Yes, there are many grammatical errors that are not
far between. You don't like it? Then proof it.
What possessed me to do it, god only knows. All I know is that in first entering the Tennessee State Penitentiary, it came to me that I was in for an experience I never even knew existed, let alone could I be prepared for.
It was hard enough being a Yankee in a purely southern city. Nashville is the very heart and core of the south and I am the living embodiment of everything these people hate about the north( among other things). I had moved three weeks before. I left my fully furnished, third floor apartment right over the lobby in Albany, New York to come down here to my obsessive compulsive sister. What I remember best is the flight.
"E-excuse me, er-miss?" I listened to the woman in G7 call for a stewardess. Her lovely child who I had yet to see was expressing himself by kicking at the horizontal colors on the back of my seat. I consider myself a reasonable person whenever I'm not hectic. Therefore, I assessed my situation. I had G5 aisle, there was a whining kid going kung foo on my seat and a four and a half hour flight...great.
Almost five hours and six Alka Seltzers later, the plane touched ground. Somewhere my sister, less than fifty yards away was waiting for me with a Kodak digital camera, something floral and a grin so wide it'd hurt me. It wasn't until here did I realize I had a splitting headache and sore back. I'm slow on some things, all right?
I felt myself a traitor walking through the airport with my suitcase. It was as if the ID tags were 10" X 12" and "Albany" was in bright and bold font. To say I was out my element would be an understatement, out of my planet would be better suiting.
It'd be pessimistic to actually count the clichés so I only walked and observed. I omitted any cowboy hats from sight, I did not want to get started. Then, sure enough, standing at the exit was my sister.
When she was two, she entered and won one of those "Most Beautiful Baby" contests. A few years later she won an award for "Most Photogenic Baby." In high school, she was the president of the Debate and Optimist Club. She made Honor Society for all the community service she did, and whenever anyone would ask her about it she'd giggle a little and look down in her lap as a good blush shaded her cheeks as she'd explain it was "nothing special."
She bakes deliciously warm melt-in-your-mouth-cookies and "Oh, I Just Made it From Scratch" cakes. She's apart of an Opera Book Club and yoga class. Her clothes and accessories always match and though I've never seen her place I'm absolutely certain it's spotless, god forbid it isn't.
When I was two, I was learning how to speak. At the tender age of five I was perfecting running straight and how to drink without a sippy cup. I attended high school in a blur of B's with the occasional B+ bonus. However, I charged myself my senior year, wrote an impressive essay to a scholarship fund and somehow found myself matriculating at NYU. We haven't spoken since college.
So, perhaps you can understand now. I love my sister. I love her, but it's a sort of obligatory love. That sounds harsh, I know, but...I love her. That's enough, isn't it?
"Shelly!" I hate it when she calls me that.
"Oh, Shelly, Shelly, Shelly, Shelly..." Now, she's hugging me. Hugging? Suffocating? What's the difference?
"Picture!" She cries before digging into her big red shoulder purse she has strapped on her left arm. I step back to observe her. She's wearing a white sun dress with blue and green flowers in a fashionably sporadic pattern. Man, am I good.
Nadine was always a little obsessed with the color purple. I saw she had not grown out of this since the last time I had seen her. She lived in a lilac house with Gingerbread siding. Inside, the walls were painted in various pastels. Her bedroom was, of course, purple.
"It's been too long, Shell. We haven't talked in ages. Why is that?" Nad calls from the kitchen. She's preparing some "munchies" since I apparently look famished. Of course, she herself couldn't eat too much since she was on a very strict diet of fibers and protein. Health comes first you know, of course.
"Time got away from us, I guess." I called back from the living room. The word, "pristine" comes to mind. Knowing Nad, she's probably had this furniture since college. It appears spotless. There's pictures everywhere. They cover the mantle, the end tables and the coffee table. They're pictures of her at cooking class, her with her book club, her and her annoying Miniature Schnauzer, Kiki, and her at other various locations imperative in her life.
"Are you still with Jack?"
"No." The response was abrupt, and I let it go. The sudden aggressive bang of a kitchen knife on a cutting board encouraged my silence.
A week later and I was still trying to adjust to Nadine's strict house rules:
1. Drinking and eating stays in the kitchen. That is, except for book club meetings.
2. Come home before 12:00 A.M. or she's calling the police
3. No alcoholic beverages in the house besides the occasional Wine cooler
4. Your mess, your clean up
5. No smokes
6. NO MEN
All of this was of course besides the basics. You know the ones: clear your place at the table; no loud music(despite her raging radio every morning); showers cannot exceed twenty minutes; turn off the lights and all appliances when leaving the room; no feeding Kiki scraps, etceteras. The rules soon changed, however, when she announced that alcohol really is quite bad for you so she gave up that luxury for a household of temperance.
I quickly learned not to mention Jack, her ex. It was only through our mother did I acquire the knowledge of his existence. According to her, they were on the verge of an engagement ring. Evidently, something went wrong.
