Think about the time Elizabeth tried to kill you. How she threw one of your mother’s navy blue pumps at your forehead. She hoped the three-inch heel would go straight through your skull and lodge into your brain.
You had watched a movie where this had happened, two days before this fight. You had watched it the same way, fingers over faces, your eyes peeping between middle and pointer fingers.
You still cannot remember what you did to make her try to do this.
Think about the time when Camille told everyone that you started sleep-acting like a sheep every night. Remember the imitation she would do of you: how she would get down on all fours, make her eyes go blank, and then say, “Baaa-aaa, Baaa-aa.”
Never forget how for years of your life, everyone, even your parents, would call you Lamb Chop.
Think about the time Camille ate all the expensive chocolates given to you by a boss as an early Christmas present. Home still high after a party, she flopped on the couch, and just dug in. Remember how pissed off you were every time she said, “Holy shit! Blueberries and chocolate: who knew?”
You had planned to eat those chocolates over a lazy week. You had imagined yourself under a thick warm quilt as it snowed outside. You would reach for a chocolate while reading novel after novel.
Think about that first time you brought home a boyfriend from your new adult life. And even though your sisters promised to be nice, they spent the entire night whispering and giggling to each other. They would give each other significant looks each time he spoke as if daring each other to laugh. He was gracious enough to ignore them, so you gritted your teeth and followed his example.
After he left and you had come back into the house, cheeks flushed red from November night air and an almost too-long kiss good night, you heard them.
“With those leather gloves he looked like a total OJ,” Elizabeth whispered.
“But he’s white,” Camille replied.
“You can be white and still be a total OJ.”
“He does totally have murder-eyes.”
As they laughed, you realized your relationship was now on its way to being over. In four sentences, they had destroyed your fantasies of all of you being life-long best friends. They erased Justin from family vacations, from family dinners and holidays. You could feel the phrase “murder-eyes” being permanently added to your vocabulary of him.
Think about the time when you were seven and still living in SantaClausville. Elizabeth took you through the old house revealing hiding place after hiding place. Each spot revealed Holiday Barbies in their beautiful hot pink tulle clouds; puzzles; Box Car Children books that promised hours of mysteries; and a Looney Tunes sweatshirt you hated on sight. Each discovery was presented as key evidence that there isn’t and never would be a Santa Claus.
“Maybe he just left everything here early,” you had pleaded.
“What about the price tags? And why would he ever think you wanted a Yosemite Sam sweater? You hate Yosemite Sam. Only Mom would do that to you.”
Remember your face looked in the Christmas photos that year: your big, white, missing-tooth smile combined with your sad eyes mourning the deaths of Rudolph and the countless elves you’d imagined sorting through lists and building skateboards.
Think about the time you caught them reading your diary together, lying across your bed on their stomachs, eating Red Vines and giggling. When they saw you in the doorway, remember how Elizabeth said, “I can’t believe you won’t use tampons!” They laughed as if it was the most ridiculous thing ever to not want to use Tampax and then write about it.
Think about the time Camille punched you where she thought your kidneys might be to see if you would automatically start pissing blood. Remember how she had run away and hid after you’d told your parents what she’d done. And when she came home later, crying with skinned knees, how she’d distracted your parents from telling her not to punch anyone in their vital organs.
Think about the time you started smoking. You were sixteen and had started an all-female punk band. You were the only one who could actually play an instrument, so rehearsals always turned into watching movies on TCM and chain-smoking Marlboro reds. You came home after seeing the Philadelphia Story, half in love with Jimmy Stewart, half in love with 1930s fashion, to find your mother and Camille waiting for you on the porch. Your mother clasping the pack of cigarettes you’d hidden beneath your AP biology book in her left hand and looking ready to ground you from here to eternity. Camille trying not to laugh as she rested her small head on the railing.
Think about the time in your life when you were obsessed with Fievel Goes West. The height of fun for you was to watch it sitting next to Elizabeth, smelling her rose shampoo smell and hoping she would agree to scratch your back when it got itchy.
Remember the day you pulled the tape out of its cardboard case and found it replaced with a VHS tape labeled BULLS WIN 97 in your dad’s handwriting.
You tore apart the whole house. You went through her hiding spots: under her bed; in the desk beneath the textbooks; beneath the sweater pile in your shared closet; in the box labeled CDs that really contained all the clothes and make-up she had shoplifted; and beneath the bathroom sink next to the bottles of Nair and between the tampon boxes. No matter how hard you looked, no matter how hard you begged, you didn’t see Fievel again until you were twenty-five and in a fit of nostalgia bought it for three dollars from a DVD discount bin.
Think about the time you passed Camille a basketball and ended up breaking her nose. Remember how she went around telling people that you had done it on purpose because you couldn’t handle having such an incredibly beautiful younger sister. Remember how even still she points out the bump on her nose, laughs, and tells people the story from her perspective.
Think about the time you invited Camille to go to a party. You lost each other somewhere between the bathroom line, the keg line, and the dance floor. As you stumbled around looking for her, you saw Ryan.
He was the main reason you had gone to that party; you wanted him to see how great you looked now that you were running every day. The crowd parted and you could see him handing your sister a beer. His head leaned in close to hers, his fingers touching her hand. It was obvious a question was hanging between them. Whatever the question was, it was obviously not about you.
You turned around. You danced with three guys who could only dance when they had their hands on your waist as if you were a life preserver.
Remember how on the walk home, she spent it texting. When you asked her who she was texting, think about her smile as she said, “Ryan.” You wanted to remind her that you liked him first, but couldn’t find a way to do it without sounding petty.
You never did find out if they slept together.
Think about the time Elizabeth bit you. Her toothmarks were visible for three days afterwards. You still have a light white scar on your forearm from her incisors. Remember how she sometimes looks at it and calls it her signature.
Think about the time you woke up and your head felt different. Even with sleep’s hands still wrapped around your legs, you just knew something was different.
Remember how you stumbled to the mirror and found a big chunk of hair missing, right up front. Your first impulse was to fly into a rage and go fucking apeshit. You knew they wanted you to freak out, so you counted to one hundred and swallowed your rage.
You didn’t go to your sisters’ rooms and tell them you know they did this. You told your mom you messed up trimming your bangs. Your hand slipped while you were trying to be thrifty. Your mom fell for this and took you to a salon.
“Who did this?” your hairstylist asked, holding your hair in her hands.
With your mother waiting in the lobby, you could be honest, “My asshole sisters.”
The hairstylist gave you a look. “I grew up with five sisters. Don’t worry.”
She made sure to give you the best haircut you had ever received. At dinner while your parents kept complimenting your new cut, you smiled and looked at your sisters with the ice coldness of a ninja or Eazy fuckin’ E. You thought while twirling spaghetti around your fork, you bitches can keep coming at me and I will just keep getting stronger.
But despite all that, you’ll think instead of one of the times you came home from college and everything was great. The three of you cooked dinner together. As you boiled chicken, you gossiped and made plans to see a movie that all three of you actually wanted to see. As you chopped vegetables, the three of you sang together in terrible harmony to ABBA’s Greatest Hits. You laughed while seeing who could still do the best shuffle ball change.
You’ll remember how your heart inflated the way it only does when it’s around your sisters. How you can feel it in your throat and ankles and to the tips of your hair when you see them smile. You’ll remember how you don’t have to worry about what you say around them because even if you start having the same conversation you’ve been having on and off since all three of you could speak, it doesn’t matter. Because underneath all the words, your minds think in unison: I am home, I am home, I am home.