By Mickey Shiotani
I am a twin. These words come naturally to me every time, yet I am met with surprised looks and stunned silence every time. Then follows the common remarks of “How do I tell you guys apart,” “You guys should switch classes together” or a really original “I thought I was seeing illusions!” There is, however, one remark my friend made once that I remember more than any other: “I can’t imagine two of me existing.”
I pondered these words for a while. In all of my eighteen years, I had never thought of my twin as merely being my reflection, though I have considered him as very close to one. In elementary school, we would always ferociously compare quiz grades to see who had done better. In middle school, we practiced skateboarding until cold evenings to prove which one of us was better. There was competition and frustration, but I never felt like our relationship was a tiring one.
The first instance of this was shortly before I began high school. During summer school in New Hampshire, I heard my art teacher say: “I see you guys together all the time,” with a long, stressed “all” that italicizing simply cannot emphasize. At least for me, her words struck quite hard. I saw myself alongside with my good friend, and was strange to think that when others looked at us, they could only see two identical entities stuck together.
In the fall of my sophomore year, we both enrolled in a New Jersey boarding school. In a new environment, I decided to take advantage of the situation by trying to separate myself from my twin. By taking different classes, living in different dorms, and having different friend groups, I learned what it meant to be Mickey and not one half of the Shiotani twins.
This was supposed to be liberating. I was supposed to have fun in this environment. I kept telling myself this, but an emptiness inside of me remained.
One day, I called my brother to shoot some hoops with me. We took turns shooting the ball through the rusted rim in the desolate gym, filled only by the squeaking of sneakers, the swish of the net and heavy bouncing of the ball. After a while, we talked — about classes, homework, stress. About sports. About the highs, but mostly about the lows. About how adjusting to a new environment had been rough. About why we were in a small school with a supposedly tight community, yet we felt so lonely and stuck between the cracks of different friend groups.
At that moment, I knew we were more than twins. Some could call us duplicates, reflections, even doppelgängers, but the closeness we have developed through collaborating, fighting, laughing and crying was not something that I could simply let go of.
Coincidence or not, we are both currently freshmen in NYU. We live in separate dorms, but I stop by his room every day to catch up and study together. Though we both study economics, my twin is currently more obsessed with the study of Chinese Philosophy, especially on the concept of Yin and Yang, which states that opposing forces in nature are actually interrelated. While I would normally roll my eyes to these topics, I see my twin and myself representing something quite alike. For the longest time, we have been asked to identify our differences, and naturally we have found them in our characteristics. In instances where our differences show, arguments often ensue. What I didn’t learn until recently, however, was that every conflict between us made our trust for each other stronger, and created an instance of duality so powerful that without my twin, I risk losing a part of my identity.
My old art teacher was right. The time that I spend with my brother is somewhat abnormal, and for outsiders looking in, I understand why some might shake their heads and say something along the lines of, “those guys should make new friends.” What they won’t know is that it took me a year of separation to realize that my greatest friend was right by my side all along, and being by him makes me a complete Mickey Shiotani.