Nope, I’m still not replying to emails/comments/questions yet. I’m sorry, I really am not trying to ignore you all. And I did warn everyone that my internet access would be spotty, anyway.
This is actually being written on my phone, scheduled to upload tonight.
And I’m already fucking exhausted.
It’s not a bad day. It’s just a very emotionally charged day. And I did not turn in my permission slip for this feels trip, y’all.
My dad smoked, and my sister had a pack of his brand of cigarettes. I’m a relatively recent nonsmoker, but when she handed me one, asking me to smoke it with her, to honor him (nothing like honoring a man who died of emphysema than to give ourselves emphysema, amirite?), I shrugged and said, “Sure, why not.”
So we left my mom sitting in the kitchen and went outside. And for a minute, I stood a bit apart, just watching the people standing around my sister, talking to her.
But then she came up to me and asked if we could talk. And you all will be proud of me. I managed to suppress the eye roll as I followed her around the porch, to an area that was more secluded-ish.
“So I’ve been thinking,” she said, in a halting tone that immediately made every nerve in my body stand on end. I think I took a long enough drag off my cigarette to burn almost half the thing, waiting for whatever bullshit she was going to say.
“And I think it’s time for me to let go of a lot of the issues we had growing up.”
I still suppressed the eye roll.
What, the rampant favoritism? The constant praise our parents heaped on you while telling me I wasn’t good enough at literally anything I did? The way they’d talk about you to anyone in earshot, conveniently forgetting that they have a second daughter? Yeah, that’s got to be rough.
She’s not an observant person, and didn’t notice my expression. One of her friends, a very kind man, maybe a few years older than I am, that I’d spoken with at great length yesterday, walked by and glanced our way, then did a double-take when he saw me. I figured I should probably do a better job of masking my emotions, and made my expression blank as I waited for her to continue.
“Because really, I’ve resented you for long enough. We’re adults now, and it’s time to get over it.”
My eyes shot open. “You resented me?” I asked, incredulous. “Jesus Christ, why?”
What could she possibly have resented me for? What could she possibly have had to be jealous of?
She gave me this pained look and said, “You know, what happened.”
Oh. Yeah, I’d completely forgotten that she resented and hated me for that. It wasn’t something I’d really thought about all that much, to be honest. She was hardly the only one to feel that way.
“But I think I also resented you because you could tell your truth, and I couldn’t. And I was scared of you.”
“Scared of me?”
“You protected me. You kept him from hurting me more than he did. And you came forward. You spoke up. Even when they called you a liar. Even when Mom and Dad thought you were lying. You stood your ground. When the family fell apart, everyone was so cruel to you. Everyone turned on you. They hated you. They still do hate you.”
This time, I couldn’t suppress the eye roll. “Yeah, I’m aware.”
“Sorry. I meant that coming forward destroyed our family and made them all turn on you. But you didn’t break. It was like it didn’t even matter. You just shut all of that down. I was so sure you’d bring me into it, and tell them he hurt me, too. But you didn’t. You took all of it on yourself. Even then, you were protecting me. Fuck, Jen. You were only 11. I was scared of you because it was like none of the bullshit even mattered. I mean, what kind of kid can go through that? What kind of kid can just shut it down and make it not matter?”
I’m pretty sure I said something at that point, but honestly, I don’t remember what. I was stunned.
She started crying. “I remember being so scared, that they would find out he hurt me, too, and then they’d turn on my the same way they turned on you. That’s something I’ve sat with every day. It’s something I still sit with today.”
“They still don’t know?”
“Mom knows. And Dad knew. But no one else. I can’t bring myself to tell them. I almost did, when Uncle —– (one of our other uncles, one of the ones that didn’t explicitly turn his back on me) died, and Aunt —– was worried about you coming to the funeral. I almost asked them, ‘what would you say if you knew every word she said was true? And that she wasn’t the only one he fucked with?’ But I didn’t, and I hated that.”
“It ended up not making a difference,” I told her, suddenly feeling like I should put my arm around her or something. It was awkward as fuck. “Nothing happened at the funeral. It was fine.”
“But they still hate you. They still think you’re lying.”
“Uncle —– knows I’m not lying. Dad knows now. The others will know eventually, too.”
“But that doesn’t do anything now. It doesn’t make them believe you now.”
“I don’t really care.”
“You wouldn’t have had to deal with it alone if I’d been able to tell them. They wouldn’t still hate you if I told them.”
I waved her off. “There’s no point. He’s dead now. It’s 20 years old. There’s no reason for you to risk their affection to ‘defend my honor.’ I don’t need it. I don’t want it. It doesn’t make sense for you to do that.”
“You’d still have a family if I’d told them.”
I laughed. “They’re not my family. They never were. Kazander and the spawn are my family. The people that I love, who devote themselves to me, are my family.”
“I mean your blood family.”
“Blood means nothing. I don’t owe anyone a damn thing just because I share similar DNA.”
She stared at me for a minute, still crying. “How can you not care?”
I shrugged. I didn’t really have an answer for that. “There’s nothing they can take from me. There’s nothing they can do to hurt me.”
She shook her head. “If it had been switched,” she said, not crying anymore. “You know, if he’d gone after you instead of me… I wouldn’t have protected you.”
“And I wouldn’t have kept your secret after, either.”
I’ve known this for a long time, but that was the first time it really sunk in: She’s weak.
She’s weak, and she always will be. And the same fragile beauty I’ve seen in the weak men I’ve loved, I saw in this woman I hated when I woke up this morning.
Maybe it’s time to start the process of letting go of the bitterness I feel for her.