Excerpt from “Anya”
2nd Place winner of La Plume Young Writers Contest 2022
The relationship we have with others is this wretched mirror of the relationship we have with ourselves. To deny that is to deny the thoughts that occupy our minds. To deny that is to deny our innate desire to self-destruct.
And that is how we find ourselves here, now and always.
Those who find themselves in the theater are looking for an escape. Putting on the mask of another self to play pretend.
The theater is dark, a void of noise. Only the ghost light graces the stage. Just a speck of light, but enough to look into her dark eyes. They sit two seats away from each other. Aware of the space in between, enough to make it that much more unpleasant. She stares at her brown, almost red hair.
“Sometimes I wish I never met you.”
“And the other times?” Anya asks.
“I can’t bear the thought of you leaving me.”
* * *
Anya Augustus and Anya Hale embody the hatred that gathers in your throat after examining yourself in the mirror for too long. They look in the mirror too much. They look at each other much more than they should.
They did not know each other before elementary school. People often mistook them for twins. Only to find they were not related at all. Teachers and students unanimously decided to call them by their last names to avoid confusion.
You know, we don’t get much say in who we meet when we’re young. We don’t get much say at all when we’re young. Things are decided for us because we cannot possibly have a clue as to what we want.
What do you want?
Augustus loved her birth-given name, and then it was taken away by someone else’s mere existence. She was no longer introduced as Anya but as Augustus. That always felt awful. When she wanted to be called Anya, she was told it would be too difficult to differentiate them. They looked too similar.
That made Augustus want to rip her head off. Maybe then it wouldn’t be so confusing.
But Hale doesn’t mind. She in fact enjoys Augustus. She loves her presence. It’s like looking in the mirror. Except for Hale, Anya Augustus is a certain type of beautiful. The type people associate not with current standards but with the ever-lasting beauty of goddesses. What is written in history and carved into sculptures. Hale does see a difference between them. A difference that begs curiosity. Yet she also wishes they never met.
They seem to share that desire.
Augustus has this idea that if they never met, her life would be much different. It would be better. She relies on this. She revels in it. Simply because it means she has someone she can place blame on. This someone is Hale of course.
Augustus fights with herself over the idea that it is the presence of both girls that makes her so unsatisfied with herself. But that is why she fights. She knows it to be untrue.
That is why she enjoys the theater.
The performance is consuming. All the audience asks of you is to give yourself up for the moment you share together. The stage becomes the very foundation of your desires because once you step on, the life that pulses through you is more than your own. There are no worries because your head has walked off so far from reality that you believe this one of makeup and bright lights to be the veritable one.
This flame of life and relationships burns through the script. The stage presents the opportunity for another life. And the theater opens its arms and the performance its eyes.
It is alive.
Hale, of course, only entered the theater because of Augustus. To have these two girls who look so much alike is an invitation to compete in every aspect. Hale’s mother urges her daughter to do everything the more put together Anya does. The better Anya.
Hale hears a loud thud on her desk followed by muffled laughter.
“You taking a nap in my class?”
She rubs her eyes.
When the teacher walks away and the other kids are done making fun of her bedhead, Hale steals a glance at Augustus.
She twirls a pen through her fingers, biting her nail on the other hand. Hale follows the movement of her lips. Watching her watch others.
Her eyes snap to Hale’s.
What does her lipstick taste like?
They hold each other’s gaze for as long as they want. It’s almost a question of who wants it more. The sunlight piercing through the window falls onto Augustus’ hair. Highlighting the reds and oranges.
Augustus bites the end of her pen.
Hale looks away first.