I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened the letter that Professor Gallagher handed me in class almost three months ago. My mind was instantly flooded with thoughts and dreams. I was holding a piece of paper that encompassed a great deal of meaning in my life. It meant myriad of things for me.
It meant a chance for a new beginning, a chance for change, a chance to turn over a new leaf. It meant undertaking new adventures, facing new challenges, and encountering new people. But above all, it meant freedom.
Freedom from my exasperating mother who wouldn’t accept my sexuality. Yes, I am gay. And my mum’s a right cow.
Freedom from being constantly viewed as my twin sister Katie’s shadow. Yes, I have a twin. And my sister’s a right bitch.
Freedom from the robotic person I’d let myself become for the past nineteen years. Yes, I am a dork. And my self-concept is unbelievably low.
I thought about it again. Okay. Maybe just a little dorky. No need to be so harsh on myself. I already feel awkward and pathetic enough.
I sat there, in the backseat, looking out through the airport taxi’s window into an unfamiliar place with a totally different time zone. I was in Japan. Japan, Emily, I needed to remind myself. For the love of God, perk the fuck up!
I tried to smile at the scene — bicycle-crowded streets (Whoa, I should find myself one right away), the succession of teensy weensy houses and buildings (Suddenly, I felt like Goliath), and the several, what-seemed-like-duplicated temples and shrines (I’d counted eight so far … Typical Kyoto) — but I still could not. I was all by myself and quite uncertain if I were indeed ready to face this pristine endowment of momentary liberty.
It was eleven o’clock in the morning and I had begun to enjoy the oriental sun. I had heard September was one of the hottest months. It was definitely a big, delightful change from the boring English summer. My typical summer back in Bristol constituted watching a film about a flying penguin with my earthworm of a little brother James, taking on lame summer jobs with my best mate Cassie, and listening to my sister go on about aiming to visit the most exotic beaches in the world and to party non-stop and to meet lots of fit, tanned real men.
Despite the glorious sun and lovely surroundings, there was a weird twist in my tummy and all the assorted emotions and feelings that I was having became rather overwhelming: anxiety, excitement, frustration, confusion, and bloody jet lag. Actually, everything at that very moment was a tad too overwhelming.
A number of how’s concerned me: (1) How could I possibly survive in an alien country for ten months?; (2) How would I be able to manage my social life when I was probably the most introverted dweeb walking on the face of the planet?; and (3) How do I go about starting a new life being the ‘only Fitch’—without my twin sister Katie with me?
I had always been recognised as the ‘other’ Fitch, the ‘nicer’ Fitch, or worse, the ‘lezzer’ Fitch. Katie had forever been the one in the spotlight, the one invited to all the raves and wild parties, and the one being asked out on dates by almost the entire University of Bristol football team.
In all honesty, I wasn’t really complaining about all that since most of the time I’d rather be alone with a book, or watching a marathon of some outrageous comedy or mopey TV series with my BFF, or ogling pretty girls. Plus, I was certainly not one to be jealous of my sister’s animal print leggings *vomits*, mingering bunch of ex-boyfriends *vomits*, and the many snidey remarks people throw at her *vomits*.
All the same, I needed Katie from time to time—right now, for instance—because I was just the ‘too weak, overly dependent, and scared’ Fitch twin. And everything around me still spelled i-n-t-e-n-s-e. Hell, I was shitting bricks.
I wasn’t used to change, too, and had always stayed on course. I’d like to think of myself as a good person. An organised, a bit of a control freaky good person. Growing up, I’d always tried to follow the rules and built my life around my goals. I kept my side of the room clean, studied for the exams, wrote checklists, adhered to timetables, did my best to mind my manners around my parents, stayed inside the closet for the most part of my life. Do you really want to hear more about my life? It’s dead boring. You’ll be asleep before the end of the paragraph. Nutshell: I lived my life as if it were a task.
As I looked out the window, I felt the possibility of another kind of life, a life I had never imagined could be mine. A life without rigid limitations others had always set for me. This was an unusual, scary getaway in a whole new world to embark on an open-ended journey. Sounds terrifying? You bet. Yet despite that, or maybe even because of that, I found myself beginning to smile.