We are Carolina and Carolina.
The complicated thing isn’t that I have a clone, or she has a clone, or we are clones.
The complicated thing is that we both love him and he chose her.
He was our closest friend since we were kids.
He never called us clones, only twins. He saw some degree of separation, something I didn’t think existed.
I used to hold his shoulders and say, “Cross your eyes and watch us merge and separate and it’s all true.”
I thought he was teasing till he started dating Carolina. I remember him holding her and him glancing over her shoulder at me.
I took that moment. I stole it from all the dimensions running wild in the universe and it was ours, not theirs.
I stamped myself into every other world where there was one Carolina and it was me, being held by him.
That was only the reality of the other worlds. Because in this one, there was a pair of clones named Carolina, and he chose the wrong one.
He says we’re both beautiful and Carolina is okay with that. I’m her, and she’s his.
He says, “I love you, Carolina.”
And sometimes he looks into her eyes when he says it. But sometimes he says it, with a short laugh, something light that floats away, and he isn’t looking at her at all and I wonder if that’s when he’s saying it to me.
If he loves her eyes, he must love mine.
And if he loves her mind, I have it, too.
Carolina doesn’t say she loves him back. She is coy. I want to say she is arrogant, but we are careful.
So Carolina doesn’t say she loves him, but we all know she does and she always has.
We are his.
And he can only ever be one of ours.
Growing up a clone can be comforting. See, you never have to be alone. That’s what I thought; I could never be alone because there was another me, with our arms around myself in the dead of night. Then high school came and Carolina got the boyfriend. Now she has another other half, and I wait at home.
I sit at the counter top while my mom cooks dinner. I wonder if Carolina sits here when I’m not home. The thought makes me want to get up and sit somewhere else, but it also makes me want to stay. Who am I, if I’m not her? Who am I, if I am?
“I love both of you,” my mom tells me.
“But isn’t it just like loving one person? Loving them, but twice?”
“Mija, there are two different loves for you and Carolina.”
“What if you could only have one of us?”
“I would pick Carolina.” She smiles at me, at how silly I can be for not seeing her equal love for us.
But it’s just another clone. So equal it’s just the exact same thing.
I hug myself so tight I hope I get bruises. Then I hug myself tighter to make sure I do get bruises.
“Mom, do you know which of us is the original?”
This is our version of, “Who is your favorite child?”
When we were little she would say the simple answer of, “Carolina. Carolina is the original.”
And back then, Carolina and I would sit side by side. We would take turns pointing at the other.
Our mom would smile and say, “Yes, she is the original.”
Lately her answers have been different.
“You are your own person. You are you and she is her. Two different people.”
Carolina comes home in her storming way.
She kicks off her shoes at the door and puts her keys down on the entryway table.
I remember there used to be two of everything. But when you have clones and not twins, they tend to run into each other. So even now, Carolina comes in, putting her shoes on top of mine, dropping her keys where mine are. And she comes to the kitchen and makes me scoot over so we can sit here and watch Mom cook. Here, where I am, where she is, where we are.
Her hair is messy and her lips are swollen from kissing him.
She can never let me forget that she has him and I don’t.
My room is next door but I go to Carolina’s and lie in her bed.
“Caro,” I start, “do you think that you’re being different now, that you’re with him?”
She scrunches up her face in that way we do. “No. You think I’m becoming like him now?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“You think that I can’t be my own person and that I’m just whoever I’m around?”
“I didn’t say that. Or mean that. I just meant, like, do you think you’re changing since you spend time with someone else now, not me?”
She lays next to me and braids her fingers through mine.
We’re quiet and take time to think of all the fears we’re actually saying.
“Caro,” she says, “I’m not becoming less like you. We’re never going to be,” she can’t think of a word, so she spreads out her fingers and her hands.
Away, separate, distant, far.
“That thing you said, about you just becoming whoever you’re around; do you ever think that maybe we’re just mirrors and we were put facing each other and all we’re doing is reflecting off the other?”
Carolina squeezes my hand. “We do have the same mind.”
We let out a laugh. A perfect harmony.
“So maybe there wasn’t ever an original,” a Carolina says, and it doesn’t matter which one said it.
I always knew wishing was a dangerous game.
My mom wished for two daughters and looked at what she got instead.
So when I bump into him in the kitchen and let out a laugh and he looks at me, I think maybe it would just take one slip of DNA to separate Carolina and me.
Just a single letter.
That’s all I’m wishing for, give me one letter, as he looks at me and tucks a piece of hair behind my ear.
And even if it’s the most practical thing for me to get confused with her, it is the most unforgivable. She stomps to a room and slams the door. Because we are a perpetual love triangle, with one side waiting by.
