My name is Gina and I am a twin. My brother died when we were born.
I know it sounds crazy and when I try to tell this to people, especially professionals, I can see it in their eyes they think I need a good dose of psychotherapy. Well, maybe I do. It's not so bad when they blurt out right away „you're loony“ or „you're making it up“, but when they are like „you have a fair amount of projections going on“ or „is this how you try to deal with life's hardships“ I could kick their shins with a relish. Anyway, this is what I know.
I remember lying in an incubator and seeing my brother die. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, babies CAN'T remember lying in an incubator. It's not like I remember going shopping the day before yesterday and never finding that yellow jumper I wanted so badly. It's more like a picture that's saved somewhere in my brain, in a region words have no access to. I can see it all at once, in one piece, but when I try to describe it, things become blurry. I guess, this is what it must be like if you see something with your eyes and have no words to attach to it. So this is what hides behind the words I now have to use and hadn't at that time.
My incubator stood next to the door, opposite an opaque window. It had been pushed there because there was nothing really wrong with me that made an incubator necessary. I now think they just had it ready for the twin's birth and put me there to get their hands free.
They were all working on my brother. Nurses, doctors and midwives. Someone was sobbing. Our mother, I guess. I had been tucked into a blanket and a loose strand was tickling me. This was one of the sensations I feeled. The other one was my brother dying.
Yeah, yeah, yeah again, I KNOW it's not possible.
We were due to date and big for twins. Sixpounders, both of us. Mom did quite a job carrying us around. I had slipped out nice and easy and now everybody was waiting for Granny to appear.
My brother's name is Grant. Our parents have this fixation about the letter G. Since our last name is Galiano and my father's called George and my mother Gretchen, they thought never to change a winning letter and picket out names with G for both of us. Actually I am Grazia-Angelina and my brother is Grant Anthony. What a name! Sounds like a Roman Emperor. When I'm in a very flippant mood I think it's the reason he didn't stay around. He just couldn't face life with such a name.
Mom an Dad called us Gina and Granny even before our birth and afterwards they talked a lot about Granny and always called him that. Sounds like they talk about my grandmother. Makes it easier in public. For me, too. I can say „I love my Granny“ and nobody raises an eyebrow. Cute, isn't it? A young girl loving her grandmother AND wearing a golden bracelet with her name on it. But that's a different story.
Granny did appear some twenty minutes later, sure enough. He slipped out just like me, head first, perfect position – and he didn't start breathing.
They worked on him, worked their fingers raw. They injected substances into him. They tickeld him – or so I've been told later – and they cut his umbilical cord. They wouldn't do it nowadays, but back then they were sure it would make him breathe. He'd have to with the cord cut, he didn't get no oxygen anymore from our mother's body that way. They thought it would make him breathe but it didn't.
Mom told me, years and years later, when a baby is born lots of things happen in the little body. A hole in the heart that's supposed to be there till then, closes, the lung is sort of connected to the blood circuit and the blood starts running the other way round. When the baby breathes for the first time the lungs inflate and everything is fine. In Granny's case something went wrong and if you come to think about all the things happening within literally one breath's time it's a miracle it doesn't go wrong more often. Somehow Granny's lungs did not connect to the blood circuit, he COULDN'T breathe – and he didn't.
I had felt him all those months. You can't be anything closer than in the womb, you just can't. You snuggle up with a friend in one bed, you share a bath-tub we some veeery close friend, you crawl into one sleeping bag up on Everest in a very cold night, but you'll never be as close as in the womb. I could feel Granny's heart beating, could feel the life pulsating in him. He would kick me in the face or touch my bum with his fingers. The membrane between us – us being fraternal – did not prevent us from touching, not a bit. I would push him around and feel his legs entangle with mine. I could even feel him pee – don't you laugh – the liquid became a little bit warmer when he did. He felt all these things from me, too. There was our mother's slow, steady heartbeat and our small, fluttering ones, but I would never know which one was mine and which one was Granny's. I did not know where my body ended and his began. I do not know now.
I know I'm not supposed to remember all this. What you gonna do Mr. Shrink? Sue me?
I was lying in my incubator and I felt him slipping away. He was alive when he was born. Mom later, a very long time later, told me she could feel the life in him when he was born. She could feel his heart beating.
So could I. The double puls was still there, but while mine was quickening up and getting stronger, his was slowly faltering. Like a line getting thinner and thinner, like a thread of wool being worn finer and finer until it's no more than a gossamer thread. He was drifting away from me.
I didn't want that. I became stronger by the minute. With every heartbeat, every breath I took – I had no trouble breathing – I felt stronger and more able to hold on, to go on, to feel myself, to sense things, do things. Sensations loomed around me. Smell. Termperature. Noise. Life opened up around me and clutched at me, claiming me for its own. And Granny was slipping away from it all, away from life.
They cut his cord. Did I say that before? They wouldn't do it today. They cut his cord and then there was no way his blood could get the oxygen it needed, the oxygen it should get from breathing. They hustled and bustled and somebody shouted and somebody sobbed and nurses were running and getting things and putting things back and a doctor was in charge … and Granny just didn't heed them and went off on his own on a journey of his own and didn't take me with him.
That wasn't fair. I felt him die. It felt like falling. Like falling into a bottomless abyss. He fell and fell and I felt the falling while being held back by all this reality, the white walls, the humming and piping and clicking and ticking of instruments, people's voices, cool air rushing over me when somebody ran past my incubator. All these things held me back, tied me to life, while I felt my brother falling away. I can still feel him falling. I have never completely lost this feeling of falling into nothingness. Like when you step down a stair and you suddenly go two and you weren't counting on it and your body goes down two steps when your stomach only expected one. It's a sickening feeling and I don't like it. It isn't there all the time, now, but every other day I will suddenly experience it and then I'll remember: my brother is gone.
I was a fussy baby and a difficult toddler. I would sit by myself and talk to myself. I would scream at night for no reason. I screamed when Granny died, my mother told me. It was a high, piercing scream that made nurses rush to my side, but apparently I was fine. All the instruments said so.
It's at night that falling feeling gets strongest and then I scream. I don't know if I'm afraid of falling, too, or of my brother being gone. It's one and the same feeling.
My mother put a small, golden bracelet round my wrist when I was two. „Granny“ was engraved on it but she never told me, she just called it „my keepsake“, or „my precious“. People at kindergarden thought it was a present from my grandmother.
I was a nuisance at kindergarden. I would sit and look at the boys playing. Once a girl tried to approach me and make me play with her. Family legend has it I threw toys at her. At home I would tell how „Rory made a sand-castle“, „Josh pushed Ryan off the slide“, „Matthew has a new shoe on the one foot and on the other too“. I resented girls. But I also never played with the boys, I just looked at them.
When I was four, I lost my bracelet. I came home sobbing „I lost my Granny, my Granny's gone“. It was weird, because I couldn't read at that time and nobody had ever told me my brother's name was on that bracelet or that it referred to him at all. I never got it back and although to this very day I collect things with a G on them or even order them to be engraved „Grant“ or „Granny“ I somehow think of having lost my brother for good that day when I lost my bracelet. But,s till, it's only a date and in reality, MY reality, it all merges: him slipping away, both of us falling, us being together in the womb, me being claimed by life, me trying to claim my share in having a twin-brother by watching the boys, loosing my bracelet and finding my brother in the memories and feelings I ought not to have. It's all the same thing, really, twin-loss.