Wednesday morning consisted me sitting at the table scanning the Want adds and Nad running around the kitchen cleaning the breakfast dishes before running off to Bloomers. Could you guess she was a florist? In actuality, she wasn't a florist, per se. She owned a Floral company for gigs like weddings and funerals. I always thought of her as a business woman in pink heels. Whatever she was, I had far too much pride to keep mooching off of her income. I had to find a job.
Maybe that was part of my problem. Maybe this never would've happened if I wasn't so desperate to get out from under this perfect world of purple lilacs and small dogs which was currently crushing me. The problem? I had never had a real profession. After college I took to odd jobs and retail a lot. I majored in language and minored in philosophy because the day we all declared out majors I was late for a date with Gene Mistretta and in my haste Philosophy was the only thing that sounded remotely interesting so I declared it to be my passion. I was always too lazy to change it.
I'm really jumping ahead aren't I? It won't take too long to catch up with myself. Well, Nadine had started seeing someone...
"You're going out with that guy again?"
"'That guy' has a name, Shelly." I hate it when she calls me that.
"Oh yes, Edward."
"I like him, Shelly. That's all there is to it." She turned her head and let out a happy little noise like a squeak before skipping out the door to meet Prince Charming. I mean, Edward.
And me? I had my own busy night ahead. I put in some microwave popcorn, got out the chocolate syrup and waited. This was Nad's third date with Edward this week. She met him when he came in at Bloomers. I mentioned to my dear sister that if a guy comes into a flower shop it's usually for his wife/fiancé/girlfriend but she scolded me for being so negative and told me it was for his mother's birthday.
So, three and a half hours later I was lying on the burgundy couch next to my third long empty bowl of popcorn with another bag in the microwave. That was when my sister came in. That was the cinder that sparked the burning of both our lives.
Three simultaneous things happened in the next moment that will have me contemplating blood pressure pills for the rest of my life. One, the smoke alarm went off. Two, Nadine Beck just slammed the door for perhaps the second time in all her twenty-nine years. Three, there was a sonic screeching of tires just outside in the street.
I figure, fire first and the next moment I was standing at the microwave with so much smoke billowing out from that stupid little box you'd think a small band of delinquents were playing with matches in there. I climbed on a chair from the kitchen table and pressed the 'reset' button. I put the chair back, threw open the window, coughed several times and turned back to my sister. It had all taken me but a minute but she was still gone when I turned around.
"Hey." I said lightly for lack of anything better or remotely appropriate thing to say as I knocked on her bathroom door. There was no response. "Hey...," I tried again only louder to project my voice through the door and over the running water and that radio she always plays so loud in the morning increasing in sound. After either a minute or ten seconds I throw precaution into the wind and open the door.
See, I didn't hear the gagging over the water and the radio was louder than the sound of the toilet flushing. Together, they were too loud to hear my sister throwing up her guts.
The radio was always on in the mornings. If I had ever tried to pull that she'd scold my ear off. She refused to eat anything except what her "diet" would allow. Despite her newly found love of chocolate with yogurt. She wouldn't touch alcohol, it's so bad for you...heh. Bad for you my ass.
"Who's the father?" I leaned against the doorway. Nothing.
"I said, who's the father?!" I was more or less yelling now. For the sake of my satisfaction we're going to say that it was so she could hear me over the water and radio. But just then I turned them off.
"Who's the father, Nadine?" Come on, Nad. Just tell me.
"Nad..." God. Just tell me, you stubborn-tell me. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me! I willed her, but still nothing. I shook my head at her for once and pushed myself off the doorway, preparing to go.
"Who-" My perfect sister, Nadine Beck: winner of the "Most Beautiful Baby" award; the woman who bakes perfect cookies and moist and delicious cakes rose her head out of the toilet with her perfect blond hair out of sorts and drenched in sweat, her face was streaked with mascara lines and somewhere in the far depths of my mind where the world had a place for humor I had the faint notion to call for an exorcist.
"Who," she coughed. "Who do you-"she coughed again. I can't understand you if you keep coughing like that, Nad. "Who do you think?" She spat the words and her face seemed much more contorted to me than what it really must have been. It's just that I have never seen my sister in this state and I'm sure my memory took the time that's passed since then to exaggerate. I think my mind took the time to exaggerate.
My head fell back a bit and my tongue did that thing where I could feel the tip at my upper left row of teeth. I don't know what it is. Maybe if I tip my head back I'll swallow this faster. I'll be able to digest this quicker and move on with other things. Maybe then I could swallow other things...
I bow my head and stare through the wall. I was doing a lot of expression work and my departure was with a moment of biting my lips, slightly raised eyebrows and a final nod. My eyes astray from my sister.
Back in the kitchen, I looked back at the incinerated bag of popcorn. After a moment of hesitation, I reached in the microwave to throw it out. Did you know butter can reach scolding temperatures if you nuke it too long? So, the bag fell on the floor and ashes which I assume were once popcorn kernels spilled all over the clean white floral tiles that were so much like what I thought my sister to be five minutes ago.
Yeah, my hand hurt but...whatever. I sagged against the counter. Then, I guess I went to bed.