There were always two, even as they all thought we were only one, even as you listen incredulously and think, no, there is only one, one voice, one story. Although it is true that sometimes it is one voice or the other or one story or the other, please be clear: this is our story.
But perhaps it is easier to start at the beginning.
We were born as one, to our parents, and placed on the single trajectory that we would call our lives. It was innocent enough, the mistake of it all, the oneness, for there was no evidence of twoness: one egg, one heart, one mind, one name. Just as we have always known that there were two, it was thus only natural to us that there were two. It could be no other way, and all the complications that came with the inconceivability of two were, for us, merely the nominal struggles of life.
Yet when our mother heard us playing in our room, she would find it strange that we would argue over which clothes to put on the doll, whether to paint or whether to build blocks, or whether to eat the snack cookies now or save them for later, when we were really hungry.
"No need to struggle, Julia," she would comfort us, and we thought she understood also, understood the inherent struggle between us who were both Julia but were not one Julia. "You do whatever you'd like, okay? No need to beat yourself up over it, dear heart. Don't fuss so."
But she did not understand, nor did our father. Although they used the words conflicted, struggle, torn often enough in describing us to our grandparents, friends, pediatricians, it was as if they were eclipsing the tip of the iceberg. They talked in figurative, metaphorical terms when in reality the situation was much more literal than they could ever expect.
The cusp of the problem began to dawn on us when we learned to speak and comprehend others. We did not understand why they thought of us as one when there was so obviously two of us that communicated, albeit at different times. There was no rhyme or reason as to who spoke; rather, it was who could get their thoughts out the loudest, the fastest:
"Mother, I don't want to wear the green dress. I hate green dresses!"
"Mother, it's really all right; you know I think the green dress is lovely."
"Mother, I shall tear a hole in the dress if you put it over my head!"
Although we drove mother to tears with our bickering, she began to think of it as a game, calming her in a sense but infuriating us.
"Which Julia has come to play?" She would muse when we'd join her on the porch. "Naughty or nice?"
"Momma, why is there only one name when there is two of us?"
"What do you mean, dear?"
"We are as different as night and day and yet you speak to us as one person. How come you never address her only or speak to me?"
"Because you are still my Julia, sugar or spice." Mother would envelop us in her arms and we could smell the honeysuckle of her perfume.
"Which one of us, Mommy, is sugar and which one is spice?"
"Who, dear Julia, who?"
Our father perceived the situation differently.
"You must tell your friend Julie-Ann to behave," he explained gently after we had acted up again. "Or she'll have to leave. Imaginary friends are guests in this household at our discretion."
"She's no friend, papa; we're sisters!"
"Well, regardless of what you consider Julie-Ann to be, she must abide by the rules of this house, just as Julia does."
"Sometimes it's Julia who doesn't behave! Sometimes Julie-Ann is a perfect angel!"
"I'm not arguing with you, Julia; you should work with Julie-Ann together as a team to be the best you can be."
And so our father christened us: Julia and Julie-Ann. But who was Julia and who was Julie-Ann? Our father had delineated us clearly along the lines of good and bad, when obviously we were a little of both in each our own way.
As we became older and attended school, it dawned on us even more clearly that the others were one, not two.
"What is your other's name?" We would ask our friends, puzzled that they were simply Rebecca or Robin.
"The other inside you, of course."
At times we were comforted that there were two of us—the ones didn't want to be friends with us. They thought we were strange, crazy perhaps, and teased us mercilessly.
"When you say two, Julia, whatever do you mean?" Ms. James, the school psychologist, would ask. We wondered whether her question was a trick, whether there was a right answer. We glanced down at the pictures Julie-Ann, the artist, had drawn of our family at Ms. James' request. In thick, crude strokes of crayon stood the soft, pale auburn-haired woman who was our mother, and beside her a tall, fair man with a beard and short-cropped hair colored in laboriously with yellow. We stood between them, our fair hair, blue eyes, and our smile. We held each of their hands, a happy unit, a triptych of four.
"We mean there is more than one. There are, as our father says, Julia and Julie-Ann."
"Well, Julia, since I'm fairly well acquainted with you, why don't you tell me about Julie-Ann?"
"But you've been talking with me the whole time. Wouldn't you rather talk to Julia for awhile?"
It irritated us that no one could tell the clear differences that existed between us. Julie-Ann, obviously, was good at the arts and writing, whereas Julia excelled in math and science. We even spoke differently, felt differently, and had crushes on difference classmates.
"To whom am I talking to now?" Ms. James peered at us over her glasses, a slight frown stretched across her face. Clearly, we had given the wrong answer. "Julia or Julie-Ann?"
"How will I know, dear, to whom I'm speaking?"
And yet it seemed simple enough to point out that she knew the difference between Allan and Gerard, and Patricia and Leah, even if they were just ones, not twos. Like us, they were as different as night and day. Julie-Ann doodled on our paper again..
"Who is drawing?"
"And who are you?"
"I'm Julie-Ann. How many times do I have to tell you, you horrible cow!"
The tests were psychological at first, with different psychiatrists; our dreams, our nightmares, whether father touched us inappropriately, how mother disciplined us. We became increasingly disinclined to talk, whether as the result of the monotony in this line of questioning or the knowing fear that something was wrong with us, and if they could put a name to it, they would aspire to eliminate it.
