Between the Lives - By Jessica Shirvington
I am a liar.
I am two people. Neither better than the other, no superpowers, no mystical destinies, no two-places-in-one-time mechanism – but two people. Different in ways fundamental, even though at the most basic level I look the same. My physical attributes, my memory and my name follow me. For the past eighteen years, everything else, everything, about me is different. Twenty-four hours as the first of me. And in the blink of an eye, twenty-four hours as the second of me. Every day, without fail, it goes on …
I’ve never told anyone. By the time I was old enough to figure out everyone didn’t have two lives – by the time that little shock settled in – I didn’t know where to begin. How to begin. And society, both of them, didn’t want to know.
When I was a child, I didn’t realise I was different from everyone else. But I’m pretty sure I’ve always been this way – this two-lives way – which means I was probably born twice, was a baby twice. No surprise I’m glad I can’t remember that. Being torn from one set of arms and thrust into another every twenty-four hours? Well, it doesn’t matter how much they love you … Can anyone say, issues?
Practice makes perfect though, and I like to think of myself as a pro. I’ve ironed out the kinks; identified the major pitfalls and how to avoid them. I manage. I know who I need to be in each of my lives, and I try not to confuse my brain with the ‘infinity questions’ anymore.
I’ve learned to accept that in one life I love strawberries, while in the other my taste buds cringe at the flavour. I know that in one life I can speak fluent French, but even though the memory of the language comes with me, in my other life I must not. Then there are easier things to remember, like Maddie, my gorgeous little sister in one life, and my not-so-great big brothers in my other.
Above all else – though I try not to think about it – I know which life I prefer. And every night when I Cinderella myself from one life to the next a very small, but definite, piece of me dies. The hardest part is that nothing about my situation has ever changed – the only thing I can be certain of is the fact that my body clock is different from everyone else’s. There is no loophole.
Until now, that is.
I broke my arm today.
Capri and I were heading for the subway. I had a Coke can at my feet, soccering it along the pavement, flashing sweet and mostly sour smiles to the suits who gave us ‘hooligan’ looks as we passed. We attracted that kind of attention. Funny how clothes and a generous serve of eyeliner can do that. In my other life, no one would dare give me that kind of eyeswipe. But there was something satisfying about it. My faded black mini and lace-up Doc Martens helped give me what I needed.
Capri skipped ahead, her black hair bobbing, halfway between dreads and undecided. ‘I bet the guys are already there,’ she said over her shoulder, speeding up.
I suppressed a groan, hoisted the Coke can onto the tip of my toe, kicked it into my hand and picked up the pace. At the top of the stairs I paused to toss the can in the trash, and then … un-paused. I don’t know if it would’ve happened anyway. But right at that moment, one foot in the air about to step down onto the first of fifty-odd steps, I saw him.
Well, I think I saw him.
A round-bellied, middle-aged man. Dressed in a dated taupe suit and scuffed red-brown shoes. He was thinning badly up top and sweating due to either excess fabric or body weight. He looked different than usual, but in that moment I was certain. Fruit shop guy, my mind whispered.
It was a glitch.
They happened every now and then, and they always threw me.
My foot never found sure landing. Instead, it missed the step and caught the edge. I fell forward, propelled towards the bottom, making a fool of myself the entire way. Legs over ass, I flashed a good few dozen people on the way down, showing them pretty much all I had to offer.
Capri, great friend that she is, was laughing before I even came to a stop. And not just a private