The odor of sweat and urine coming off of my costume was unbearable. I was wearing an authentic Union Soldier’s uniform, donated to the theatre by the local chapter of the Son’s of the Confederacy. The costume itself weighed about forty pounds, not including the Civil War era rifle hanging over my shoulder. The air in the theatre was good, but it was no match for the pounds of wool I was sporting. Though the costume and the microphone taped down my spine, made for an uncomfortable working condition, it wasn’t all that was bothering me. This might be the last time I perform with my twin brother, my driving force for the last eighteen years.
The musical Shenandoah is set during the American Civil War, and portrays the war as a horrible affair that pinned father against son, and brother against brother. In the second Act, there’s a moment where a young Confederate Corporal sings “The Only Home I Know”. In the song, the soldier yearns for the home he left behind, but heartbreakingly realizes that it will never be the same. At this point the war is over, and he has lost more than just the war, he’s lost everything.
I have always been number five of six kids, and number one of a set of twins. As a kid I learned to talk as fast and as loud as I could, in order to get my point across. There was a constant strive for affection, and mindset of perpetual competition. The act of being noticed was especially hard for me, having a person that was exactly like me. My twin brother, David, and I have always been fused together, whether we liked it or not. And at times it felt like we were one single person, with two separate heads.
No one has ever commented on just how tall I was, or just complimented the way I looked. David and I have the same curled blonde hair, the same wide, defined jaw bone, even the same caterpillar eye brows. It is nearly impossible to be considered individuals, when you are genetically the same. Our resemblance goes past the superficial surface, and follows us deep into our mannerisms, even our laugh is identical.
When we were alone in our back yard, we would pretend to be other people. The two of us could play for hours; we got along better when we were two separate characters. We would climb up into our clubhouse, and David would declare he was the Blue Power Ranger. Then, in an effort to outdo him, I would exclaim that I was the Red Ranger, the leader of all Rangers.
It has never been about who was the best, between me and David, it has always been about who people thought was the best. We started singing at a young age, purely for the competition of seeing who was the loudest. We would do anything, and everything, just to one up one another.
And though I was always trying to distance myself from him, in the back of my mind I always felt discomfort without him. He was my crutch, walking without him was nearly impossible. I needed to beat him, but I needed him to be there when I did it.
The musical Shenandoah was a challenge, because we did not beat each other. They made the Corporal’s song a duet; we were to sing it together as brothers. The brothers in the show would represent two different sides of the war, trying to support their cause and each other. Though this should have been a realization that we were in fact equals, I knew in the back of my mind it was just another fight to see who would reach the top. I would have to strive to out shine him, and not end up the one hidden beneath the other’s shadow.
Although singing with David was second nature, and I have been doing it since I was in the first grade, this time would be different. This would most likely be my last time to perform with him. With me going to the University of Mississippi in the fall, and David going to Memphis, my time with him was coming to an end. There would not be an opportunity like this for us again. Though I would love to say that I would be happy on my own, I am not quite certain that is true.
Until my senior year of high school, I had never spent more than a weekend alone. David was by my side, literally, for almost every day of my whole entire life. A part of me was more than ready to let that go. I had an understandable desire to make my own decisions, without considering another person, and what they wanted. I had to find my own voice in the world, and prove that I was an individual, and not just half of a whole. Breaking apart from David was a necessity to my survival, otherwise I would inevitably suffocate. But, even though I knew I had to, leaving David behind would still be the hardest thing I had ever done.
“The Only Home I Know” spoke to me. It was about losing home, and not finding another one like it. To me, David was home personified. He was everything I would lose by leaving. I do not want him to change while I’m gone; I want home to be the way it was. He has always completely understood who I was, and I can’t fathom that changing. I can’t fathom him changing.
The stage itself juts out into a curve in front of the rows of seating. The theatre is completely black, with the exception of one single spotlight in the center of the platform. I stare out amongst the audience, from the back of the theatre, where I enter. David gradually eases into the single spotlight, center stage.
As I sit in the darkness, I’m over taken with the thought of loneliness. I have never been alone. I have never been without my security blanket. If I walk down to that stage, it will be the end of an era. It will be the end of the saga of Micah and David. This ending will give birth to a new chapter in my life, a chapter I have to write on my own, with all of my own thoughts and feelings.
I start my slow descent onto life’s stage, once again. I look up into David’s eyes, my eyes, and I sing. “The willow that I used to climb, may bend a little more, the paint may all be peelin’ off the front porch and the door. No matter where I’m headed back or whistling as I go, please let it be the way it was, the only home I know!” And with my final note, I felt the extraction I had dreaded from the womb we had shared our entire lives.
Standing at the edge of the stage, I look to my twin, and I see him in a new light. He is different; he is not a second head or an attachment. He’s his own independent human being. Looking at his face, I am not struck by a reflection, but I know that the change I see in him, matches the change that I feel. The light on my face is the sunlight stretching from a new day, my own path I must take.
We were always compared, because we were always comparable. David and I were in the same spotlight, giving the same show. Now we would break ground in different fields of life. And though I will pray for his success, I must worry about myself from here on out. The days which required him are over, if I don’t need him, I know he doesn’t need me.