young woman's eyes

Some kid with a beard and a flannel, both in dire need of a wash, offered me Jungle Juice. I told him, no, I don’t want that. The stereo kept blaring that one unintelligible Nirvana song over and over, and I would have thrown my drink at the backwoods-grunge guy with the ponytail who had designated himself DJ, only I didn’t have a drink. An oversized white t-shirt containing a tiny white boy offered me an enticing plate of brownies, but I said no, I don’t want that. 

The music changed to something poppy, but I didn’t know how to dance to it. Everyone else did. They all started dancing and screaming, and the living room became a public bus where I couldn’t move an inch, and I thought about The Beach Boys. A box-shaped boy wearing an unexplainable tie stopped me after I left the living room, roping me into conversation about the mind-blowing thing he had read in a textbook the day before. His friend showed up to talk about how fascinating Non-Western Art History is, and all the while they kept glancing at my breasts, leering, and I hated how their eyes pointed at me. I had already forgotten about the sunset outside and about the beauty of small-town America. I couldn’t blame anyone but myself. 

“Hi,” I said to an empty bedroom upstairs, where I finally found solitude and took my doctor-prescribed ten deep breaths to dispel a familiar, anxious panic. I took off my shoes, sat on the edge of a bed I couldn’t imagine being anything but unscrupulous, and stared at the closed door. “Good party.”

I have always found the experience of being a person to be exhausting. 

I had pictured college bedrooms to be interesting and somehow intellectual; instead, I found myself thumbing through an alphabetized row of grunge and classic (or, more specifically, generic) rock CDs and looking at posters on the wall, wondering whether or not the guy from Weezer had hit puberty. Everything in the room was a dull shade of gray, or black, or white, or other colors too uninteresting to count as colors. 

God, the room was clean — its only remarkable trait. A young college man’s bedroom, positioned in the middle of a party where no one could hear anyone, and the bed was made, and the CDs and tapes all in rows on the shelf, and even the posters weren’t the slightest bit off-center. Was this what youth counterculture had become in its 1990s iteration? I thought of the ’60s long-haired and shoeless protesters of oppression so many fledgling art students still thought they could emulate. Everyone thought they could change the world, but they kept making their beds.

“Jesus,” I said to the open window, but I didn’t know what had me so offended. So someone wanted to make their bed, or fight The Man, or have his music collection be easily-accessible by way of the alphabet. Who was I to judge? I couldn’t even get out of an unlocked bedroom. Thinking about that got me stupid-sad again, so I sat on the edge of the bed and faced the door, listening to the music thump and sending a telepathic message to the neighbors. My message said, Call the cops. The party is too loud. The future leaders of America won’t stop doing shots, and they’re gonna fuck everything up.

When I spotted the phone on the bedside table, hopeless party-thoughts left my mind.

My fingers dialed with a slow hesitance. For a second, I couldn’t remember the number. Not even three months, and tethers to my old existence already loosened from my mind — details mixing together like the watercolors on Melisa’s unwashed painting palette back in our dorm room. 

I put the phone to my ear. It rang. I adjusted one shoulder-strap of Melisa’s top. A second ringing sounded, and with it came a pang of knowing. The white fabric billowed over my stomach when the wind from the window whipped it, threatening to transform me into the shape of a middle-aged bag lady whose children have forgotten about her. A third ring, booming with finality, though the sound remained unchanged. 

“Hey,” I said when the answering-machine on the other end stopped telling me things I already knew. “It’s Charlie. I got your letter, and I keep trying to write one back, but then I get nervous about nothing, and my pencil tip breaks. Besides, my composition teacher says, ‘Writing is for the people too afraid to speak.’ But I’m pretty sure he’s voting for Perot, so I wouldn’t put much stock in his opinion.”

I stared down at the crack beneath the door and watched feet scramble back and forth outside. 

“Tell him I’m going to find a ride home soon if you think seeing me will help. Maybe in a couple weekends. Until then, just keep him busy, you know? Buy him a new Sega game or something. And if either of you has to talk, don’t do it with Willie, okay? He’ll get freaked out. Talk to the little guy with the earring. He’s soft.” I searched for anything useful to say and came up empty. “Gotta go. I’ll try you later. Love from your big sister at art school, okay?”

I put the phone down and tried to forget it was there. People and pressing situations waited for me back in the city, yet in the October of my freshman year, freed from crowded corners, public transit, and the clawing hands of my dearest mother, I often thought of never going back. 

But that night, hiding out in the bedroom of a party I couldn’t understand how to enjoy, I thought of nothing more than packing a single bag and hitchhiking all the way home. 

That’s what being nineteen with imbalances in your brain does to you. 

I tried to think happy thoughts, like how perfect everything had felt only half-an-hour before — walking toward the party, away from our beloved university and the 1:100 scale model of a town surrounding it, Melisa and I smiling about nothing, smoking cigarettes and drinking bags of peanut-butter M&Ms as the moon crept out from wherever the sky had hid it. During that walk, I had thought of Mel’s painting for her intro class, the one depicting a city skyline where the sunset looked like a wave of burning lava descending upon modern civilization. I had laughed with my friends as we approached the party, thinking about how great it was to hide out in somewhat-rural Pennsylvania and not be burnt alive. 

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Jonathan Persinger is a recent graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania's English Writing program. His writing credits include fiction published in Chimera, the university's yearly journal of art and literature, and a stage play chosen for and performed at Laugh/Riot Performing Arts Company's 2013 New Works Festival. Jonathan currently supplements seeking fiction publication with a foray into the exciting world of retail work. He lives in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. Jonathan's blog can be found at