Staggering Adversities

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: 'The Odd Ones'
A brutally truthful interpretation of a drawn out but telling two-minute interaction between an unassuming companion and two sisters who cannot seem to get along

Submitted: July 31, 2017

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Submitted: July 31, 2017

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A good friend gave a me book by Anne Lamott called bird by bird?—?instructions on life and writing. Having recently returned from Italy, I had just gotten the brilliant idea to take up writing a novel that I had been developing in my mind for four years; he thought the book might be helpful. This wouldn’t have been a ridiculous idea if I wasn’t such a horrendous writer. Or if I hadn’t acquired most of my English vocabulary watching Spider Man, flipping through SAT flashcards, or using Thesaurus.com to compensate for my fresh-off-the-boat family’s lack of lexicon for when I really can’t seem to remember “that one word.

 

I had just graduated from my university, fairly hopeless in what I was planning on doing with my life. Almost every other minute I would blurt out the words, “existential crisis,” to anyone who spared a minute of their precious time to strike up a conversation with me as if it would magically snap me out of whatever dilemma I was experiencing in that moment. Maybe I hoped that people would somehow empathize with me or give me a fantastic piece of advice that would change my life. Maybe I was looking for someone to tell me that I was special and I had nothing to worry about.

 

Even if this was the case, even if I had some extraordinarily useful specialized skills of, let’s say, glassblowing or perhaps an impressive knack for adding random numbers in my head, I would still have everything to worry about. This is not because I have a ridiculous amount of problems in my life (other than being 22 years old and living with my parents in a cramped apartment that smells unapologetically like a mixture of every foreign dish that has ever roamed through those hallowed halls). Nor was this because my only problem was finding a job. No, it was because I am human, and we as humans tend to over-exaggerate everything as an issue whenever something is not going exactly how we want it to. Some do this more than others?"?I consider myself dramatic in this way. But I embrace this aspect of myself in good humor so as to not offer others the opportunity to insult me.

 

The actual story starts when the same friend was out with my sister and me in D.C. Let’s call him Frank because I am an unrelenting Amy Winehouse fan. Frank said something that has stuck with me. It prompted me to keep writing despite my family’s tendency to ridicule me on my latest authoring endeavor. But not without good reason, they assume they can carpet-bomb their ambivalence onto any endeavor I embark on. Admittedly, I have a bad habit of not finishing anything I start. Among these have been “selling” Mary Kay products as a senior in high school. This involved an initial $600 investment for the start-up bundle of products (not a single one of which I sold) that have been dispersed across the globe as gifts to friends and family members. And then there are a few liquid foundations I still use to this day. Along with this failed venture were a string of retail and food industry jobs, none of which I was able to sustain past a month or two. While on the topic of lousy habits, I also have one of getting outrageously off track when telling stories, so bear with me on this?"?everything is relevant (more or less).

 

nobody cares about my writing and that I should be working harder to find a job. Perhaps she was right. Yet I was waking up every morning with an uncontrollable urge to continue on with my novel, which I clearly understood was doomed to fail. This knowledge made no difference to me?"?the important part was getting it all down. Years and years of observations and thoughts unnecessarily occupied my mind, along with 50 Cent lyrics from the fifth grade that I couldn’t rid myself of even if I wanted to (which I don’t, by the way). This cluster of useless information left no room for additional, perhaps even profound thoughts to develop. It really is rather exhausting. Anyway, Frank responded to her insults in the most rational and delightful way possible:

“As someone who would never discourage securing a job, because I, too, am a worrier, I feel like your sister has something to say. And she can’t let the opportunity pass, because it may never come back again.” Then he proceeded to look at me and say something along the lines of, “I think you are very thoughtful and observant and have the potential of writing something meaningful.”

Now, maybe it was the alcohol, but his Clark Kent-like well-mannered contention with my sister resonated with me in such fulfilling ways I cannot even begin to explain. As the younger sister, I always felt like I had something to prove. Good old Lena never hesitated to criticize me even if it was about something as insignificant as one of my eyelashes hugging its neighbor rather tightly: “Your eyelashes are too clumpy.” And each time, I would so painstakingly launch into my defense; opening, closing arguments and all?"?which I methodically had prepared for every scenario, regardless of whether or not it demanded one. Demand or not, the supply was available and ready for presentation if need be. Yet, here was someone who was defending me! And believed in me, my thoughts, and my writing so much so that he was willing to disagree with the almighty older sister.

