The Yin to His Yang

It’s hard for the black sheep to hide in a crowd, but it’s almost impossible if the crowd is made up of 2 people. Are we ourselves because of all the ways we are different from the rest, or are we what we are because of all the things we have in common with people who’d otherwise be the paraffin to our water? It’s hard to distinguish our uniqueness with all the noise from outside that distracts us. Of course no man is an island, but some women are. Okay, I’m kidding. But have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you had an exact replica of you running around this globe making all the decisions you’re too scared to make? Or too lazy to make? (Or both). Having a twin sibling isn’t a blessing, or curse, that we’ve all had the privilege to experience, but I got to sit down with someone that’s living out this life that’s a fantasy to most. His story may not be the perfect reflection of what such an existence entails, but it’s a perspective interesting enough to delve into.

“My parents never understood how my brother topped our class and I bottomed it. And all excuses fly out the window when your supposed brother is your genetic carbon copy. Even the teachers didn’t grasp this reality as they should have. They punished me for things I should’ve done well or results I should’ve gotten just because my brother had ‘proven’ that I was just being lazy. My life revolved around my inability to replicate my brother’s greatness. I was officially the black sheep of only two sheep. And Jared never really looked back to see if I was taking the heat from everyone gracefully. Maybe he didn’t understand how bad things were. My parents alone were raising us as if we were 1 person in 2 bodies. No one was willing to wrestle with the idea that maybe the similarities ended with our physical appearances. They even named him Jared and I, Gerald. I know, creativity isn’t a fountain our family drinks from. So I too abandoned the idea that I’d ever been seeing as Gerald, not Jared’s photocopy. The only time I probably liked being his brother was when girls thought I was him. To think they thought that I was boring and mean but couldn’t tell that they were confessing all these shitty things to the wrong twin was hilarious. I literally bad-mouthed myself a couple of times to cement my personification of Jared, only to sit through the worst gossip school kids can conjure in their little heads. That’s probably around the same time I started losing touch with what others would call my personal identity. You know that part of you that you’ve constructed in your head that exists nowhere else but between your ears? Yes, that part. I began to realise at a very young age that everything is a construct. That most people walk around with a narrative in their heads of who they are, where they’re from, what ails their family, what they can and can’t do, and the worst part is, they’ve lost themselves in these meaningless constructs, and that they’ll never know they had the option of being something else, or someone else.

So when we cleared primary and left for high school, I for once, was thankful for my bad grades because I was guaranteed different schools for the two of us. No more why aren’t you as smart or eloquent or charming as Jared. The coin had been spilt and I as the tail was taking a path that the head would never. And that’s how I stopped being the stupid one in class. Not necessarily because no one thought I was the lesser twin, but because I redeemed myself from the prison of expectations everyone including me had. I just began living my life as me, and for a while, made myself forget I had a family. I needed to understand what I’m made of as me because I had been a brother and a son my whole life, but I had never been just Gerald. And that’s how I ended up joining Drama in school. I found it easier to embody different personas because I didn’t have one that tied me down. I didn’t feel the awkwardness of fitting in other people’s shoes because no one had encouraged me to fit in mine, so my fluidity became my strength. But I didn’t view it from this perspective then, it was more of an instinct. In retrospect, I was just a lost kid thirsting for something unique to myself, and that assignment was a little daunting considering there was a whole human back home that looked like my reflection. And don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate my brother. He was and still is, a darling to many.

I just hated that everyone expected me to be as gracious as he was. He was the kid that recited poems at school events with Govt. officials in attendance, and I was the kid been punished for going to the loo as some important person screamed at the mic. I was the yin to his yang. The shadow that is cast when his light shined. But something changed when we went our separate ways in high school. A puzzle piece was missing and no one had any idea where it was. First, it was his grades. He tanked a good one. But my parents brushed that off as a fluke. It must’ve been the culture shock they said. They knew their son was an achiever. But his inconsistencies became consistent, and as our teenage years rolled by, so did the new Jared. My mum broke first. She feared the apple of her eye was now going bad, so she sat him down and tried to remind him of the trophy kid he once was. My dad feared his village people had now gotten to his beloved son, so he cursed his village witches and swore to never step foot there with his family again. It was weird not being the trouble maker for once, but one thing hadn’t changed- the attention they gave him. A while back, they showered him with compliments because that’s what happens to winners when they keep winning, but now, they were trying to fix a problem that felt invisible. They were like that chic by the road that’s trying to change a ‘bad’ tire not knowing the problem’s actually in the engine.

Jared blamed his alcoholism on his first heartbreak. He said the alcohol helped him heal, but it was evident that all it did was shift the pain to my parents. They’re the ones who tossed and turned all night, wondering if their son is still nursing his chest pains with the bottle. By this time, I was a good actor in my own right. My acting career had turned a few heads and so I was so busy they must’ve thought I got adopted in another family. The truth is, I didn’t really feel needed. They’ve never needed my help before, so I struggled to convince myself that I was needed now. They saw me on TV more than they did at home. I spent holidays alone, but such days sucked because it was at such times that everything slowed down and I saw things as they were. I saw the disappointment and anger I harboured for years still lingering in my adult life, I saw myself blaming everyone but myself for my conflicted past. All those years of hiding and solitude hadn’t cleared my head, and sometimes, when I stood in front of the mirror, I wasn’t sure if I saw myself, Gerald, or my brother, Jared.

So on one weekend, I visited home out of the blues. My father was the most shocked of them all. Mum ululated and jumped around for a few minutes, and I must say that’s the most seeing I ever felt. She also slaughtered her favourite goose and made us sit around the Jiko as we sipped on its broth. No one mentioned how long I had absconded home, we just sat there, staring at the crackling charcoal.

Jared looked frail. His clothes wore him. All the potential that radiated from him as a kid had been siphoned out, and seeing my brother again felt like seeing myself when no one expected anything from me. But I was still the black sheep. I still looked at him and saw all those ‘Best in…’ badges he wore at school. I guess that’s what siblings do; they remind you of parts of your life no one else can. So I offered to live with him because my parents didn’t deserve to parent an adult man to their death beds. He only carried with him his pillow and an old beanie hat we shared as teenagers.

 He’s now going to AA meetings and taking lots of soya tea. I also got a role where I needed a double that was skinnier than I was, so I hooked him up because who else could play that role better than my alcoholic twin? Okay, that sounded terrible, but you get the point. He’s trying to build something for himself that extends beyond his childhood glory. I hope his new responsibilities won’t weigh him down. I hope no one has to be the black sheep. I hope he understands that the only person he should compete with is himself, and not the guy he shared a womb with.

One response to “The Yin to His Yang”

  1. Wow,We now need a whole book.

    Liked by 1 person

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