Today is an “I hate Kevin” day. I have those a lot. Mommy says it’s okay. She has them too. You can’t control how you feel but you can choose how to act in response to your feelings. The behaviorist says that’s the biggest difference between me and Kevin. I can make sense of my feelings, all he can do is react.
The penis grabbing is getting worse. He’s doing it in school now. Today at lunch he stuck his hand down his pants and started doing the humping thing. I said, “Kev hands up, okay?” Then he started to cry, and everyone saw what he was doing, and I just wanted to disappear. Leela tells him everything is okay but he screams and throws his salad all over the floor. Before the aides even realize what’s happening my friends have cleaned up the mess, taken Kev to the bathroom, and calmed him down. Sharfa has taken something from everyone’s lunch so he has something to eat.
"Everything is just fine now isn’t it Kevin?"
No one ever asks ME if everything is fine. No one asks me if I’m okay after my brother sticks his hand down his pants in the middle of lunch and then throws his food all over the floor. You’d think, just once, someone might say, “Wow Kayla, that must have been embarrassing. Are you okay?” But they never do. I’m invisible, and today I’m letting myself be mad about it. I hate Kevin. I wish he had never been born. He wasn’t supposed to be born. I’ve heard the story. Mommy’s body knew he was broken and took away his air. Mommy’s body is smart.
I don’t have a normal life. I don’t have a normal family. I’ve had enough sleepovers to know how normal people live, and we don’t live like they do. I wish we could.
Take tonight for example. It’s a typical night in our house. 9:30 p.m. is bedtime, Mommy and Daddy say so, and Kevin starts screaming and thrashing. I go to my bed, because I’m the “good” one and just wait for it all to be over. Crying, counting, more crying, time out, Mommy and Daddy arguing because this one or that one always gives in, blah, blah, blah.
Tonight it only takes 15 minutes and Kevin’s in the bathroom. He can’t pee alone. Bob (his stuffed elephant) and Kevin Owens (the plastic wrestler) have to pee with him. Daddy stands at the toilet making the "pssss" sound, praising Bob and Kevin Owens for pointing their penises at the water and getting all their tinkle in the potty. Other daddies don’t have to do this.
Now Kevin is in our room and Mommy has to get him in his pull up and pajamas. 10-year-old boys aren’t supposed to wear pull ups and they can dress themselves. He lies down, and even though the tucking in routine has been the same for the past year, he recites the steps and makes Mommy repeat them.
Kevin: Cover me.
Mommy: Cover you.
Kevin: All way end.
Mommy: Pull the blanket all the way to the end.
Kevin: Kevin Ownens head here.
Mommy: Kevin Owens head goes here.
Kevin: Bob go here.
Mommy: Bob goes here.
Kevin: Need pink book.
Mommy: You need a pink book.
Kevin: Goes here.
Mommy: It goes here.
Kevin: Night night see moanin.
Mommy: Night night see moanin.
Now Mommy comes to me to sing our song but she’s not really here. Sometimes she is. Sometimes she looks right in my eyes and sings all the words to the song and she’s all with me, but tonight she’s somewhere else. She sings the words and looks right at me but she’s somewhere else in her head. Maybe she’s at work. Maybe she’s thinking about laundry. Maybe she’s in the other world she’s made for herself where Kevin doesn’t live.
I love that place. I go there sometimes too. I think it’s hard to pretend you’re in a place when you’re not in that place.
It took me a lot of growing up to realize Mommy isn’t here when she’s here. You have to pay really close attention because Mommy is good at pretending. You can have whole conversations with her and it seems like she’s paying attention but the next day she won’t remember a thing you said. Tonight is like that. She’s singing to me, making all the right faces in all the right parts but tomorrow morning she’ll ask me, “Did I remember to sing our song?”
I wonder if other mommies can do that: leave their body to sing all the words with all the right faces while they're somewhere else. I wonder if other mommies HAVE to do that. I don’t think so. I think it’s just the mommies with broken children. I think when a child is broken the mommy breaks too and that’s how they’re able to be in two places at once. I wish Mommy was here with me, the song just isn’t the same without her.
Kevin: Kaya scatch my back?
This is the part of the routine no one knows about. It’s our secret. After Mommy and Daddy leave Kevin says, “Kaya scatch my back,” and I crawl into his bed with him. I have to repeat the steps too.
Kevin: Get under covers vis me
Kayla: I know I’m under the covers with you
Kevin: Put you hand up back my sirt
Kayla: I’m putting my hand up the back of your shirt
Kevin: Don’t ickle me
Kayla: I’m not tickling you
Kevin: Now you scatch
Kayla: I’m scratching
I scratch and scratch and just before he falls asleep Kevin says, “Night night Kaya I yuv you.”
Then I say, “I love you too Kevin.”
Sometimes, not all the time, maybe just on nights he needs to be sure he asks, “You yuv me?”