“I’m sorry,” he says into my eyes.
I point down the hallway but I’m still looking into his eyes. And I’m trying to make mine soft or alluring or new. I’m trying to be whatever Carolina isn’t.
“She’ll be in a mood. I don’t know how you deal with it,” I say.
They are words I’ve never said.
“Hey, take it easy.”
“I’m not being mean or anything. I’m just saying.”
“You’re just saying,” he says with his hands in his hair, looking at the ceiling, “What are you saying?”
We both know what I’m saying. It’s just the kind of thing I can’t say out loud. It must matter if he can’t say it either.
This would be the perfect moment for Carolina to come back in. To break this tension. Or maybe I just want that reflection back. Because I’m fumbling over who I’m not and who he would want me to be.
“I miss hanging out with you,” I tell him.
“We can still be friends, Carolina.”
“You’re dating Carolina.”
“We’ve always been friends, the three of us.”
“You can’t have both of us.”
I leave right there because I decide it. I found a good ending line, so I leave and hope he chases after me.
I hear his knock on the door and her letting him in.
And I hear them talk.
Yes, what a stupid mistake to mistake a clone for another.
“I heard what you said.”
Carolina is standing in the doorway of my room. I didn’t want to see him and I didn’t want to see her. But I could only ever escape one of them.
She keeps standing in my doorway. It’s this new thing we do where we’re not sure if we’re allowed in.
I must look sad, I must look something, because she lays in bed next to me.
“Why don’t you love me anymore?”
This is the part of Carolina that I love. This is what makes me love her all the time. I wonder if this is how she is with him.
“I love you. I love you all the time. It’s just different now,” I say and kiss the top of her head.
The rivets in my mind were born with me, belong to me. Hers are ghosts. They are there because they are told to be there. She doesn’t have mountains in her pulse or canyons in her laugh.
“Carolina,” she says.
I let out all the extra space inside of me. I make myself small. So small that I’m just a strand of her hair, just a follicle on her face.
“You can still be you,” she tells me, “You can still be you and I can still be me and we can just have the same face.”
I stay quiet, as if I’m not even there. Because I’m not. Right now, I’m just another piece of her.
“That’s not how it works. We’re the same. We’re the same person with the same everything and yet.” This time it’s not a dramatic pause. I physically can’t speak. I wonder why it’s so hard to be who I am, because I see who she is, and she’s not a bad thing.
I don’t know how cloning works. I’ve never asked my mom. I’ve never wanted to know.
What’s if it’s not DNA and they took a brain and a heart and planted new ones?
Carolina tells me that my brain is too loud to be a copy. I used all the color and all the crazy. But maybe I’m the imperfect copy of a real human being. All the colors are the glitches and the gaps of who I’m supposed to be.
What if I’m not even a me but just a container for all the genetic mistakes?
She falls asleep in my bed.
We do this sometimes.
We spend our days running from each other and our nights resting and recharging next to each other.
It’s identical legs, arms, hair, torsos, fingers.
But my arms have the small bruises.
A drop of water in water is all the water.
There is no distinguishing where the drop is or where it went.
It is everywhere, it is every bit.
That’s us and we call it Carolina.
The next morning I wake up and roll over into Carolina.
I wonder if, somewhere in this universe, a symbol crashes to mark the grand moment.
“Carolina,” Carolina whispers, “I’ve known that you love him too.”
I stay quiet.
“It’s in our DNA.” She lets out a two note laugh that turns into a sigh and her breath hitches.
“I’m so sorry,” I say, “I’m so sorry I’m me and that I’m just like you but somehow, less.”
“I don’t hate you the way you hate yourself. And if anyone in this world should hate you, it should be me.”
I roll my eyes at her joke.
“But seriously,” she says and wipes her nose, “if someone loves me and not you, then someone will love you and not me.”
“Is that how it goes?”
“I think so.”
He is knocking on my window, just like he used to.
Carolina is in her room and I hope she doesn’t hear me leaving the house.
We go to sit at the end of the driveway.
It’s rare, the moments of him and this Carolina, of me.
I glance around the driveway and try to find a place I haven’t seen her. I sit and wrap my arms around myself, knowing Carolina never does this.
It would be easier to be exactly her. Get a kiss. Be in his arms. Say it was all just a trick of the light.
But that’s not love.
And we have love.
I want to ask about him— his thoughts, his day— but all I can ask about is her.
And that’s the true trick of the light. Because here is my chance, to change everything, to get the guy, to cement my own place in this world and not be the extra. I’m so overwhelmed by the presence of this chance, even though the chance never truly comes.
“You guys still fighting?” I ask.
“Nah, it passed. It usually does.”