Julie-Ann felt it was in our best interests to mount a full disclosure of our twoness.
Maybe they will be able to help us, she pleaded. Maybe they can cure us.
And how do you suppose they cure us? Julia demanded. One cannot live without the other.
I don't know, Julie-Ann pouted. I'm just so tired of the questions, the probing. Will they just let us be!
Julie-Ann's plan won out by the nature of her perseverance, but it was not the relief we expected. Our parents were devastated, confused, angered, that there were two.
"How can there be two of you?" Our mother held our arms and stared deeply into our eyes as if to isolate the both of us, as if we were two flies crawling around the edges of our eyeballs. "There's no mental illness in our family!"
We understood, from eavesdropping on our parents, that if the medicine didn't take effect and make us "one" again, we would be sent away. But where? We wondered. And for what?
Oddly, despite her stubbornness, it was Julie-Ann who was affected the most by the medication. She began to fall asleep during school. I tried the best I could to keep up in subjects that were deemed Julie-Ann's forte, but I soon fell behind. Our parents didn't care so much; they were elated by our "progress" and suddenly the visits to the doctors became less frequent.
And I, I began to like being just Julia, the quiet of only my own thoughts or lack of them, my own interests pursued at school (like the science fair and not some silly drawing competition), my own relationship with our parents. They would kid that Julie-Ann had "gone to sleep" and that I should be careful not to wake her up. Apparently this meant no running and dancing, eating sugar and spicy foods, and other seemingly normal activities my parents felt might agitate awake the sleeping beast that was Julie-Ann. I wasn't much interested in physical activity, but I did pinch the occasional chocolate bar from the cupboard.
It was true, as I said, that Julie-Ann slept during the day. However, she began waking at night when I was tired and my defenses lowered. My thoughts would blur as I began to yawn, and I would hear her, distantly at first, indecipherable, then louder and clearer until she was right beside me as always. For a few hours we were two, just as we always were, and I did look forward to it, as we were sisters, and being without her for so long could be unbearable at times. But then, as I drifted off to sleep, she did not.
I was initially upset that Julia got all the attention, but mostly I liked it. I didn't have to attend that stuffy school and deal with those crotchety old teachers. I didn't have to do homework. I could write and draw in my bed in the darkness of night with only a flashlight to guide me; I could sneak out in the yard and do cartwheels on the dew-colored grass; I could eat all the ice cream and pizza I wanted and watch late-night television. Best of all I could do all these things without Julia at my side, warning that we shouldn't do that, do that. Bullocks, Julia—you never did know how to live.
Mom and Dad soon became aware of my nocturnal hours and wanted the doctor to curb what they viewed as my "mania." However, they were equally intrigued by my creative output after nine o'clock at night and began to pretend they did not notice my full day at the office. In their eyes, I was too much girl for one body. I don't think they ever realized the truth of it.
I began to get bored, being alone like that in the night. I was always the more social one, Julia with her nose in the books. I needed to be out in the sunshine--I needed to feel the light on my face, touch the skin of others, laugh, hear my voice aloud, to feel my vocal chords vibrate with laughter, with sorrow, my ears ring, my limbs tire from a long day of activity. I began to sleep at night also.
She began to invade me---Julie-Ann, I mean. What was a few hours in the evening before bed turned into early morning, when I awoke, through second period and beyond, her incessant chattering in my ears while I tried to listen to our instructor, her excitement over the changes that had occurred at school, around town, with our classmates, while she had hibernated that refreshing year which was our fourteenth together. Was she becoming acclimated to the medicine? Did she need a higher dose to stay repressed into the folds of quiet while I worked through the day, made a good name for us at school? And it was my name on the papers, on the term cards, on the honor roll, wasn't it?
I begged her to go back to sleep, but she was bored, she said. She was lonely. She needed stimulation. She suggested we trade off days, but I was skeptical. We would be out of sync, too tired, it would be too difficult to catch up. Besides, I was firmly entrenched in the school hierarchy: debate team, science club, math club, swim club. And my friends, Sissy and Carol and Janice---Julie-Ann thought they were terrible bores. It would be like her to hang out with the loose girls, the smokers, the art room malcontents and ruin our reputation forever. I had to stand my ground.
Julia was totally against us switching off days at school, but what right was it of hers to decide? We were both here, sharing this body. Just because her name was on everything was, well, chance. I could have just as easily been Julia (not that I would want to). I decided on an ultimatum. It was true Julia was good at school and, to be honest, it quite bored me. My proposal was thus:
I would sleep for a little while.
A few years, maybe. Enough so that Julia could get us through high school, college, medical school, established, whatever. And then I would awake for good and Julia would go to sleep. We could each live our own lives: Julia our life's morning, and myself, our life's afternoon. It was perfect, right? And it would keep us out of the damn loony bin, that's for sure. If the psychiatrists weren't diagnosing us with multiple personality disorder or strapping electrodes to our head, they were feeding us pills, black and pink, green and yellow, white and chalky. I could dream a decade or so of delicious dreams, and Julia could tinker out the details of waking life.