Thursday November 22. 2001
an On Display collab : journeys

could we start again

She was curled up on the couch, watching TV. She was made up, hair and clothes impeccable, which meant she was probably going to escape from the house and the family at some point after dinner. I came up to her timidly, feeling, as I always do, fat, ugly and unkempt next to her poise and polish. I tugged gently on her taupe-colored sleeve.

"Come out with me," I said gently, nodding towards the porch.

Her body folded up even tighter, shrinking away from me. "NO." she said loudly.

"Please? I just want to take pictures of you."

"It's COLD."

"So put your coat on."

She sighed angrily, got up and stalked to the laundry room to get her coat, yelling behind her, "Two minutes!"

I waited for her on the porch. Lord knows why, but I have always wanted to take pictures of her, ever since I took my first photography class in high school. She always resisted, except once when I was in 11th grade, when I finally managed to convince her. I think there may have been some monetary compensation involved.

I don't know what I was trying to capture then, but that batch of pictures turned out badly. They were overstudied and stiff, not only because my inexpertise but because I think neither of us could relax. I just wanted to get her to smile, not that carefully arranged grimace she put on for homecoming pictures, but her real smile, the one that happened so naturally and engulfed her whole face. I said to Mom a couple months ago that I never see that smile anymore. Just the grimace, or a derisive sneer.

She slammed the laundry room door and stalked up the stairs to the porch. This is the perfect time for the porch, I thought idly. All the trees around it are bare, and the sky was blue with little cirrus clouds tripping over it. Her boots clunked loudly on the faded wood as she faced me.

"Two minutes. What do you want me to do?"

"I dunno." Pause. "I wanted to, you know, talk, I guess."

Lord knows why. I'm trying to figure out when I stopped hating your guts and actually wanted to try to be your friend, Lauren. You're insufferable. I keep hoping, maybe even expecting, that you'd be better than 17 years old.

She rolled her eyes and sighed with exasperation at this apparently outrageous notion.

"Do you want. To take. Pictures of me. Or not?" she said deliberately.

I sighed. "No."

She turned on her heel and stalked back inside to her refuge on the couch.

I'm beginning to think that she really doesn't give a flying fuck where she goes to college, as long as the nightlife is good and her friends are with her. Mom and Dad have actually had to push her to even complete her applications. I wonder if she thinks that this is going to be handed to her on a silver plate, just like everything else has. And it's not like she's a slacker, either. Her GPA is 4.16, she's taking 4 AP classes and in chemistry, the field of her anticipated career, she has something like a 99%.

I read her essay for NYU. A 500 word essay. What can you possibly say in 500 words? I read over it, and like most college essays, it used a lot of big words and complex sentences, but didn't say much of anything at all. I sat her down and tried to first go over the sentence and paragraph structure, and then what she actually trying to communicate. I resisted strongly the urge to say, "This really sucks, just start over," because I knew that would set off another ten minutes of yelling (and she's a singer, remember?), which my eardrums really didn't need.

I asked her, repeatedly, if she wanted my help, or if I should just back off. Because, finally, for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I wasn't lording it over her that I knew something she didn't. I really, honestly wanted to help her succeed.

I always, always wanted to be the sister she looked up to, who she came to for advice, her friend. But that notion was doomed from the beginning, because I had no interest in anything she did, and she had no interest in anything I did. By my senior year of high school, my mere presence made her radiate embarassment. I had been relegated to a position similar to that of my parents: lame, hopelessly out of touch, could never understand her very personal and totally unique problems.

In retaliation for this rejection, I did the best I could to tear our relationship to shreds. And here I was, standing in the cold on our porch, arrogant and stupid enough to think that she would overlook the time I threw the remote control at her face. And all the times I grabbed the phone from her and hung up on her boyfriend. All the times we attempted to beat each other senseless, all the times she screamed "Never talk to me again!", all the times we screamed every insult we could think of across the chasm. All of that seems very far away to me now, but is probably still fresh in her unforgiving mind. I guess I just have to wait for her to catch up, and then maybe we can try again.

One Year Ago:
"Sometimes when I was little I wondered, if I close my eyes, and fall asleep, will I wake up?"

Two Years Ago:
"I dream of just being able to just fly on the piano."