She and I (Inspired by Natalia Ginzburg’s He and I)

She makes fun of me for being a sleepy grandma, but I can’t understand how she lives off of just five hours of sleep a night. She chats with friends in bed, while I read stories about characters I dream of being friends with. 

She accentuates her body by wearing crop tops and short denim cutoffs, and I prefer a look that features casual sweatpants and a sweatshirt. She chooses skin-tight clothing, while I detest any shirt or pair of jeans that hugs me too tightly. When she gets angry she doesn’t talk to anyone, when I’m angry I can’t help but talk to everyone.

She listens to musical theater soundtracks all day, and I actually do, too. But she can belt out the words to “Burn” from Hamilton, and I certainly cannot––at least not without hurting anyone’s ears. She assumes I cannot understand the evocative nature of songs because I do not sing beautifully. I am content just listening, but she needs to sing along.

If mom asks her to get dad for dinner, she needs a “valid reason” why she should be the one to trek to the bedroom, instead of just staying put. She and mom start to argue, which always escalates to her storming out of the kitchen, and being replaced by dad shortly thereafter; she becomes far too enraged to return to the dinner table. When I am asked to do the same task, I have already left the kitchen by the time mom finishes asking the question. 

This is a recurring tale in my household; mom asks us to make our beds, she protests, and I, of course, oblige instantly. Someone needs to pick up soup for a family member fighting a cold; she is certainly not making the arduous journey to the store without trying to whine her way out of it first. 

I relish throwing my energy at anyone who comes my way; she enjoys absorbing other people’s energies. For instance, I love mingling at parties, greeting everyone I see, and she would rather sing solo in front of a crowd. 

When we go skiing, I take carefully calculated turns yet she goes straight down the hill. I am scared of bruising myself, to her it’s not fun unless she is testing the limits.

She often says I don’t understand the fun within the fear, the adrenaline rush, that if I just let my fear go I could be more like her. A daredevil. But I have no interest, I’d like to keep all of my bones intact. 

We both love the theater, especially musicals. We like to sit next to each other; she mouths all the words to the songs and I weep next to her. There is a common ground in the silence of watching Dear Evan Hansen. My tear filled eyes occasionally catch her dry eyes during the musical, we stare for a second then revert our attention back to the stage. When we get up, she makes fun of me for crying, and I say she is an Ice Queen for not crying. 

She has long blonde locks, and I have dark brown frizz. She has piercing blue eyes, and I have common brown ones. Still, people say we look alike. When someone says we look alike one of us says “thank you,” and the other says, “I don’t see it.” We switch daily in our responses. 

When we were younger, she used to get frustrated and angry with me when I told her to clean up her room, yelling that “I am not her mother.” I know this. We have the same mother. I just want her to have the easiest time navigating the world. According to our mother, my attempt at helping her is “abusive.” I just try to help. 

She has bad taste in friends, surrounding herself with too many people to form a real connection. I hang out with the same few people; they are like family. Her friends talk behind her back, calling her words like ‘ugly’ and ‘annoying’. She once came home from school, her cheeks stained red from tears, telling us that Lindey had told Caitlin that she had called Caitlin a ‘bitch’. A story which had no truth to it.  

When I warn her that Lindsey is bad news, she yells at me for meddling. I just want to protect her. Then, when she is crying because of Lindsey, I give her a hug, and bite my tongue to avoid saying I told you so. Instead, I just wrap my arms around her, neither of us saying anything. The air between us is dense. An unspoken love, an unspoken anger lives in the inches between our bodies. She cries into my lap, and I pet her blonde locks. I almost cry, but then I take on my role of big sister. I don’t cry. We don’t speak. She cries. I stroke her hair. 

We both stand up, I wipe her cheeks from tears, and go back to my room. Neither of us talk about it. We go on bickering, and fighting about the trivial things in life. 

The sister pas de deux, is a carefully planned dance, the perfect combination of build up fighting, and an emotional explosion at the end. The dance is carefully practiced, and done with precision and love. 

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