Human Backpack

The unique thing about Junior is that he’s an identical twin. Identical. That means everything should be the same for the both of them. Does the other twin have any problems? Yes and no. The other twin, we’ll call him Eric, is socially awkward but he doesn’t have any of the serious problems Junior has. I would even argue that his social awkwardness comes from living a life wearing his brother on his back.

Let me explain. Junior used to do something that bothered me even way back forty years ago. Eric was a happy-go-lucky baby. The kind of baby who would entertain himself for hours with a couple of Matchbox cars or sticks, or even rocks. He loved rocks. Eric was deep in an imaginative world doing his own thing.

And Junior, who always seemed to look pained would hang onto his brother from behind in a weird backward bearhug. They looked like Siamese twins, and poor Eric was forced to play with this human backpack weighing him down. Literally he would drag around his brother as he walked. The thing is for a while, the whole family thought this was funny and we laughed at Eric, who happily went about his business with his brother hanging around his neck until finally, he’d lose it, and scream until someone came to get Junior off him.

Perhaps the saddest part. As soon as you turned your back, Junior was right back hanging onto his brother.

Soon enough it wasn’t funny.

I began to see it as a symbol, especially the older we got. Junior was always the one hanging on us. With Junior, no one had a life. Every ounce of attention had to be on him always. He’d tantrum everywhere. He was kicked out of pre-school for peeing in the drinking fountain. He was kicked out of the elementary school in first grade for throwing chairs at his teacher. He chirped like a bird. He cussed. He wouldn’t wear shoes. He bit and kicked, and ran away. He was always on our minds and hearts, ever more creases in our parent’s faces. Junior took over the whole family.

But even worse, is how the story ends. Eric and Junior are over forty years old, and Eric has never had a life outside of caring for his brother, our brother. Eric has never dated, never lived away from his childhood home, never gotten away from his brother. Conditioned from the womb, from toddlerhood, it’s all he’s known. He’s still wearing this human backpack. His brother.

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