It all started with my parents. It is true and I blame them. It is their entire fault. They had decided to have a baby but ended up with two baby girls. Twins. Yane and Zane. I was given the name Yane while my little twin sister was named Zane.
Zane and I were pretty competitive from a young age. When my stomach felt empty and rumbled, I cried so that Mum would come feed me but Zane would cry even louder to the point that Mum would run into the room, carry her first and feed her. When Mum gave me a spoonful of porridge, I would just lick it. Zane, on the other hand, would eat it all and call for more. Mum would smile at Zane for not being picky. When Dad arrived home from work, Zane would run to him and he would open his harms to hug her. At that very moment, I would come running, calling loudly, ‘Daddy, Daddy’ and dad would put Zane down and carry me up in his arms. Zane would twist her lips at dad but I was happy. I even remember a story Mum told us when we were older. She said that I had pooped too much in my diaper to the point that she had carried me on her back the whole day just so she could keep an eye on me. I think this was part of the competition too; I would be close to mum while Zane would not even taste mum’s warm back.
We grew up like that. The most painful thing was that everyone thought Zane and I were happy being together. Mum and dad even put us in the same school where we had to smile and hold hands so that the other kids and teachers would think we were adorable. I must say, I enjoyed this a little. I loved the smiles on the other kids’ faces and the sweet mumblings from the teachers. They probably wished they had twins too.
They did not understand us. Nobody knew how we felt when Zane and I were put together. Firstly, we had similar clothes. Secondly, our relaxed hair was tied up in three pony tails with ribbons of the same colour. At such times we just had to force a smile, that’s all. We could not poke at each other because the world expected twins to be adorable. The world wanted twins to be auniform but I wanted more.
My goal was to be an individual like everyone else. To be alone in a room without others asking where my sister was. To walk alone in the streets without someone calling me by my sister’s name. So when Zane and I turned twenty, I walked into a barbershop and asked the barber to cut off all my relaxed hair.
‘Could you give me a table cut?’ I said entering the small room.
The barber raised his eyebrows. He walked to me and touched my hair.
‘Why would you want to cut off all this lovely hair?’ He asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I laughed, ‘I just think I would look good in a table cut.’
And I did. But Zane hated it. She screamed the moment I walked into the house. Mum rushed to see what was happening. She actually smiled and said that I looked good. When Dad got home in the evening, he asked me to get him some water from the fridge. I did and he barely even noticed my shaved head. Zane did not care if others noticed the difference or not.
‘You and I are going to be different now,’ she said pointing at my head.
‘That’s the reason I cut my hair, anyway,’ I replied.
‘How can we be twins when we don’t even look alike?’
‘We have the same face, Zane.’
‘But not the same hair.’
‘Hair is not a big deal. Grow up, please.’
We did not talk any further that day. When we passed each other in the corridor, Zane would look away. I did not care. This was not the first time we had had an argument. I knew that she would come around just like when we had argued on what to wear on our graduation day. But that is a story for another day.
The next day, Zane left early in the morning for work. She worked at the District Labour Office. I always turned down invitations to visit her at work. I did not think it was necessary because every day she came home, she bragged about having her own office or the spinning arm chair in her office that she sat on or how her workmates praised her for her hard work. I just felt like I had seen it all through her mumblings.
I also prepared for work. I was a teacher at a local secondary school. I also had a chair and a table of my own but I never bragged about it. I would get home, grab a bottle of water from the fridge, switch on the television and sit in the sofa with my feet on a stool. Now that is what you do after work.
I enjoyed teaching. I would go to class on time and teach the students. Lessons usually turned into dramatic performances where students had to role play the activities. They easily remembered topics discussed in class that way plus it made them take charge of the learning process. As a result, my English classes were full of noise. Teachers complained of the noise but I knew I had everything under control. Though I felt the other teachers did not think so. Mr Chalema usually laughed when I was asked about the noise.
Chalema’s desk was right next to mine though he barely sat in it. He would chat with the rest of the teachers while standing up. He staggered whenever he walked. I tried sniffing him once hoping I would smell alcohol on him but there was nothing. He talked about every topic that popped into his head. He was like a clown of the staffroom and I enjoyed every moment with him except when he got really personal.
He was fond of asking about my family. What do your parents do? They must be rich seeing how you look fashionable every day. Do you have brothers or sisters? Are you the first born or last born? Whenever such a topic came up, I would quickly throw in a new topic and if it did not work, I would stand up and walk away mumbling about some students’ notebooks on my desk that I had to mark. Chalema would laugh. I think he knew I did not want to talk about myself though he kept asking anyway.
I never wanted to bring up Zane in my conversations at work. Normally, when an aunt or an uncle visited home and heard about Zane working at the District Labour Office with her own office and I, a teacher, with a desk in a vast staffroom, they would turn to me and give me apologetic smiles. Then more questions about Zane’s work would follow.
