“Uncle Shawn!” The muffled cry blasts through the door as my niece tries to unlock the 84 locks my paranoid sister has installed on the door. There have been many times I have told her those locks would more likely end lives rather than save them. If they ever needed to get out quickly they wouldn’t be able too. She watches a lot of CSI type shows and that, unfortunately, has shaped her world view. It has gotten to the point that the argument was no longer worth having.
“Gabby! Move away from the door so I can let your uncle in.” My sister’s voice travels through the door almost like she has nothing between us. She has always been loud.
When the door finally opens, a Gabby bolt shoots out of the opening. She wraps herself around me so tightly that someone might thing she is a symbiotic parasite.
“Hi Gabby! How are you?” I ask. She launches into a long litany of things she has done since my last visit. I smile at her, nod at the appropriate places, act surprised and laugh at her train of thought delivery. Her conversation is peppered with a lot of “Guess what?” and an exceedingly liberal amount of ums. Her mother gives me a sympathetic shrug and I wave it off. I like listening to my niece’s oddly tacked together stories. It makes me happy.
She gives me a small break when she runs off to find a new doll she has acquired. That is when my sister’s interrogation starts. Someone not keen to my sister’s way of uncovering the truth would mistake her questions for friendly small talk. At first it is all filled with safe topics but she is merely building her case; slowly getting to the truth. She knows my visit is not just because I had some time off scheduled.
It has been 6 weeks since that letter appeared in my dreams and nothing has happened since. I am not even sure if I dream anymore. I lay down and the next thing I am aware of is the sound of my alarm clock. The missing dreams were bothering me a lot and soon my irritation and frustration began to bleed into other parts of my life. My work “suggested” I take a vacation for a little while. I decided to take their request as an excuse to see my sister and her daughter. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. I was uncertain now as I sat under my sister’s penetrating gaze.
“How is Jen? You two are still an item aren’t you?” How had we progressed to this question so quickly? She hadn’t even started off slowly, she had simply started right at the heart of things. There was no pretense of conversation this time, merely an interrogation. I looked at the door my niece had gone through; wishing she was back already. She must have become distracted and forgotten the doll I 'had' to see only moments ago.
“Jen’s…… well, she is good. I think.” I hate questions; especially questions about topics I don’t feel like discussing. I know my answer would trigger the “Let’s not talk about it” switch in men. Unfortunately, my sister, no matter how hard she punches, is female. She will not put this topic on the backburner. I prepare to be needled.
She gives me the “Cut the crap” stare but I decided to remain uncooperative. It isn’t so much that I want to avoid the topic as much as I wish I could visit for a while before I have the “state of your relationship” discussion. My sister would have been great during the Spanish Inquisition. I remember watching her make our parents, grandparents, pastors and her teacher squirm during her very determined questioning. She was the kid whose answer to “Later” was “what does later mean to you?”
“Damn it Shawn! Just answer the question! It’s called communication! I talk and you talk; we both talk! So talk!” She snaps.
“Come on Emily! What is happening here has nothing to do with a conversation. You know just as well as I do that when you ask questions that I have to answer, the conversation is one sided. How about you start with “Hi Shawn. How ya doing?” I say in reply. “I’ll even start. You look nice Emily. Is that a new hairstyle?”
“You suddenly become a female Shawn? Am I not concerned enough with your feelings?” She sneers. “By the way, your butt looks huge in those jeans.”
I can’t help but laugh. I have once again lost our sibling battle of wills. “Thanks for humoring me sis. I was just about to ask about my butt and these jeans. As far as Jen goes, It’s over.” I reestablish my battle for control of the conversation because, technically, I told her what was up with Jen and me.
“Seriously? You are refusing to explain? If I put on a pot of coffee and grab some munchies will you freaking talk?” She is just getting started with her lecture but has also started getting the coffee brewing. “You call me a few days ago to ask if you can come visit and here you are, 3 days later. Every other time you gave me a long waiting time. So I know something is up. I look at my single brother and I know he was dating a girl, so I start there. If it is not her, we will move on to a new topic but it is almost always members of the opposite sex that cause trouble like this. You remember when you told me about this chickadee Jen, right?” I nod at her. “What did I tell you?”
“You told me the girl was all wrong for me. So go ahead and pat yourself on the back.”
“Shut up with the moping! Tell the break up story already!”
“Well you remember a few weeks ago that I called up complaining about hating all of her friends?” She nods and makes the rolling motion with her finger to tell me to keep going. “Well I brought up that her friends always seemed to flake out before the bill arrived. She starts going on about how they felt like I didn’t like them and that I kept choosing places they couldn’t afford. The first place they ditched the bill on was having a '2 dollar you call it' well drink special and the second place, the bowling alley, had 5 dollar pitchers. Not exactly bank breakers and we weren’t even doing rounds at the first place. So they were supposed to pay for the drinks that they had. I explained all this to her and I mention that I would have happily went else where had they sugested it. She started freaking out and yelling at me about how inconsiderate I am and how I don't know what it's like to be low on funds. I want to argue and point out most of my 20's were barely above poverty wages but I bite my tongue. After a while I ended up apologizing; just to get her to shut up. So next thing I know we are going to a place that her friends recommend and feel more comfortable at. It looks like a dive bar but none of the drinks are priced below 6.50, meaning it is more expensive then anywhere I had suggested in the past. Once again the bill comes and we are light. I had a beer for 7bucks and that was it but I end up dropping a hundred bucks.”
“Why?” She interrupts.
“Good question. People kept saying they were paying at the bar as they left and suddenly there is a hundred and fifty dollar bill set in front of me and someone Jen works with. He bought a few drinks but maybe 25 bucks is his. He only has 50 bucks in his wallet so he drops it all. He tells me every time he goes out he pays more then he should but has never seen a bill this high. He is upset but not really because he’s known these people for years and is kind of used to it. He usually gets his own bill but decided not to worry this time. Anyway, I am totally pissed and Jen is wasted. She is up at the bar talking to a friend that just showed up from another bar and I know Jen doesn’t have any money. She never has any money. So I pay the damn thing and I am ready to go home. When I go up to collect her she wants to stay a little longer. I tell her that I am not having a good time and would like to just head home. She turns to me and says “Do whatever you want! I could go home with some other guy if I wanted to!” I look at her for a moment while her friend is trying to get her to apologize wile telling me Jen doesn’t mean it and that she will make sure she gets home safely. While this drunk friend is talking I just turn to the bartender, give her money for a cab for the two of them, tell her friend to cab it and not to drive and then I walk off.”
“What happened the next day?” She asks.
“She called me and was upset that I ditched her at the bar. I told her the real story and she stops blaming me for ditching her and starts complaining that I think her friends are dead beats. I told her ‘You better believe it!’ She got more upset and starts on a tirade how I am an elitist. Finally I told her she could save all her anger for someone else because it was over.”
“Ha! Ok… so when did this happen?”
“About 2 weeks ago. It might have affected my state of mind. I was irritable for quite a while the last month and a half because of Jen. Of course if I had to name a specific issue for why I am on a surprise vacation, I would say it is the monotonous job and the lack of sleep. I haven’t been able to get a full night’s sleep in 6 weeks.”