My sister has a voice like a chainsaw and a mouth that cuts deeper than any sharpened steel. Amber eyed and wild haired with deep olive skin, she is not unlike the Greco-Roman Furies; Allecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera all at once. She is on the cusp of both Ares and Taurus, born with all the war-like ferocity of the former and the unmoving stubbornness of the latter. My sister is a force unto herself.
In adulthood she and I have learned to navigate the turbulent ocean of our relationship, sailing together on a ship made unbreakable by the squalls and hurricanes of our life together. But it was not always so.
I am older, but she was always taller and bigger and stronger and physical in a manner I was not as a child. Her weapons were on the surface: a keen mind, an unfailing sense of self, a ruthlessness I often admire. My sister forced me to forge secret weapons, to guard myself with an expertise only siblings can teach. Your siblings, if all goes well, are with you from birth to death. They know you before you are a fully realized vessel, when you are nothing more than wet clay, and they are there with you through the wedging, throwing, and firing of life and adolescence. Siblings have the experience to see through the facade you present to the world, cutting through your walls to the very foundation of your soul, because your foundation is their foundation.
No one understands my soul as intrinsically as my sister and no one knows her soul as expertly as I; it is a bond that cannot be replicated and brings with it a power often abused.
As children my sister and I would fight and bicker and push and pull. She would scream, her voice like a maelstrom, so I would turn away, ignoring her outbursts and refusing to acknowledge her. Her thunderous yelling was her sword and my contemptuous silence my shield.
I can recall the worst fight we ever had was at Girl Scout camp in elementary school; we were living in Seattle, she was six and I was eight. I can remember pulling her hair to wrench her to the ground; she had said something that finally broke me, though neither of us can remember it now. I rolled on top of her and pinned her down, but she wouldn’t stop speaking, so I grabbed the closest thing to us, a sock, and I shoved it in her mouth, hellbent on silencing her.
The Girl Scout leaders had to call my father to come pick us up early from camp, they’d never seen two scouts fight as viciously as my sister and I were capable of. We were bloodied and bruised and exhausted from the force of our violence when my father came to retrieve us. I will never forget that car ride home. He wouldn’t say a word to us, which was jarring as my sister inherited her ability to yell from our Italian bred, Brooklyn born father. He didn’t speak and we didn’t speak, allowing us to stew in the fearful anticipation of the punishment he’d surely deal out when once we’d made it home.
At the time it was late winter, early spring in the Pacific Northwest and it was cold and damp outside. Back at our house, my father demanded, barely even able to look at us such was his shame and rage, that we go into the winter-dead garden and pull weeds. In silence we did this. Tears streaming down our faces, our chests racked with sobs, our gloved hands cold and shaking: forced into camaraderie in our punishment.
I can’t tell you how long we were out there, it felt like an eternity, until finally my father came out of the house and he looked between us, disgrace painted across his stern features, and ordered us to face each other saying,
“That is your blood and if you don’t have your blood, you don’t have anything.”
And we cried.