After a mostly-perfect trip to San Francisco a few months ago—a trip complete with narrowly escaping white slavery, meeting my Virtual Girlfriend and her amazing rack, and hyena laughing with my dear long-distance palsie who left me with a four-poster bed and weighty heart at her departure last spring—I decided I would move there. I would sit in Golden Gate Park and go to actual museums in an actual city and eat ceviche on the street and meet people, new people, maybe even a new person to fall in love with after a courtship in which I would send her envelopes filled with ocean pebbles and lavender petals even though mailing rocks is kind of expensive. I thought I would move there and live under a coffee table or in a bunk bed with Small Fry, my other butt cheek, who would also move there and who is not just my other butt cheek but is also my Huck or my Tom depending on who’s in charge on any given afternoon. But I’m not going, at least not any time soon. It’s not that I don’t want to, but that I’m poor, so poor that if I had cable, I’d have to cancel it. This, Carrboro, North Carolina, is where I live. It just is. But my other butt cheek is moving there, to San Francisco, to the land of rainbows and rainbow flags, the land of fog and parks, where it’s okay to touch your girlfriend’s cheek the way your parents did when you young and they were in love. Small Fry, the person who looks nothing like me but gets mistaken for me as I get mistaken for her, is leaving tomorrow. The person who wakes me up in the morning and dances with me before noon, the person who is the other half of our package deal, the buy-one-get-one-free, is flying away.
Because I am as unable to think of the future as I am to sit on the furniture at the bar across the street because I heard a tall guy with long hair and neck tattoos who thinks his band will change the world finger banged a goth girl on the couch in front of the stage, it’s happening tomorrow and I’m not ready, not ready at all. I’m as unprepared to say goodbye as I’ll be when Kirk Cameron leads all the good Christians to heaven and leaves us sinners and sodomites to rot in the Church of the Bloody Mary, which is a hell where the eggs Benedict are always over-cooked and when you order a mimosa, the zombie servers bring you skim milk instead. But it is happening now. She is packing up her life and I am here, avoiding the truthful truth, the real truth, that I will take her to the airport tomorrow, ask if she has her ID and her ticket, get her bags out of the trunk, drop her off at the curb, and say goodbye.
The first real goodbye I said was at sixteen when my twin sister went to boarding school. I don’t remember if we were particularly close as teenagers. I’m guessing we actually weren’t in the day-to-day sense. She was a good student, swam and played soccer, did her homework, looked normal, made good impressions, didn’t get in trouble. I spent most of my afternoons smoking weed out of tin cans or hollowed out apples with the seniors who adopted me because I would light their cigarettes and tell the cashier at Taco Bell that there was a hair in my burrito and give the free one to them. But even if Betsy and I weren’t all that close socially, didn’t have the same friends or do the same things, I was so very sad when she left. There is a moment in twins’ lives when you separate, a necessary, if unconscious, thing so that you are not tethered together for the rest of your dual lives, unable to love anyone else as much as you love each other. Most twins make this cut, but not all. There were twins in my college who did not. They dressed alike. They took the same classes, lived in the same dorm room, were indistinguishable except for different colored glasses—one frame blue, the other red. They will always be “the twins,” forever an egg that didn’t want to split. This was never going to be Betsy and I. We were always different, always individual, but her leaving was the first goodbye and it hurt all the same. Twins lives are parallel, separated by five minutes or eight minutes or an hour, but connected in time and genetics and sharing a body before you even were a body. And then, sixteen years after we slipped into the world, she was gone. When my parents and I drove away, separating us and I for the first time in our lives, I cried like I had never cried before.
There have been others. The have been break up goodbyes, which aren’t necessarily even goodbyes but sad or angry see you laters because maybe you live in the same town and will see each other even when you don’t want to see each other, like when she is grocery shopping with her new girlfriend and you are buying cans of tuna and single servings of mac ‘n cheese. And there are the goodbyes when you are the one leaving. When I moved to Portland, I cried all the way across the country. But as much as I hated to say goodbye to the people who had been my family in the years before, I was glad to be the one leaving. My friends rolled spliffs and lined them in a tampon box for me while my girlfriend packed the car and I cried in the bathroom, sad but knowing that it is easier to leave than to stay.
But I am not the one leaving this time, Small Fry is. We have a friendship born not out of blood but out of who we are, because we are the same and because we are different, because we are good for each other and bad for each other, because we congratulate ourselves on staying young while everyone else gets old, all the while knowing that it cannot last for ever. This is the beginning of the severing, like it was when I was sixteen and Betsy walked to her dorm and I drove away with my parents. She leaves not so much a hole in my heart as in my day. We are going our separate ways, Small Fry and I, approaching, perhaps, the thing that terrifies us most—adulthood, when friends are less important than jobs and partners, houses and families. We will do the things that people do, and wish sometimes that we are back in our living room fort, sitting back-to-back on our matching laptops, picking each other up and swinging each other around, bumping chests until one of us falls onto her back, talking about girlfriends and non-girlfriends and the ones we wish would be our girlfriends and the ones we wish we’d never met, talking about how this will never end, how we will always be Peter Pans in a grown-up world.
There was rain storm that day ten years ago when we drove my sister her to her new life. We left the windows open while we unpacked her bags and met her roommate, and the back of the car was soaking wet, buckets-of-water-on-the-seats-wet, when it was time to leave, so I folded the seats down and lay on the back of them and covered my face with a sopping sweater and cried the five hours home, so sad and so embarrassed to be so sad. This will happen again tomorrow when I drop my other butt cheek off at the airport. I won’t be able to hold it in. I will sob on the curb and drive blindly home, back to Carrboro, back to the place and the life I have chosen, a place and a life that will be a little more empty.