Waltzing Solo: On Being a Twinless Twin

Illustrated by Evelyn Wu

Eye to eye, we use our twin telepathy to motion the start of a four-beat foot-tapping sequence: one-two-three-four. Together, pausing for a synchronized deep breath, we watch the waves of velvet part, revealing a dimly-lit auditorium.

My clarinet releases a gentle slurred F. As I gradually crescendo into a fuller, forte sound, my twin brother, Tyler, complements the rising tension with a distinct pizzicato on his cello. We enter a waltz. Like dancers moving gracefully without tripping over each other’s feet, I tighten my embouchure to ward off the squeaks, while Tyler carefully navigates his cello’s fingerboard. In this moment—after months of daily practice—we claim this song as our own.

Seven years later, I associate Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from Sleeping Beauty with home.

My twin and I were womb-mates turned roommates. Though I was the twin who lingered the longest in our mother’s stomach, Tyler was the homebody who hogged our childhood room. Our schedule consisted of silent time, post-wake-up-bickering time, sprint-to-the-school-bus time, blame-Kayla-for-missing-the-bus time, school time, afternoon-rant time, crash-in-bed time, etc. It was a balance made bearable by our joint understanding of one another. 

We continued to complement each other past our amateur musical stint. At the illustrious Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews, where I was the hostess and he was the busboy, we relied on our dynamic to manage the flow of hangry people at a comfortable tempo. I distracted guests with a shower of compliments and chatter, while Tyler embarked on a cleaning frenzy, waltzing around the room (only breaking a plate or two). A certain regular customer would constantly berate my brother for not sweeping under his table, to which I would reply, through gritted teeth, I apologize, I’ll sweep instead, he’s busy. 

The harmony we found in our relationship is easier to appreciate in his absence. As with our performance of the Waltz from Sleeping Beauty, my mind definitely brushes over moments of dissonance, wherein perhaps we were out-of-tune or wandered off-tempo from one another. Having gained new roommates at separate colleges, I find myself glossing over the unsuccessful “duets.” I hated the constant comparison and association with my supposed “other half.” Twins do not want to be two halves of a whole, rather, like the underrated combination of Red Robin milkshakes with our signature bottomless fries, two soloists collaborating to produce a master performance. Being whole does not mean us being perfect individuals, it is merely a boundary that allows us to find balance out of care for one another, not out of necessity.

Home previously implied our joint presence. Now, we are six hours apart. We are learning to waltz alone in separate ballrooms, while humming countermelodies. Usually I am quite comfortably a singleton, but listening to this waltz on repeat late at night has triggered my nostalgia.

The Waltz from Sleeping Beauty is also the tune of the music box I have had since childhood. As a result, I have been conditioned to associate this song with the treasures I have buried inside its pink wooden frame: my father’s decade-old drawing of a pig, a piglet pin, elementary school friendship bracelets, some polaroids, and a silly snapshot of Tyler and I from youth. Some nights, I lift the box’s lid to reveal Aurora twirling to our favorite tune. If I close my eyes and let my L-Dub dorm transform into an auditorium, I can return to that moment when we were eleven, playing the waltz by heart (and with our hearts). 

And somewhere within this melody, as I ascend the crescendo, I hope that my past home and my new home, here in my dorm room waltzing solo, will begin to harmonize with one another.

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