Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Sisterly Failings

My parents purchased a townhouse a few months ago for me and my younger sister so she can be close to the university campus and I can be close to town.

Now mind you, when I first moved away from home, I had to learn to take care of my apartment as well. Dishes were, admittedly, forgotten in the sink for days and the contents of my closet would be carelessly strewn across the floor.

My sister, though, is on a whole 'nother level of "Hygiene? What's that?" Her slob tendencies were apparent long before I found a melted popsicle wobbling in its package on her desk. From junior high onward, her crap would wiggle its way to every nook, corner, and buttcrack. The living room couch was her makeshift bed when her belongings overflowed into adjacent bedrooms. It took her an excruciating amount of time to get ready for school because she'd put something on, check the mirror, then decide to change. But instead of putting away her initial outfit, she'd just undo her pants and shirts and release them like bird droppings. I'd frequently see her stuff hanging off the banister, on the kitchen table, and on top of the toilet.

Markers, books, painting supplies, baking supplies, curling iron, laptop, shoes: nothing was sacred. Akin to Midas's cursed hand, everything she touched turned to dirt.

Generally, I'm with Paul for four days and return home for the other three. Last week, my sister promised she'd sweep the first-level floor and, silly me, I believed her. I came home and the kitchen, not very big to begin with, was covered in a layer of flour. She was making pizza (or something vaguely resembling one) and I flipped out.

Her half-hearted attempt at cleaning was completely overshadowed by the mess she created afterward. It's like she thinks onion skins help tiles keep their sparkle and dried fruit juice is beneficial to wood. Then I find dirty plates on the sofa cushion:

"What the hell is this?! I told you not to eat on the couch!"

"When did you say that?"

"There's a goddamned table less than a foot away, why couldn't you eat there? Now there's sauce on the cover!"

"So I'll wash it!"

I looked at her skeptically.

"When have you washed anything?" I shot back.

It went on like this, back and forth, until I grabbed my cell phone and dialled home. Or at least tried to, because in my rage, I had completely forgotten the number and yelled into the receiver at complete strangers who hung up on me repeatedly. I eventually had to call Paul to get me the right number to give my mother an earful.

She told me she was old and probably ill and to stop bothering her with trivial matters.

And that's the real crux of the story, isn't it? It's about my embarrassing habit of reverting to a child in my sister's presence. Our sibling rivalry is so deeply entrenched in my psyche that I not only lose control of my emotions, but my ability to reason and treat another with respect. My mom says whatever mistakes she made in raising us, she did the best she could and I should try to let it go. But it's difficult and, frankly, I retain my resentment to punish her belatedly and protect myself from past hurts.

Paul thinks I need to see a psychiatrist about this (his dad happens to be one) because he hears me talking to my sister like she's sub-human. Once, after one of our legendary confrontations, he listened as I called her "revolting," "disgusting," and "stupid". Worse still is that I nearly meant it.

Believe me, I know my behaviour is barbaric and infantile. And yet, and yet, and yet ...

I wonder if perhaps my ability to endear myself to other people's parents is a reaction to avoiding my own? These surrogates, whether out of propriety or genuine affection, seem to have more faith in me. And while they have no vested interest in my well-being, the deception inoculates against the strain (pain?).

I do tell myself that time will heal all as long as I distance myself from my family, but as weeks turn into months, it becomes easier to escape their existence and, in turn, forget that there are problems at all.

I am, however, taking steps to relax and take more precautions in regards to disciplining my toxic tongue. I had a premonition that revealed to me a likely scenario if I continued on this way: a wedding attended by only half the guests, the other half kept out by the internal murmurs of the bride's pride and ignorance.

I don't want to be that person anymore. And yet,

and yet,

and yet.

No comments: