CHAPTER 1

SELF/OTHER

My name is Anna Appleby. I imagine that you consider yourself to be of sound mind, of a temperament graceful enough to engage in life’s morays without the encumberment of the sort of constant self-reflection that afflicts the very young, the very old, or the insane. Yet I myself have surrendered any such connections to the objective world beyond my grasp, and I delve inward for the final time, never to arise again for the airs of the fields, lilies and streams, the beautifications that dwell now only in my mind’s fancies. I am sixteen years old, and I am unto myself and myself only. I will never leave my modest bedroom again. My personal relations with the outside world will be limited to my immediate family only, for reasons you shall soon hear. I reject all else, but before you judge me, know that if you were to gaze upon my current bodily state, you of the sound mind would be filled with so much abject horror, that those of you who would not faint at the very sight of me would surely run swiftly from my room with the pall of death, and immediately begin to rationalize away my own existence, for fear that the memory of the sight of me may haunt your every waking moment into your nightmares. You would say there is no way such a horror such as me could draw breath, and yet here I am, addressing you now, about to tell you my story, offering you proof of my existence, my desires, my journey to my current horrible state. Yet let me say that while you in the sane world might find me now an aberration to decency, call me a freak, a mutant, and wish to expunge me as unnatural and an affront, please reflect first upon the tale I am about to tell, for within these words may lie hidden wisdoms of a sort found nowhere else in God’s universe, for you must admit, there is no one else in this place such as I.


So then it may surprise you that now having established my own terrible singularity, I reveal that I am inexorably and irrevocably tied to one other person on this Earth, and one other person only, for my own nature will always be by definition a dual one, as it was from the very beginning of my own personal time, for I am, and will always be, an identical twin. Let it be known that I am the eldest, by at least several minutes I am sure, as my sister Chloe needed coaxing, an offer of reward or some such thing to enter this world, behind me. And rest assured that while we are identical, Chloe’s current bodily state is not now identical to mine, for she can walk among you and blend with no degree of uncertainty, a fate impossible for me to currently accomplish.


Yet still, we are joined, as from our beginning until the day God bequeaths as our end, for if one of us dies, so the other cannot live in a manner one can call, “living.” It is curious, surely to most, to exist in this dual realm, for we are all trained by necessity and instinct to call ourselves alone upon this Earth, and indeed our aloneness becomes no less than a Heavenly grant, our only gift, simultaneously unique and ubiquitous, only ours to possess yet something possessed by all. To say in our time that someone is “lonely,” O what a curse upon a soul! Thus the many movements of the worldwide many in the direction so unnatural to our original state, proclaiming as if truth that one must never be alone, for to be so condemns the soul to suffering eternal. What folly. Those of you in the vast majority who live and die alone, you are the fortunate, ecstatic islands of humanity, floating free in a universe of your own accord, able to choose or reject companions as befits your will. You are not inescapably tied to an other. You are not bound through a twist of biology, of cells shuddering in some ancient gravitational miasma, shrieking and splitting in an instant aberration to the singular state of the natural life. You lucky billions have yourselves and only yourselves to account for. I, and my sister, have two. Take a moment now to consider this. Inhale and exhale deeply. Feel your vessels expand at your extremities. Calibrate your oneness against the infinite. If life arose from a single point in a single moment of creation, recognize that you are the echo of that point, you inherently, majestically, magnificently, alone. I have not, nor will I ever, experience such ecstasy.

It’s difficult for me to convey, in mere words, the sensations I have felt every day of my existence, as someone I call (myself), “less than one.” Contrast this, my apparent despair of my condition then, to my feelings for this other, this part of me, this sister. How could I ever despise her? For wouldn’t to do so mean I despise myself? Yes, I accept self-loathing as a not- uncommon lifetime predicament, but again, I propose that it’s much more advantageous to keep self-hatred self-contained. It’s too easy for me to spew my anger outward, toward her, toward my other.


I preferred it when I didn’t have a name. What’s a “name” anyways but mere convenience and contrivance? I like to imagine the both of us, two of the same, nameless and newborn, unconscious to all environments, aware of only the fundamental forces that work upon the new shocked citizens of the Universe. Lying there, squirmy little balls of pudgy flesh, the Primal flexing its dictatorship over us: Hunger, Mother (bound as they are). But wait! Here’s another! An unknown, special force which will require a lifetime of mystery to never reach its purpose. For there we were, two nameless little blobs, writhing in place until we looked at each other, into mirrored infant eyes, to see each other for the first time, to see ourselves and to know that in our mortal time we call forever, our “one” and this “other” would be perfectly and symmetrically synonymous, that no matter how we would ever fight, push, pull or rebel against this curiously similar shape lying next to us, resistance was futile, and thus acquiescence, enforced. Can one be forced to love another? Can one be forced to love oneself? What if they are the same question?


I suspect I veer from my intended course, but the foundation must be laid. “Ambivalence” is far too mild and tame a word for my work-a-day world. My predicament has always required objective analysis of the sort that prospers most fruitfully both in therapists’ offices and in calmer moments under prescriptive sedation, neither of which I have been privy to, nor have I ever sought. I have instead forged a path some would call unconventional, but that is not for me to say.


Nor am I suggesting that my other, my sister, my Chloe — would take a path similar to mine, for, as you shall soon see, twins we may be, but alike we are not. This is not a matter of importance, however, and this rather mundane progression doesn’t contradict my above stated theorems in the least. Life is a circuitous series of false repetitions, from which you glean what sticks to you. Myself, name of Anna, and my other/self, name of Chloe, we exist in parallel concentric circles, spiraling down a shared and finite forever toward an ever-faster approaching singular infinitesimal one. You, reader, have your one. Chloe and myself, we have ours.