From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

Seeing Everything

You can be boring and tedious with sisters, whereas you have to put on a good face with friends.

Deborah Moggach

“Connie,” I whisper loudly, “wake up.” By the way she moves, I can tell my younger sister is waking. I tap her on the forehead. She ignores me. “You’re breathing too loud!” These words always work.

“What do you want? You want me dead? I have to breathe!” Connie always wakes up grumpy. “I want to sleep.”

Connie doesn’t know I have stuffed my dirty socks and underwear in her pillowcase. It is beyond me how she can rest her head on the pillow without noticing the lumps. I turn the pillow and place the dirty clothes on the bed side, not head side. I make sure not to do this too often, otherwise Connie will check her pillow before getting in bed. It’s a lousy thing to do, and I’m not really sorry about waking her. I’m sorry I can’t sleep, and she doesn’t notice. I want Connie to wake up and talk with me. Our best conversations take place when the room is dark and the house is quiet. I don’t understand how Connie can sleep and she doesn’t understand why I put the dirty clothes in her pillowcase.

“Check your pillowcase, Connie.” This always makes her angry.

“Why do you do this to me?” Connie asks while she pulls out my dirty socks.

“Because I love you.” This isn’t a lie, but the dirty clothes make it appear as such. I know it’s a cruel thing to do, and it will definitely upset her. Most things, no matter how horrible or cruel, seem to pass without Connie expressing any emotion.

Connie looks me in the eyes and says, “You’re sick.”

Within an hour, I want to wake Connie and apologize, but her loud, sporadic breathing lets me know she is asleep and angry. She won’t believe I am sorry because I will stuff her pillowcase again.

Connie sleeps. I don’t. She doesn’t know how long my nights are. I share a bed with a little sister who has loud, almost braggart breaths coming out of her mouth all night. I can’t wake Connie and apologize because Dad apologizes that way, says he’s sorry after doing something horrible, and then does it again. Connie and I talk about this before falling asleep.

“He doesn’t mean it. He’ll do it again, won’t he?” I ask Connie.

“Probably. But Mom believes him.”

“Do you, Connie?”

“No. He’ll do it again.”

Connie looks like she’s falling asleep, but there’s one more thing on my mind, the same thing that is on my mind every night.

“Connie, did I act like Dad today?”

“No! Quit asking me that.”

In bed, I know Dad apologizes about being in jail because he doesn’t apologize for being drunk and screaming those horrible words at us. He breaks all the dishes and kitchen windows, but apologizes about being in jail because he knows it will hurt us when the neighbors and kids at school bring this up. They always find out through the newspaper and the radio.

He doesn’t know how quiet the house is when he’s in jail. On those nights we don’t have to worry about him driving home drunk, or coming home at all. We don’t set a place for him at the table. We even invite a neighbor friend over because we know the meal will be fun. And Dad will get a break from the factory and us. He doesn’t need to apologize, but he will. Dad apologizes because when he’s in jail he remembers his father who was always in jail and how that humiliated him.

Connie always says I didn’t act like Dad, but Connie only speaks the truth in the middle of the night when the room is dark. During the day, when I’ve upset her, she’ll say, “You’re just like Dad!” But at night, she speaks the truth, and we lie in bed silently wondering when our lives will change, quietly hoping we’ll always have each other for these nocturnal reassurances.

Diane Payne

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