Why you should care
Because twin powers activate.
Minami Funakoshi is a senior at Yale University. After graduation, she will be working as a journalist.
My birth and early medical history are logged in a 20-page passport-size notebook whose first entry is exactly as old as I am. Boshi Techou — “Mother Child Journal” in Japanese — records when and where I was born, how much I weighed and what vaccinations I received as a baby.
The first page lists the basics. Time and date of birth: 5 a.m., June 11, 1992. Place: Ashikaga, Japan. Weight: 2,980 g. Height: 52 cm. Birth: normal. Then, my immunization record: polio 10/20/1993, tetanus/diphtheria 4/2/1994. My mum says I also got vaccinated for Japanese encephalitis, but I have no way to check. My Boshi Techou is missing. But there’s something else missing, something far more important, something my mum says she tucked inside my Boshi Techou.
My astrological sign is Gemini. A factoid perhaps related, but probably not, to my ongoing obsession with twins. I have watched, re-watched and triple-watched The Parent Trap. Fred and George Weasley are my favorite characters in Harry Potter. And ever since I can remember, I wanted a twin of my own. I know, most kids do. Must be sweet little Lindsay Lohan’s influence. But I mean, I really wanted a twin. Every June 11, I’d ask my parents for a twin, and every June 11 they’d give me a Barbie doll. By my 12th birthday, I had long known I could never have a twin, but I still yearned for my missing half that would jump ropes with me and give me a hug when I would fall and scrape my knees.
June 11, 2004, was a muggy summer day — the type of day you’d spend in a swimsuit and still feel like you were wearing sweat. I had invited a few of my friends to my birthday party, and when I blew out the 12 candles on the cake coated in plaster-white icing, they shouted, “Make a wish!”
I shouted back, “I want a twin!” My mum laughed. And then blew my tweenage mind.
“You actually had a twin, when you were still in my stomach,” she explained. I had a twin. Something I had convinced myself was impossible was true, and it was as if I had always known it. Then she said, “You just ate her up.”
I ate her up? Those words boomed in my head. For years, I would be taking a bath or gazing out the window and suddenly think to myself: I killed my twin. I ate her up. I would imagine my weeks-old self in my mum’s belly, circling around my helpless twin — a shriveled-up, drowning tadpole of a fetus — and slowly closing in, until … gulp, I swallowed her whole. Fed on her puny brain.
She laughed because it was so magical that I somehow seemed to know I have two souls inside me.
All my life I had longed for a twin — imagining what secret language we would invent, what pranks we would play on our brothers — and now I couldn’t stop wondering if this obsession stemmed from some sort of in utero guilt. A part of me wanted to ask my mum why she laughed and what really happened, but I couldn’t: I feared possessing that knowledge would brand me as a murderer.
Eight years later, I was at college in the U.S., 7,000 miles away from Japan. I still had not brought up the topic with my parents, and they never brought it up with me. Homesick, I ached not for home per se, but for my twin. If I couldn’t have her I wanted to know what exactly I had done, hoping that would grant me a sense of closure. So I Googled “twins one ate up.”
I clicked on the first hit: “Vanishing Twin.” The Wikipedia page defined “vanishing twin” as a dead fetus that is reabsorbed by the other twin; it can die due to a “poorly implanted placenta,” a “developmental anomaly” or a “chromosome abnormality incompatible with life.” I closed my eyes, and exhaled. My twin died of biological misfortunes. As my nostrils burned and tears warmed my eyes, I felt saved.
The next day, I finally asked my parents what had really happened. My mum told me she got an ultrasound when she was eight weeks pregnant and saw two blobs on the sonogram. One of them had a heartbeat. The other one didn’t. “I would have been so happy with cute twin girls,” she said, but then added that she’d thought to herself, “Maybe a marvelous girl with the power of two will be born.”
She said she told me about my twin on my 12th birthday because she thought I was ready for the truth; she laughed because it was so magical that I somehow seemed to know I have two souls inside me.
Just as no one knows exactly how or when my twin vanished, no one knows where my Boshi Techou has gone. The one record of my birth is gone. And with it, the sonogram tucked inside: the only photo of my twin and me, together.