I did not want such moments at my work place. No-one had to know that I had a sister who looked like me. That way, no-one would judge me based on my sister’s qualities. I wanted to be just Yane, the teacher. Just an individual at work but of course Zane made it impossible.
I was coming from a classroom where I had been teaching when I got a glimpse of someone who looked like Zane entering the staffroom. I brushed the thought off. Why would Zane come visit me anyway, I thought.
I passed three male students holding hoes in their hands. There were buckets filled with sand beside them. The students were looking at the staffroom and when I approached, they turned to me. Their faces were puzzled and they seemed to shake their heads.
‘Finish the punishment and hurry to class,’ I said.
‘Madam,’ one of them said, ‘do you have a sister?’
I nodded. ‘How do you know that?’
‘Someone like you just went in the staffroom,’ the student said.
‘But she has long hair,’ another added.
I quickly rushed to the staffroom praying that there was no one there. I got in and saw her sitting in the visitor’s chair facing Chalema’s desk. Chalema and two other teachers were in the staffroom. Zane turned and looked at me. She smiled.
‘You never told us you had a sister, Yane,’ one of the teachers said, excited.
I looked at Zane then smiled.
‘That’s because you never asked,’ I replied.
‘Are you going to introduce us, Yane?’ The teacher asked again. ‘I am Mr Chinjobvu.’
‘Everyone, this is Zane, my twin sister,’ I said. ‘This is Chalema. He is Chinjobvu and that is Madam Kasese.’
‘You two are twins?’ Madam Kasese asked doubtfully.
‘That’s what I said.’ I laughed. I went to my desk and grabbed my handbag. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow. Let’s go, Zane.’
Zane got up from the chair and mumbled some goodbyes. As we got out, I could see the male students staring. We walked quietly and Zane struggled to catch up with me in her high heels. I stopped when I thought we were a good distance away from the school and anybody’s earshot.
‘What are you doing here?’ I asked.
‘I came to see you,’ she said.
‘You should have called first before coming here.’
‘I did but you were not answering.’
‘That’s because I was in class. Some of us really do work.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Nothing. I just don’t want you showing up at my place anyhow.’
‘You are my twin sister.’
‘Exactly why I did not want you here. Haven’t you ever wondered why I never visit you at work?’
‘There was a reason?’
‘I don’t want to be stuck with you my whole life. I want people to look at me and only see me. Not the two of us.’
‘Then it’s a shame we were born the two of us.’
‘Yes, it’s a shame.’
I was grinding my teeth and my hands had curled up into tight fists. I think I had wanted to say all this and now I had gotten my chance. I felt like picking a stone and throwing it at Zane. But I knew that would not change a thing. Zane and I, despite being twins, were different. We had different opinions on things. I wanted to be an individual. I wanted to be the one but she always saw herself bound together with me. A pair for life.
I walked away and got on a bicycle taxi that was passing by.
‘I am in a hurry,’ I said.
The bicycle taxi rider nodded and started riding through the dust road. I did not want to look back at my sister until I got to the tarmac road. She probably was just standing there watching me go.
We approached the tarred road. The bicycle rider turned.
‘Where are we going, Madam?’ He asked.
I never got the chance to reply. As the bicycle taxi rider got to the road, a truck came spinning from our right side. There were screams from all sides. The bicycle rider tried to turn back so it could go back into the dust path. The truck pushed us and I think I flew in the air momentarily and hit the ground, hard.
I tried to stand, but my body was numb. I could only move my eyes. I caught sight of what looked like a bicycle but it was all wrinkled up. Then there was a trail of red. I tried turning my head to see where the trail ended but my head just could not move. I felt water drop from my head down to my nose then lips. I licked it. I raised my arm and for some reason it moved. I touched the water moving from my head and saw that it was blood. I was bleeding.
Was I going to die? I tried to recall what I had read about head injuries. But I think my brain was tired and needed to save energy. My eyelids got heavy. I blinked and saw figures standing. Then I saw Zane. She crouched then knelt on the ground. She took my bloody hand in hers and called my name.
‘Yane! Stay with me.’
I was the one who had left her and wanted to be alone. Yet here she was again by my side. Holding my hand and calling out my name. I struggled to blink so that I could see her face. I felt my strength leaving me slowly but the thought of seeing Zane gave me some peace.
I groaned. I knew I was dying or maybe I was just afraid. I had so much anger and sadness but I also had so much relief. Zane was now going to be the one. Not a pair. She would now live my dream. She would now walk into a shop without the shopkeeper asking her why she had come back so quickly with a different hairstyle and different clothes. There would be no one to compare her to, except to the world.
Zane was going to dislike this. Mum and Dad too. They always had two of us and with me leaving, they would only have one baby girl. Just as they had planned in the beginning.
I looked at Zane once more. Tears were pouring out from her eyes. I blinked again, taking in my sister’s face one last time. Zane’s face got blurry and faded into blackness. All the noises and crying became faint and then there was silence.