I hate it when my sister cries.
I hate it.
Her cries are always a slow brewing storm. It starts with a far off look. The blue in her eyes turns stormy. Rain begins to well up at the lash line and gains volume until they form massive beads of sorrow ready to explode and draw red streaks down her broken face. She never talks at first. There is never any warning. She always come to me and wraps her arms around my shoulders, presses her face into my shirt, and all at once her body begins to shake and I feel the wetness absorbed into my clothes. It was this way when she was four and it’s the same here at nineteen.
At one time her face would have pressed into my stomach right around the belly button and now she has to hunker down in order to bury herself in my shoulder. My little sister is usually confused for my twin and at six feet (she swears she’s five foot eleven) it’s hard to not smile when I introduce her as my ‘little’ sister.
There is an instinctive anger that rises up in me whenever I see my sister cry. I immediately want to punch or hurt whatever is the catalyst of my sister’s emotional storm. But the worst times are when there is no physical force to lash out against. Even worse is when I have the impulse to laugh at whatever it is that has upset her so much.
This was the case one sunny Saturday morning back in high school. Kate was just beginning to break passed me in the space race that was our height. She was a tall, awkward seventh grader with braces and a secret desire to be just like me. Don’t ask her about this secret desire because she will deny it even now.
She came down into the kitchen looking distraught. One glance in her direction and I knew that tropical storm Kate was about to hit my shores. A minute later and I was drenched in tears and the wailing of her high winds was crashing against me. It took me a minute to understand what was wrong. Her words morphed into one long ‘waahwwoowaah’. It had been a while since I spoke middle school girl so I had to ask, “What?”
“I can’t- sob- find- sob- my fiiiiiish.” Kate’s shoulders began to shake as she admitted her woe.
Kate and I both had beta fish. Naturally, since I had one she had to have one. That fateful morning Kate announced that she could not ‘find’ her fish.
I blinked, my rage settling back down. “What?” My voice trembled as I held back a startled laugh.
“I looked in the bowl and he’s not there!” She insisted, sobbing with frustration now.
“How can you not find your fish? It’s a bowl, Kate, he can’t GO anywhere!” Now I really was beginning to lose it. Kate was so obviously overwhelmed by the strangest predicament I had ever heard. Surely, she’d reached a new level of blonde I could not wrap my head around.
My mom was stifling giggles as well. Luckily, she had something to hide behind whilst she ordered me to be sensitive and go look for Kate’s fish.
“Alright, alright, I’ll go look. Kate, you stay here.” Kate moved from crying on my shoulder to my mom’s. I wiped the snot off my collar as I headed upstairs. All the while I was shaking my head thinking ‘wow, I am actually going to go look for a fish. I’m looking for a LOST fish. What do I do if I can’t find him? Post pictures around the community? Have you seen this lost fish?’ I was thinking I’d probably just find him hiding behind the decorative plastic coral.
Kate’s room was bright with light. I bent down by the bowl and peered into the waters. I scanned the coral and couldn’t find a blue gill anywhere. I recalled that my friend’s fish liked to sleep on the bottom of the bowl- literally, sleep. So I looked down into the water at the marble rocks and found no fish.
The smile on my face was gone. I went so far as to stick my hand in the water. I felt all along the rocks- no fish. “Are you kidding me?!” I asked the bowl, perplexed. I honestly couldn’t find her fish either. This fish had seriously left his bowl. I snorted, well, if the fish got up and left then where could he go?
I looked to the right of the bowl; Kate’s desk didn’t have so much as a splash of water on it. I looked to the left and- oh.
Kate’s fishbowl was located on the corner of her desk. The left of the fishbowl was a deadly drop from desk to floor. There, dried up against the bedroom carpet, was Kate’s beloved Beta. His vacation from the bowl was a cruel one indeed. Apparently, he’d been gone for quite a while. When I tried to pick him up with toilet paper I had to give a really good yank; he had dried to the carpet.
“I found him.” I announced, wrinkling my nose in disgust.
“You did?!” Kate’s hopeful voice broke my heart.
I sighed, “Hold on.”
The flush of the toilet should have been her first indicator of what was to come. I came downstairs, biting my bottom lip to keep the smirk off my face as I announced, “Your fish jumped to his death. I’m calling it a suicide.”
Poor Kate, Poor fish.
If only I’d been more clever at the time. I would have called it: Sushi-cide.