Coming Of Age

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Sometimes I'm a girl and sometimes I'm a boy. Today's a girl-day, so it's Orianthi. Red skinnyjeans, my brother's old Blundstone boots, a black tee, no logo, purple hair chalk. It's a coolname, right? Rockin' guitarist and all. Back story on the boots--I was wearing them the dayCarter took off, three months after our seventeenth birthday. Otherwise they'd be gone too.They're awesome, all worn out and scuffed up and vintage-like.Carter ran away, and I followed. We're tethered, but I guess he forgot. I miss his quirky hyenalaugh, his tenderness, his viciousness. Raspberry pie at midnight, single fork. Ori, whispered,sing-song, reverent. All that science shit he used to teach me, trilobites, coprolites, dendrites.Ukulele punk--humble, badass. Whatever. Short story, he's gone.I'm kind of wondering how I ended up here, Room 11, Nap-Away Motel. Bed shaped like ahammock, stink of cigarette smoke and mouse piss, stain on the carpet that looks like blood,cracked mirror in the bathroom. Bleak. Dubious beginning for a lost-twin quest.I waited for Carter to come back, for seven hours and thirteen days. At first I wasdisbelieving. I sent him jokey texts with stupid emojis that I knew he would hate and waited forhim to respond. Then I got really pissed. Stopped texting him. But I kept looking for him at allthe places we hung out. Around the sixth day I spiralled down into a blacker place. Soundtrack"Cosmic Love", Florence + the Machine, all that darkness when the stars go out. On the seventhday I found his cell phone. Smashed open, all its robot-like innards exposed. The screen wasshattered into a million little pieces of cracked ice. I cradled it for a moment in my cupped palms.Like a dead baby rabbit. Then I hurled it at Carter's bed.A couple of months before he took off, he started acting weird. Cagey and nasty. Some kindof secret pulsed through his veins. No riffs on his uke. He muttered and scribbled in his3notebook. I'd looked inside it before--brain-eating amoebas, blue straggler stars, crap I didn'tunderstand--but when I snuck into his room to peek inside the notebook again, I saw crampeddark words multiplying and spilling over the pages, jagged fangs, disemboweled dogs. They sayterrible things will happen if I reveal anything, he had written. I've made a discovery though,about dendritic spines, about the connectivity of the interneurons. I thought it might help, butthey say I can't tell, not ever. Not even to Ori. They tell me things about Ori that I don't want tobelieve, horrible things about what--Carter caught me. His eyes were grey and wild, filled with snarling wolves. He ripped thenotebook from my hands."The proof is in here. About everything! Now they'll have to come and take me," he hissedvehemently."Who?" I asked.His lips curled back to form the words. "You're not who you say you are. They said youwould do this, that you would interfere!" My guts slithered and constricted into a tight coil. Hedropped the notebook and turned his head sharply to the right. "Shut up. SHUT UP! GOAWAY!" I skittered out of his room. In the morning he was gone.Here's the thing. Carter and I look out for each other, because no one else ever has, not really.Spent most of our childhood bounced around between our mom, our grandma, and foster care,which mostly sucked, except for foster home three. Big funky farmhouse on the edge of Oshawa,lots of fruit smoothies, two wiry grey dogs, and a foster mom who was into drumming-circlesand yoga. Stella. She bought Carter his first ukulele. I miss the dogs the most. Nancy and Grover.They both had those weird blue eyes that could pin you against a wall. She got sick though.Stella, I mean, not Nancy.4Foster home five was nothing like number three. No dogs, no smoothies, no yoga. Bunch oflittle kids with snotty noses, running around with dirty bare feet, wet diapers hanging down. Fishsticks and overcooked pasta with watery tomato sauce. Lots of beer-drinking and bad reality TV.Kathy was nonchalant about Carter's disappearance. Figured he was old enough now to be'starting out on his own.' Mr. Jepps didn't even notice Carter was gone.So the vigil of waiting for Carter's return was mine alone. Thirteen days and seven hours. Onthe eighth hour his postcard arrived. A touristy one, with a glossy Canadian beaver on the front,Toronto, written in large cursive script across the bottom. The back was crowded with the samedark cramped words from his notebook. My name, again and again. Ori, Ori, Ori, like he wascalling out to me. I'm at the edge of the universe, THE FUCKIN' EDGE, looking over. There's apencil in my heart, right here, right here, and it hurts, you can't imagine how much it hurts me,but they can't take it out, they can't get to it, but every time I breathe I can feel it impaling me,the slivers of wood piercing, fiercely, fiery, fury, flurry, there's a flurry of words slipping out ofmy brain. Someone has tampered with it. There were a few more sentences that I couldn'tdecipher, and then: I can only eat tacos now. Ori! I could hear his voice, pleading like he wasbeing held hostage. There was a sketch, small and detailed, of some kind of pointy-nosed rodent.Like an earless mouse. But with rows of sharp teeth. And circling the outer edge, like a frame:On earth we strive for earthly things and suffer sorrows daily. In heaven choirs of angels sing,while we play ukulele.I carried the postcard around in my back pocket for five days. Folding and unfolding it,slashing that beaver's pelt into four. Re-reading all the craziness, until it was embedded into mymind. The beaver was magical; I thought it was an amulet that would bring Carter back. Until I5realized that it wasn't bringing him back, it was calling me to him. A magnet, tugging at mymarrow, pulling me to my twin.Pulled on the Blundstones, threw my clothes and my notebook into a bag, scrounged aroundfor cash. I had a couple hundred stashed away. My life's savings. Carter had a Mason jar filledwith change that I emptied out. Stole a couple of twenties from Mr. Jepps' beer fund. Hitched aride with a neighbour to the city. Told him I was meeting Carter, like it was all planned. Big fattruck, driving fast along the 401, going west. On the drive he told me neighbourly stories. Thebowling alley fire. Mr. Marshall's dog. (Twenty stitches. And that cone of shame). Graffiti onthe war monument in the park. Eventually he turned on the radio. Soundtrack, his, not mine:"Sunglasses at Night," Corey Hart.

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