 

At this point, if Lena had consumed one too many drinks, I saw her three mojitos and raised her a glass of wine, simply for the sake of competition. Reveling in my shock, I proceeded to sit on the only open bar stool while they both stood in front of me. My sister shot me one of her signature dirty looks which either meant that I was so “selfish” and/or because I was “embarrassing her.” I couldn’t quite tell which one it was that time, the lighting was a bit dim. I have always had a knack for getting unnecessarily fatigued by standing for too long (or by anything that involves exerting the slightest bit of effort for that matter)?"?which may or may not be yet another winning feature of my dramatic nature. But I like to say it’s because I have scoliosis (which I do). Lately I try not to justify anything at all unless probed, because if I have learned anything in my meager 22 years on this earth, it’s that nobody cares what disease you have unless it’s contagious. If I do happen to slip up, occasionally, someone will throw out a useless fact like, “oh, swimming helps scoliosis,” as if I, the carrier of the disorder didn’t already know that. Or as if they were fresh out of a residency at the local hospital and didn’t just spend four years of their lives binge drinking and studying something like the effects of John Locke’s theories on the modern American political system?"?this was D.C. after all. But I couldn’t possibly blame them for making insipid conversation when presented with a topic as riveting as the curvature of the spine.

 

Anyhow, with my curving spine and generally awkward demeanor, I looked up at both of them from my stool with the faintest smile?"?most likely resembling something that of a turtle when they stick their heads out of their shells. Good God, I’m awkward. I was careful not to smile too much at the risk of further pissing off my sister in her already fragile state of having been disagreed with. But also smiling just enough to hide the monstrosity of a pimple that remained hidden inside the crack of my smile wrinkle if I did it just right. I even went through the trouble of straightening out my back, which let out cracking sounds probably intelligible to Martians. I wanted to look perfect for this once in a lifetime moment?"?there would most likely not be another for at least 7 more years. I wanted someone to take a picture so I could show my delinquent children someday that anyone can prevail. Anyone taking my side over my sister’s was as rare as a blood moon or whichever one of those astronomical phenomena (I almost failed my astronomy course in college, sorry mom).

 

Back to my sister’s rage. I knew better than to utter another word to further provoke her ever-growing ball of anger (although I am breathtakingly good at it), because I knew what would result: an over-exaggerated eye roll and a pull of her side bangs behind her ear so as to divert attention away from the immense amount of annoyance she felt beginning to seethe in the pit of her stomach. She would then proceed to shift from leaning on one leg to the other, continuing to roll her eyes in such an irritating fashion that it was almost impressive enough to win an Oscar (or be nominated?"?let’s not get ahead of ourselves). And perhaps if she became particularly frustrated, she would clench her eyes shut, simultaneously reaching her hand from behind her ear and inhaling, while giving her nose a frantic nudge or two from both sides as if gnats had just decided to set up camp in there. This ever so subtle display was only ever visible to me. An unassuming acquaintance could never interpret this circus for what it really was. For me, it was deeply ingrained in my mind, scattered throughout random childhood memories?"?it resembled something that of a sacred ritual to ward off the devil. Which, to her, it fundamentally was?"?I was the devil.

 

Devil or not, in that moment, I had just the right amount of alcohol in my system that I decided I was not in the mood for another episode of Sister Fight Club, especially in such good company. I give it this name because it’s extremely fitting in that it usually consists of my sister squabbling with the voices in her head in response to something I might say. All the while I toss out some nonchalant and admittedly not-so-witty comments until she wants to throw up in the nearest trash can from looking at my “smug face.”

 

All things considered, I simply took Frank’s compliment with an idiosyncratically awkward show of gratitude. This exchange usually involves a smile just uncomfortable enough to make me look like I need to gallop off to the restroom, along with a reluctant “thank you” just inaudible enough to make one question my sincerity. I am sure that Frank was unaware of just how many gears he had ground in this barely two-minute exchange. But due to my highly developed deflection skills that I call “keeping-my-mouth-shut,” before we knew it the tension had disseminated and we had moved on to the next topic that was pleasantly and completely unrelated to me. Therefore, thanks to the consumption of a proper amount of overpriced bottom-shelf rum and crushed mint leaves, concluded the awe-inspiring moment when my sister and I were finally able to put aside our differences and begin avoiding confrontation like true adults in the face of staggering adversity?"?that is, until she reads this.


© Copyright 2017 Lana Adelina. All rights reserved.

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