Essay by Kayla Matters (2011)

The day my sister told me we no longer shared an iTunes account was the day my world was ripped out from under my feet.

“By the way, I opened a new iTunes account with my new computer, so it’s just yours now. We don’t have to share anymore.”

She said this so nonchalantly, as if she hadn’t just shattered my world.  As if everything I knew in life hadn’t just become a lie. Who was I in the absence of my sister, absent of the comparisons that constantly plagued me? Who was I, if not part of a unit? Brittany and Kayla, Kayla and Brittany, never one without the other. This idea was reinforced in family photos, greeting cards, plastered on walls and refrigerator doors. Our Christmas card was always Brittany and I together, with forced smiles and feigned laughter, not one picture of Brittany and one picture of Kayla.

But this life shattering statement was just the beginning. It soon came evident to me that she was really leaving, that the whole would become two parts, scattered across country, as she pursued things far greater than iTunes accounts and little sisters.

That day, I not only lost unlimited access to my sister’s music library, but I lost unlimited access to my sister. I realized that I would no longer have the luxury of tapping on her door, begging for her to appraise my outfit and deem it acceptable. I wouldn’t be able to borrow her eyeliner in times of desperation, or tell her secrets that I dared to share with no one else. I would no longer be able to rely on her to call my friends stupid bitches when I let it slip that we’d had a falling out, I would no longer be able to rely on her profanities to soothe my wounded heart.

But mostly, she wouldn’t be there. Even in times when no words were shared, doors shut and locked, the thought that she was there was a comforting one. Her presence was always a source of comfort, the way her perfume permeated the entire upstairs until it made my head spin, the way her car, dented from the time she drove it into a pole, lay in the driveway, letting me know, “its ok, she’s here.” And the way that sometimes, if I was lucky, her clothes would slip into my laundry, and I could put them on, acting as if it was a mistake, as if I didn’t know better. But really, I knew every dress from every sweater, because I had spent too many years longing to have them for my own, handed down to me, because I thought maybe, maybe if I had her clothes I would gain her beauty, her ability to light up a room with a smile, her effortless poise and grace she always seemed to have, maybe, just maybe, if I was a little more like her, things would be easier.

Maybe if I were more like her I wouldn’t face the constant comparison that plagued me at every dinner and every party and that rare occasion when we ventured out to church. Maybe then I would gain her ability to deal with life with a smile, rather than curled up in the corner with a book in hand, as was my usual method of combat. But after fourteen years of maybe’s, maybe it was time to accept the fact that although we were constantly compared, it was my lack of her beauty and grace and effortless smile that led me to be me, not nothing like Brittany, but something like Kayla.

And just like that, in the time that it took for me to glance at her apprehensively, my entire world as I knew it had gone up in smoke. Gone were the days when my parents would say, “Brittany and Kayla attend Southampton High School”, replaced instead by my parents excited exclamations of, “Our daughter is starting at High Point University.”, as if when one daughter begins college, the other daughter ceases to exist. When one daughter ventures off to explore her newfound freedom and responsibility, the other one fades, a ghost of who she once was. How can she be whole if the one person who has always been a constant is ripped away from her, leaving only an empty room and empty memories.

But maybe it took my world shattering to come to the realization that, although my sister is a part of me, she’s not all of me. Although she’s influenced my life in ways that one could only imagine, in the end, it’s up to me to decide who I am. Yes, I am a part of a unit, of a pair, Brittany and Kayla, never one without the other, but while Brittany is learning to be an adult, Kayla is learning to be herself, regardless of Brittany. No, I’m not poised like Brittany, beautiful like Brittany, bubbly like Brittany, but I am stubborn, sarcastic, and stumbling into my future, like Kayla.

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