“Both of us. Fighting isn’t a competition, you know,” he says.
He doesn’t look at me, he just shakes his head with his dismissive smile.
I laugh. Not because it’s funny. I just want him to know I get the joke, I understand him.
“Then what are you fighting for?” I laugh.
It’s a joke. I bump his shoulder.
“We’re fighting for us. To keep what we have.”
He does look at me this time. His eyebrows dip. His mouth sets.
That’s what my body tells me before he can say anything. My mind is always speaking for him anyway.
“What do you need to talk about?” I ask him.
“I know we were closer before Carolina and I started dating.”
I keep looking forward, out into the street.
“I mean, me and you were closer than me and her.”
“These all sound like the same thing.”
“I love her.”
“Duh,” I say, picking at the weeds in the crack of the sidewalk.
“It’s always going to be her for me.”
I imagined the words but not the pain.
I built years, worlds, homes, out of the thoughts in my head. All these places were for him and me, of a time and dimension where we were together. Where maybe there was only one Carolina, and it was me.
I get up and brush the dirt off my shorts. Wiping away dirt is better than wiping away more tears.
It’s quiet. I figure it will be quiet from here on out. Because for once, the him in my mind is quiet and the him in person is quiet, too.
I walk inside. And I know he won’t, but I wait for him to chase me.
Even the him in my head has stopped telling me to wait for him.
I’m looking through the cabinets in our spare room. Family photos, old tax filings, and lots of medical paperwork.
“What if I say you are the original or she is the original?” my mom asks from the hallway. “What will that change?”
And that’s the thing. It wouldn’t make me better. It wouldn’t make one of us disappear. It wouldn’t make him love me.
Maybe there isn’t even an original. Maybe it was just us, together, from the very beginning.
So I want to say that it will change everything. But instead I put the papers back.
My mom hugs me. Our mom hugs me.
“Ay, Hija,” she says with a sigh. “I didn’t know how much it bothered you.”
I cry the way Carolina cried yesterday morning. I cry the way we cry, just at different times, not a harmony.
The next morning I sit across from Carolina at the table.
I say, “What if because we’re clones and there is only supposed to be one of us, I’ll be alone because only one of us can have our great love. What if the universe only planned for one of us.”
I get up and walk away. Sometimes I just have to say the things in my head out loud. But most of the time I have to tell these things to Carolina. I go to my room. I hold my breath and clear my head.
When we were little I didn’t understand what being a clone was. I thought we had the same thoughts. Not so much a link, just as a broadcast to our frequency. I don’t want her to know my thoughts. Then again, she never will know these thoughts, never can.
Because he loves her back.
And the closest I can ever get to that is my shaking hands playing with bits of gravel at the end of our driveway, looking at him, waiting to say, “I’m in love with you,” and waiting for him to say it too.
That will never be close enough for me.
I hear the thud of Carolina’s forehead against my door.
I thud my forehead against the door too. I think it’s in our nature, to perpetually be crawling towards each other, tuning into the same frequency.
“That’s not how the world works. Even if that was how it all worked, then it would be me and you, still. In every dimension,” she says.
He is knocking at my window again. This time I don’t go outside.
I open the window and he cups his hand against the dusty screen.
I know he won’t, but I still picture him taking back everything he said the other night. Or at least saying that at one point, he loved me and not her.
But I know it’ll never be me. It never has.
There are so many overlapping conversations in my head but then I hear him say, “I’m sorry.”
And I hear myself say, “It’s okay.”
Because none of this was ever his fault. And none of this was ever anyone’s fault.
He waves. Then walks to the right.
I rest my head against the wall between mine and Carolina’s room.
He knocks at her window.
Carolina slides open her window.
“Hi,” I hear her say through the wall.
“I love you,” I hear him tell her.
And maybe we can’t read each other’s thoughts but maybe if he kisses her right now, I could feel it on my lips. Maybe he could caress her cheek right now, just so once I could feel it, too.
“I love you too,” the Carolinas say.
Carolina is asleep. I hold my breath as I walk to her bed and lay down. I’m not ashamed to be crawling back to her, this part of me that I’ve been trying to neglect. The way we sleep the same, in the same shades of different colors, the way we melt into each other.
“I’ve tried to find out. And there’s no way to know. It doesn’t matter. I’m you and you’re me and you’re you and I’m me. All of it is us and we’re Carolina. That’s not a bad thing to be.”
Dani Herrera lives in the simmering Central Valley of California. She is currently a Fiction candidate at St. Mary’s College of California. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Crack the
Spine, Not Deer Magazine, and Goat’s Milk Magazine. Dani also writes for Chasing Shadows Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @dani.herreraa to see her writing and her beloved border collie, Blu.