“Yes,” I say, and he says, “Awe! Gank goo.”
Tonight is one of those nights. He needs to be sure, so I stray from the routine a little bit and say, “Yes yes yes yes yes I love you,” and he smiles a little bit just before he falls asleep.
I feel so guilty. I’m a horrible sister. He knows. He knows about the world where he doesn’t live. He knows Mommy has to go there sometimes and leave the pretend Mommy to sing my song and now he knows I go there sometimes too. If I was a better sister I wouldn’t have to go.
Usually I go back to my bed once he’s asleep but tonight I’ll stay. I’ll stay all night long until the early morning so Mommy doesn’t see me here and it stays our secret.
It’s nice watching Kevin sleep. He has a really cute snore. I wonder if I did this when we were in Mommy’s tummy. Mommy says no. She says we each grew in our own bubble and when you’re in someone’s tummy you can’t leave your bubble to go visit someone in theirs but I think she’s wrong. I bet I left my bubble all the time to visit Kevin in his and scratch his back. I imagine the two of us growing just like this, face to face, hand in hand, but Mommy says that’s not right either. Once we got really big and ran out of room in her tummy my head was right at Kevin’s feet. That’s why I’m so goofy. I spent that last month in Mommy’s tummy getting kicked in the head all day.
I can’t sleep so I play with Mommy’s favorite part of me. It’s the little roll of fat at the bottom of my tummy. Mommy calls it a little extra Kayla and you can never get enough Kayla. I don’t like the roll of fat. It hangs over my bikini bottom and I’m afraid people are going to call me fat.
I told Mommy this one day and she got really mad and said, “Don’t you ever call yourself fat. You’re beautiful, you have a beautiful figure you’re perfect just the way you are.” But she says the same thing to Dana and she doesn’t have a little roll of fat that hangs over her bikini bottom. We can’t both be perfect we look completely different. I think Dana’s the perfect one. Dana is perfect at everything, Kevin is broken and I’m just ... me.
I’m not even supposed to be here. It was just supposed to be Kevin. He zoomed down from Heaven too fast, crash landed into Mommy’s tummy and a piece of him fell off. That’s me. Mommy says that’s just a story I made up in my head but it’s not and I know it. I’m the piece of Kevin that fell off which is why neither one of us is whole or right without the other one. No one knows what if feels like to be a piece of somebody else. I’m the only one.
Do you know when Kevin is sleeping or smiling you can’t see the facial dysmorphia? He looks perfect. He is perfect. He isn’t destroying the makeup counter at MAC or throwing books at us in Barnes & Noble. No one is staring at us with pity or just ignoring us. He isn’t grabbing his penis and humping the floor in full view of my friends. I can have sleepovers like other girls because he doesn’t wander the house naked and flap like a bird until his medication kicks in. I have the life I see when I sleep over other people’s houses. Mommy says they have problems, too – we just can’t see them. Sometimes, when I sleep over other people’s houses, I walk around opening closets looking for their problems but I’ve never found any.
I feel better. Mommy is right about letting yourself be mad. If you don’t give the mad thoughts a voice they get louder and louder until that’s all you can hear. I’ve said the angry thoughts out loud like Mommy taught. I told God I hated Kevin and I wish he wasn’t here and God said “Okay,” took the bad words away, and replaced them with good feelings. I can look at Kevin and feel love again and I don’t need the world where he doesn’t live. I never stay long anyway. I feel peaceful when I’m there but here, I feel whole.
Tomorrow is going to be better. I’ll remember that Kevin and I are the most special twins in the world because the piece of him that’s missing grew into a whole person who wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him flying down from Heaven too fast. I will lie here all night with him and Mommy won’t know. It’s not like Mommy still creeps downstairs to make sure we’re breathing. We’re 10 for God’s sake. She won’t see us curled up together hand in hand. It will still be our secret.
I’ll have to set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. because Mommy’s been getting up at 6 a.m. Daddy says she’s finally gone off the deep end. She says she’s quitting her job to become a professional beaver trapper. There’s a Mommy beaver named Becky living in our backyard with her five babies. They’re sooooooooo cute but don’t say that in front of my mom. They’re eating all her plants and trees so she goes out there every morning around 6:30 to yell at Becky and throw sticks at her. She thinks this will make Becky want to move but I don’t think it’s working. We can’t even call her Mommy anymore. She wants to be called Rachel The Great Beaver Slayer. I’m not allowed to tell Dad because he’ll say she’s being obsessive but Mom says she’s going to disguise herself as a rhododendron bush and stake out the beaver. She needs evidence. I think she’s taking Becky to court.
Yeah, I don’t have a normal life. I don’t have a normal family. I’ve had enough sleepovers to know how normal people live, and we don’t live like they do. But then again none of them have beavers, or a mother in the backyard disguised as a rhododendron bush, and that must be boring.